Two Poems

William James



before the sky has gone to weeping, the trees

are scarred & bleeding sap. Chewed to ruin

by moths building tents in their leaves. Behind

the rusted pipe in the back field, a boy picks flowers

for his mother. Daisies. Chrysanthemums. In truth,

they are only dandelions but he pretends them

to be something more. The mother trims their stems

& sets them to soak in a vase full of water. A garden

hose pours down the gentle slope of the front lawn,

showers onto black plastic that has been laid down

for sliding. At its feet a small pool of muddy water

which looks to the boy as though it must be

the clearest lake in all the world. The creek

down the road is low red mud. It cakes on the boy's shoes,

makes dusty rings around his ankles. He wades in

to catch crawfish. Grabs them by the tail

& plops them in Mason jars. The mother tells him

not to bring them in the house, the filthy beasts.

The boy's GI Joes have their legs bound at the boot

with long strands of yarn. They plummet off the bridge,

kiss the surface of the stream, are then rocketed back

in the air. The sun is loud, always yelling,

always making the boy's skin crawl with fire. There is

so much red, everywhere. In the water. In the soil.

In the scorch of the boy's arms & neck. He rides his bike

up the path. Races his best friend to the Secret Place,

the deepest bend in the creek where huge rocks came

crashing down so long ago, made a bowl

or a crater or a bottomless pit. Just before the rains come,

the boy looks over the trickle of Deer Creek.

Just look at all that water he gasps.

                                                If only we could swim.






By the time we make our exit

the water has already risen past

my knees, roaring like an open

flame. It rumbles greedy,

ready to devour, a swirl of tan bark,

mud, dead branches, debris.


Mother turns the key but the car won't

start. The engine groans and clicks

the rhythm of despair. Rubber loses

its grip on the soil, and we float

with the current towards the tooth gap

where the bridge should be,


down the driveway, under the streetlight

which just yesterday marked the end

of the day's playtime, rushing past

the row of mailboxes upturned,

over the rocks and into the whirlpool,

the ever open mouth of the river,


and the windows shatter

and the tide floods in

and oxygen leaves us a ghost

and we sleep in soft water

and this new sea swallows us

and spits out our bones

 About the Writer
Split Lip Press

William James writes poems and listens to punk rock - not always in that order. He's an editor at Drunk In A Midnight Choir and a two-time Pushcart nominee whose poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Noble Gas Quarterly, Electric Cereal, Misfit Magazine, and Word Riot among others. His first full length collection Rebel Hearts & Restless Ghosts is forthcoming from Timber Mouse Publishing.