the poetry knook, the poetry of stephen m. james

June Widow (after Saving Private Ryan)

If I pick her, she will be torn,
beautiful flowers, back over the pond, in a vase,
the French countryside–I’ve seen her wear it on Sundays,
the place we met–the demolished cafes–sans the coffee;
we share memory of mothers with the crash of cannons,
beyond the river where red was roses and Revlon
and knee cuts on the playground,
we left our school-teaching-selves:
like the rubble above our brothers
that collapsed our bridge home.


Forbidden cricket song

hills of grassy fields without mowing,
resonate a gushing spring worth welling,
your hairy shanks tonight slide
against me, hidden by cuff of jean,
vegetation’s swelling I know
mother nature’s maestro
no feline stomach could play
poetry scraping me to sleep.


Take off your shoes and stay a while

“Solid rubber backing keeps Matt always in place and built-up rubber borders keep dirt and moisture on the Matt surface.”

some run bare
foot calloused
since childhood–probably
need a shoe horn for the other to drop
by and rub their soles, clean, expose their toes, clean
some say foot massages are too intimate for friends,
but will lay
their boots under your bed,
WELCOME: “Tell me all!”
the parquet border woven like transistors is deceiving
{WHILE A == B DO C IF}
edges fray, yarns will be written,
fly though the wind, the ear,
save their soles from–
“Where are you going? Come back. I miss talking to you.”


Hip, hop in the MoMA

(in response to pink out of the corner (to Jasper Johns), Dan Flavin, 1963)

No one would ask if you Met a bunny,
but when you hang out inside your MoM(A),
bunnies belong in Kentucky Afield? not Rothko and
the light, pink,
bunny in the corner,
coloring, confusion,
the transparent expression,
“Is he part? Is he art?” guard says,
“Stay!” I herd the free tickets pass
to snap a family photo with Van Gogh:
“I wuz here” to hear
him cry– not the bunny, the man,
inside the night,
a stuffed bunny still died, another piece, another life
skewered through the brisket
above a chalkboard, for art, life
is a bunny outfit–outside of Lent,
no pocket for a MetroCard
no Times Square girl to hand
a torn ear caught in the 1-9 turnstile;
For him “I wuz here” the Artist states.


Preparation for the hearth

Foot friction, she smiles,
“sandals braking down cause duck-walk,” I say,
and fly across the claymated basement,
jettied like the muddy earth encircling.

mortarboards form next week
and fly across another room:
pots will be removed from the kiln,
placed on selling shelves with resumes,

her fingers resume, slippery nails filled,
stuffed to overflow like the glazing shelves,
“this is craft, not art,” curtly said.
the adding . . .subtracting . . .centripetal . . . centrifugal. . .

“what color should this one should be?”
her call? will clay return to rock
for defeating paper,
will she write

her mark brandishing,
initializing the final piece
this Friday night,
the final week,
to fire.


Goodbye Owingsville (’92), Goodbye Elementary (’94), Goodbye School (’05)

He knew others had to talk first,
had to make their move, watch his eyes
ask how he did his tricks:
slid the slide, swung the swing, how he’d fly,

He knew from his backyard porch and oak tree perch, he’d spy
them and play till supper, till dark,
they were here for T-ball, PTO, parents working late,
it was his ground, his yard, his park,

He knew how to spin, to start
the small merry-go-round,
to make you sick,
lean out, legs bound,

He knew which swing chains sound
squeak or sat high enough to glide
left jaundiced palms,
had uneven sides,

He knew where in the rocket ship tree to ride,
to hide under the trailers of special ed,
dragons guarded dungeons
and climbed the web without being wounded,

He knew that jungle gyms were more than houses founded
for girls to fix supper in or teach school,
Gary was a shorter, but stronger bully,
and one always jumps the tile cracks in school

He knew which gutter spout to climb to the roof,
teachers’ kids just played basketball,
rocks were rubies and gold,
the seriousness of his mom’s third supper call.


Hug buddy

another couple’s caress
is a “love is a dove from above” poem,
reserved in a library,
checking itself out it scribbles in the margin
-tly the lights fade,
the librarian says “We’re closing,”
my eyes bring no catalog of goddesses, but the book-next-store
to need me and feel me,
up to no good
-nested in this contrived world trying,
not to envision prostitutes
carrying on conversations about
Myers-Briggs, MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
by hour, do I need a pay
“meant to be?” she asks when the long
walk ends the girlfriends
gather eyes tell it all,
“he said we weren’t dating.”


Paloma: 10 years for cultivation

“When Mr. Palominos is done swabbing prison floors, around 2014, he will be given a one-way ticket back to poverty,” his defense attorney noted.

a dove waits for a patrol of whirling hawks to pass overhead,
from the nest he flies, north, to scratch in the dirt to find his chicks food,
helicopters weedwack his gray head feathers as he flies across the river.

his ground is burnt sienna, desert hard, cracked below, his feet,
the seed owner’s ground is Columbian, American Roast, a little caramel,
and didn’t know anything about doves watering hemp in Brazoria County:
“Where Texas began” from a county of doves.


Hash browns (after Waffle House)

scattered
No answer.
She plays with her fork,
her food divides into individual hairs,
I’m parched:
waiting for words all night.

smothered
Am I onion, cutting, alone?
“does he love me?” she asks.
I said, “This isn’t romance”
as I slid my arm around.

covered
“I love cheese, too” she says,
“American is fake
“and grease is bad.”
She won’t let me pay.

chunked
Hamming it up, no bite, no sip
water untouched
no thirst for talking;
I know her like our waitress,
emm. . . (looking at nametag)

topped
off with ice scream “You chilly?”
“No, nervous–my first date.”

diced
unripe remains of Kyle
and other tropical storms of rejection
crush;
weathered palms cling for anything.

peppered
with smiles, glances, hugs,
phone calls on nights ending in “day,”
I can do no more.
Goodnight.


Getting her off, his chest

He’s spent the hour deciding how to get her head to her pillow and off his chest where lay her silhouetted cheekbones, high and smooth, against his sternum rising slow. His eyes–breaths before closing–stay ajar to see his reason–her–to open: sweat with hair, her humid breath undulates love. He’s lost this hour, the first of twenty-four, in thought, recounts this day, ceremony, the vows, her muddy eyes now veiled in sleep, her arms, his, interwoved in figure eight. He grasps for pen and pad on nightstand out of reach to write his joy, his words: hopeful to not to wake his bride from needed rest.



© 1993-2024 by Stephen M. James.