BY THOMAS JAMES
For our own private reasons
We live in each other for an hour.
Stranger, I take your body and its seasons,
Aware the moon has gone a little sour
For us. The moon hangs up there like a stone
Shaken out of its proper setting.
We lie down in each other. We lie down alone
and watch the moon’s flawed marble getting
Out of hand. What are the dead doing tonight?
The padlocks of their tongues embrace the black,
Each syllable locked in place, tucked out of sight.
Even this moon could never pull them back,
Even if it held them in its arms
And weighed them down with stones,
Took them entirely on their own terms
And piled the orchard’s blossom on their bones.
I am aware of your body and its dangers.
I spread my cloak for you in leafy weather
Where other fugitives and other strangers
Will put their mouths together.
When I was first introduced to James, it was in a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. His Letters to a Stranger, published in 1974, had gone out of print. It was my professor, Lucie Brock-Broido who brought him to me. Her story of being introduced to him by my other, elder professor Richard Howard is itself a compelling story. The book, his only one before he committed suicide, is back in print, in no small part thanks to these twin literary lions.