James McCrary - Poems of the Place



James McCrary

© copyright 1994 James McCrary

P.O. Box 20805
Columbus Circle Station
New York, New York 10023


Some of the poems in this collection have been previously published either in book form or in magazines and the author gratefully acknowledges the publishers/editors of the following presses: West of Mass, published by Tansy Books, Lawrence, KS, John Mori tz, Editor; :that:, Peacham, VT, published by Stephan Ellis; First Intensity, Staten Island, NY, published by Lee Chapman and Texture Magazine, published by Susan Nash Smith.



You look and look again...try to see something...through the cold...out there along the horizon...if you have one...it is empty and silent...[like stepping out of the car along that gravel road 20 miles East of Sublette...down off Hiway 54]...the silence...the space...yeh the wind. Here the same...the white paper...the black lines extending across the page...it all adds up...somehow...and I do the best I can with it...I can't stop it...don't want to change it...and in the end try to turn it over...put it up...here...now...you take it...you think it over and let my words blow through you...out there...on that rise...under that sun...in that place...you know where it is...you've been there...don't bullshit me on that one pard...I seen you out the corner of my eye...over there.


Oh shit he said.

Not unusual considering the present.

What becomes known does that.

Often times the result is speech.

If it all comes down the results rain.

What is hoped for realized.

Somebody commits suicide.

Not as often as before.

Then it was part of a life.

People "fell" out windows.

People "took" a lot of drugs.

Living dangerously but living.

Something went past quickly.

Remembering nothing is not relief.

Remembering everything is considered bad form.

The sixties?

Not me man, no way.

What was that used to be.

Today things are "stored".

That seems to work.

It is easy to "search".

Memory chips.

Ah...the future claimed...


Whatever we want holds us

the attempt to break free of desire

twice the pleasure...half the pain

that is attractive

whatever we can comes up

the only way outta here

how do we find the exit in the dark

what it comes down to

we want some direction

"keep your eyes open"

what kind of direction is that

always expectation leads around the bend

not direction at all not very clear either

asking for advice like help

overcoming spontaneity

If this turns out to be a sonnet..god help us


New space is a relief

old space too

what comes up beet red

puns suck

Out of this space and then

what a surprise discovered

the only demand continued

the only result drawn

Another one comes along

day that is

hot like this

incredible in their sameness

What right do we have

Whose idea was this anyway


Is it imagination

or does this world really

seem just a bit off today

Perhaps a difficult sleep

is the answer

still one sun up

You see some things that

reflect sameness

and others are not that way

Questions keep up

one certainly doesn't try to

bat them down

What if? Why not?

the only result is again

the only end is running

triplets are just right

until they too run out


If anything come up for sure

passing it around does demand

a closer look and visit for the

hearing and then the size and font

become only too wasted

what does this say

and why doesn't it say it out loud

does any page speak highly

of type

can applying one to another

create some noise

or are the many just two

what come up just belongs

nothing re arranges

what comes up put down


Thinking about out there

the clouds gather

push east and south

to here

where hopefully they will

do what they do

covering both sun and land

with the mass of them.

some electric

some noise

a bit of wet

then move on toward the

easy hills of west missouri

or simply dissipate and

reflect above the kansas river

where the loss is obvious

not much else is t(here)


Under the horizon

a simple tree line


both heat and a few stray


before that a pond

both stark and quiet

which holds a few bass

and endless reflections

to one end the constant windmill

dribbles what is left beneath it

in an ageless attempt

to keep up.

