the poetry knook, the poetry of stephen m. james

“This space is reserved for parents without children.”

When the kids can’t swim in the canal, Old King David’s rather mute: permanent rooftop PB&J ogling a sweater waiting to be knitted inside. Take a big breath and push away the cup, the bread, the blood–if only we were. Paying for an invisible medical school is an education of endless cycles of ending. Cycles and no yellow shirts, no riding–some nights it’s quite useless, finishing [sighing] a stage, weekly, a following with rockin’ praise, “You give and take away”–yes, but you can’t take what you haven’t given. An audience refilled again and again with homemade inkjet infants, bags and beepers in hand as the slow and the sluggish–always next year’s crop–scrapes against the empty barrel, mourning dove-tailed together, an empty drawer separated to inlay another crafted soul. There is no extra, no backup, no sending in reinforcements, only the chosen six-day blast into inner space, a little bud implanted in hardening ground, and on the seventh day he rested….


Week One

Week One
I picked you from a brood of faxes:
blurred letters, blurred past,
You were mine for a week.
A faintly positive called ‘chemical’ and
they said your DNA just didn’t add up,
so the interjections, the fullness, the glottal stopped and you left.
Back in the fields grasping for gleaned grain
it’s never too early to grieve,
stuck in traffic, staring at pint-sized, van-dalized nuclear doodles smiling,
I wonder what they call you–those that know you now.

I picked you from a brood of faxes:
blurred letters, blurred past,
You were mine for a week.
A faintly positive called ‘chemical’ and
they said your DNA just didn’t add up,
so the interjections, the fullness, the glottal stopped and you left.
Back in the fields grasping for gleaned grain
it’s never too early to grieve, stuck in traffic,
staring at pint-sized, van-dalized nuclear doodles smiling,
I wonder what they call you–those that know you now.


Where’s your wife? –Italy. –Where?

The house bubbles, twice the footage,
without the light, halved, one bulb, one bed.
Quiet, still, except the air stirred and
conditioned to cool the enclosure.
Liquid crystal portal to work, to play, to view
the pixelated presence of a purpose
smiling back, travelled afar.

- – -

Staring into the only two skies that matter,
cypress weaved into their spheres with
sunset skin and streams of autumn gold,
rolling fields broken with brunette rooftops.
A barnyard squeel of delight at reunion
trotting forward, counting days till harvest.


Something’s in the water

(A meditation for Mother’s Day and Christmas)

“Something’s in the water.” Chuckles surround.
“I’m due. Get ‘em out with spicy Thai.”
Down in straps infants spit-up over shoulder and lapse
the recurring flow–before nine and after one,
suckling two, singled out, like the single ones so few
within the stained. Glass. Body–broken.
Created to create, duty to do, should we adopt, a different view?
Turn a cheek when asked if trying instead of
shoving our Brothers and Sisters, sighing:

A gleam in God’s eye, a moat in mine.
Doused at a shower: games and pastel flower
present from the eye, a tear, ducks out early dashing hope
upon the rocks by Babylonian stream, the placenta’s quite salty,
but ’tis sweeter than bare melancholy.

Christened: yet another granny or grandpa’s claim,
last week’s was not averse to holy, genocidal names–
ache and money enough can get triple the glow, the pound,
the flesh, the ounce add up every week, you know, weighing down,
C-cups runneth over to nursery wants ten more
fingers, ten more toes, to fight the battle
in the basement of babies booming below.

Impregnated with fertility in winter–in spring:
proud pistils sing standing up theirs in-carnations
on Sunday two of–May the un-mothered run away.
But no matter the year, we worship a child in the end:
bowing to our cherubs in bathrobes, tiny babes in bulletin,
sliding through choruses on the backs of asses to Bethlehem.

For God so loved the world that he sent an advent series
every year to remind the shepherdess, in her barren fields,
to treasure up these things and ponder them.


Time in a queen’s single slough

The one time, I’d give up time–twice,
as fast as chlorophyll leaves fall
to the ground: blood. Oranges coupled with bitters,
the saving grace: incoherent post-midnight mumblings of the past
day passing, air calms, (eupnea)
Leviathan to break free, locked up in this Loch
Lethargy desiring, to dote its anti-dote, anticipating
the smearing of oil, and the anointed,
return the plastic clamshell, tearing away,
thermoformed around a thermometer’s rising crescent,
carmine colored by parasitic spirits leaving,
into veins cautiously cauterizing
a brand. New. Return to each single second
is not difficult to imagine place to serve,
time in a queen’s single slough, tossing,
turning slowly-recalling at once,
upon a time.


Pandora: the search for a siren

The search for a siren,
the perfect song,
to hold and
to squeeze all along
she silently sings,
bought for a harem,
that would shame Salt Lake–
even Solomon.
She’ll concubine your mind,
with the touch of a note
and the sound of a mime.


My tiny body (D&E)

I’ll never be half a football field of nerves,
just a cell for a season’s-”“in a cell,
a miniature galaxy pregnant with possibility,
an alien with big black eyes watching
for the vacuum, of space taking is not my home.
I, being of sound mind and not much say, leave my few feeble cells to
my mother: my last testament to fight off disease for decades.

Flushed at this funeral, a little red-faced and now wasted:
somatic septic cells in fetal position rowing, then wading through fecal
mix in matters (too private to halt) with dioxins to incinerate lungs of pets and
pets that are children and yes, even, children, but that wouldn’t be green.
Pieces: umbilical, ambivalent, paraxial, personal, particles,
a gorey inconvenient truth, a choice warming in an all too earthen oven,
too full for responsibility to try ‘n muster the strength to alter a sound to see
my tiny body.


I was mistaken (or that pain was post-orgasmic marriage glue)

Oh, to be a rational Epicurist! A sun spotless mind-cleaner (than)
a Pope for one more franchise will burn my body by a Steak, ‘n
Shake a SRI index fund’s pointy finger, at my 401-Kilo-calories
it reads on the fast food prospectus–just ’cause a prophet didn’t write it
doesn’t mean it’s untrue, Mo’ and mo’ years, the more I choose
beside my Jesus burger, I need more media, more YouTube
feeding tube is not enough!–need mail on phone, music on TV,
hybrid corn, a fructose I.V., a fourth meal of midnight tacos
drive-thru lines of closed eyes show ads on clothes and signs,
other’s behinds walking right to left, left to right–usness: the risk
worth taking this half field of nerves and flipping coins to kick
or be kicked on the other cheek bones protected by dead bolts,
car doors, live wires, meds, and noise canceling headphones ring
interrupting disrupting sighs: our stones, diarrhea, and UTI’s.


Blue and gray battle tunes

Blue and gray battle on line, on screen,
battles of bands, lines after lines sing-
a-long shuffling in anything but civil sighs,
fat lady’s tongue’s been pulled by Gitmo guys,
water / smorgas / boarding / ear popping/budding / flying today
alone in the night sky, all the Stars’ songs on display
cloud the view of divine ear-piecing silence.
yes, eat! the Apple, the pod, the seed, the Tree, since
Steve sounds like Eve to man in a hormonal haze,
yes, the Tree of Knowledge speaks lectures on history,
converses in college-ese, can be a cantata in box beige,
“chicken in every pot,” eternal cacophonous symphony.


There is no animal

There is no animal
except in the coal
powering this magnetic platter
only minerals in this production
seduction on plates of
power, porn, and politics:
creativity on a shoestring of abstract bits and
pieces spinning around, around
for there is no memory of before, random
access from any phone, wall, lap:
shuffling forward, backwards, waiting
as a vegetable, unmoving,
for the next quest for new



© 1993-2024 by Stephen M. James.