Featured Poet: February 2009 Vol. 1 #4

James Crews

James Crews


James holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Columbia, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Best New Poets 2006 and other journals. He was the recipient of the 2008 Gertrude Press Chapbook Award for Bending the Knot and another chapbook, One Hundred Small Yellow Envelopes, based on the life and work of artist, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, is due out this year from Parallel Press. He currently teaches English and Writing at Eastern Oregon University and enjoys tracking the deer that nightly invade his backyard.





I don’t mind winter because I know

what follows. There are laws.

                             —Belle Waring


Snow clouds fill the sky

like a power you never knew

you had. The man next to you

on this rush hour bus

has stuffed plastic bags

into the holes of his coat

& huddles close to look out

your window as if the sunset

might burst for once with the red

of alpenglow, as if these piles

of snow were only beginnings

of mountains trying to rise up.

But you know the cold and ice

will give up these plains again

as a robe gives up the body

underneath. Color always

returns, if slowly, to the earth

like the self you thought

you already were all winter.


(Originally appeared in Best New Poets 2006)






What hubris to believe you could save

this moment or that & tuck it away

for the day the warbler’s morning call

outside the honeymoon cabin that summer

grows finally too garbled to recall, or when

the familiar sound of her bathwater running

now flows backward into the faucet

as if neither she nor it ever even existed.


Go ahead, try to preserve this setting.

Let memory choreograph that dance of past

selves & place you on the collapsing porch

where, after making love, you breathed in

evergreen, where the exhale of your smoke

mixed with the white of retreating mist,

then drifted heavy & gray as a nimbus cloud

into the bright patch of sunlight.


Keep your arm wrapped tight around

the small of nostalgia’s back. Lean in,

whisper, Don’t ever leave me, fearful into its ear

& some morning a neighbor with a hose

watering her garden & a single sparrow

calling at your window will both take you back

to the cabin—water filling the tub again,

her body slipping in. & this time when you


come inside & look at her as she

closes her eyes in the bath & does not

notice you, leave her alone. Let her hum

the private song whose words you’ll never know.

Say nothing to disturb this scene—never yours

to begin with—& leave the past in your mind.

Leave her heart for this moment intact

if only to prove, looking back now, you can.


(Originally appeared in Fourteen Hills)


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