west of course the yellow

turns red and lights up what's

sent from topeka to pollute the edge

standing still or walking

back down the slope

or across the slight valley

called Buck by some

trying again to locate

what it is draws anyone to this place

always looking

always close

the only way here is subtle

and that is not an easy way

to get through


There is a great opening to the north

lack of foliage is the cause

geese heading northeast for some reason

perhaps the river for a spell

there are no hawks

something green is beginning

wheat it seems

the cattle ignore all this

content in their way

the fence seems strong

all the gates are closed

the memories are quick

like the geese

sound before sight

remembering the creek

and an old wood pile

the crops and bales lifted off the field

leaving finally

turning left onto the paved road

behind and over my shoulder

is a trail of dust



They are trying these times

without representation

sub or near to it as zero

wind a plus

sun no help unless

already protected

the trees seem inverted

perhaps that is protection

the mirror of soil against horizon

it makes obvious today

the fact of walking about

on the top

rootless and restless

"what is it at the end of the road"

we do desire the curve

to walk around and

somehow caress something

nape to knee is one example

certainly it is the same desire

the discovery of the possible

the unknown and the known


to finally see what can't be seen

to feel what is familiar

to hope for some further travel

to be

in the end

led somewhere.


The example of field

out and across

down there with the creek bed

curved around the fallow

what can be seen

does the wind accumulate

or simply pass through

continuous in its tail

does it provide for birds

is that a beagle

where is the sun coming from

is this after all

simple recollection


When the will comes

there are no fields left

trees line the banks

upended by the winter

ahead of this view another line of rock

road perhaps or simple lift

somewhere out there

a "how you say" mirage

visiting scenes from over by there

only in mid-day

only in mid-summer

only here on this hill do they visit

"you can see it as clear as day"

hopefully this is a chance

there is nothing to feel

go ahead walk through it

turn around and it is gone

somewhere nothing has changed

as usual this becomes the day


If they stayed together too long it became rather tedious. If they

stuck together it was a joke. Thankfully, the human rarely expands

to reach such humility. However, as it is well published these days,

there is an emotional enlargement which sometimes reaches epic proportion.

Doesn't do much good for them either. Is it love or the microwave?

Just another typical American family. Why not. Does the dog always


Some say it is all too obvious. Some are too obvious to say anything.

Some obvious. Some too. Or is it two. Of course it is.

Becoming un stuck requires motion. All is that way. The latest info

re chaos doesn't apply. Wellness cults need not apply either.

All in all it is a fine combination. Loving in its splendor.


In the mirror

"objects are..." etc

the road is created

in another past

over the ridge

or lost in a cut

through eroded time (Hawkins said)

which seems to hold somehow

the future yet...

Out here

everything curves

and the hills

are rolled in flint.


Finally the spot hits

another split in the horizon

against a familiar background

the sun appears

as if it belonged

not just emerging

from behind that line

what held it up is attached

some cloud

some shadow

even the trades come on

salt from the gulf

wet enough to stick

comments to one another

provide the only sound

dogs don't seem interested

one continues and is spotted

jogging along the avenue

a bridge

and then the best appear

and they don't seem to mind

exiting and entering

trying to fill in

the space between waves

it is so hot

we let go

we fly


We let go

we fly

there is no place left

directions confuse

the polar surge is less

just because we are above

is no consolation

what is below continues

to revolve

landing is a surprise

where is of no matter

all of which

if maintained

long enough



what a lot of people consider

nothing is really just another way of saying


just looking doesn't

what is covered becomes forest

green what?

well just the other day

waltzing along the river

minding all the business

worn rocks

trees exploded

green fireworks

(no sense hacking

it grows that fast)

just another way downhill

keeping a distance that is

following the order.

the return is always as expected

revolving in its own way

this spring seems controlled.

one line at a time seems rather pretentious

don't tell me that works


Simply passing is a river

unseen before and after

rising and lowering in an attempt

to get past

what matters seems to be going up

one would think the reverse to be true

probably once was

then of course there was more up than down

now it all comes north

nothing left

they need it and are willing to

remake the road

remembering another time when the river ruled

now is indeed ruled

nailed down

stopped in all ways

nothing left but to look at it

and as the locals do

call it a "lake"

which considering the short view

and width of water

is real enough.

in keokuk there are some folks

who know how to look at a river.


