Above the bend, the water deep and clear,
the current strong; seen from the Buckman Bridge,
ten minutes walk for me, my cabin near,
through pines down from a timeworn granite ridge

—a lofty mountain once, it’s said, in time
gone by. I come to see and hear the stream,
this part that of the whole makes not a line:
a phrase, a word or two, in the river’s scheme

of mounting water up ahead that this
small stream will join; and that behind, upstream,
flowing down, winding from a nascent hiss
to sing a hymnal line and brace the dream.

From this unsubstantial perch, this swaying bridge,
mirrored in the stream, the sun floats on the ridge.



A Quandary of Jugglers

—and of those who fiddle with villanelles

Why does the juggler toss plates in the air?
What is the meaning? Where is the reason?
What makes him dare? Why does he care?

What is the point of tableware in the air?
Fame? Jugglers names might be Grecian.
Why do jugglers toss plates in the air?

Gain? rich jugglers like unicorns are rare.
Plus juggling’s passé—quite hors saison.
What makes him dare? Why does he care!

What explains the dinner plates up there?
It boggles the brain. It’s just not Cartesian!
Why do jugglers toss plates in the air?

What is the worth of a foal chasing the mare?
Why angles Pythagorean? pastries Parisian?
Why are blue sapphires more than just rare?
Why are freckles so fair on girls with red hair?

Why does the juggler toss plates in the air?
What makes him dare? Why does he care?



Another Art

—a lover’s quarrel with Elizabeth Bishop

The art of finding binds in weaves of rhyme:
the warp and weft of found and lost, and after.
An art to master, joining the threads of time.

A loom of beating lines, the past intwined,
lost days among the threads; a presence ever.
The art of finding haunts in weaves of rhyme.

A requiem of walks in autumn rain,
the stillness of the hills in misting color.
An art to master, bridging the rifts of time.

Find now a pungent sprig of fresh cut thyme,
the scent of love made long ago in heather.
The art of finding weds in weaves of rhyme.

And to the star of bitter Persian lime
add the perilous bloom of oleander.
An art to master, daring the rifts of time.

Go! Find again in lines of fair design,
weaves new, intwined in lost forevers.
The art of finding binds in weaves of rhyme.
Another art, joining the threads of time.



Leland James is the author of four poetry collections and four children’s books in verse. He has published over 300 poems in poetry venues worldwide including The Lyric, Form Quarterly, Rattle, The South Carolina Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New Millennium Writings, HQ The Haiku Quarterly, The American Cowboy; The Ekphrastic Review, The London Reader, and London Magazine. He was the winner of The UK’s Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and has won or received honors in many other competitions, both in the USA and Europe. He has been featured in Ted Koozer’s American Life in Poetry and was recently nominated for a Push Cart Prize. 

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4 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    I’d like to comment on the sonnet “Stream,” which does something very sophisticated — that is, it omits a main verb in the first quatrain and part of the next. This is not a mistake, but rather a way to focus on running images without making an explicit statement or judgment.

    In fact, in the beginning of this sonnet Mr. James doesn’t even use any form of the verb of being, except as a parenthetical narrative throwaway (“it’s said”). Omission of the verb of being is fairly common in Latin poetry, but it is only done sparingly in modern formalist English. This is hard to pull off, but James does it in nice, tight meter.

    James gives us a main verb in the second quatrain (“I come”), and every verb used after that, right down to the start of the closing couplet, is a subordinate and dependent verb on that one. The closing couplet has its own main verb (“floats”), preceded by a present participle (“swaying”) and a past participle (“mirrored”). This gives the sonnet an incantatory tone.

    I note also that in his villanelle he severely limits his use of main verbs. It works quite well there too. The presence of adjectives and past and present participles keeps the text rich.

  2. Daniel Kemper

    I very much enjoyed that the stream progressed as the poem progressed and that the one or two clues that directly mention “lines” give me suspicion that this was the Hippocrene and you’ve been telling us all along about writing poems, watching them form as much as we’ve been told about a stream.

  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    What a treat it is to find “The Stream” and the informative and interesting comments that go along with it. For me, the literary devices employed give the words a sense of immediacy that is most effective. It feels as if the narrator is my tour guide showing me the splendor and wonder of nature’s beauties and mysteries from the best angle… physically and mentally. Very well done, indeed!

    I love a good villanelle, and I like the quirk and intrigue of both. Thank you, Mr. James.

  4. Leland James

    So gratified by the intelligent comments on my poems. It is, knowing you have read intelligently with feeling, deeply gratifying. Thank you again for your attention to my poems.
    –Leland James


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