Jon Thompson

A Panic That Dares Not Speak Its Own Name

Sapphire-blue pools & palm trees;
stillness of the strictly pacifico.

Luxury like a pill-whitened

Freeways that spaghetti the city
are one way

of easing it.
Watching the low smooth mountains

take the afternoon light
is another.

Fragment of an Unpublished Memoir
(No Country For Old Men)

                                 “…riches of the world receding. The desert was a landscape of mutability in a world of immutability: I remember aimless cloud-shadows, slow-dragging across the desert floor; high peaks of mountains further off; light leaking from uninhabited heights. I remember expanses dotted with mesquite & creosote, wind rustling through them, the dry lilt of a back-country song. Everything there & half erased. Mostly, I remember the wide-open emptiness, with the yellow dividing lines going through it. And a phrase from somewhere—terrible lie– ‘Suffering is so beautiful & sad…’”


Blue Is the Color of Knowledge That's Continually Unfolding
(25th Hour)

Where to put the regret,
the loss? Night
falls on the world’s
most famous skyline,
Manhattan lit up⎯
splendid excess⎯
laid out behind Brooklyn
Bridge’s necklaced
elegance. Blackness,
the invisible beauty.
You want
restitution. In place of
it, blue beams, 
“the twin towers of
light,” ascend upward, 
astrally, piercing
the darkness. So much
distance to defy.
What was, invisible.
Absence most


Landscape with Emotion
(The Wizard of Oz)


We have lost the way & do not know how to get back.
The sky is dark, darkening, black & blackening, poised
like a curse over the land

a-whipping, a-disheveling a-disordering
the unpaved road runs flat to the horizon, everything warped
& weathered

a land stripped down, sepia-brown, seen at once
as it is and as it was, a hard land
with leafless trees

& wind-blown fences, gale-force winds rending ripping & roaring, the blistered clapboards screeching, the fierceness of the desire to make this dirt-blown patch

the desire to find in the world’s uncontained ferocity an incommensurate
love stronger than the gale-winds that rage round the child the child
ooking for anything like home


(Cape Fear)

Pure fact of the world             wilderness as wilderness was.
Black currents ripple blackly.        Upriver
river banks press close        broad-based cypresses draped
with Spanish moss look spectral    ghosts from another age next
to        old-growth oak & pine. Stillness
as thick as green vines            a scene
of green vegetation run riot        a wildness
in the land        less land than waterland
strange hybrid of solidity & fluidity        nothing conquered     
nothing contained        the visible merely
one aspect        of a world vanishing upon sight.
And when there’s an opening        it comes as a relief
a place where sunlight doesn’t die        but lingers on the water
the green pushed back for a while.        Named & renamed, the river
survives in the violence of its going.         Did we take wildness as our book
its tangled calligraphy as script?     Of all the lessons why    
that one?        Glossy-surfaced, black, the river cannot but
mirror the trees & ferns       the green world around it.  


Letter to John Huston
(Key Largo)

                                                                            Long way over
a wayward blue– fey innocence of the Atlantic, sparkling
in the invitation of open air. Palm trees bend down
whispering secrets of old sins.       The shoreline halts
before bright sunlight          skittering free across sateened water. 
What’s most free is most destructive     the becalmed water rises up
in a fury of wind          white waves roll back into black water
the key    a thin strand of sand is         battered again & again
as if in revenge for all the insults.             O hooded-eyed romancer, 
the insults have only gotten worse.    Nature
is out of joint            & fix-it-all heroism
is a fondness       from a silver-screened world.       
The earth wants us gone.



Wester Fable
(Yellow Sky)


How the entire story must be in black & white, a story of stark opposites.
Six figures dazed on a dazzling-white salt-flat:
above them,  darkness fills the sky, Western-epic style.

Beyond the scalloped whiteness, mountains
rise up, are elemental, a massed black solidity.
The story is the story of slashing forces with tiny mounted figures,

black mounted fables, little more than shadows, mirage-stepping across a
shimmering desert,
inscapes metaphoric & metamorphic, inconstant as the sea.

White glitter, flight, convergence under a dying sun.
To turn a life into value: to not
die a flickering shadow: that

one desire is what makes the land endlessly large, endlessly lonely.
The hunt: to be storied, to enter someone’s story, to be named in the mind.
To be transformed. To be another self in the making.

To be of not in.
To leave taking & partake of doing.
To finally give up counting as bad faith.

To walk out the door
& see ruin everywhere,
& not see anything like tragedy