Over all the river seems

to run as always

down they used to say


full of riffs and tiffles

oh come on not that river

way too big

such a concept

as usual there are the bluffs

still an option

the wider view

coming together

a sense of length

or what was

oh for christs sake

quit being so oblique

all you have to do

is look for the signs


Left alone

the old oxbow

like the words

lies flat

waiting for the light to change

and it does

as summer

moves across the middle

as if any lines

added up to anything

and who can follow

what light

on what plain

looking up

or down or into

doesn't seem to catch it at all

what runs by

past what's running along

past as well

no use trying to snag it at all

wasting yer bait

some might say


The figures

from the top


in a voluntary

stance is the form

swinging too and for


destination follows

the first move

hand and knee

lifted off the ground

in an attempt to get


or rather movement which

if sustained long enough

encourages some rather

obvious mistakes.

So off they went into the

distance and towards a new


perhaps choosing to spend the time

or in any event

the night

on the river

but of course that was not


near by or next to or within

shouting distance

in as well

but the only one would have

been one of the many

islands which seemed

to come and go with astounding


as they continued down and around

freeing themselves from the hold of

even the village

which disappeared

around a bend over

their shoulders.

Easier said than done

for sure

but what was the direction

and why bother traveling at all

what was it out there

and which of any of them

could say anything worth meaning

the river: dumb

the dog: talk about barking

the man: sounds like something made up

so it was with rather

esoteric silence that this

group continued

some because they couldn't not flow down

others just following their nose

and finally

why not

if anything was lost to them

it usually turned up before too long.

So there you are

as narrative that has just about

exhausted any purpose.

On the first night they

(well) two of three


and perhaps the river slowed down as well

since the man and dog

chose a slight bend

for a

sleeping place

which lasted as long

as any

but as for restfulness

well what can one do

on the bank

as it were.

(maybe it was just a walk after all

maybe making it into some kind of journey

is all wrong...)

Perhaps just probing limits

within a time constrain

perhaps an hour

perhaps a day

perhaps...oh for crissakes

always heading in the direction

or odyssey

always back to what

is that some kind of European

gene pile which makes every trip to

the Quickstop a fucking religious pilgrimage.

Well just in case any of this is lost

there has to be a final twist

and since the river just turned over

into another larger way

the two of them left

did the same

and the final rush for the door

came up

there the room and the TV at hand

bed and bored

the hope of whatever adventure

dead and buried

there they could rest

and pick up the wheel....

Oh Vanna!!!


He got up and left

not leaving was an equal opportunity

moving to the street and turning left toward the corner available to him

it was not a clear day

the time of the day was equally un-clear

it was not smoke or lack of sun which created the feeling of denseness

what had been obvious was not now

it didn't hinder either his progress or his decision

in fact there was neither of the above present

leaving was the only decision to be made and once made it was easy to access

the only alternative was waiting to see what made the door operate

could he do that

it sounds more like something he may have created in order to pass the time

recalling that like other amusements the time was already past

passing the threshold in either direction was out

in was not an option

even the dog was open to that choice

out was just another direction

no in in her mind

like it was all territory to her

equal in its importance

and they accepted the obvious company not trotting along

up or down was such a dumb concept to each of them

direction that was

trees of course were round as viewed

the winter cover slight

the river drew them as two small figures approaching or due to the sun in the east one six legged figure

in the end what mattered to all of them was movement

just another river

just another dog walk

add one to another and what you got

flowing against leaning on sitting down

the bank was just that

of course there was a great story taking place at the same time


It was just that kind of day and living in a trailer court on the sound end of the hiway strip leading eventually only to Dodge City is not exactly conducive to divorce or suicide. So when she dropped the plugged in hair dryer into the full bathtub in which she sat after slitting the throats of the 8 year old and the 10 year old it was just the end of another day. End of another fucking day to say the least and that there is probably the key to this text if ever someone wanted to dig around in the sub for it.

