A Pantoum of Wager

God said to Satan: Have you seen my servant Job, a man who fears God and shuns evil.
Satan replied: You’ve bought him with blessings. Take them away and he’ll spit in your eye.
God said to Satan: OK, I’ll take that bet. He’s yours. Have at him. We’ll see.
—the story of Job, The Bible

A wager of God’s shall we ponder
—threads baroque as spider’s web,
an hourglass of supreme torture—
the serpentine suffering of Job!

Threads baroque as spider’s web,
celestial grant of Satanic torment!
The serpentine suffering of Job!
Who fathoms the rune of Job’s lament?

Celestial grant of Satanic torment!
“Who is this that darkeneth counsel …?”
Who fathoms the rune of Job’s lament?
Where was Job when God made the land?

“Who is this that darkeneth counsel …?”
An hourglass of supreme torture!
Where was Job when God made the land?
A wager of God’s, shall we ponder?




Set firm in waters indigo and gray,
she is a promontory; into mystery a way,
a mooring fast, a compass true, end stop
upon the rim of ever-changing day:

abiding sound, steadfast upon her rhythmic
stays, a seasoned way, prelusion span,
timeworn gateway into the main, a toran
into a sea sown deep with atavistic

shifting rhyme—there a maiden vessel sails,
makes fast her lines upon new tides, explores
the untried shore, high cliffs, seabirds, salt air,
the haunt of unseen lands, a world newborn

Awakened from this childing air I hear
a carol from the shore, an echo of the pier.



Shadow Fish

Below the falls white furl,
a silvered shadow trout;
where water turns to silk,
a blade of hope and doubt.

Faint smell of elder bloom
piquant upon the air.
The sun an alter bread.
The trout, my silent prayer.

How like the empty cross,
the ghostlike silver trout
—a shadow hanging there—
a prayer, a hope, a doubt.

The silvered shadow trout,
a blade of hope and doubt.



Leland James is the author of six poetry collections, four children’s books in verse, and a book on creative writing and poetry craft. He has published over 300 poems worldwide, including The Lyric, Rattle, London Magazine, The London Reader, The South Carolina Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New Millennium Writings, The American Poetry Review, Acumen, Carillon Magazine, The Dawntreader, The Haiku Quarterly, Taj Mahal Review, The Society of Classical Poets, The American Cowboy, and The Ekphrastic Review, and many others. Leland was the winner of The Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize, the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award, the Writer’s Forum Short Poem contest, the Portland Pen Poetry Contest, and was a winner of a Atlanta Review International Publication Prize. Leland’s newest collection, Rollercoaster Moons, is published by Little Red Tree Publishing, both in the US and UK. www.lelandjamespoet.com & https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/leland-james

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One Response

  1. Jared Carter

    Applause especially for the haunting lyricism of “Shadow Fish.” One is reminded of the “little silver trout” in Yeats’s “The Song of Wandering Aengus.”


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