David James: New Poems


Sculpture by Antony Gormley

A Type of Wisdom

We all flounder and fumble—
how could we not? It’s our first
and only time through this life.
Failure and doubt carry us
from one morning to the next
when we hope to wake up and stumble
less, when we try to forgive ourselves
and move on like we know what we’re doing.
The older we get, the easier it is
to confess our ignorance,
to believe in the unknown, to humble
ourselves when our mother dies or that secret 
savings must be used after the furnace blows 
or we’re diagnosed with lymphoma.
We know what happens to the best of plans sometimes—
it sits in our open palms and crumbles. 

How to Become an Existentialist

Maybe we’re looking for something
that’s not there, that’s never been there.
We see a shape of the clouds or a blazing sunset or a leaf
falling into our lap, and we imagine it has special meaning,
that the world would make sense if we knew the code.
What if there is no code? What if spring
is just spring, a thunderstorm, only rain?
What if there is no grand design, no holy grail,
but billions of random chances and choices in every moment?
Instead of pondering my future, worrying about my purpose,
I should relish eating this apple, sing
when I feel like it, carry you up to the bedroom
to make love. I should close my eyes and listen to the birds,
live in the minute and take nothing for granted—
this cigar and iced tea, the sun on the towels, the hawk flying overhead,
holding a small rabbit, as two starlings nip at his beautiful wings.


My Ross Gay Poem

I give thanks
for this light rain
after weeks of drought.
Thanks for my wife
of 45 years, still
surprising me
in surprising ways.
Thanks for three 
children who are good
people—funny, talented,
caring and kind,
making a difference
in this crazy world.
Thanks for our grands
who I believe
are all geniuses.
I give thanks
for having two parents
still walking on this earth,
for all they gave
and give us still.
Thanks for this pen
writing on this paper,
for these salted peanuts,
this cigar, the bird calling
from the maple out front.
Thanks for the chipmunk
unafraid of me
even though I’m trying
to kill him quickly
without suffering
as I pray for that same
fate years from now
in my own bed,
giving thanks for
my belief,
right or wrong,                                    
that there’s a heaven
where I’ll see again
all the people I love,
who loved



The Power of Imagination
[or Are You Freaking Kidding Me?]

Let’s pretend all politicians
are pure and honest,
that they don’t care about re-election, money or power.
Let’s pretend all starving people
now have enough to eat, that the homeless
have warm beds and shelter.
Let’s imagine
that war is extinct, that all nuclear bombs
have been recycled, that the ozone
has been repaired
and gender and racial equity is the universal law.
Let’s pretend
crime has been eliminated, that cancer
is a footnote in medical books,
that there’s clean water for everyone.
Pretend there’s no disease, no poor, no prisoners,
no class structure, no hatred anywhere.
If this kind of world is a dream,
then it’s the dream I want to become.

Born and raised on the third coast, Michigan, David James has published seven books, six chapbooks and has had more than thirty of his one-act plays produced across the country. He recently retired after working for forty-five years in higher education.


David James at EIL

David James’s Alive in Your Skin While You Still Own It at Kelsay Books

Review of Wiping Stars from Your Sleeves at EIL

Ross Gay Poems

Antony Gormley at EIL


One response to “David James: New Poems”

  1. Terri Hutchins says:

    I loved and related to every one of these short writings. Thank you for sharing your gift of putting into words what so many of us feel but don’t express as simply and beautifully as you.

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