Tag Archives: James Jay

JAMES JAY.August 2020


Photo by Jeff Sirkin



I found first the scanned arrest record

for my great grandpa

through the genealogy research

to which I subscribed monthly.

Bad check writing. Sixteen years old. Nebraska.

The family had come down on tough times.

He only found the ledgers, claimed his confession

to the court. It’s not like he pilfered firsthand.

Buy of this what you want.

He’s not my great grandpa anyway.

He’s yours. Your family had come down

on those old and familiar tough times.

Whatever makes you feel better, keep.

The rest toss back, so many tiny fish hooked

on a wide sea of bad luck. You passed those bum

checks, so you’d be in a tale, whatever the role.

Because you went quietly, the sheriff kept

the cuffs loose. This evidence is my record.


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*** ** ***



In the goalie box, a man with no helmet

on a three-day bender

that would seem to know no end.

A refused helmet pitched by a post.

Torn jeans, a yanked-on

Mountain Hounds jersey

and an ash hurl in hand to remind him

he’s playing an ancient sport.

He spits into the dry autumn

dirt, the grass of Tucson.

A landlocked sailor with nowhere to go.

He’s here to help. This is your life,

counting numbers, for another go of it.

May the sliotars slip past his eye

sockets, spare his orbital bones,

his nose at least. He’s on your team.


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*** ** ***



The box of Talisker 10,

go inside

with your fingers

and pull up a flap.

There, there rests

Richard Hugo’s lines, not Scottish at all.

Wide forehead

like a Cadillac,

mechanic at Boeing,

forever American,

he spent time on Skye

jotting notes in journals.

Press them, map-flat,

and be content as a fellow

moved to dayshift.

For the Guggenheims,

he fired off poems

for a book. For you,

he left words


cast onto currents of the sea—

We are what we sing.


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*** ** ***



after W.S.


At La Senita elementary

a metal cylinder,

a tube like an artillery shell

from World War II

which my grandpa told me a bit

about, something I’d only seen

on late night, black and white

shows. In there, we place

objects from our age to be

sealed, buried,

abandoned: The Kingman

Daily Miner and its

news on already dry

paper: “Another Route

66 Café to Close,”

“Argentinean Copper

Threatens Duval.” We

bolster the pages

with our notes,

our now known cursive,

the confusion of

the Q with the 2, an

inverted b and d

there and there. To children

of the future, a distant you,

in the year two-

thousand, I seal

in a toy. Hoth Han Solo,

his bent gun arm gone,

his blaster long lost, plastic

becoming artifact

for the cattle

on the Neal Ranch to

unearth by hoof.

Down the tube, I slide

Solo. Who finds him?

How? Who knows the location now?

Was it ever

opened? Time sealed and

pointed for the future

reader. My old friends,

look here. The wide

open hand unscrews

a top, and the face

I saw peering

into the dusty dark

was always yours—


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*** ** ***



Jab lifts. Roll lifts.

Just pull on it!

It’s a wristy game.

One more season?

On his rump

black short shorts,

the old hurler,

his fingers lace

the cleats. He eyes

the blades

of grass,

one by one

they thaw—


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*** ** ***



Much of North Beach shut down

from the days of my youth—

The Sex Shop shuttered.

O’Reiley’s Pub boarded up.

For a dollar “Confucius will tell

all” reads the plaque in front

of the encased mannequin.

I imagine Confucius won’t

make change for a five. Reader,

I can tell you this:

I don’t want to know

all. I’d go for some nickels’

worth of hints. Why

are the postcards in Chinatown

unchanged? Who took down

the dust piled

“Free Leonard Peltier”

t-shirt at City Lights?

Labor Day. The sun setting

on another record heatwave.

The night approaches

with so much left to not know—


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James Jay
has worked as a bartender, a wildland firefighter, book seller, surveyor, and furniture mover. He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona where he has taught poetry at the jail, the public schools, Northern Arizona University, and given Irish Literature lectures at Northern Arizona Celtic Festival. For nine years, he wrote the “Bartender Wisdom” bi-monthly column in Flag Live. He owns a bar, Uptown Pubhouse, with his wife, the musician Alyson Jay. They have two sons, Wilson and Henry and two dogs, Neville and Digby (they’re a wily pack).


When not writing, working at the bar, and running with the kids and dogs, James Jay plays the ancient Irish game of hurling as a half-forward for the Flagstaff Mountain Hounds. Recently, he received the Copper Quill Award, and his poetry has been featured regularly on National Public Radio’s Poetry Friday on KNAU. His third collection of poems, Barman, was recently published by Gorsky Press.


To download a printable PDF version of this page, click here.



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August 2020.JAMES JAY