James Cagney

James Cagney

James Cagney is a poet and writer from Oakland, Ca. He has appeared as a featured poet at
venues throughout the San Francisco-Bay Area, Sacramento, Vancouver and Mumbai. His work
has been published on line and in print via Lime Hawk, Print Oriented Bastards, Five-Eighty
Split and Eleven-Eleven, among others. His book, Black Steel Magnolias In The Hour Of Chaos
Theory will be published in August by Nomadic Press. Visit his blog at https://thedirtyrat.blog/

Vigil For Vespers (Opus No. 38) – James Cagney

What if each star were a flame fountaining
beneath an onyx teepee
elder tongues / in an orbit of whispering of moth wings/
lick the flames with stories

the endless equations calibrated on nights chalkboard

            the pulse point of planets scattered along the topographical
map of the sky’s arachnid body
            spinning out combinations of constellations

a tarot of planets unlock abandoned and rusting memories
            beneath the sweet
                       drizzle of attention

bet the coins between corpses teeth all the hoaxes
of love dissolve to moon dust back home

the milky way is here because i am here
and it is well worth crying over
I cannot stop offering my red swarm of tears
                         ghost peppers of dead stars

i am less a crumb on the lip of the lake
how its tongue sleepwalks a language
night often mistranslates in dreams

the harmonic choir of cutthroat trout
sounds cribbed from the pages of Rachmaninoff’s
lost rhapsody — a tragedy of silence

lulling me into this all-night vigil for vespers
and star-lights uneasy correspondence with gravity

its hard to lie quietly in the unmade bed of a prehistoric crater
with its sweet sheets of sage brush
and not consider love’s offices bankrupt and ridiculed back home

Holy Strata of Sweat & Skin – James Cagney

Pull up a blanket of topsoil
on the bank of this murmuring lakebed
and let the desert sing to us in the language
of sweet creosote and wild lavender

Thick gelatin of night carbonated with hot stars
remind us how dependent we are
            on the milk of god’s silence

Phosphorescent thighs of the moon /
                                      cross and re-cross

Despite the debt of morning (& her deputy of memory)
making love here is the right thing to do

                         …to subdue and splatter with whips of breath
            the alternating current of pulses
beneath a bough of fingertips

Compared to myth and map of the tongue
                                       beauty in the dark is useless

Stars watch us (with envy / as much as we do them)
             then faint        enchanted
out of the silent choir of the night sky

The galaxy above us a sugar sonnet rhyming in planets                                                                                                                      while Asterias’ fingers drip astrological omens…

Silver oyster toenails
                          zipping gravel
                                      mirrored beneath the Braille sky

the sinking, the slipping, the listening
the smoothing, the sluicing, the lightning

The shifting dunes of an oceanic body
             (its orchestra conducted by a tongue)

So many routes for times touch to take

             Column of bone, cross of rubber
the smiling white ship of the bareback moon
stars drip from its cratered eyes
to shoot like dice across nights velvet floor