D.R. James: New Poems

Art by Gianluca Giarrizzo

An Unremitting Epiphany:

Shoulders and knees unyieldingly mature!
Mine slide bone over offending bone and

puff like tough balloons, fueling refusal
to move. Once, my shoulders were boulders. Once,
my knees weren’t tricky. I’d sic ‘em on lifts,
that deep-sixed me, rips willed invisible.
I saw them scoring jealous stares, mistook
injury for max-burn musculature.
They saw the future, the facts that would soon
ooze, their doomed hinges undone with stickum.

Déjà Vu Hooey

I’m unceasingly an easy mark
for my own chemistry—something
up my nose, any acrid scent, the way

a soporific wave can wash me
toward a sitting-up dream.
It takes only the chance combo

of some supermarket Manilow
and the semi-rough edges
of sort of burnt-up toast. Blues

for the blues, for times when I’d’ve
preferred the short pang of anything
to that long but dear sense of

So what? And they’re sneaky,
these creepy impositions,
their nerve-inspired nowheres.

Their appearances leave me reeling,
wishing the recalling could be rewound.
But now that I’ve re-self-resuscitated,

staggered into not just any old locale
that’s plattable upon a fold-up map,
all I have to do is snort a counter-

acting whiff from anywhere
between, say, solitude and
the avant-garde—a where

where maybe there’s Charlie Mingus
fingering bass, Jimmy Cobb bopping
on drums, and Victor Borge, “The World’s

Funniest Human,” deadpanning
his happy-birthday Chopin across
Carnegie’s shiniest concert grand.

EKG Whiz

Thump-thump, Old Ticker! Well, older than I
thought, little red flag needling upside my
neck. Yawn! And the race was on. I picture
that tube, that scope thin as a micro-scop-
ic snake, its headlight nosing: three trickles
to discover, three more to open up,
wid’ning the criks to irrigate the whole
unbought farm, chicken wire to hold back them
nasty water weeds, stent their steady growth,
to let ’er flow! Yump! Thump-thump, Old Ticker!

Bon Voyage!

Life is like stepping onto a boat which is
about to sail out to sea and sink.
 —Shunryu Suzuki

Doesn’t the final meaning of life, too, reveal itself,
if at all, only at its end on the verge of death?
                                                 —Viktor Frankl

Does Soto Zen ever mention you can’t cancel,
can’t rebook for a better week, another season,
or due to limbo, your marriage gone to hell?
Life’s cruise is now and not never. Oh, sure,
you could leap, even double somersault over

the side, work your manic cannonball act,
that full-tuck drop from the poop deck.
Camus, for one, existentially questioned
why anyone wouldn’t have already executed
that particular kind of a final dive.

Perhaps he’d not considered the sinking. Or,
considered it and concluded, “Who can abide
that anticlimax?” But even he stayed
aboard, the festivities apparently far too
fetching: his father killed in the Marne,

his uncle paralyzed, his TB, the colonial thumb
pressing his Algerian brothers while Nazis
oppressed his entire world, his Nobel
that should have gone to Malraux—the wreck
at 46, his own too early disembarkation. No,

Camus knew what the roshi knows: this plague
of sinking, the bleak catalyst for the celebration
en route. Why else such great devotion,
Le Théâtre du Travail, two dozen volumes written
for la fraternité, and all before this middle age
at which I write? Older, he might have counseled

Viktor’s trick, too, like plugging your dear life
as an unfinished film: millions of tiny images,
stowing their successive meanings until
the credits roll, the low rows of deck lights
ignite, and you bow, the whole exposed cargo
only now rewound as your celluloid soul.

D. R. James, retired from 40 years of teaching college writing, literature, and peace studies, lives with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. His latest of ten collections is Mobius Trip (Dos Madres Press, 2021).

D.R. James at EIL

D.R. James at EIL, Labor Day 2020

D.R. James at EIL in Shrödinger’s CatOber 2020

D.R. James at Amazon

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