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Published: Jun 04, 2006 12:30 AM
Modified: Jun 04, 2006 07:04 AM

Dark Matters

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who did the first part of his growing up in Charlotte, is amazed that at his advanced age he can still qualify as a distinguished member of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists. A graduate of N.C. State and of Warren Wilson College -- where he studied computer science and literature -- Jones is the director of (a large-scale information sharing project) and on the faculties of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Information and Library Science at UNC. Jones is author of the chapbook "What the Welsh and Chinese Have in Common." Jones was recently one of the final judges of the 2006 Lulu Blooker Prize. Jones is blessed to live with the lovely and talented Sally Greene, a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council, and Tucker Jones, a future cell biologist and member of the Smith Middle School Odyssey of the Mind team.

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What do Denys Arcand's "Les Invasions Barbares" and Robert Altman and Raymond Carver's "Short Cuts" have in common besides Oscar nominations? (Arcand won.) The heavy presence of darkness and the movement of comedy over the darkness for one thing. Even Kafka, say some critics and readers -- this reader among them -- cannot be as tragic or as dark without his inherent and irresistible comedic impulses. The lightness comes slowly and from a distance and reaches us over time.

Why now when I feel so much
Life, am I haunted by the dead?
Not the dead I know or knew
But odd characters from such
Stories as Kafka's stark stews
Or films in which, say, rye bread
Is served up as a last lunch

To a grieving family
By a dark haired baker
With a fakir's demeanor.
Or another film in which
A goat-footed old scholar,
Who shares a birthday with me,
Goes down, eased off by his rich,

But now deeply feeling, son.
He, reveling in his sins,
Even sets out to the end
Loaded up with heroin
Amid lovers and good friends.
Even a smart film gives in
As cliched clouds mask the sun

And tasteful but still corny
Music rises and new lives start
Their bumbling bend toward that
Mystery we all find thorny.
No last hat that would crown me
Should seem silly or fall flat;
The end, like love, is too tart

To be held off by the sweet
Consolations, empty tries
At putting our fears to rest.
What dark matter will arrest
Our joy in the end -- defeat,
The last scene before our eyes
Close on another kind of rest?

In the planetarium,
Our eyes become accustomed
To the lack of light, old skull,
Old orb, the old black cracked bowl,
The old cup pouring out cold
Where points of colored light rim
The room as the sun goes dim.

Being here in the domed dark
Is one part of the wonder:
Getting close to the sky's arc
Brings us close across the room
And takes out the world's bright
Nightly growl against the gloom,
Gives news of what was once here.


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