Sunday, January 17, 2010

James H. Duncan - Three Poems

The Owls

owls chew fingers for fun
and turn their heads to hell

in every field and on every perch
they claw at bark and hum for you

fly to London, see how that works
they will gnaw through the streets to
find you, hem you in, bring you war

take to the desert and they will beat
the sand with their wings, talon your
clothes until the meat and coins roll
free into the dirt and blood, debauched

they wait in your bed, they wait in banks
they wait with a ring, they wait in pews
they wait with ties, they wait with sex
they wait in the streets, they wait for you

with guns and with money
with hopes and roses, they wait
to give you everything
so they may take it back
one strip of flesh
at a time

chewing fingers for fun
turning their heads to hell

Whiffs of Sulfur

the wheels touch down
and the high pulse is vicious,
custom forms of bribery,
intoxicated taxi cab hustle
leftwise through Jamaican
scattershot nightmare towns,
white lines, white lines, hail
the skyway burning cells
flailing rigorous at wooden
roadside beer shacks, green
flowing pockets American
and white lines passing
on the right, legal and deadly,
fringe whiffs of sulfur sinking
into the waves, the eyes and
nose last to dip below, white
in the sun, white in the moon,
white against the bathroom
curtains and mirror blotted out,
and lying on the shower floor,
I can’t feel my childhood, I
can’t feel my youth, but
at least neither can Death,


strippers named after European nations
will talk a good game of poetry for hours
if you let them, but at the end of their
shift, it really just comes down to how
many twenties you will slip past her thigh

and when the sun sets months later and you
swim nude out to the center of a lake and watch
the campfires ripple on the shore in the darkness
like primitive man gazing at a new unknown
tribe, you might think of her then, what her real
name was, that bar where you were supposed to
meet her, but none of it really comes back, and you
slip into the water, glad for the details eclipsed,
letting the pull of the moon drag you to the deep

James H. Duncan is a New York native, part-time Taoist, and editor of Hobo Camp Review. A lifelong student of the road, you'll find him picking up non-credit courses in dive bars, all-night cafes, and used book stores. Plainsongs, Red Fez, Reed Magazine, and The Battered Suitcase, among others, have welcomed his poetry. Bird War Press released his fourth collection, "Maybe a Bird Will Sing," in 2009. More at

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