Blue Rain Morning is a book about the outlines of home, an introspection on how place is edged by the rhythms and repetitions that are familiar and how these tempos translate to a foreign setting. Divided into five sections, the first bears the title of the book, a phrase that is not merely descriptive as it also signals an environment germane to the speaker. The last poem in this section, “Elsewhere in the Universe,” portrays the narrator’s struggle with leaving home and traveling to Brooklyn: Pensacola is “my natural life-support” and Brooklyn is “abroad.” The poem follows the speaker from the waters of Pensacola onto the plane and into a new morning, where a Brooklyn sky dawns and takes the place of the “Blue Rain Morning” so familiar and loved by the narrator: “I breathe it in/ this functioning world/ world of a city/ tilting sighing city” (11). These initial poems express the base of the narrator’s sense of belonging: “into the sun the stars flip fold and splash/ into the gulf of anywhere” (7). But it’s not anywhere that these stars splash—–it is in relation to the Gulf along the Florida coast that they hold their splendor—–and the poems that follow become a movement away from that point and a struggle to transpose the familiar over the new “home.”
The sounds of coastal birds and waves hitting the sand are exchanged for car alarms and neighbors tossing windows into a dumpster. This new refrain, a cacophony of human movements, replaces the more subtle tones of nature, but Jones continues to transpose the two: “car alarm like a whippoorwill,” (17). Every sense of the city is defined by where the speaker has come from, weighed and found lacking, the speaker must contend with shaping a new world. Slowly, the city’s hidden beauty emerges: “five story apartment building/ revealing satellite dishes/ and the shadow of/ satellite dishes” (40). The poem, “Sometimes An Order,” creates a familiarity within its form by repeating phrases and slight variations of lines, returns that allow the reader to settle in even as the speaker remains displaced. The refrain: “For every window there is a line/ For every line there is a measure” plays with the language that describes writing poetry, but it also signals the speaker’s desire to layer the order of making a poem over the disorder of the speaker’s external world. A similar need to create order emerges in the poem “Morning Paradox;” in this case the poem speaks to the inevitable reordering of one’s idea of normal:
there’s a window reflected
in a waterfall
through which I can see
the white brick apartment
building behind me
as if I had eyes in the back
of my head
as if this was natural
enough, which, at the
moment, it is
Jones’s lyrics are intricately weaved around the aural and sensory patterns that tell us what we are: “a key to the sky/ is a key to the city/ is a key to identity” (87). The most compelling aspect of the book is that this quest for a key to identity is never resolved, even as the city is shaped to fit the speaker, it never truly replaces the speaker’s home.
The section, “Twelve Windows,” portrays the speaker’s sense of looking out, removed from the world and yet able to partake enough in the scenery to reflect on the paradox of removal and change: “Not leaving, you leave yourself no choice—not becoming” (71). This wavering state between lament and acceptance of this change of scenery is deftly translated into a language that contains a tone that heightens the sense of strangeness even as it provides a fresh view of the cityscape. Joys are witnessed from the bird’s eye window view or relayed as an outsider sneaking about in a land in which they don’t belong.
The section “4th Avenue Possibilities” plays with contrasting notions of change and stasis by pairing poems side by side on the page, such as “Avenue Vision 1” and “Avenue Vision 2”, exposing not only the disparity in scenes but the poet’s influence manifested in his translation of his subjects. In Blue Rain Morning the narrator’s struggle to fit into a place yields a series of window meditations as well as prose poems and longer lyrics; these variations are part of Jones’s building a vocabulary to house a new environment.
The final section, “Morning Paper,” signals a return to the familiar. Subtle details become the groundwork and the “key” to the speaker’s self: “sunburned shoulders, swollen rivers, pine nut coffee, drenched tents, banjos, board games, fireflies, frisbees, inner tubes, telescopes, watermelons, and beer” (99). It’s a rare gift to know one’s place and then to also be allowed the opportunity to leave and return to it, and Jones transforms this gift into poems that encapsulate that struggle in all its discomfort while never abandoning subtle humor and wit. The city and the gulf remain two points on the compass and Blue Rain Morning threads its way along a path, giving the reader the chance to dip into both with eyes accustomed and unfamiliar; it’s a trip worth taking as it sings back to us our desires to know and to find our home.