top of page

We believe in the intelligence of tulips. The way they open to the light.

Jane M. Downs

Work

WORK

SLEEPIN_WALL_FRONT.jpg

THE SLEEPING WALL

AdirondackDream_COVER_blue01.png

ADIRONDACK DREAM

PENELOPE_blue01.png

PENELOPE WAITING

Red Berry Editions, letterpress

April-cover1-647x1024.jpg

APRIL ELEGY

LetOurThoughts_COVER.jpg

WE LET OUR THOUGHTS

FLOAT UP OUT OF US

HELEN_blue01.png

HELEN

Red Berry Editions, letterpress

PinkPeonies_COVER_blue2.png

THE WEIGHT OF PINK PEONIES

TheBookofNow_COVER.jpg

THE BOOK OF NOW

       POETRY FOR THE                     RISING TIDE

(Anthology)

Virginia_Wolfe_blue01.png

READING VIRGINIA WOOLF

Jungle Garden Press, letterpress

IN PROGRESS

IMG_0205.JPG

Gallatin, Tennessee, January 11, 1863

 

Slaughter at Fredericksburg

Colonel Wyman’s right arm shot away

 

I’ve remained in camp

gaze upon Rosa’s pictograph

 

late rains have made the river navigable

the dead in scattered loneliness

 

isolated from the world, the promise of love

 

River, run north and south

tell me the course we must live

           

Nashville, Tennessee, September 13, 1863

                                                                                                

’Tis lovely Sabbath day. Church bells sound  

heads bowed beside our southern brethren   

 

we beseech thee to hear us Good Lord

 

rebel women’s faces powdered with cornmeal  

sons & husbands in nearby graves   

 

we beseech thee to hear us Good Lord

 

do our blue coats connote death?

Is forgiveness an empty promise?

 

we beseech thee to hear us Good Lord

 

work of crushing rebellion goes on

eight-hundred freed slaves join our lines

 

we beseech thee to hear us Good Lord

 

hours sad & sorrow, my heart choked    

bless our Maker, pardon our sins  

Nashville, Tennessee, September 13, 1863

                                                                                    

Strolled Acklan Place 

Mr. Acklan owns

            6 large cotton plantations

            1100 slaves 

                        850 freed by joining our lines

 

a Rebel rich & influential

if poor his property likely taken or destroyed

 

so it goes in this world 

            the rich protected & buoyed up

                        made richer by the world

the poor man goes down, kicked still lower,

            a millstone around his neck

                        forever keeping him from rising

                                    to injure the rich

 

B

 

The Right to Mourn

Civil War Courtship Letters

     Each of the poems in this manuscript is composed of words

and phrases from a specific letter written by my great-grandfather, Everell Fletcher Dutton, to my great-grandmother, Rosina Adelpha Paine during the Civil War. At the time of these letters, he was a major in the Union occupation army in Tennessee. He later became a general, once sharing a tent with Abraham Lincoln. The poems in this collection are based on those leading up to their marriage on December 31, 1863. Titles are the location where he was stationed and the date when he wrote the letter. Although I’ve never translated literature into English from another language, I believe the experience of writing these poems must be similar to what a translator experiences. I had to select words and images in a thoughtful way, always looking for his intention. At times what I chose found its own form. Other times, I imposed form to reinforce meaning or add variety. My collaboration with his words created a third language with which to convey emotion, meaning and love. 

 

 

 

                                                                                                         photograph by Luke Lynch

     The Slaughter Pen at Stone River National Battlefield, Rutherford County, Tennessee

Ev Photo.png

                                                                                                         

                                                   Everell Fletcher Dutton 1863

                                                                                                         

                                                   Everell Fletcher Dutton 1863

Works in Progress

                                          BIO

jane CU in living room.jpg

                                                                                   Photograph by B+

 

 

Jane M. Downs grew up in Geneva, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. She made her home in in Kensington, California for forty-five years. In October, 2020 she and her husband moved to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  She has a B.A. in English from Syracuse University and a M.A. from Mills College.

Ms. Downs is an editor and writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. After leaving her position with the University of California Press in 2007, she cofounded with book artist Marie Dern Red Berry Editions (2007-2017), an independent publishing house for letterpress and trade books.

 

 

​Ms. Downs’s poetry, fiction, essays and reviews have won prizes and appeared in numerous publications including: After the Eclipse, Alembic, Asheville Poetry Review, Bangalore Review, Borderlands, Cimarron Review, FIELD, Folio, Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Healing Muse, Kestrel: A Journal of Literature and Art, Like a Second Mother, Marin Poetry Center Anthology V and VI, The North American Review, Phoebe, Poetry Flash, Ninth Letter, Psychological Perspectives 50 and 51, The Dos Passos Review, Quercus Review, Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine, Rhino, The Reprint, The South Carolina Review, So to Speak, Spillway, Stand Magazine, Star 82 Review and Westview.

