Mike James


Under the Sign of the Lamp

For a very long time there was silence
People kept to themselves
Communicated with nods, unscripted gestures
The wind quit doing what the wind does
Even rain fell noiselessly

Then, one Tuesday, before afternoon’s midpoint,
A phonograph began to play in the attic
Of a large, old house everyone thought empty

Townspeople gathered beneath the attic window
The phonograph played an instrumental over and again
Some old women began to speak
At first, their voices all rasps and hollow bird cries
Very quickly they were singing the melody
At every refrain, they added and replaced words



What I Learned From Rocky Balboa

Staying upright is often enough.
Not all broken places heal the right way.
Say your fears out loud to those who love you most.
Everyone needs an Adrian.
Be thankful for big chances, cufflink turtles, and spaghetti.
Don’t forget to celebrate at the top of the steps.
There are so many steps.


Tell Me How You’re Doing

The horizon stays in place no matter how many steps I take.
There’s a dullness at the edge of every corner.
Nothing seems sharp. Even stars get blurry when I try to stare past.
I lose track of them when I count. And it stays night.
I get rejuvenated when I should sleep.
Also the reverse. One more puzzle I can’t fix.
Despite my recent wonderments, that hasn’t changed.






Mike James lives and works right outside Nashville, TN. His work has been widely published. His 20th collection, Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021, will be published in April by Redhawk.

2 Responses to “Mike James”

  1. I especially like your Rocky poem. “Everyone needs an Adrian.” Yup.

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