“Epigraph” by D. R. James

2021 Best of the Net Nominee

Poems are never completed—they are only abandoned. —Paul Valéry

So as I begin this one—
vowing as an experiment
not to give in to the vice

of revision, that sumo
of manipulation I so try
to apply to my life—

I wonder where I’ll leave it.
Will it be in some sun-warmed clearing,
a rocky outcropping in an old pine forest?

And will I have set out
earlier this morning with getting there in mind?
Maybe it will fall out of my pocket

along a downtown sidewalk
and blow a few feet
until it lodges under a parked car,

the puddle there and the dark
intensifying the metaphor:
a poem’s being abandoned.

Thus bookended by country and city,
both speculations in future tense,
the claim neglects the unfolding.

As if completion weren’t
every word as it comes out,
means and ends at once.

The cone is not container
of future tree. It is cone.
Nor is an old cone empty.




D. R. James’s latest of nine collections are Flip Requiem (Dos Madres, 2020), Surreal Expulsion (Poetry Box, 2019), and If god were gentle (Dos Madres, 2017), and his micro-chapbook All Her Jazz is free, fun, and printable-for-folding at Origami Poems Project. He lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan.

 https://www.amazon.com/author/drjamesauthorpage

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