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Free Verse: Rodney Jones

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 11, 2010 - This blues poem by Rodney Jones addresses life and death, religion and several different kinds of music -- all in a short-lined poem that gives a nod to the Italian sonnet. If you don't like Lady Gaga, blame Franz Liszt.

Salvation Blues

Many people here expect
the dead are not really dead.
Therefore, they resolve to live
as though they were not alive:

So softly the minor thirds,
so tenderly the major sevenths,
white gospel the elderly virgins
keep treading like chastity

until Franz Liszt, ravager
and destroyer of pianos,
critiques with a thunderstorm:

Remind us there is something
to be dead about. Play like
you are alive, even if it is not true.

Rodney Jones, an Alabama native, is a professor of English at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for "Elegy for the Southern Drawl," a National Book Critics Circle Award winner for "Transparent Gestures" and a Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winner for his new and selected collection "Salvation Blues."

To learn more about River Styx, click here. Richard Newman, River Styx editor for 15 years, is the author of two full-length poetry collections. He teaches poetry and literature at St. Louis Community College and co-directs the River Styx at Duff's reading series.

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