The Sleeping Wall, a novella, was a finalist in the 2010 Chiasmus Press book contest.

It won first place in the 2012 Fiction Fix novella contest and was published by 

Fiction Fix in 2013. 

 

April Elegy received Special Merit recognition from the 2011 Jessie Bryce Niles Chapbook Contest sponsored by the Comstock Review and was published by Kattywompus Press in 2012.

She has been the featured poet in Psychological Perspectives and was the subject of a "Cross Tie" profile, West Trestle Review. She was one of seven poets whose work was featured in The Book of Now, Poetry for the Rising Tide published in 2012.

Her broadsides and chapbooks were letterpress printed at Jungle Garden Press in Fairfax, California. They have been acquired in Special Collections by the John Hay Library at Brown University, the Shields Library at the University of California at Davis, and the Knight Library at the University of Oregon.

Bio
Poems

                                                                                                                                                   

 

 

 

It Is Snowing

 

I am six, sitting on the living room floor

my doll sleeps in the folds of my skirt

 

cold rushes in when my parents open the front door

and there she is bundled in Mother’s arms

Mother kneels, places her in my lap

my sister’s little fist grabs my finger

her tuft of hair, almond-shaped eyes

my plaid skirt circling

she can’t stay with us
she is going to a different home

 

away from my dolls and books

away from me

 

Mother rises, lifts my sister with kid-gloved hands

a covenant of silence made

 

Father in the doorway in his overcoat
my sister’s vanishing in the sound of the closing door

 

snow falling around the house into the room, into my lap

The Blanket

pink blanket, enfolded child

in the crook of my arm

 

how carefully I’d arranged my skirt

a fan—red, blue, yellow

 

Mother’s gloved hands
the tender lifting of the blanketed child

 

the bassinet gone by morning

no image caught in a mirror

 

I lined my stuffed animals against the wall

sentinels with beaded eyes, the chorus I turned to

 

when my parents took her away
their wool coats a barricade against the cold

 

after they left the day began to forget itself

To My Sister

 

the night my daughter was born
I lay awake in the maternity ward

 

as she slept on my chest
a tree’s shadow moved over the white wall

 

a car drove by, radio music blaring

a crazy person outside screaming

 

like a midnight summer cat fight, the shock

of that scream carried your never-heard cry

 

my daughter stirred against my chest
her heart the same size as yours when I held you

 

your shadow followed me to this bed, my daughter’s

warm weight, tears that come with milk

 

before Mother relinquished you

did she clutch you to her chest?

 

our mother played Bach and Brahms for me

what did she play for you?

 

CHRISTMAS EVE 1954

 

Snow falls on the front lawn, drifts under the streetlight. The Noble fir aglow with colored lights. Tinsel, white-winged angel, a silver bell. Stars against the early dark. 

My prayers answered, a black and white puppy curled

in a wicker basket beneath the tree. It cried all night until our housekeeper took it into her bed. They were inseparable until the dog died of old age. My parents buried it behind the house where woodland and yard meet.

 

                I don’t know where my sister is buried.

                I didn’t think about it until just now.

 

 

Up until the 1980s in the United States it was common to separate children with Down syndrome from their families and society. As a newborn, my sister was placed in an institution near Chicago, Illinois. I was told she died when she was twelve.

 

 

 

 

"The Sister" poems first appeared in Psychological Perspectives Vol. 64, Issue 3 / 2021

POEMS

snow.JPG

                                                             Painting by Claud Monet

Featured Poets

FEATURED ARTIST

Nancy Whitley is a photographer and fiction writer. She says, “This is my quest: to discover the Illusion, the reflection, the bare truth; to see the beauty, the irony, the puzzle. And always, the detail. Photography and writing are both about capturing the detail.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night was falling. I entered the room. On the table the bowl. The day's sky held by the sun.   

                                                                          

0.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone at the funeral wore black. All around them a storm was gathering. The sky turned indigo. A sliver of sunlight challenged the dark.

                                                                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Together they tend the roses.  So many years married. The rose's perfume enfolds them.

                                                                          

I kissed your still warm cheek

Held your still warm hand

After they took you away,

I went to the sea

Walked aside the restless tide

Raised my collar against

The wind swept chill

Picked up cold stones

As smooth as your cheek

                                               Nancy Whitley

IMG_3078abw with prose web_edited.jpg

Prose by Jane M. Downs

Contact

CONTACT

For any inquiries, please contact me via email at:

jmdowns@pacbell.net

bottom of page