3 poems by D.R. James

D. R. James(1)

     Lakeside Bird Feeder, Squirrels

     Now if I had ambition I’d be
     this kung fu squirrel, this lighter one,
     this Jackie Chan, scaling stucco

     to ledge to chimney to the hovering skid
     of the evil whiz kid’s waffling chopper,
     perpetual motion my only gear,

     my sidekick wacky as this blacker one, 
     who tries but can’t quite nab his half
     of the substantial stash.  Their

     choreography is manic, their fight scenes
     replete with wall-walking, roof leaping,
     jumps across gaps and gorges—all

     their own improv’d stunts, every feat
     a fleeting, one-take opportunity.  It’s
     those reflexes that make the difference:

     when gravity catches their rare missteps
     they can spin around an inch-thick span
     of diagonal steel or the slippery rim

     of a seed-spill dish, always squirming
     all four feet first—whereas I’d just drop,
     back-ass-down to the unforgiving earth, 

     my spindly claws and my mangy tail 
     spread like a shredded chute, a plea
     for anyone at all to catch me.  So,

     I’ll leave these antics to my friends,
     for today, the squirrels, until I can find
     a way to foil them, deter them from

     this wintertime welfare I’ve intended
     for the birds, whose more manageable
     business will give me the docile pleasure

     I’ve been seeking: sitting here in a chair,
     swathed in luscious listlessness, slinging
     these escape lines toward anywhere I wish.

     Field Notes from an Old Chair

     Well, they’ve come, these early crews,
     though it’s only March, which in Michigan
     means maybe warm one day,
     the few new tender greens making

     sense, then frigid and snow the next four,
     the fragile bodies ballooned, all fuzz
     but feeding and competing just the same.
     Who would’ve ever guessed I’d be happy

     anticipating birds? Since I’ve taken up
     the old folks’ study of how certain species
     seem to like each other, showing up in sync
     like the field guides specify, my chair’s

     been scribing the inside arc between the feeder
     and where I’ll catch a bloody sun going down.
     Then, mornings, if I forget, two doves startle me
     when I startle them from a window well,

     and as if the fearless chickadees and titmice,
     jittery finches and nuthatches can read
     they trade places on perches all day—
     size, I notice, and no doubt character

     determining order, amount, duration.
     At this point I could’ve written the pages
     on juncos or my one song sparrow so far,
     plumped and content to peck along the deck beneath.

     And that pair of cardinals I’d hoped for?
     They’ve set up shop somewhere in the hedgerows
     and for now eat together, appearing
     to enjoy each other’s company, while above

     out back crows crisscross the crisp expanse
     between the high bones of dormant trees
     and the high ground that runs the dune down
     to the loosened shore. Soon hawks will hover,

     and when a bloated fish washes up overnight,
     luring vultures to join the constant, aimless
     gulls, I’ll be amused I’d ever worried
     that the birds would never come.

     Lakeside Bird Feeder, Wet Snow

     Like the trusty railing, the congenial 
     patio table, the steady deck itself, 
     and every firm crotch
     in every faithful tree, the feeder’s
     become a sculpture.

     I should have black and white to lace
     into the camera to capture
     this transubstantiation, this emergence
     from the overnight dark and storm,
     an aesthetic thing in itself,
     dangling like an earring
     from the gaunt lobe of a different day—
     a white arrow, squirrel-emptied,
     aimed straight for the flat sky.

     The first little bird to find it, sunup,
     can only inquire, perch
     and jerk a nervous while,
     then quickly move along
     in wired hopes the other stops
     around the circuit will service
     his tiny entitlement, will be
     scraped clean and waiting
     like a retired guy’s double drive.

     By tomorrow I know this wind
     and another early thaw 
     will have de-transmorphed my feeder 
     to its manufactured purpose,
     its slick roof and Plexiglass siding
     once again resembling an urbane
     enticement to things wild, to some
     Nature available outside a backdoor slider.

     And I know I’ll have also lost
     more impetus for believing
     in permanence—except
     of the impermanent, its exceptional
     knack for nourishing the dazzle
     in this everyday desire.

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D.R. James, recently retired from nearly 40 years of teaching college writing, literature, and peace studies, lives, writes, bird-watches, and cycles with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. His latest of ten collections are Mobius Trip and Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2021, 2020), and his prose and poems have appeared internationally in a wide variety of print and online anthologies and journals.

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Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie's first novel, Stillwater, will be released in the spring of 2023. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

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