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Surrealist Poems

For some years, off and on, Jim has written a series of poems called the Surrealist Poems. Several are collected in his forthcoming Black Night's Gonna Catch Me Here: Selected Poems 1968–1998; newer poems have appeared in literary journals. Here are the latest.

The Surrealist Comes to Black Rock
The Surrealist Travels by Train
The Girl the Surrealist Left Behind
The Surrealist Relocates
The Plan Behind Improvisation
Surrealist on the Move
Surrealist Bird


The Surrealist Comes to Black Rock

When he stepped off the train,
silverware clattered in drawers
all over town. Children knew
to stay indoors. Women and businessmen
broke out their best clothes
waiting for bells to ring.

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The Surrealist Travels by Train

Alone at night his hands
swing the red lanterns
slowly out, he looks about
for terrible wasps he will not hear.

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The Girl the Surrealist Left Behind

There beneath the rock
which sunlight holds
in the dark hollow of its hand
she crouches. Earth, she knows,
would have its fingers in her.
Shivering, too, whenever someone
uses the word sea.

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The Surrealist Relocates

Where he has come to settle,
in this language, her language,
the poem is a river.

Here one cannot say I want, I long for,
he writes in a letter back home.
One says instead "The river leaves at ten,"

"This day will be beautiful in the river,"
or (once she leaves)
"The river empties into her eyes."

Just this morning
in sudden understanding he cried out:
The river holds the flowering day,

the sun itself, in its hand. That
is the river you see at noon
on the hill,

the river's shadow
flowing down into these hollows
in its search for me.

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The Plan Behind Improvisation

The surrealist lies awake listening to fish in the walls.
He collects them, has for years, and needs only the blue-fin
to fill that one missing space on his shelf.
Unique among fish, the blue-fin sings.
This is the last one, he knows; they've never been recorded.
Still, it will look so fine up there, alongside
Mailer, Kerouac and a stack of fresh towels,
morning light like a passing thought glinting off it.

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Surrealist on the Move

The surrealist walks through the town.
On statues, riders leap from their horses.

The surrealist has coffee at a small café.
Flowers cover the tabletop
at the moment he sets his cup down.
Sheep peer out shyly from beneath.

All about him, women fill the tables.
They sit stiffly upright,
in each of their eyes
a single tear that never falls.

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Surrealist Bird

Though the eggs are long gone (stolen
by bluejays, sucked dry, shelved away
on high branches), the poem
still sits its nest of words.

Something will hatch.

The poem makes its way, gliding,
among the city's canyons
and spires, throws down the anchor
of a single, sharp cry.

Something will die.

The sky peels away in shreds
as the poem flies, ever careful
to move away from those bare patches,
those doorways, those mouths.


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