Helen R. Jones

Helen R. Jones watches the sun
crawl up the back of the sky. He smears a
trail of persimmon, gold, and cinnabar on
its sacroiliac; a small strip of lapis lazuli skin
peeks out at the world just above its waistline. She
has seen this happen at least sixteen thousand,
seven hundred and fifty times, give or take a
week or two’s worth of the missing the occasion.

Helen R. Jones performs this daily worship
of the faithful between two and five minutes
every morning, watching color emerge
and disrupt canvas black, dotted with little
diamonds. She always has trouble
walking away from the window, but she does it
anyway. There is that 7:05 AM bus she must catch.
The itinerary of the morning breathes and pulses in her head,
a drumbeat never failing.

Helen R. Jones then showers and dresses for work
in a blue starched housekeepers’ uniform. This is
what she wears Tuesday through Saturday, and
the blue is nothing romantic: no cornflower, no robin’s egg,
no azure, not even periwinkle – it’s something called
“powder” that looks “off” in the wrong kind of light;
it could pass for cinereal under florescent lights,
which Helen R. Jones does not like
but tolerates anyway to keep her job. She knows
that she sometimes looks “off” in the
wrong kind of light.

Helen R. Jones eats breakfast in the
predictable, calming quiet of the house
which is only punctuated by a series of meows
that single the arrival of another hungry soul. She
rises from her seat at the breakfast table
and fills two bowls near the pantry door: one with
water, one with dry camel-colored kibble that
crunches nicely between the points of tiny feline
teeth. The lithe, lean-shouldered collection of
muscle and ochre-striped fur saunters to the bowl,
leans down, and crunches each little mouthful,
spilling a few little bits like broken asteroids
onto the kitchen floor.

Helen R. Jones does not always spend her mornings
amidst nearly unbroken quiet: some mornings
she talks to her little companion as she
fills the bowls with water and kibble. Some mornings
she sings as she washes the small contingent of
breakfast dishes before slinging her purse
over her shoulder, checking the lights, and locking
the door behind her. Every now and then a
large screaming scarlet dragon with a laddered back
and decorative white scales flies down her street
at high speeds: and Helen R. Jones
will cover her ears. When she was a little girl, she
used to flap her hands after the noise was
gone – but she learned to quiet her hands, to
quit making them scream.

Helen R. Jones has twenty books from the local library
sitting in a few small stacks on her coffee table: she
reads them on Sundays and Mondays. Helen R. Jones
has dreams about old Indians, dead poets, and legends
that most have committed to dust piles in
old mental attics. Helen R. Jones watches Star Trek
every Monday night, mostly because of LeVar Burton. And
Helen R. Jones files all of this away, under her brown skin
and blue – powder – housekeeper’s uniform. Because
today is Tuesday, and she must go to work.

Written 5/6/13
© 2013 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #154: Who is Your Protagonist? Helen R. Jones is a character I created before in the “small steel town” series of poems, of which The Creek is part (however, The Creek is written in the voice of Rachel, a teenage girl). I intend to write part of the series in Helen’s POV, and I thought this might be a good place to start.

(Note: I’m going to timestamp each of these poems, as the story for this series begins in 1989. This poem would have been a description of Helen’s morning routine probably around Spring of 1990.)

Read the next in this series, “Liftoff“.


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About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
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18 Responses to Helen R. Jones

  1. A. Loeri says:

    You always amaze me with the nuanced way you perceive whatever you write about. That shows a lot of sensitivity. One thing you wrote struck me, the way the character “used to ” flap her hands after hearing loud noises, but taught herself not to when she got older. I used to have to scratch terry cloth or something of a similar texture if I heard certain noises, such as chalk screeching on a chalkboard. The terry cloth soothed me and kept my skin from crawling, don’t ask me why or how. Your poem brought all that back. Your amazing.

  2. dulzimordash says:

    Reblogged this on Spontaneous Creativity.

  3. Irene says:

    Fantastic start. It gives Helen’s POV really well. That dragon is surreal and slightly puzzling. All ready to move to the next prompt instalment, Nicole.

  4. A. Loeri, it’s interesting that you mention that reminding you of one of your old stims. I left Helen’s former stimming habit — and the fact that she no longer does it — open to interpretation. I think this might be something explored in later poems, since this is the beginning of a series.

    dulzimordash: thank you for reblogging this. 🙂

    mindlovemisery: thank you for the compliment. 🙂

    Irene: I thought I might reveal Helen through her routines, habits, and small little details. Those screaming dragons hurt my ears, too — it’s easy for me to picture a firetruck with a loud siren that way.


  5. Pamela says:

    Wow is all I have to say, Nicole. Wonderful start.


  6. julespaige says:

    My guess is that the dragon is a fire-truck, only because my family is involved with our volunteer fire-fighter community. Though now not all trucks are red. Oh, I see I was correct. I am impress with all the details. While I have worked many jobs and have had different types of uniforms – I have not had one similar to Helen’s.

    I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with this prompt so I did what I do best and internalized it instead of creating a new character, since I have a few other series that I am already working on. I didn’t think about going to other older characters. I am glad you stopped by so I was reminded to visit. Now I will see if you have posted the next piece in your series as mine is up. – Thank you.

  7. 1sojournal says:

    This is fantastic. All those minor details, yet each one tells us a bit more about Helen R. Jones. And I like the dragon on the end, a wonderful bit of twist, that leaves us all questioning.


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  9. Pamela: Thank you. I think we’ve all in this series of prompts created characters that we care about and that have a rich life, either internal or external, to expose in these poems. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

    Jules: the series is based roughly on people from the town in which I spent my junior high and high school. I’ve already written about Nick Williams (here are some of his poems: https://ravenswingpoetry.com/tag/nick-williams/) and Rachel Hounshell (https://ravenswingpoetry.com/open-the-door/the-creek/ and https://ravenswingpoetry.com/2010/04/14/napowrimo-poem-9-untitled-cleave-41410/). Eventually, some of these will (hopefully) become a book.

    Elizabeth: the “dragon” is only one of many examples of Helen’s trouble with sensory stimuli. Helen is partially based on me, except she’s quite a bit older (in present time, she would be almost seventy years old). I never flapped, but I’ve stimmed in other ways.


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