Two Poems by D. R. James






I Don’t Know the Biochemistry
of a Hummingbird

I can only wonder
at this blurred
whir of evidence, clouded
in the blue fan
of a thousand
wings. I want
to feel
their million beats
per second on my beard
and lashes,
from each swig,
the dozen
manic intervals,
stomach a zoom
to the forsythia, whose
scream of tender yellow
faded and fell
last week.
can mere filaments
in tiny shoulders
and reflex so fast?
can miniscule
sipping, the sucking
through a needle beak,
fuel a miniature tyrant’s
relentless burn?
in the resting,
which is not even
a breath,
how rapid
the saturation
of liquid sugar
into blood, into
wing muscle, into
instinctual motive
for a horizontal
life? And how
rapid the

Great Blue Heron

Look, I want to love this world
as though it’s the last chance I’m ever going to get
to be alive
and know it.
—Mary Oliver, “October”

Busy inhabiting my world—
blazing car, radio blather,
coffee buzz that wouldn’t last—

I somehow caught a left-hand glimpse,
so quick I didn’t see you flinch,
yet so outstanding, you could’ve been

a plastic cousin to the prank flamingos
that another morning
enthralled my neighbor’s lawn.

Stark still, ankle-deep
in that transitory water,
only the one side, one-eyed,

wide as disbelief, you looked
just like you looked, posed
in the Natural History Museum,

1963: for again,
all those slender angles,
the spear of your bill,

that deathless intensity
marking your stick-form way, only
now in a mid-May puddle poised

between the intersecting rushes
eastbound, 196, southbound, 31.
And you, still doing

what you’ve never known
you do, still finding your life
wherever you find yourself—

while I, still fixated as always
on finding myself,
as if that were to find a life,

saw again how wildly
I am alive—
how I always want to know it.

D. R. James, retired from nearly 40 years of teaching college writing, literature, and peace studies, lives with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. His latest of ten collections are Mobius Trip and Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2021, 2020), and his work has appeared internationally in a wide variety of anthologies and journals.

Image © Frank Schulenburg

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