by Jim Jordan


            "Summer surprised us ..." 
     	    T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

The worms are stiff 
in their grey-white slimy skin, 
not writhing, slow to slither deeper 
to escape the sharp-bladed trowel 
flooding their dark sleep 
with light and warmth.
It burns their skin -- 
too soon, too sudden -- 
they would learn of spring
from a slow heat sinking, 
grain by grain,
from bright air into cold dirt, 
and they would stir, unconsciously, 
uncoil and dig.

I would learn of spring by quick experience,
a sudden sun, my coat too warm,
the day bright, blue hyacinth upwelling.
Spring is mostly theory. 
I learn of it skeptically,
a calendar, a brochure of days, numbers,
lying pictures -- sun-lit lilac blossoms, hah!

April is the coldest month, straining
chill drizzle through slate clouds, submerging
hope in despair, pressing
wakefulness back into sleep.

Oh for a 10-degree, sunny day in January
to burn my skin warm with sharp cold.
Spring is underneath us, restless,  
struggling against the cold earth.
Summer will startle it awake 
to learn that its day is over.


Why this morning is the coffee so     passionate
           ejecting black-shading-to-tan domes
                   on a white counter          field of stone

           black tan rose dried blood
                   cinnamon spilled cinnamon

          baptistries domes stained stone
                   black tan rose mosaics pieced
                   fragments cinnamon blood
                   haloed saints staring

oval halo suspended below the cup
          bone necklace against a white throat

          black pool white wall

I can’t remember her features

          ivory necklace

          reflecting flesh bone

          a ceramic moon

Curing Horses     


James Sykes of Guiseley confessed to curing horses
by writing prayers on paper to hang in their manes.*
Now I shall tailor this cure to my own purposes
by writing poems to excise my heart's secret bane.

Though vicars denounced old false popish rite and rote,
Sykes knew that in God's very words magic must dwell,
as I know words may enchant and curse and cut,
and order, form and ritual do cast spells.

The poems will hang in lockets upon my breast,
and none but me will know the aim and arrow.
Each morning I'll fashion one poem the pain to suppress,
to shield and calm me as they work their power.

No sonnets, these will retain the tracks and tracings,
faint maps, palimpsests of this disease.
Therefore, no five-beat lines to govern my pacings,
no rhymes to remind of soft, delightful speech,

no quatrains sighing yearnings, regrets and loss,
no turns except the turning of my back,
no villanelles, no tolling bells in a close
of nagging recurrence, endless cul-de-sac.

Then for these verses I write this Invocation: 
     Press against my bosom, words, sharp 
     to shred my coat, my shirts. Open my flesh 
     to cold, delve in the blood, break the necessary 
     bones, extract my heart. Surgeon out 
     her image that her glamour be dispersed. 
     Tell charms against remission, stitch me shut.

*Based on the description of James Sykes' confession in 
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of MagicSpring

          "When the hounds of spring are on winter's traces..."
          Algernon Charles Swinburne, from Atalanta in Calydon

It's not apt.
Spring is the soft season. 
Hounds come hard, snarling to rip the fox.

But can't you just see them? 

Winter stands in a cloud-borne sleigh of iron, 
snapping the whip, easing the reins, 
letting them run unhindered, 
sounding, a babble of howls, yowls, yappings, 
shouting in ecstasy, ears back, tongues lolling, 
charging joyously heedless of sleets and gales, 
dragging winter northward, ascending 
the curve of the earth, sweeping the fields 
of winter's debris,

uncovering a warming earth that will blossom, 
buds that will burst, undamning the floodtide  of spring. 

Going Out To See the Super Moon?

    “The Super Blue Blood Moon Happens Wednesday…”
      Washington Post

Not this time.
I’ve seen one perigee syzygy,
one so low so close we stepped back to let it pass

as it cleaved the Atlantic right offshore,
brushed up against the beach,
knocked the tops off a stiff surf.

Its swelling bow wave pelted us with hard spray and shingle,
its turbulent wake surged chest-high, dislodged our feet,
sucked us seaward. Riptide.

	I had been telling you those whitecaps
	are just arriving ... from Spain,

	and I said cast you mind over the sea, imagine
	that rough passage from Cape Finisterre,

	and you had moved closer to me,
	responding …

pointedly that I had the wrong latitude,
and in any case could not ignore easterlies, westerlies,
Gulf Stream, spin, tilt, effects of the moon (tides), etc.,

	but I caught and held your eyes in mine,
	and said mmm hmm ... the effects of the moon ...

when that blue reddening super moon, that I imagined
I had coaxed you out to see,

came in hot,
blasted us, as described, cooled
falling into earth's shadow, 
and sank.

Time Well Spent

We would pick her up from daycare
and she would ask to see the horses.
We would drive over and sit in the car,
near the barn, beside the fenced pasture.  
She would watch from the car seat, still,
quiet, in study, a dimpled intelligence. 
One horse might look her way, twitch an ear, 
then stretch back down to munch grass. 
She did not ask to get out and go to the horses.  
She watched, musing, soaking it in,
dappled horses in dappled shade.

Jim Jordan is a member of Just Poets in Rochester where he has been a featured reader and has served as editor of the annual anthology, Le Mot Juste.  His poetry has appeared there as well as in Birdsong (2017) and Moving Images: Poetry Inspired by Film (2021).  In past lives, Jim has been a pilot, economics professor and consultant.