Poetry by Leland James

Read More: A brief interview with Leland James

At the Nursing Home
—an old man vacant by the window

Hold me occasionally for the light is fading
and I can no longer see the hills that once
rose there, brown hills, sand, sand. I see
the color, like the brown shoulders of a girl
I knew by the lake, outside the window.
Did I marry her? Were there children?
Is that snow? Is it winter already again?

I remember her shoulders, not her face
or name. I remember your face sometimes
(are they your shoulders?) and your touch.
Hold me occasionally. The hills are gone,
and monotony. I know that word, but I
could not say it and no longer even try.
A strange world, monopoly. It tastes like bleach.

My life is there in a thimble on the night stand
only I can see. I stare at it for hours. Hold me
occasionally. There is no hurry. The light fades
slowly. It seems the last part of some other day,
and the thimble holds so little. The hills are gone
and soon the thimble will tip slowly over.
It will make no sound, nothing will spill.

 

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The Lament of Whitehorse Billy

I never took no water with my whiskey. I laughed
at winter’s busted pipes and trails hip-deep
with snow. I never bent. No willow tree was I.
Like a hardwood stake, whittled sharp,
I drove myself into this froze-up earth and stood my ground.

Just as hard and strong I loved my brown-eyed Anna.
She loved me back and we was like twin
cormorants that never left the lake in winter.
Birds not fine or flyin’ high but rugged
like the tundra. Proud, I guess, a little,
of the way we stood outside in this hard place that we was born.

Then a woeful wind came whinin’ down the mountain,
cut me like a Humbolt ax, dropped me to the ground. My Anna
upped and died. I shattered like a sheet of ice, lost its grip,
slid from the roof into a bed of gravel. The doc,
he told me why she died, some words I didn’t understand.
Hardly even listened. Why don’t matter. Dead is dead and gone.

I’m hopin’ folks remember me the way I was—not like now […]


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Dreamscape

at the end of the magnolia
there’s a window on a garden
there a spirit bird is singing
he is dreaming of the garden

in the garden is a woman
she is calling to a madman
through the garden window
where the spirit bird recites

now the spirit bird is waking […]


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Access this and all our bi-weekly publications (and submit for free).

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Leland James is the author of four books of poetry and a book on poetry craft. He has published over 200 poems in journals and magazines worldwide including The Lyric, Form Quarterly; Rattle, The South Carolina Review; The Spoon River Poetry Review; New Millennium Writings; HQ The Haiku Quarterly, and The London Magazine. He was the winner of The UK’s Aesthetica Creative Writing Award, The Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize, and the Writer’s Forum short poem contest. He has received honors in many others competitions and was recently nominated for a Push Cart Prize. More at www.lelandjamespoet.com.

 “At the Nursing Home,” “The Lament of Whitehorse Billy,” and “Dreamscape,” were runners-up in the 2017 Editor’s Reprint Award and originally appeared in London Magazine/Aesthetica Magazine, South Carolina Review/Aesthetica Magazine, and New Millennium Writings, respectively.

Read More: A brief interview with Leland James