D. R. James  




If I could just get an eye up
to that peep-hole in the sky.
It’s only the usual moon, now
full at winter dusk, its surface

a gliding onion-skin disk, its
bad complexion as pale blue
as the fading prim scrim of sky. 
But it’s teasing me as I chase it

amidst bare branches boxing
the road we drive to dinner, to
chai and sushi somewhere new.
What’s through to the other side?

I’d like a flight of enlightened
tour guides waiting to whisk me
weird-city-ward or into the mouth
of months of liberated afternoons,

ho-hum evenings opened anew. I’m
hoping the piano praying on the radio—
the roadside weeds keening from our
reeling wheels—means to mirror

a latent and proliferating lunacy.
The feeling is fleeting, the fanning
heat just a hush-hush entourage,
but when I find myself seated

at our sizzling skillet of a table,
a waiter bearing the sweating wine,
the neon fish, some sage surprise,
a school of wry Buddhas riffles by.






What we take in by contemplation,
that we pour out in love.
— Meister Eckhart

I have contemplated stealing the Mars bar, pulling wheelies
on a candy-apple Stingray, contemplated
being bullied for my fat lip.  Contemplated

making fifteen tackles, zero interceptions, getting
a girlfriend, contemplated the girlfriend, the scent
of her shampooed hair.  Contemplated the teenaged life
of Christ, the Buddha’s three delusions, the heart attack
as an opening, chickadees at the feeder,
the student who lay down on the tracks,
bombardment by eight-foot waves.  Contemplated

the gray-skinned vet hawking red carnations,
storm clouds forming and breaking up over Mont Blanc,
bleached white sheets from the dryer, a day
of driving the upper Midwest, when the divorce was finally
in play, when I realized I would have played it
differently, Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes, my second son’s
devastation from eating them.  Contemplated

the dark purple veins of crocus petals, my
youngest son’s shins skinned on skateboards, the rotting
fence, the stone wall, a hundred hornets
up my third son’s camo pant legs, fifty cents
for my very own jug of root-beer-on-tap,
my mother and father dying within
three years, their dying at all, how I felt
before I can remember, the sliced finger
from the slipped pocket knife, the sick thump
of my boyhood head on an Ohio sidewalk, applause,
a stabbing down one street, a drive-by down
another, when the next text will come in
about the grandkids in L.A.  Contemplated

the confounding of the first son’s birth,
the revelation of it, how Thoreau was right:
I am a slave to the farm, how Thoreau was wrong,
overwhelm by the books in a bookstore,
by all those people in a county park,

weeping from a violin, feedback
from a wall of amplifiers, the soft breeze
off warm sand, poems sent back, the comparisons,
the sleekness of swimming under water, the word-play
in a madrigal, the near touch-down of tornados,
the mower-torn rabbit nest, the first time
ever, what we didn’t know could be
the last, Crazy 8’s, a dime for allowance, her cancer,
fearing most the fear, whether we’d come
through it, whether we were wired to, dancing
after the wedding, never getting it
until I get it.  Contemplated

well-worn deer paths atop the crests of
wooded dunes, a hawk’s imperfect circles
describing the heated air, the school-lunchroom table,
the friendly knife in the back, its friendlier twisting,
safety in solitude.  Contemplated

the leaning in of the cats for scratching,
how it’s taken this long to relax into
the calm that comes gently when it all adds up,
how you can touch my neck and release the tears
as if you were a diviner and knew
where the best water’s pooled.





D. R. James’s poetry collections are Since Everything Is All I’ve Got and five chapbooks, most recently Why War and Split-Level. Poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford and Poetry in Michigan / Michigan in Poetry.  James lives in Saugatuck, Michigan, and has been teaching writing, literature, and peace-making at Hope College for 32 years.  He divides his time between staring at the woods from a recliner and staring at the woods from a deck.