the poetry knook, the poetry of stephen m. james

Poems with the tag ‘tragedy’

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.


One dog sniffs – a poet’s calling

One dog sniffs the other’s behind,
“You artistic?” he asks.

no hiding, let’s follow our noses:
{Adultery in the reception line}
ignored””the best man wants to hug the bride.
{Hell in the visitation line}
ignored””the mother collapses on the casket.

my roommate sometimes smells my children
“What’s the raison de etre of your joie de vivre,” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I reply,
“but it sure sounded like a female in a men’s restroom:
good and frightening.”


Your dream girl

shits and pisses and bleeds and winces–
especially during the miracle of life.
She is not some smooth plastic object or mechanized road machine.
She is a living organism breathing and trying to find her way through life,
weak and strong, brimmed with success and tragedy–
the solemn and the sullen, the giggle and the hiccup.
She is fluid and fickle, steadfast and solid–
awaiting your coming, yet venturing forth without you.

She is your dream girl but never was a dream.


Family heirlooms

The kitchen chairs slowly turn to face the TV,
and the parents quit asking (even during commercials)
but want to know more then ever–
hoping to be a friend,
afraid to rebuke, terrified to be rebuked,
as if respect and obedience aren’t
parent and child:
family heirlooms in the hands of the childless.


Sometimes I lie

sometimes I lie,
I bite myself–forking:
You’re saving souls from fire
and day to day desolation,

and for a moment, the fangs are enough
to not slit my scaly skin,
ignoring others’ bleeding,
like me! in self-pity,

tragedy keeps me humble–thirsty
to stare, into cringes and dying corpses
decaying on the desert, I swivel on
with no eyelids I cannot cry.

but the sun still shines
behind clouds and over sandy mounds–
burning yet basking! and the cross
is enough tragedy to get me through.



© 1993-2024 by Stephen M. James.