Spring 2012, Volume 12

Poetry by James Valvis


In this flyblown New Jersey neighborhood
with its rivers of cracked asphalt,
gardens of paint cans,
Styrofoam containers from Chinese restaurants,
rusted jacks, and ancient paintbrushes
stiff enough to stab somebody through the chest,
with its gang members smoking Kools on cold corners,
eyes like dark slots rolling lemons over and over,
with the old ladies holding halters close,
quick, short steps propelling them
as if they expect to be shot in the back,
with its ghetto windows covered with plastic
stripped cars sitting on cinder blocks,
dogs flea-bitten to the point of madness,
here it’s normal when the police
lead your father from your home, handcuffed,
shirtless, neighbors watching like it’s TV,
some cheering, others laughing,
and then, later, normal still
when you stand alone in a hallway,
in the far end of the city,
where there’s grass, trees, hope,
your mother telling you to wait,
then slipping into the house,
hearing the dissonance of their agreement,
minute after monstrous minute,
crying hot snot out of your cold nose,
until she leaves, bite marks on her neck,
bleeding, red at the cleavage,
but holding bail money.




BIO: James Valvis is the author of How to Say Goodbye (Aortic Books, 2011). He has published poetry in places like Anderbo, Arts & Letters, New York Quarterly, Poetry East, River Styx, Verdad, and Verse Daily. His prose is also widely published in places like Los Angeles Review, Pedestal Magazine, Potomac Review, Revolution House, storySouth, and Superstition Review. He lives near Seattle.