The Shamrocks


Little green trinities—at home between

sky and sod, a canny family resemblance,

a truly inside job—a common life far beyond

broad oceans of guilt and sad regret—not these

worthless plastic hats and opaque glasses,

not these banners from forgotten holidays

spent over Hell’s Ditch and the moon—not

the smoking remnants of a blasted Friday

from dark in 1972—not me, not you, not at all

this weight of black hilarity behind us—only

a lilt of dawn light over the rise, and a breeze

that moves with or without purpose, and that

sweeps the quiet field of the many and the one.



Che Guevara’s Hands


Do you remember the day, late last

century, when after awful labor they

disturbed his dry, earthen bones

and raised them from a hole beneath

the dirt airstrip—that dank conduit,

that sad projection of rotten power,

there at Vallegrande?  As it had been

reported, the body had no hands.


This was of course the missing piece,

the key last confirmation of just

where and how he who had done

his dirty best to correct history

had been questioned, slapped,

questioned, kicked, questioned, shot,

then tied to the skids of an army

helicopter and spirited away over


the jungle in the middle of the day,

seen off by scores of jeering soldiers.

No official needed anything but

his fingerprints for identification.

But for the cameras, they leaned

over his stiff, half-naked corpse,

as cigarette smoke and laughter

ringed its matted hair.  The people


said dead Che looked like the Savior,

and maybe some thought along

such lines for years.  But by then

the formalities were over.  The news

walked away and it was done—so

businesslike and efficient—the black

latex bag zipped and clipped—a date

and a name, and then dropped deep


into a briefcase bound, we thought,

for Washington.  And that was the last

we saw of them.  All that we had left

were the black and white recollections—

suave, grand gestures, a partial record

on film and in photos, a strange flash

in time when, from nowhere, nothing

seemed to escape Che’s grasping hands.


In the night, sometimes for my crimes

I feel his grip against my throat, and I

back-pedal into the dark where I am

also destined to be lost.  Other nights,

he brushes my shoulder, and with his

right hand points out a flock of white

birds as they rise into a star-decked sky,

calm and free as any we believe to be.


Smoke and stars, green

                                      leaves and brown

bones—it’s become

                                      difficult to separate

the past from

                                      portents, torture rooms

from open skies.  


And the time grows large between us.




Ways of Men


If this chicken won’t at last convince you

that today you require a ripe avocado,

then there’s nothing I can suggest but

this dream blue Cadillac El Dorado

that arrives the instant when we conjure

then dismiss what we desire.  And still

this earthly view of paradise is something

that requires space and frame—an idea,

then action, frantic notes made in a book.

This makes us sweat and shovel, since 

that is what we do with things.  We laugh  

then listen, erase and write it over.  Take

this again, my brother, may it serve you well.




About the Author

Jim teaches creative writing at the University of Montevallo, just south of Birmingham, Alabama. His chapbook, The Memphis Sun (Kent State UP), won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Award. He is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Heaven Overland (Kennesaw State UP) and The Uniform House (Negative Capability Press). His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Brooklyn Review, Cimarron Review, Gulf Coast, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mississippi Review, Puerto del Sol, Southern Poetry Review, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly and other journals. He has also translated a chapbook of poems from Spanish, Amazonia, by Colombian American poet Juan Carlos Galeano.