D.R. James

D. R. James’s collections include Since Everything Is All I’ve Got (March Street) and Why War (Finishing Line).  His article on Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde is forthcoming in The Writer’s Chronicle.  He teaches writing, literature, and peace-making at Hope College.  james@hope.edu

Country Crow

When cars approach at ten over, ten under,
I think: stay with the carrion at this edible
consistency or do my flap-away-and-wait?

The zoom is monotonous, all buzz and swoosh,
a rhythm I live with, my murder and me.
And I’ve heard we’re confused for starlings,

for grackles, though how? No speckles. No
iridescent heads. We’re bigger, more mythical.
Some say majestic! Maybe, from a distance,

but on the fat branch of this fencerow mulberry
it’s merely watch and wait. Some dull days
I never stretch my wings, just hop from crotch

to pavement and back again, and back again,
a little bluish viscera streaming from my beak.
You’d never know it but the hawk’s no bigger.

The search light of his shadow casting those
wide circles over roadways, over fields means
he’ll soon have live meat. Me, I get what

gets itself hit. Then in between I doze and dream
I’m small enough to ride a bowing cattail, slurring
a scratchy terrr-eee, an oak-a-lee. Flashing

my red and yellow chevrons, luminescent
in the summer sun, I’m catching someone’s eye.

First Christmas

Never up first, he was always
downstairs first, his four little boys
aligned like ascending angels
up the polished staircase, already
dressed, eager to see the tree,
their piles of presents, when he gave
the word. But this—his first since
moving out, holed up in a grayed
box on a slab with a stoop just
blocks away: Christmas Eve with
him, a canned ham, and trifles
stuffed into four new matching
stockings; Christmas day with her.
At forty-four, he’d never spent
this morning alone with its luxury
of infomercials, happy-holiday sales
inserts, fried eggs and left-over ham.
A nice woman stopped to exchange
commiseration, gifts meant to flatter,
their festive fronts. Later, the phone
said what everyone had gotten—
what he already knew. That night,
back at the rental after kissing four
happy foreheads through their front
porch door, he watched winter turn
his wine black, fell asleep weeping,
Miles Davis playing Blue in Green.

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