Tired of changing, I slid off my chair and landed
in a pile of old food. Something nice
began to happen to my bones. Knuckles
softened and dislodged. Wads of material pleasure
traveled around my veins like swedish fish,
as I gazed outside at the sidewalk and its environment.
A burgundy glow was climbing the side of a building,
ejecting sparrows from their darling nooks,
and it was exactly like the difficult concepts exiting
my face. I don’t know how to endure this prognosis.
A sedan of great sorrow will arrive in the city.
Trees planted in rows will shake off their bark
to show off repulsive holes. The excess lust
expended into the space around our beds
will freeze into a more perfect megalith,
its magnetic rays shooting up into the night.
But it hasn’t happened yet. We can still be ourselves.
Please, join me on a walk to the recycling bin.-James Copeland
I forget how I first met James Copeland. But the first I heard of him, or heard anything by him was a poetry/music event for the poetry collective, Ugly Duckling. in March of 2009. It was his first poetry reading, and by some strange cosmic coincidence, Holy Spirits’ first show. There were four poets reading that night, all well in their own right, but James’ reading stuck with me. Here was a man dressed in soft, forlorn clerk attire, with a relaxed book-on-tape voice reading work with memorable lines like “Danger spelled backwards doesn’t spell Undanger // that’s just not the way things operate // in this version of time”, and “somehow the moon looks just like a nostril.”
I didn’t become friends with James Copeland that night, but I started following his work of which, at that time, was scarce. Or there was plenty, but he was not sharing it. Sometime later, he self-published his first collection of poetry titled Why I Steal. He wouldn’t let me buy a copy, instead he made an obvious turn of his head implying that perhaps I should grab one and walk away before he “noticed”. Reading Why I Steal was like reading an extended Far Side comic. There was a strange silly sort of humor that hinted at something deeper and more telling. His poems creep up on you the way an existential crises might set in while washing your car or eating a bowl of cereal. For this reason, I find his work terrifying in the most relatable way possible, the terror of benign everyday occurrences and objects.
James is now on working on his third collection to be titled The Pigeon, a sequence of untitled but separate poems. Above is the first poem out of twenty-five. Perhaps you might purchase the collection when it becomes a physical object, or perhaps you might see it performed live with me on drums and another musician creating ambient sounds. It’s like a band but with a poet as the vocalist instead of singer. Perhaps visions of beatniks from the 50’s wearing ugly berets and black turtlenecks while beating on a pair of bongos comes to mind. But rest assured, we are a far cry from that.
Accompanying art: Nathaniel Whitcomb
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Think or Smile | Nathaniel Whitcomb © 2011