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D. R. James

D. R. James

D. R. James has been teaching writing, literature, and peace-making at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, for 33 years and lives in the woods east of Saugatuck. His newest of seven poetry collections are If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press, 2017) and the chapbooks Split-Level and Why War (both Finishing Line Press, 2014 and 2017).


The b & w photo, not posed, is the picture of 50’s innocence: little boy, five, with a butch and sensible shoes, little bow tie, little vest over crisp white shirt. Sitting ‘Indian’ style, he pets his little dog, who no kidding lies at his knee looking adoringly over her shoulder and up into his grinning face. Behind them and outside the picture-perfect picture window, the rear end of a two-toned coupe (gray and white in the photo and, if memory serves, reality), but stock, that is, not souped-up like it might be ten years later, by then the famous ’57 Chevy favored by hot-rodders when the boy would be turning fifteen. Like all photos, this one doesn’t show it all. Not the half of it. Not most of why it’s made its way into this confession. It leaves out how the small-bodied boy finds it easy to overpower the little dog, cower her with his angry-albeit-little-boy voice, threatening to slap her until he switches abruptly to cooing just to see the relief spread from nervous face through trembling body to tail curled between her legs. It leaves out how his parents will put her down while he’s away at camp. It leaves out how instead of ‘predicating a tendency toward social pathology,’ this history merely marks an eccentric twist in the inexplicable path.

A – maze – d

after an untitled painting by Merle Rosen 

Dive in anywhere. Go ‘round and ‘round on pearl or coral, cross on cobalt, stall against the black mass, the black slabs that finger under rivers of rose. Your hazel eyes will search unmirrored the rings like years, the vibrato’d, banded angles. Your sparrow childhood will scan for the far mouth of corn stalks, inflict patient waiting before screaming. Scrawls in clay will cue the silliness of ancient glyphs. Saplings will bend and sing to the wind. Darkened leaves will unhem. Dawn’s paradise will shatter, the constellations of fine lines torn apart for a merciless afterward waving like harsh flags. But then a familiar vermillion will send autumn’s frost dissolving, the diurnal hours zigzag-falling like freewheeling feathers, until tonight ages into its sedate pitch, those baffling coils slacken into cool-jazz Taps, and you view the horizon: slimmed, glimmered, wobbling.

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