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  • D. R. James


Updated: 3 days ago

By D. R. James

            —after Richard Jones


Then, it was easy to believe

the gentle world to be

sad.  While rereading

for class, feeling

the old and scribbling

a few new remarks

in the margins

of thick anthologies, heavy

as brick—


(denying Pope

       his idiotic confidence

       in the dumb licking

       of a gamboling lamb;

       seconding Ivan Ilyich

       in all his too-late

       second-guessings, the

       light he could only see

       at the bottom

       of his suffocating sack;

       or granting Beckett’s

       every twisted take,

       those mad clowns marooned

       at the dead ends

       of their imaginations)


—I’d think of my students,

strolling across campus

in their innocence

to my classroom,

where, for fifty minutes,

I’d rant and they’d maybe

consider the many things

that couldn’t make us happy.



By D. R. James

The visiting writer, balding dignitary wearing

his Pulitzer on his pullover, was saying

Screw the MFA, since he had never taught

till he was forty and Viet Nam had made

going to Kosovo and Belgrade child’s play.


If you want to be a writer (and, oh, he is

a writer, so much so the State Dept. begs him

and a name-dropped handful of others

to travel as American emissaries to semi-

dangerous but troubled re-building zones), okay,


get your god-damned undergrad, but then go for

some real life—like a couple of nosy years

of the Peace Corps, alternate shifts

in a pickle factory, a full season picking

choke cherries, or working construction


in the cold with rugged regular folks—because

otherwise, you’ll just end up a pencil-necked

English professor, writing who-gives-a-shit

drivel about your seamless, sorry-ass college life.

But then I had to duck out to go teach a class.


D. R. James, a year+ into retirement from nearly 40 years of teaching college writing, literature, and peace studies, lives, writes, and cycles with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. His latest of ten collections are Mobius Trip and Flip Requiem (Dos Madres Press, 2021, 2020), and his prose and poems have appeared internationally in a wide variety of print and online anthologies and journals.

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