James E Cherry
BOBBY JOE, MONTHS LATER
James E Cherry
Three years later, I browse the shelves
of the downtown library in the shadows
of late afternoon where Bobby Joe
materializes among jazz cd’s, new book
releases and the New York Times.
He has stumbled through its public doors
dishelved, burdened with bags under arm
as if he were a scale and life had found him
wanting, dreams with holes punched in them.
We slap hands, take the edge off awkwardness
with idle talk, before I tell him that I’d hope
to see him again, that I’d written a book,
Loose Change, that one of the poems was about him.
He shrugs, turns down the corners of his mouth,
rubs his chin, remarks: that poetry is some deep stuff
and that he wanted me to take a look at something.
We seize a corner table near the periodicals where
Bobby Joe pulls a small black and red book
from his bag. I finger the book, peruse a few pages,
flip back to the front cover: Zen Meditation Book.
I tell him that this is in the same family as poetry,
may even be a first cousin, just another way of being
in the world. I give the book back, but Bobby Joe
tells me he has no need for it anymore,
that he could live it, if he wanted to.
I promise to carry a copy of Loose Change
in the trunk of my car for the next time. Bobby Joe
pushes himself up, gathers his bags, nods: next time
and heads for the new releases where he stands
before a wall of books until he becomes one of them.
DREAM OF MY FATHER
James E Cherry
My father looks the same as the day he died.
Such is the nature of dreams. Actually, he looks
like the man who dragged eight hour shifts
of union dues and assembly lines
through the front door at day’s end, frowned
at the daily paper, grunted the six o’clock
news, whispered grace over supper
around a square dinner table. I’m at the head
of the table this time. He sits to my left
works a plate of cabbage and potatoes,
wears the same mask the day I quit
the high school basketball team in mid-season,
was caught smoking pot in the basement,
broke the promise of a college diploma
into several pieces. I offer him the roast beef
on my plate, but he says nothing, moves away
from the table and when I rise to run after him,
daybreak catches me around the ankle
leaves me sprawled beside the bed
to count drops of sunlight
spilling from my eyes.
THE SEGREGATED WORD
James E Cherry
My sister calls from Nashville, asks where is she
in my latest collection of poems, Loose Change
her voice cloudy as a winter afternoon
in 1968 where we climb steps
to the public library, enter into its sacred space,
follow the memory of our feet
to the “Colored” section. I pet Clifford
the Big Red Dog, look for my mom
from the top of Jack’s Beanstalk, pat my tummy
for a house of chocolate cake
instead of a gingerbread one. I watch my sister
and others, their Black faces bowing
at the altar of study, fidget away
from them into a land peopled by more books
where a white lady with a sharp nose
and round glasses rules over them.
“Get back over there. Nigger.”
Her words welt across my face,
take aim at the other cheek before my hand
is in my big sister’s and we’re back
behind the safety of color lines.
She rearranges me in my seat, strides
across the aisle where her words grab handfuls
of the white woman’s hair, their voices
crescendo of curse and epithet. She reappears
with a smile and an armful of books, instructs me
to “read these” as I open bound leather,
where a solitary tear staggers from my eye
onto the red nose of a reindeer, its glow
neon against the night, my hands grasping
for stars and the moon around Rudolph’s neck,
my life, strapped upon the back of the wind.
© James E Cherry
*** James E Cherry is the author of five books: a collection of short fiction, a novel and three volumes of poetry. His latest collection of poetry, Loose Change, was published in 2013 by Stephen F. Austin State University Press. His prose and poetry has been featured in numerous journals and anthologies both in the U.S. as well as in England, France, China, Canada and Nigeria. He has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award, a Lillian Smith Book Award and was a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Award for Fiction. Cherry has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Texas at El Paso. His novel, Edge of the Wind, is forthcoming in October 2016 from Stephen F Austin University Press. He lives in Tennessee. Visit: http://www.jamesecherry.com.
Leave a Reply.
Kimberly has been fortunate to travel to half the Spanish-speaking countries in the world by the time she was forty. As a traveler into different cultures, she has learned to listen ask questions, and seek points of connections. This page is meant to offer different points of connections between writers, words, ideas, languages, and imaginations. Thank you for visiting.