Grady James Poet


Something Old

I Imagine You As Jasmine

Will sleep come
When all I can do is think of you
Sharing the same night air
Stirred by global currents
The smell of you carried
Not hundreds
But thousands of miles to me

I imagine you as jasmine
Not yet knowing the scent
You will give off
Attentive as an animal in the night
Nostrils flare
Seeking something beyond those flowers
That will give away where you are
Breathing in
Hoping evening’s moistness
Will offer up your direction

You are a flight of hours
A voyage of weeks
Which I would make
If you curled your index finger
But for now, I feel you here
In my chest
Under my skin
Like I could burst
And release you
To be here with me

Something New

The Man Who Paints

I heard of a man that paints musicians
Jazz musicians actually
With their instruments
Often playing with each other
In concert

I wonder how he does it?
How does he get them to stay so still?
When they are swinging to the beat
In their heads
And moving across the stage

Do they like having their skin painted?
I remember body painting and face painting
When I was a kid
But this is different
These are grown men and maybe women too

I wouldn’t think they like oils
Or even acrylics.
So hard to get off
Besides, it would close their pores
I’ll have to ask him what he uses

And then, of course, there’s the question of color
Do they have a choice?
Does Dave Brubeck or Bill Evans want to be white?
Or maybe they’d like to look like a Brother
Or perhaps just a tan, like they’d been on a gig in Cancun

And Miles
So dark
I would think that’s hard to get just so
Would he be offended if it didn’t turn out right
Or would he be good with another “take” just as he does with his music

I can’t wait to talk to him
Combining so many things
Music, Art, Jazz
And especially the work of
Getting the musicians to put up with it all!

Grady James 2.17.20

Illustration By Michael Reilly

Something Borrowed

Thanks by W.S. Merwin

with the night falling, we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
standing by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals, we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones, we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks, we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives, we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening, we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

Thanks – by W.S. Merwin

From Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005).
Copyright © 1988 by W. S. Merwin. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Something Blue


Empty, these bones,
except for marrow.

When I’m dead and that’s gone
Will you make a rattle out of them?
Something to give the wolves to chew,
a cairn to mark that I have passed this way?

Empty, this head,
except for fatty matter.
Idling away noisily, a trucker just outside on a frozen morning…

When I’m dead and that’s gone
will I have offered some kind words,
a blanket or two that might keep your winters warm?

Empty, this heart.
For now, blood courses thru.

When I’m dead and that’s gone
will you think I’ve shared some part with you,
enough to fill both hands,
worth holding, my memory like a cup?

Empty, this life,
except for senses making some sense of it.

When I’m dead and gone –
nothing arising, all passing away –
will there be another side
where this mystery is explained?

Grady James 4.16.20

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