D.R. James

Three Poems – D. R. James

A Moment Depends Not Just on Its Moment

You’d like to move on beyond mean memory,
skirt that peopled, hollow squalor, pack up
your numerous mind encampments
whose smoky cook fires now flicker, now
flare on this or that nostalgic hillside—
sometimes like coded reminders, sometimes
like brash blazes arousing anything
but simpering gratitude for a brainscape
stippled with so-called love. But then
a random moment’s rush of fragrant pine
rises also from vague beds of heady needles
in your rural past. And today’s savoring
of your young son’s self-liberation emerges
from its oblivious storage of almost forty years.
And the resuscitating pulse in a flagrant poem
owes a measure of its happy current to your
decades of emotional prohibition, your
suspension in the numb ice of wordlessness.
A generous peace depends on your history’s
stingy drudgery, and a restful season
of seeing who you might really be
depends on the eons of not letting being, on
the contrast with not knowing you didn’t see.


Drawing a Blank

To get started I will accept 
anything that occurs to me.
—William Stafford

But what happens when nothing occurs
to you, just your black and gray reflection
in a kitchen window, an older self

you otherwise haven’t yet conjectured?
With the panes clean and the outside
winter world predictably darker

than at this same time yesterday,
the double exposure you could call
Haggard Face over Exterior Scene

is like Community Ed. photography,
amateur-hour art work, a first-ditch effort
to mean something significant.

But then the dark subsides,
the framed face fades,
and there is just that world.


Only This, Just In

I once positioned my outpost on earth—
at the time, in a forest, within earshot
of owls and a lake’s short waves—
to be the center of all communication
beaming in from everywhere, out
to all the warped, rounded corners
of this universe. I was hoping to fool
that alien sense I imagined as native to many,
that I was actually practically cut off
from the prime gist of being alive.

So rather than scanning for more
koans-on-transcendence or
a how-to to convince the chipmunk
standing in for my mind
that this felt insignificance
was insignificant, thereby
skirting the issue that acted
as my Everest because
it was there, it was always there!—

I pitched a little white tent in a holler,
with vents in the canvas to let in, let out
my antennae, the requisite wires,
and the million telekinetic messages
I’d be managing by the minute,
like some ancient eighty-armed operator
devotedly plugging in, plugging out,
the supple joint articulating a life to Life.

And when all systems were finally a go,
and after I flicked the little switch (a
Venetian-like light flooding the moon
of my face), the first words in were
wind, and how old leaves left alone
will crackle for no particular reason.

Then the slow creaking of tall beeches, and then
followed by a pulsing, silent swooshing as if
I were holding my own personal shell
tight to my own individual ear,
which, naturally, as was
my old custom,
I was.


D. R. James, a year into retirement from nearly 40 years of teaching college writing, literature, and peace studies, lives, writes, bird-watches, and cycles with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. His latest of ten collections are Mobius Trip and Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2021, 2020), and his prose and poems have appeared internationally in a wide variety of print and online anthologies and journals.

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