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Poetry

Featured Poet: Mitch James

MitchMitch James was born and raised in Central Illinois, where he received a BA in English with a minor in Creative Writing from Eastern Illinois University. He received a Master’s in Literature and a Ph.D. in Composition from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He’s had fiction and poetry published in Decomp, Underground Voices, Kill Author, Digital Americana and Blue Earth Review among others. Most recently, Mitch’s chapbook of fiction The Cut Worm was released by Underground Voices Press, and his short story “What Floats, What Sinks” was just released with Calliope Magazine. Mitch lives in northeast Ohio, where he’s an Assistant Professor of Composition and Literature at Lakeland Community College. Find more of his work at mitchjamesauthor.com  

This Time without Deliberation

I saw you in the rain
Wounded
Bowed like a broken wing.

You wanted to come to me
To a cage of arms
And the steady drum of a pulse
Piloting something you understood
Something you could love.

Inertia impelled you
With all the propulsion of the earth
Towards me
But you wouldn’t move
Or couldn’t
Below the weight of judgement
From earls
And kings.

If there was a word
That could’ve moved you
Somewhere in the ether
My mind would have plucked it
From time and space
And placed it in the pocket
Of your auditory canal
As a whisper so silent
You could trust
So silent you’d know
You were the only one
To have ever heard it.

But the lighting of my mind
Like that of the sky
Rarely strikes
In all its dancing.

While the synapsis sizzled
Through a blood-soaked sponge of a brain
You walked away
In a rain
That fell so hard
It could have been fog
It could’ve been the fangs of dogs
Or the belting of the universe’s god
Screaming for you to stop and turn around
Screaming at me to follow
Screaming so hard its spit slathered the earth
Where I stood
And where you
Walked away.

1000 Dead Seeds

The middle of October
Is 2 weeks past harvest.

But if you find a field
Where corn still stands
Weather rotted in swollen pods
The leaves’ choked whispers on the breeze
And you grip a sun-bleached stalk
And bend it
It will sever
Like a spine.

And if having gripped the stalk low enough
You’ll discover you have a choice to make
To drop what you hold
Or carry with you
The half
With a thousand dead seeds

A Gnashing of Teeth

When the boy pointed to the crystalline sky of onyx
With no moon
And asked
With a horseshoe smile
“Dad, what are all those stars made of?”
His father
Who couldn’t remember a night sky so clear in the boy’s lifetime
Said
“Teeth.”

“Teeth?”
The boy asked
Smile fading.

“Teeth,” the father confirmed
“For eating.”

“For eating what, dad?”

“Everything,” he told the son
Who had a mother dying of cancer
The son
Who had a bent-backed coal-lung father
Owner of the pick axe
And mortgage that buried them all.

The man realized
At the boy’s fleeting smile
He only wanted to believe in something not filthy and cold
Something not humid and dank in the summer
Something not just a small hunk of meat and bread and broth
Something not the wheeze of a match-stick mother
Who cried when she thought nobody could hear
Something not him
Who said to his only son
That the universe was teeth
A mouth
Gnashing teeth.

“But past the teeth” said the man
“Is heaven
Not too hot
Not too cold
Nobody gets sick
And money doesn’t matter.”

The boy smiled
Yet said with conviction
“But we have to make it past the teeth?”

“Yes,” said the man
“First we have to make it past the teeth.”

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