Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: poems (page 1 of 15)

State Surplus

I had to put my coffee down when the ticket taker came to the window and asked to see my papers. She smiled like a wolf on a hot day. The archivists were trying to get rid of a backlog of surplus anger, eight years worth stacked neatly in a corner of the Capitol back in the 1890s. Starting bids for the smallest lots were only a few bucks, but you had to qualify. Promise you’d only use all that rage for good. You take bribes, right? I asked. She waved me in with her flashlight. Trains rumbled along tracks on the far side of the river.


there’s a snowfield in my dreams
where tracks weave off toward winter
bare trees

I imagine leaves
buried in distant snow
I wish I had them

I’d use them like someone
else’s words

arrange them so I’d know
what I was thinking

a fire searching through books
for water



in response to Dave Bonta’s “Ministry of Truth”

North through Fog

Hypnotizing wheels rumble the empty
space between night and dawn.

A world transformed—
grey ocean resting on the plains
deep, impenetrable, broken ghosts
signs manifest mysterious
and vanish.

Punk rock radio,
sonic wind, pushing ever outward,
a star core against the smothering
pressure of staying.

Silencing fog—infinite escape
routes when all directions
are equal.

Roads disappear into the mist,
curtained destinies: farm and field;
town and school; fast food
off ramp, neon light—

Wichita Falls.

A summer re-run of sorts. I posted a very early draft of this back in 2006 and kept tinkering on and off over the years. It was eventually published by The Houston Literary Review in February 2011. Sadly, they seem to have disappeared. Such is the way of the internet and its e-journals, I suppose. Anyway, here ’tis. I’ll post the other poem of mine that they were kind enough to publish in the coming days.

Highway Skies

There was a time when film was too expensive.
In those days, we used words scrawled
on fast food wrappers, creased maps and memory.

The cars ran on gasoline and explosions.
The phones were tethered to wires,
but we weren’t tethered to anything.

The highways stretched forever.
Nobody knew what was on the other end.

Not the maps of the ancient conquistadors
nor the atlases of the highway cartographers
could show us the ten thousand things
we needed to see for ourselves.

This is one I’ve been kicking around a while.

In other news, mark Stratton gave a nice quick review of Birds Nobody Loves. He interviewed me for his blog too and that should be appearing in the near future. Thanks, mark!

Two Poems at Curio Poetry

I’m honored to have two poems, “Winter Solstice” and “In the Time of the Automobile” (both from my upcoming collection Birds Nobody Loves–More to come stay tuned) in the inaugural issue of Curio Poetry alongside the work of several other fine poets. Thanks to editors Joseph Harker and Tessa Racht for starting this journal and including some of my work. Now, go check it out.


moonlight sparkles in
grey hair and
bourbon ice

beneath pine trees she
severe counts satellites
on silent skyways

falling stars
fading shine

the sky’s last synaptic glow
strange and waning

the highway fell
silent last summer
no cars since then

her mind wanders
revisiting the cellar
each jug of potable water

she calculates
consumption, her husband’s
weight beside her

bourbon ice (luxury
for special nights like these)
grey hair
moon-sparkling knife

the broken highway
heat lightning
bones in moonlight

Another poem about water, or rather, the lack thereof.

Slow & Coiling

Afternoon temperature. In the shade.

Slow & Coiling

drought doesn’t rage
like hurricanes or tear
the world like twisters

it’s a slow dismantling
of yellowed ecosystems
ash blown on wind

blind salamanders
blocks from a jenga tower
pulled one by one

cracks snake the earth
the quiet collapse of cattle
roaming mudpits, abandoned

fawns starving on roadsides
constellations of vultures
summer’s stars dark and full

silent silent sky
smoky whispers of a thousand
cigarette wildfires, sirens

a lone bat loops the dusk
where swallows and kingbirds
once flew toward trees

songless losing leaves
months before their time
tree rings tell futures

constricted bands
a snake coiling around
this thirsty dying land

Heat Advisory

bring water, electrolytes
this night will burn

heat and light
have come untwined

out on the porch
I call back the dogs

swift feet, darkness
panting shadows

sweat beads my forehead
the stillness of trees

leaves roasted
beyond autumn gold

pray for rain, ask
in secret for hurricanes

they claim this red moon
only reflects

Ghost Stories

No one puts stock
in ghosts anymore.

But everyone has a story
that begins with I’m not crazy.

Maybe it’s the bridge on 97
or the creaky floorboard upstairs.
The chair they’ll swear was rocking,
or totems of the dead discovered
in strange forgotten corners.
Lights on the Devil’s Backbone.

Ghosts love these stories.
They know

there isn’t any darkness
more forsaken
than the end of memory.

This was inspired by Dave Bonta’s “If there were such things as ghosts”. Dave invited others to add poems to his post’s comment thread and the result is a wonderful mix of ghost poems. This is the one I came up with.

Chlorine Summer Days

We’ve been in triple digits most days lately. Too hot to do anything, even walk down to the neighborhood pool. Seems almost too hot to write so here’s a rerun from 2006:

Chlorine bubbles
Teenage lifeguards
Lap lanes
He can’t hold his breath that long
She swims, swims, swims
She can’t hold her breath for him
Holding hands
Holding breath
Chlorine water bubbles
Break like glass
Smiling faces break the mirror
Ten more laps
Holding breath
Holding sun
They hold each other
Only Labor Day
(so far away)
Dispels the dream
Of swimming, sun and
Water love
Chlorine swim
Sun five
Breath one
He will hold his breath for her,
Offering it like sunshine gold
From wrinkled hand
Swimming, she accepts
Breathes the breath
Of summer sun

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