James Everett


Gray sky, clouds all in a rush, air smelled like gunshot.
Almost cold early October, like dreaming men
next to a lake, crowded in the shade, wind off the water, awkwardly dry.
Let’s go back to the sky, the more distant clouds hung gunmetal,
they stretched the length of the day, the day seemed long,
the chill was in that length. The chill was like dusk,
instant cold, immediate drop, ebbing light. Today,
no sun seen, too many clouds, we take dusk on faith,
first dark, then darker.

Given wings, we’d lose the ground fast. Let’s go back
to the sky. Fabled beginning. Place of travel.
Lucifer, Icarus, Ascension of Jesus.  Crop dusters.
Airliners. Preying of hawks, circling of buzzards.
How far into the gray to heaven? Push into the sky
too far the light changes, the subtle blends of gray,
the gradation of paradise, all this lets to black.




Because last night or a week ago
you asked what was wrong
and I replied nothing, nothing.
My eyes strong to the wall
not seeing, no subtlety, only
one lamp on next to me in bed: and there
was everything I couldn’t share with you
dancing like soundless dreams:
I couldn’t keep focus long enough
to hand those dreams quiet to you.
It didn’t seem enough to hold you to my chest,
all that could be heard and all that couldn’t,
the allergic clutches of your lungs,
rhythmically asthmatic.
Because my alacrity to give is hindered by my silence:
moments and breaths and weeks ago
us newly threadbare, we were stoned
from our lack of clothes, the bed sheets became
obstacles and you were warmth, sex
was strangely perfect, which is to say,
perfectly soundless: our zeal for contentment:
each other. I wake next to you
every morning as daylilies bloom new:
this is my love for you inexpressible,
this imperfect poem, mute. I am mute.
Because I want to sing now,
I want to keep you up for hours.

You asleep against my shoulder is enough,
body curved to body bending.
And when you wake, you tender
more than wish or prayer, all in a whisper.


This dream,
at the fair, was

built of many tents:
a man who’d never seen clouds,

a gypsy
hopemonger, a peddler

from the flea markets;
a Dixieland band

playing gospel
followed us

with blood of the lamb
in a samovar;

we were bathed;
the knowing music
pressed us towards

the fortune
teller: swatches
of memory

formed people:
they were named
passively as

Alternative Country;
Losing Ground; the Great Works
of Heaven; the Manifest Past;

the man who’d never seen clouds
whispered a rain prayer,
whispered wake up;

Alternative Country told
how this dream was prison,
Losing Ground how when I wake

no one will remember the constant sky,
everyone slipping through
the Manifest Past glorious into the Great Works of Heaven.




James Everett says, "Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, I felt a certain loss of entertainment in my teenage years, and like others, I’m sure, I dreamt of bigger cities.  High school was drinking and parties in cow fields, abandoned lots, construction sites for new subdivisions.  Once a hay barrel was set on fire and to my recollection I never went cow tipping.   I started writing poems I’m not sure when, and left home for Davidson College on a creative writing scholarship.  In the past year or so I’ve worked contracted labor, managed a wine bar, taught at a community college, been a personal assistant and office task force and gardened for money.  Currently, I’m a Grisham Fellow in the M.F.A. program at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.  I live with my dog Zoe, a black mutt and reveler of mud puddles."

James Everett was nominated for Poets Under 30 by Beth Ann Fennelly.

Poetry copyright 2004 by James Everett.