D. R. James

D. R. James’s most recent of ten collections are Mobius Trip and Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2021, 2020); his micro-chapbook All Her Jazz is free, fun, and printable-for-folding at Origami Poems Project; and individual poems have appeared in a wide variety of anthologies and journals. He lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan.

Dear Consciousness,

And you are, you know.  
I know, I still curse you 
in the cynical night, in my 
stumbling through the numbing day, 
calling you out, indifferent hex 
on homo sapiens.
                          You’re why 

I can’t rest in a shower, or
in the cool cavity of my skull. Not with
the world’s open sewers, polluted alleys, 
those impossible bellies and the flies 
plying the sweet corners 
of children’s mouths.
                               You’re why

the soft, inexplicable give
so satisfies and why the take, 
abrupt as a thought, snatches 
the calm of veiled being, 
a permeable haven, after all—
what we didn’t have to feel
to be salvation.
                       But horses

run for being muscle and horse,
and birds, even in cages, sing
for a sake all their own,
                                   and I

am you. I am the knowing
to anticipate my sons’ returns
in joy, my sons’ returns
in the skinnings, the exiles
of their own lives (a throbbing 
knot in the throat
in either case),
and their one day
                          not returning.

Another Time, This Same Moon

Another time, this same moon,
which free-hands its flat arc across
a fathomless slate of nighttime sky,

supplied so much duplicitous reason
that the warmest stretch ever of
endless kissing seemed also to signal

an endless love. Have others believed
in such infinite moments? Maybe the fire
and the jazz and the lips touching

just right? The palm of conversation
folding in whatever tender confidences
came to mind? No way, back then,

could that peaceful walk at dusk—
the slow sun tingeing stray clouds pink
over a tiny inland lake—have led

to the sorry war to come, the saddest
set of regrets that still colors
my occasional wandering. How could

once watching waves etching a shore
have also meant the meanest goodbye
would eventually roll its own way in?

How could catching together
the brilliance of high light glancing
among bright white slopes have groomed

a final run so treacherous, so doomed? How
does such intimacy simply disappear
by the end of, say, your life’s finest week?

Do you remember yours—remember
right now—this loveliness before something
recklessly re-bursts your re-built heart?

Mallards, Mounted on a Chimney Wall

I’ve a vague idea how they ended up
these two hundred lovely feet from shore,
this side of the tall double panes, veering

over the owners’ photos propped on a mantle,
over an old golden retriever twitching now
on his sheepskin rug. So I doubt it was due

to the wrenching updraft depicted
in their implausible contortions, the bunched
shoulders of their posed wings.

As mild chili simmers and Mozart saws
an easy soundtrack, they strive flat
against fine brick, forever matching

their sapphire chevrons, the shriveled orange
leaves of their feet. Meanwhile,
the drake’s clamped beak and his

wild dark eye seem to be carving
today’s northwest wind as if to permit
his trailing hen her subtle luxury

of squinting—as if, in wrestling her steel
pin of fate, she entertains the greatest questions:
Why are we here? Where are we going?

Will we ever arrive? And, in a far softer thought
that has me perched on this hearthside chair,
my ear tiptoed to her dusty brain:

Why has it had to be me?

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