the poetry knook, the poetry of stephen m. james

Poems with the tag ‘family’

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.


God had a sense of humor

God had a sense
of humor that he didn’t share with His angels
entertaining Adam and Eve as they created Seth.
Laughter was heard on a wedding night
between the pain and the pleasure:
ingredients for a sticky sauce
that adheres family portraits and
slippery noodles to a single, circular wall.


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.


The quiet rape

the stranger
the victim
the dark alley
a weapon
a struggle for her
the blood
the hospital
the report

yeah, right. . . .

the friend
the victim
the home
no weapon
no struggle for her
no blood
no hospital
no report


Go fish. I don’t have the cards you’re looking for

Don’t tell them who I am:
preconceived ideas–damn it!
I had to deal with those when I got called–oh, so long ago.
You thought I was going to make things better:
give you a mansion by the seaside?
All my talk of mansions isn’t here, you know,
to keep you warm and cozy by the fireside.
Go and save the world, and oh, and by the way,
break your grandmother’s heart
she’ll only see you every 2 years.


The red chord

Horns herald a rumbling resonating below,
dust bursts in the window as stones fall from the sky:
our half-gone wall through our half-gone ceiling.
Patron gods stumble off the table to the floor cracking
as I crouch with my three daughters clenched tight,
unable to protect them from screams of half-gone family and
friends begging in the street for their children’s lives,
as Yahweh’s people cut down our sons and daughters.
The door remains motionless till the screams cease and
their old chieftain hobbles through on blood-stained sandals
casting the spies’ red chord to the floor.



© 1993-2024 by Stephen M. James.