Four Poems by Mike James

  • Night School for Cartographers

 

You start out tracing your hand, which is the first map any of us know. That’s the lesson plan for nine straight years. After that, you begin drawing your heart in all its many directions. People often drop out about this time. Some go back to the faucet drip of their old lives. Some run away to gag on swords in the circus. A few take enlightenment’s easy path as illustrated by matchbooks and local restroom graffiti.

The struggle to draw the heart comes from having to juggle with one hand while you draw with the other. Jugglers who love globes do best in class.

Stay a student long enough, eventually there’s no lesson plan. For your last seven years, there’s not even a teacher. If you make it to graduation, your diploma confirms you are lost.

____________

 

“Where Do You Hide Your History?”

 

In the top hat of magicians. Sound too easy? It is. There’s a little box at city hall which says, Glass Broken for Emergencies. Like Medusa’s sleep cap, no one thinks to look there. Also, ditches. The more worn down the better. The best hiding-spots are in parts of town no one wants to go. A few say history is kept in a river. If that’s true, it’s a long and dirty one. Fish have short memories, but that’s often enough. You would think dreams are good storehouses. They aren’t. Images molt in first light. Plus, there’s a chance someone can read every dream a face holds.

____________

 

Fallen Angel

 

The first job he took, after he quit Heaven, was at a butcher shop. His halo sliced meat pretty well. The shop owner liked the novelty, as did customers used to nothing more interesting than sausage plumpness. But, like even the best Broadway performance, the gig ended. The health department sent him out the door, amid the owner’s sobs and sighs. Halos are hard to clean, no matter how strong the disinfectant. Slicing with one violates regulations which date back before phone book popularity.

After the butcher shop, he became a cowboy. He tied a rope to his halo and called it a lasso. It worked almost as well as Wonder Woman’s golden lasso. Though she was from a different place.

____________

 

A Good Day

 

That game where we pretend to be strangers and get married anyway. I think it’s called Paradox Heaven. Normally, it ends in a draw. Most days, we try to be angels though it’s hard not to curse in our prayers. Neither of us has a pedigree longer than a postage stamp. Family history is mainly a secret no one wants to share. On days when we don’t shoot stop signs we like to research circuses to run away to. Elephant riding is something we might enjoy. Like good cowboys we practice our gallop on broomsticks. If we don’t get splinters, we call it a good day.

____________

 

Follow the Ground, Not the Sky

 

If I know where I’m going, I don’t get there faster. My pace doesn’t change.
I’m slow, unsteady. I can follow the sun, like on a mission, and still lose my way.

My past makes a trail I circle back to. Often, I meet an old self. Normally,
Look away. My satchel, stuffed with unsaid things, gets heavier and heavier.

Thunderstorms tell me the Devil is real. Lightening reminds me to shut
My eyes. Sometimes, I count or hold my breath. Sometimes, I play pretend.

I never gave the Devil up. He’s always around the next corner or ready
To steal my shadow if I turn away. He carries the long list of my fears.

In a way, the Devil is my oldest friend. If that sounds sad, it is. There’s
Never been an angel on my shoulder. Not once. And my shoulders are thin.

One Response to “Four Poems by Mike James”

  1. Quirky and quite wonderful, Mike.

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