Visions Of Two Cities, After Dark & Four other new poems by James Stansberry

Visions Of Two Cities, After Dark

Sun and moon have now changed places
like plate shaped window shades
one goes up, the other down, and evening spreads
a purple, silk over everything, day’s last clouds
turned pink, then edged in silver, then gold
and by night, in the auto store in Seattle
car hoods wave like metal tongues
lifted, mute, not a purr, not a rumble of motor
just witnesses in beds of glass and concrete and steel
while on Tacoma’s streets ghosts walk with footless strides
across boulevards, float down alleyways, wrap weightless fists
around the beer bottles of living strangers, sip lipless from
the same shot glasses in newly peopled bars, look
with sightless eyes on young bodies moving to new songs
watch them, laughing, hurrying home or to a bed not their own
the conversation started in loud bars, continued in soft movements
each one hoping, this might last longer than one night
and both cities, lights blink off or go on, and a waning moon
keeps watch over black water of the Sound, as night
tells her secrets, each to each, and into Dream’s sanctioned
chambers time seeps, steeps, sits back on
resting hauches and whispers of what comes
what will come, with another day’s journeys.

The Forest Remembers And Welcomes Me Back

Now, the trails so easily found in Summer walks
covered in hand sized leaves, slippery, a little dangerous
but I walk on, always the one wanting more of the adventure
of this wild place, where each sound makes me jump
thinking of warnings about bears and cougars
though in this urban forest, there are nothing but
birds and squirrels and the occasional snake, but even
they are hiding now, the cold, dark season having arrived
and the safety of holes preferred to this rainy path
I walk, glad for one more day of sunshine in November
hoping the path will challenge my body, take me far
take me further away from the city, and all of its noise
each tree, standind over me like parents or Goddesses
and they welcome me back, letting me know that here
I am remembered, here, I matter, here, my painted
on mustache and glitter are of no consequence
and here, my truth emerges, even as the truth of
these trees in winter, their bare branches reaching to
what little light there is now, show me lessons
in strength, how to bend, not break through storms
through change, how it is okay to proudly wave the flag
of my Queerness, a banner of defiance, that of
a gender outlaw who rejected ‘normal’ for the more
uplifting road of the forest, of what is, and continues
to be challenging and also strengthening.


 (for Justin)
Breathe into my mouth
and let me answer
let this kiss fill us both up
dance with my bones
                                            my flesh
wind around you like ribbon
for, my love you are a present
how I long to unwrap down to
the good stuff
such surprises I have imagined
for us both
I will be your table
you, my feast
I your song, you the waltz, salsa, tango
and then, yes, then, love
let us ride, like wild horses
holding on, holding on
cresting wave after wave of pleasure
satisfied, then to sleep
two petals of a rose, slick rivers
running into daylight
                              then let’s awake
you and I, hungry, eyes closed
break fast of night
let dreaming as motion
of water, begin again.

Remembering Holidays, The Darker Memories Emerge

Haunted for years, the memory of a long, dark hallway
a small bathroom, with yellow accessories, as if
it was meant to be a place of cheer, in my grandmother
my father’s mother’s house, but inside, my gut
bunches up, inches away from that place, what
hides there, still in my earliest memories
how seeing my grandfather, my father’s father
did not instill joy, or trust but fear, same fear
as I dreamed about the end of that hallway
the yellow bathroom, small enough to hold
me and him, isolated from whatever happened
in the dusty living room, with plastic covered
chairs and couches, the piano I wanted to play
but no lessons were ever given, though my father’s
mother wanted this, but his will, of having me 
all to himself overrode any wishes I or my grandmother
of even my own mother might have had
so now, on a rainy Novemeber, after Thanksgiving is past
this year, I remember, the smells of rotting bananas
mixed with the smell of my grandfather’s hair pomade
how the whole house felt locked up, like the cabinets
locked in the kitchen, by my father’s mother
for reasons I barely understood, then and now
and on the floor of my living room, my service cat near me
I let the tears of mourning my innocence lost in that house
and in the house of my father, during holidays tainted with fear
roll into pillows, disappear, let the grieving come, a soft blanket
curl into it, knowing that even as the hurt is like acid in my gut
some day my name will not be ‘victim’ but it will be
warrior, warrior who left those places and who moved on.

Once Broken

The heart will always remember
it loved you, and you said words like
‘I love you’ and smiled down into my eyes
and my heart said ‘yes, this will last forever’, but now
everything is shattered, scattered like leaves
after November’s first, wild rainstorm
and what was, is still, unnaturaly quiet
tongue will not allow words like 
done, ex-partner, no more as in
gone forever, the way it was
laying together, sleeping in July heat
as day cooled into night, after sex
after we’d rang all my body’s bells
turned me into a sea of red flowers 
behind my closed eyes
ah, but none of that, none of that
will walk through my door again
no one will call me at night to listen
to my day, then tell me of yours
a sort of lullaby for me
who can never just sleep
but who has forever chased sleep
like elusive prey or a late bus
to take me here, to my own bed
this room where a ‘we’ is now an ‘I’
this place I still belong.


James Stansberry

James Stansberry – I regularly read my work at The Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle, where I live with my two cats, and also at Creative Colloquy in Tacoma. I’ve had poetry published in Cerorove, Bald Woman, Hamburger Zine, and articles published regularly in NewSpiritJournal, Seattle Gay News (before I retired in 2010), commentaries in both the Chicago Sun Times and Chicago Tribune (before I moved to the Northwest in 1987). My work spans a wide spectrum, from political comments on the changing landscape of our country’s politics, to very personal poems about love, loss and healing, as well as the occasional erotic pieces. I’ve also read with the now defunct Red Sky Poetry, where I was featured poet three times, and have won the semi-finals twice in the Seattle Poetry Slam. My work is also informed by my great love of hiking in Northwest woods and it is on my ‘bucket list’ to hike more difficult trails, like ones on Little Mt. Si, Squak Mountain, Rainier National Park and many others. I find that walking in the forest clears my my mind and often inspires not only my poetry, but also the horror writing I’m working on, as I also see myself as a horror writer too. I am also Bi, poly and have a ‘me too’ story (unfortunately, though this also has informed some poems I am particularly happy with), as well as being a psychic, medium and having a belief in magic. All of this informs my work, at some point.

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