Page One

Robert Arthur Reeves

Grade A: James

May 18, 2015

Of all the poems I’ve written in my life, I currently retain a little fewer than 1100.  I grade them.  I was a teacher for half my life:  what do you expect?  Fifty-seven poems got an A.  I plan to post them here, in between other things, with some information about where and when each poem comes from and some (hopefully painless and infrequent) flights of amplification.

 

James

Written in Albuquerque, New Mexico, living on St. Cyr SE with Mike Wesley and working as a dishwasher at Bataan Hospital, in August 1972.  The first in a projected series of poems about the apostle James the Less:  I only wrote one other, which didn’t survive.  “Nothing is more lifeless than a fish’s eyes,” Father Tom Steele told me—but this fits my purposes:  ironic that such a change could come from something that reminds James of his unchanging life.  I’m sure the almost Anglo-Saxon cadences in this poem owe something to an immersion in Pound’s early verse (as well as Hopkins, who was a staple).  The “free maidens” are non-Jewish prostitutes.  If the other proper names don’t ring a bell, read your Bible.  The only A poem from my Christian days.  Published in my books Too Little to Kill and Wings of the Gray Moon.

 

James

 

To the side of my boat reared wings,

wings of the gray moon, rattled in the water;

a year’s drudge, a year’s braggery

rotted by moontides, like the tawny hill washed down,

troubled like the scribes’ robes, jasper-colored

where they walk the shalestones, the flown-cornered cloaks.

 

I kept station, our father’s frail moorings:

not to Nineveh, not such a choice,

but to and fro with the tiny sea.

On hinter-harbors, shrunken and glazed

under fire of dark spray, some who capsized

unanchored and shouting:  past the nets’ reach

trenching the waves, full with the mute prey.

Our crafts quaked in their course;  we wrote (we tried)

our names on the depth-darks.  Stooped with day

I dipped out weeds from ships built on sand,

pine-sap, pine-pitch, the planks for the trim keels;

thanks to the free maidens, undercover of Law fatted

for corpse-meal, coves of lewd pennies and rocks:  whore and sacrifice

fitted to the fix of suns and moons.  Cold

the Phoenician, passing shallow like surface-fish, gave

us rubies, clay dye-pots, change for Zebedee our father.

Saturday smoothed the old books.  Then

our Jephthah’s daughter reveled the grim woods:

then Jonah’s transport lay off the bows of our country

and we had never been to see such a fish, never hooked that catch.

 

Jonah’s fish stuck us at the font of Tiberias;

we flapped lungless.  We had been twining the poor nets;

pearls of weftsilver light washed in our toil,

sandwhite shimmered, the boatwales late-cleaned indicated

one braced on the shores, his voice unmasking silence,

hands unswerving like the fins of fish,

eyes immutable as fishes’ eyes.



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Sari Krosinsky

Rearranging the Shelves

April 3, 2015

UPDATE, 2015/4/23: The book page is now set up with the changes. You can order "god-chaser," "Complications" and "Yossele" directly from me with payments processed by Paypal (no account required). You can still order all of Robert Arthur Reeves books except "Yossele" through Amazon, along with some journals featuring our poetry. Also check out the new digital poetry page for a free ebook of "Yossele" and free audio poetry from "Complications" and "Hush."

ORIGINAL MESSAGE: I’m taking “Yossele: a tale in poems” (chapbook) and “Complications” (CD) off of Amazon in a couple weeks, but don’t worry ;), you’ll still be able to get both through outerchildpoetry.com or in person.



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