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.
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?