Three Poems

James White

               PAID IN FINER DETAILS

How many times have I been told
to bow like a man
with my hands straight at my sides
& held back as I bend?

Not like a woman, who must fold hers
low in front of her hips,
over & together as if hiding
a fragile message.

If you’ve seen my brother, you might agree
he looks like a sōzu: the bamboo tube
that fills with water until it collapses on the garden rock
& rises to be filled again.

I wish I had a picture of us this morning
when after noticing a woodlouse fighting
to get back on its feet in our grandfather’s doorway 
we both bowed lower to blow.





By ten, I’ve robbed
my brother’s theory
that carrot juice cures cancer;

by twelve, what remains
of the x-ray
I’ve hit out of his hands.

By dusk, I have nothing
left to do but listen
to the song of a thrush

tease my neck
like a numbered lock,
opening only to her voice.





In the same light as the gerridae—insects able
to transfer their weight & shift with each flow
& ripple of each lake & pond with micro hairs
designed to repel any splash or drop of rain, I am

a firm believer in the father who tells his son
it’s fine not to follow through with every job—
that the fox who turns away from the water
is braver than the fool who thinks he can cross it.

I ignored my father’s advice once when I prayed
for our neighbor’s bay horse to kick into my ribs
the kind of masculinity I thought everyone expected.

But to then be nuzzled on the neck
was like no softer slap than if I had tried
pulling on its leg, knowing it wouldn’t rise.



 About the Writer
Split Lip Magazine

James A.H. White holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University, where he was the recipient of a Lawrence A. Sanders fellowship. A winner of an AWP Intro Journals Project award for poetry, his work has appeared or is forthcoming with Colorado Review, Passages North, Black Warrior  Review, Cha, and DIAGRAM, among others. He is the author of hiku [pull], a chapbook (Porkbelly Press, 2016). A first generation Japanese-American, James currently resides in South Florida with his partner, John, and their two dogs. He tweets @jamesahwhite.