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 Atlanta Review. He earned an MFA at the University of Alabama and lives in a small town in northern Ontario, Canada.

 

Poems for morphrog29

Caretaker

the pilgrim

Caretaker

 

I am responsible for a magnificent house,
while the wealthy owners are away.
It is many stories tall, its back set
into a bluff beside a fast river 

with stony banks, stripped autumn
branches tossing in a raw wind.
I descend a dizzying exterior stair
along one side of the house, glancing

 

through windows at the pale, yellowish
wood of the walls and at the rich furniture.
My hands shiver, when I think
of the unlikely lives one might live there.

 

At the base of the bluff, the glass doors
look out on the tumbling river.
Despairing, I believe I have lost my key
but find I have merely left it in the lock.

 

(This is the mercy of dreams—the key
is forever lost, but I dream it is still
in the lock.) I go inside, humming,
turning on lights. The rooms know me.

© James Owens

 

the pilgrim

death walked the road inside her
cherry petals flying all about
softly on the shadow that was his breath
on the shadow under his wanderer’s cloak

she kept asking him
what does it mean
this world where cherry petals
fly like the abandoned dreams of migrating songbirds

what is it
to have this shape
when these petals
scatter my pulse to the wind

but death had strayed too deep
to remember this world
or the teahouse
of their last words together

his beggar’s bowl
filled slowly
with the drift
of snowy petals

© James Owens