“Opening My Fist” by David James

1.

the life and death of me
sleeps upstairs

in his crib, a towel for a blanket.
Henry, my youngest grandchild,
dreams
about pieces of toast the size of cars
           swimming in a sea

of lemon rice soup.
my heart falls out
when he smiles at me

or says, “Wow, oh, wow.”

we spent an hour this morning
climbing up the stairs,
climbing back down.

2.

there are no words pure enough
for the love
of my three grandchildren.

they are my personal gold mines,
my new stars, oceans yet undiscovered,

glorious miracles.

3.

I turn 60 next week
and already find myself calculating

how much time I have left
           to see them graduate, marry, have kids of their own,

struggle to lift the weight
of the future

off my tired back

4.

which they will not be able to do,
of course.

5.

life is an opening of your fist
and a letting go.

you give away pieces of yourself here,
lose small pieces there and hope
someone sees them,

picks them up, maybe even keeps them,
tucked away
in a dresser, a glove compartment,

a hole in the back yard.

borges was right—a man dies for real
only
when the last person
in the world

who remembers him

6.

dies.

I have eighteen years left,
if the lousy actuaries            know what they’re doing.

maybe I can prove them wrong.

7.

maybe
not.




David James’ two most recent books are NAIL YOURSELF INTO BLISS  (Kelsay Books, 2019) and A GEM OF TRUTH (Main Street Rag, 2019). More than thirty of his one-act plays have been produced in the U.S. and Ireland. James teaches writing at Oakland Community College in Michigan.