The Story as We Know It

When Garcia’s letter arrived, the steel cord that held the building
together snapped and all four walls fell outward. We could breathe again!
Except, of course, those who died of heart failure on the spot, or those
whose psyches were so damaged that they stopped breathing one by one
over time. The rest of us, however, stepped out and grew gardens, began
schools and taught in them, painted, wrote books, and experienced wars
and grief through the children some of us produced. It all became so
predictable and familiar that walls went up again everywhere and miles
of the special steel cord that held them together were produced by enormous
yellow machines, grown agile by technology, completing the knots and bows
admired worldwide.

Late Eulogy for Halvard Johnson

I become aware I am walking slightly hunched over,
not even in cold or threatened, hunched like the friend

I knew in his later days, though we didn’t know
how late into our lives we were. The end was coming

as I was again in Piraeus, disembarking this time.
He was likely walking his dogs, blossoms from Jacarandas

adding a little slip to uneven stones, another small risk,
just as the blossoms were before they fell from the tree.

Home now, he slumped in his chair and was gone.
I see it now, though it was told. Remembering it,

I want to pull him out of oblivion and, with help
of all invisible things, lift him up, set him

in the chair from which he will spring comically up,
no longer hunched, back to when we hadn’t met.

Dear future friend, now I cry.

*Halvard Johnson, American poet, 1936-2018

I Wrote a Poem While Reading Your Book

-for Millicent Borges Accardi

I must stop for a minute.
Going too fast
through this book I should have
finished long ago, which is not its rhythm
as it keeps wanting to go backward
like we do when caught unaware by melancholy,
or a realization we dislike the direction
in which we are going – the nightmare
of no brakes, or dance of music box couple
on black ice, out of control,
craving like mad the crunch of gravel,
sudden stop on this rotating earth.

Thanks to the pandemic, in 2020 James Cervantes found himself repatriated in the U.S. after having lived mostly in Mexico for the previous fifteen years. His latest book is From Mr. Bondo’s Unshared Life. Sleepwalker’s Songs: New & Selected Poems, published in 2012, is comprised of 32 new poems and others selected from six previous collections. He was editor of Porch and The Salt River Review, and was editor of In Like Company: The Porch & Salt River Review Anthology (Mad Hat Press, 2015).