(He left her and she responded in the only way she knew...........they say)

(Reference Lawrence Daily Journal World January 18, 1993)


for Pat Nolan


She stood five foot four inches barefoot now loose blond hair rather ratted. She stood with a 1930's silk slip to her knees. The house was cold and damp. The creek was at flood stage. Late December deep in the north coast California redwoods. She hacked more than once and spat out the door. "Damn I love this drug."


"Fuckin Prozac queen. God I hate em in every way." Of course that could be reactionary. Queens is queens after all. If any one is interested in studying queer behavior in the 90's this is a good place to begin. He waltzed into the room behind her and asked to borrow (a) the 1930's silk slip and (b) her bazooka. It was that kind of relationship and there was little doubt that the dog would suffer the consequences. Standing in the rain-soaked yard barking loudly as if to announce his hunger.

Tough shit old thing. First things first and you ain't even on the list.


Across the rising creek sat a poet. He sat looking for a sock. If he could see it he would get up. It was under a Webster's New World Dictionary and would stay there until he wrote the poem. Just another rain. He had the idea alright and could see the two across the water and in fact due to the porch they shot on the reflection in the water. Perhaps this would inspire him to do more than conceive of a title. The dog barked over all of it.



here now

in the short night

i write to the earlier sight of

sun light through the screen door

ray broken[?] up by grid

no not ray

isn't it sun wave

and don't i

feel moved by it

not penetrated...

yet what again about

the waves of line

or lines on door

to floor where light

gathers into something visual

or is thrown off mirrored pots

to decorate a space with some thing

but not for long

and then

back to the door

looking for the entrance

of these lines...

how odd is it [?]

that i am

unable to look direct into sun

[i cannot look at mirrors

with me in them either]

of course the lines

of sun

are visible

across the space

and draw me too

the crossing of a cat


if i were the sun i would

follow that cat

but of course

we know

who finds the sun

and here it is [!]



re drawn

in these lines

but this writing of things

what does the pleasure

amout to

after all of it

is on the line

in serted through these fingers

and re in serted to print that is

and re flected back to eyes

off the page [screen]...

like that door

the tiny grid again

caught up in the real...

what is it at the door

and why of all things


[Break - screen pass: american football. a designed play in which the quarterback drops back and throws ball along a line parallel with line of scrimmage to [usually] a running back who, hopefully, by beginning behind line will find `running room'. for example joe montana drops back five yards looks downfield and throws right to marcus allen who runs along sideline. more often than not this play results in no yards gained. occasionally, it does result in a `big gain'.

       O         O          O

O O    O O O O O                   O

 X X    X X X X X       X           X


            (19)                                  (32)

there it is

on the TV

the goddamned sun

through a screen [window]

not storm[?] window

to the floor

and the cat

in the pool[?] of it

we are all aligned now

although in no form discovered

until this put up

on screen

which in no way

slows the mind from forming

either a picture or

translation into words...

I come...I go

but the view



doesn't seem to change

as much as i ask


turning around quickly

opening blinds or

booting this up


and of course

simply waiting

to see...i suppose

the final line




laid out [down]

and finally

offered out.

James McCrary now lives in Lawrence, Kansas. He is married to the painter Susan Ashline. He works part time for William S. Burroughs, fellow Lawrencian. He teaches poetry and poetics at the Lawrence Arts Center and started the Lawrence Poetry Slam at a local topless club.

His published books are: Coon Creek, University of Kansas, 1971; Some Poems, Salt Point Press, 1979; The Effect of Sun..., Syntax, 1982; And/Or, e.g. books, St. Paul, MN, 1989; and West of Mass, Tansy Books, Lawrence, KS, 1992.

His poems have appeared in the following magazines in recent times: Exquisite Corpse, Caliban, Avec, Loose Gravel, Rolling Stock, Cottonwood, GRIST On-Line, Coal Creek Review, :that:, Texture and Borderline.


Go to An Introduction to James McCrary by John Fowler
Go to West of Mass by James McCrary