James Owens‘s newest book is Family Portrait with Scythe (Bottom Dog Press, 2020). His poems and translations appear widely in literary journals, including recent or upcoming publications in Channel, Arc, Dalhousie Review, Queen’s Quarterly, and The Honest Ulsterman. He earned an MFA at the University of Alabama and lives in a small town in northern Ontario.



September Sunday morning at dawn,
during the first misty drizzle in weeks,
the bedraggled crow cawing
from the walnut tree despite the rain
does not have to be here, any more
than I have to be, or the tree, or the rain.
The world could go on without us,
and if it didn’t, who would know?
Smell of coffee from the cup I carry,
smell of dying leaves, damp light,
warm memory of my wife’s body beside me.
“That the world is is the beginning of mystery,”
wrote Wittgenstein, but “world”
hides behind self and self
and self, this day’s shape, each
particular raindrop, not some other crow.

© James Owens


A Page from the Dark Romantics

The verrucose birches
at the back of the cemetery
are wasting golden leaves
on the seductions of the wind.

The crows do not forget our
faces, as they delve and peck
through strata of the skittery,
once-shining matter that dulls

in the balks between graves.
They hop and swat in umbrage
then carry wriggling, hopeless prey
up to the stripped branches.

Luminous raindrops
weigh yew twigs.
One thinks of tears on the lashes
of a yearning, phthisic governess.

© James Owens