Bio Note: I live in the woods outside of Saugatuck, Michigan, with my wife, psychotherapist Susan Doyle, and I'm just remotely-completing my 36th year of college professoring in writing, literature, and peace-making. Six grown kids, and various significant others, as well as six grandkids keep us hoppingly confused and delighted most of the time. My latest of eight collections is Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2020).
When its arched brow rises from behind the country hill, snub-nosed, a grin for a grill, you remember you’re in second grade. There is Cindy’s old yellow dog feigning outrage at your passing van, his bark and lunge petering to that bored, panting trot. And there the synod of grammar schoolers wrestling lunchboxes into a line, reinventing the rituals, the hierarchies, the variations of elemental courtship. There the oil-rosy puddles in rutted gravel, the soaked toes, knots of gossiping daffodils, tufts of too enthusiastic grass, the bristles smudged in sage and mustard along the far edge of fields. When you top the hill you know you’ll see the bus swing a backward right in your mirror, right onto the main road, so you lean, small-palm the cracked leatherette, grasp the memory of cool steel framing the seat ahead, all your uncertain world still straddling the smeared window slid halfway down. The same low sun stuns you when you glance back, forward, run your times-nines, wheel left and head for school.
Originally published in Oberon
As I flew into town that first time, leaning over the gull-winged sweep of the handlebars, the burn in my pudgy, mad-pumping thighs, told me I was fast, was free, was finally entering the my country ’tis of thee we’d all been singing, sweet land of weekend- playground liberty. That mile I’d never ridden was a hundred miles, the fresh spring breeze speed itself as those fat tires snarled through dunes of shoulder gravel and eddies of fallen leaves. When I jumped the curb onto the school’s front sidewalk town kids, exotic friends named Cindy, Billy, Darlene, and Gary, were already gathered, long unchaperoned, at ease, their pre-adolescences already underway, their slow turn toward my approach blasé as I came skidding into that newest of my old neighborhoods of memory.
Originally published in Lost Enough, Finishing Line Press (2007)
When Dad had his easy operation he quit smoking, cold turkey, and Peggy and I traced and crayoned the encyclopedia’s glossy plates. I gave him a cardinal, a goldfinch, a blue jay and still know those basic colors, their cocked depictions. Today, near blind, he’s ready to hand back over whatever can’t be moved— some ‘20’s textbooks, Grandpa’s elaborate camera, the table saw that hasn’t cut much in years and years. And I’m trying my best to feel sad about now but grope around another corner instead: I see I should settle again, start collecting for sons who, in another twenty-five years, will need to help clear out a house, haul away quaint power tools, inlaid tables, floor lamps, a love seat, an assortment of dusty cup hooks and nails, and several odd poems featuring birds.
Originally published in Oberon
©2020 D. R. James
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