Getaway Reads: Two Poems by James Richardson

This entry is part of Getaway Reads, a weekly e-mail series curated by Stephanie Cawley that features the writing of the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway faculty.

Big Scenes

by James Richardson

And what was King Kong ever going to do
with Fay Wray or Jessica Lange,
but climb, climb, climb, and get shot down?
No Wonder Gulliver’s amiably chatting
with that six-inch woman in his palm.
Desire’s huge, there’s really nowhere to put it
in our small world that it will stay put:
might as well just talk.
Rage also, and fear, and elation
are windswept summits, your poor mind
half the time an F6 tornado
that could drive a blade of grass through armor plate.
But a lit match inches from your eyes?
Unwavering. Out there,
in the world we call Real, is calm.
When you stalk down Broadway, fifty feet tall
and building like a thunderhead, your clothes
tattering and whirled away like leaves,
you can nonchalant it, you can be at peace:
it’s only in movies that anyone notices. 


One of the Evenings

by James Richardson

After so many years, we know them.
This is one of the older Evenings — its patience,
settling in, its warmth that wants nothing in return.
Once on a balcony among trees, once by a slipping river,
so many Augusts sitting out through sunset —
first a dimness in the undergrowth like smoke,
and then like someone you hadn’t noticed
has been in the room a long time. . . .

It has seen everything that can be done in the dark.
It has seen two rifles swing around
to train on each other, it has seen lovers meet and revolve,
it has seen wounds grayscale in low light.
It has come equally for those who prayed for it
and those who turned on lamp after lamp
until they could not see. It deals evenhandedly
with the one skimming downstairs rapidly as typing,
the one washing plates too loudly,
the one who thinks there’s something more important,
since it does not believe in protagonists,
since it knows anyone could be anyone else.

It has heard what they said aloud to the moon to the stars
and what they could not say,
walking alone and together. It has gotten over
I cannot live through this, it has gotten over This did not have to happen
and This is experience one day I will be glad for.
It has gotten over How even for a moment
could I have forgotten? though it never forgets,
leaves nothing behind, does not believe in stories,
since nothing is over, only beginning somewhere else.

It could be anywhere but it is here
with the kids who play softball endlessly not keeping score,
though it’s getting late, way too late,
holding their drives in the air like invisible moons a little longer,
giving way before them so they feel like they’re running faster.
It likes trees, I think, it likes summer. It seems comfortable with us,
though it is here to help us be less ourselves.
It thinks of its darkening as listening harder and harder.
© James Richardson.
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James Richardson received the 2011 Jackson Poetry Prize. His most recent books are By the Numbers, which was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Award and a Publishers Weekly “Best Book of 2010”; Interglacial: New and Selected Poems and Aphorisms, which was a finalist for the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award; and Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays. His poems, essays and aphorisms have appeared in American PoetAmerican Poetry ReviewThe New YorkerParis ReviewPoetrySlateYale ReviewGreat American Prose PoemsGeary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists, the Pushcart Prize anthology and several editions of The Best American Poetry. The recipient of an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he is Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University.

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Registration closes tonight at midnight. If you’d like to study with Jim Richardson or any of other other faculty, register now so you’re not disappointed.

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Advance your craft and energize your writing at the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway. Enjoy challenging and supportive sessions, insightful feedback and an encouraging community. Learn more.