A Thin Space
“But a love poet must somehow make love/if only to language…”
—Dennis O’Driscoll, “To a Love Poet”
I’m having a moment, you say
as we sit at a table by the ocean,
just us two on holiday for forty-one days,
the same number as our years
of marriage. There’s Guinness, hot tea, sun
on your back, and it’s the first Friday
out of six abroad. I love your moments,
filled to the brim and beyond with gratitude,
maybe joy, something divine and unexplainable.
You tear up, so I tear up—it just happens
after living so long together. Your mood
becomes my mood, my heart content
to be near your heart. Even if there’s nothing
after the great darkness,
I’ll swim to you, dig for you,
fly or jump or move stars to find you.
Of course, if there’s a heaven and we’re blessed
I’ll have a moment when I die and hear you begin to sing.
Love Song to the World
for my grandchildren
The world is so damn big and beautiful,
so full of bizarre wonder
and joy and happiness and miracles,
I don’t know where to begin—
do I teach you how to translate thunder
into song lyrics or show how a fistful
of moonlight can raise a woman or man
out of the deepest despair?
What about using rainwater
caught in your own bare hands
mixed with thin slices of pear
to enhance childhood memories?
Do I tell you about bird feathers and love potions?
Daffodils and predictions of long life?
When I nod and wink, waves in the great seas
crash on shore like drums
beating away all doubt and fear.
The world gives and laughs and spins;
it calls and yells and sings its truths
to anyone who wants to hear.
So open each morning and fall in.
Let your ears walk into town.
Let your eyes carry your best dreams
into the fields. And let the sun lift you in the sky
where you can bow your head and be crowned.
It Starts With G, Like God
for John Woods
“Your ashes will not stir, even on this high ground…”
—Derek Mahon, “In Carrowdore Cemetery”
This time, Virginia Beach, May 31st, twelve people killed.
Tomorrow, it could be at your grocery store,
your workplace, your favorite bar, a gas station.
Next week, it could happen on your street as you grill
hot dogs and red onions. This is not normal or sane.
And where’s the turning point? How many more
have to die senselessly, kids, parents, employees,
before something is done to keep guns
out of certain people’s hands? I’m bored
with prayers and words of compassion. I’m sick
of vague platitudes and political apathy.
There is no justification possible that includes the bloody murder
of innocents. It’s time. It’s beyond time. As the funerals wind down, the nightmares begin, the curses and regrets and pleas.
We all dress and go out, a bulls-eye on our backs,
ready for someone’s aim.
The Art of Subtraction
Over a matter of years and deliberate stupidity,
I’ve learned to live with my mistakes,
even relish in them.
The end doesn’t care about my stock or pedigree:
that final moment is the same for everyone.
Over the course of a life and sporadic heartbreaks,
I’ve developed my own brand of vision:
I see what I want and ignore the rest.
It’s probably the best way to shake
the blues and bask in some kind of glory.
With so little time down here and none
of the answers, I’ve decided to dance and sing,
wrestle and eat, toast the hours left and right
and care less about a reason.
The sun rises and falls. I can take a hint.
Why I’ll Never Leave Michigan
The world is a brown sponge, soaking wet.
Back with a vengeance, robins wait
for the last
of the snow
and ice to die, pray to their god to change their fate
and let the rain come down like golden sweat.
Two squirrels by the feeder are as big as cats.
Today, the tarp of this March sky refuses the sun.
But you can feel
hope in the air,
hinting at tree buds and early flowers where there are none.
Before you know it, kids will be out with balls and bats,
riding bikes in the streets, planning lemonade stands.
You’ll plant a garden, get out the birdhouses, wash and polish
the car. You’ll open
the windows and let
the world back into your stuffy house. And you’ll wish
you were young again, struck dumb by love, your heart cradled
in your willing hand.
David James’s third book, My Torn Dance Card, was a finalist in the 2017 Book Excellence Award and the Next Generation Indie Book Award. In addition to publishing six chapbooks, he has two new full-length books forthcoming in 2019/2020, A Gem of Truth (Main Street Rag) and Nail Yourself into Bliss (Kelsay Books). More than thirty of his one-act plays have been produced across the U.S. and in Ireland. James teaches writing at Oakland Community College in Michigan.