Three Poems by James H. Duncan

The Good Fresh Kind

via morgueFile

I slept in the shade of the ticking
work truck. I didn’t want to work,
and I threw myself down onto the patch
of thick green grass beside the pebbly dirt
driveway and listened to Nick and Greg
work the lawnmowers across the field,
the ticking truck, the birds, and
the wind tussling the leaves above me

I wanted wine but had none and no money
either, but it was just a passing thought in the
comfort of my laziness and peace

a jug of wine is all one needs in the sun.
yes, just a passing thought, like the blue jay
who watched me for a few seconds before
flying away, melting into the sky.
I slept for a long while, woke, and slept
again, waking finally a little after 4 p.m.
with the smell of grass filling my nose,
the good fresh kind, the summer kind,
heavy in the air and edging toward autumn

we loaded the truck as I regained myself,
my sense of chained humanity, and I drove
the truck back into civilization to collect
our own cars and drift our separate ways

and Greg turned the knob for the radio,
searching for the right reason at the right moment
to help us ease the miles droning by with
the wind in our summer hair, arms idle out the windows,
ignorant of the second shoe waiting somewhere
high above in the leaves and blue jays flying


Death Row Escape

hotels rooms and the endless waiting
at windows holding waterfalls of orange
curtains in one clutched hand

the phone beside the bed stares, the bath
runs, mistakes and hopes hang
from the ceiling like a thousand
idling hangman ropes

these hotel rooms and days of waiting
grind bone-on-bone
every check-in an arraignment
every check-out a parole
a part of you never leaves my sight
a part of you is always below my barred windows
and the water begins to flow
over the edge of the tub, which lets
the curtain fall, which makes
the phone ring, and there
you are
another life sentence pardoned

and now the coat,
the tie and the fedora,
the key in the lock

a thousand crimes of the heart imagined
a criminal on the loose once more


It’s Only Temporary

if you look through the keyhole there across
the room and see that it’s dark
then you know it’s dark everywhere out there
that there’s no one else roaming this
house, this three-storey walk-up at the end
of the street where we all live, alone

the darkness through that keyhole is
a negative beacon, a knife leaving
the sheath and hovering,
a reminder of those nights when you’d
wake up alone in those rooms in
Albany, Boston,
San Francisco, Corpus Christi,
Ft. Collins, Saratoga Springs
not knowing where you
were for a moment
and you’d see a square of night
sky without stars or street lights
or even the moon where the window should be
just darkness
within the darkness
a black hole
where something should be,
but wasn’t

and now, sometimes, you look up and see
the keyhole across the room is lit

someone is out there
someone is home
someone in some other
room in this three-storey walk-up
and you think that maybe their life
is also full of nighttime windows and knives
hovering somewhere, of doorknobs unturned,
of coffee rings only on one end of the coffee table

and then that light in the keyhole
goes out
and you hear a door close, a voice,
shoes thrown in a corner somewhere overhead
and you tell yourself: it’s only temporary
as you reach up and flick
off the lamp

it’s only temporary,
night after night

it’s only temporary

James Duncan
James Duncan

James H Duncan is the founding editor of Hobo Camp Review and is the author of What Lies In Wait, Berlin, Dealing With the Devil In the Middle of the Road, and other collections of poetry and fiction. He is more than likely standing on a train station platform as you read this. For more, visit

Read What Lies in Wait
Read What Lies in Wait



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