James Owens

( La Porte, Indiana )

from BFR, Winter 2001



Pear limbs droop and sway, ache for release. 
Leaves curl and brown at the edges, poor copies
of leaves from the world where we meant to stand. 

Everything tenses. Light tightens against the grass
like skin. Stones tick under the sun. 
What if you turn a corner of hardening air

and there is nothing, void falling straight from your toes, 
great sack of absence shaken out over you? 
You forget the flushed sides of the pears, 

stare into the black wind lifting by your feet, 
and the formless depth stirs, swirls, 
wings rising to you, finding shape as they rise. 


Contagion of images. Grappling. As if. 
As if there were hooks in the landscape
to snag attention, pull you in. 

Look: the hillside falls away in clumps of poplar, 
sweet yellow at this season, which stands for happiness, 
or disease, according to the taste of the period, 

and cattle in the distance, hear them, perspective-shrunken, 
bedding down as shadow dribbles
over the lip of the world and stars hit their stride. 

Or you wake in an alley, breathing grit, 
the castoff world slinking back to nuzzle your hand: 
coughing from the buildings, broken glass, used condoms. 


Those are examples --- this is a story. When
the day opened its mouth to drag him down among the weeds, 
he thought he was falling for a long time, 

then judgment sifted through the grass, 
lighting fragments of stick and odd-figured pebbles, 
live things rooted and gripping. 

He didn't know how long he crouched---
partway through a sermon by the locusts. 
The sun was black and then red. 

And all this time, unsuspected behind him, 
The world was slipping closer, like a knife
raised between a curtain and a lamp.


What if your life is that bird rising out of nowhere? 
You lift words like small, cool stones, polished, 
to set down one by one, syntax a tap of emphasis.

What waits, heavy in the assembly of day, 
as locust whine tangles in the fibers of weather? 
You could turn away, go back in the house

and walk through a room, touching everyday things, weighing, 
accumulating ballast, images, balance. 
Or you could dismantle the air, 

step through a tear in the sunlight
and fight up through the dirt and leaf litter of another wood. 
Now the pear tree groans and swings like a door.

Next - Lee Passarella

Contents - Reader

Current Issue - Blue Fifth Reader