Poetry Suite by William James

Editor Sam Preminger, Poetry, March 28th, 2019

"we write this new history. / claw at & cling"


Poetry by William James

for Caleb Scofield (1978-2018)

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[it’s a claw embedded]


It’s a claw embedded
          in leather, a phantom
dragged through oceans

          of flame. It’s the sun,
a liquid knife, a hellish
          infection, a wraith

of feathers & glass
          screaming out arrows.
It’s savagery & venom

          swallowed by the swarm.
It’s a rattle of snakes
          & teeth & eagles

rendering light into iron,
          melting their wings
to a shield. It’s specters

          on the horizon, deep
burning holes in the earth.
          It’s hypnotizing swells

& spirit anthems, a heart fed
          with fire & tethered
by the heavy grasp of god.

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[all the waters are warm as blood]


All the waters are warm as blood
soaked in hope. Crushing atmosphere.

Hollow sky. Heaven is melting
in sunlight & our throats are scattered.

Choirs of giants are chasing shadows
around empty graves. A prayer

whispered for every burning halo,
our hearts filled with heavy light.

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[endless liquid, violent angels]

endless liquid / violent angels / with nooses

for wings / silver in their marrow / eyes

the color / of blood / and god screams / burning

fire / lonely in his absence / again / such heavy

gravity / the jet blue glow / of death

from the guillotine / to the gun

our mother swarms / the vultures / stretch

like waves / of smoke / under tidal / skies

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[we’re dust until the light chokes us]

We’re dust
until the light
chokes us,

a choir snarling
in a sick red glow.

We’re vices
thrust into virtue,
flowers pushed up
through dark ash.

We’re ordinary
as atmosphere,

as black fleas
with filthy eyes

their rotting teeth.

We’re smoke
& haze & fog
& waves & stars
of fire

& ancient hordes
& temples burning.

We’re solitary
tiny but tireless.

Our hearts & our scars
replaced by embers
& rain.

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Dear [        ],

          So here we are. It’s [        ] & I’m alone
again. Dwelling on the things we used
          to [        ] when we were [        ].

I [        ] to talk to the ghosts, but I
          can’t [         ], so instead I [         ].

I think it’s just a sad [         ], a charade
          to [         ] off the darkness. I was afraid
of [         ] then. I’m [         ] now. I [         ]

          myself that I [         ] my flaws,
but it’s a lie. Here are all my [         ],

          gutted & screaming. Don’t [        ] –
it will make you shake. Sure,
          it’s [         ], but that’s the way we grow.

I [         ] the moonlight or the needles.
          If I don’t [         ] a way to face my demons,

          I will [         ]. It’s a memory I can’t [        ].
I won’t [         ] another [         ] but I will
                                      always be your [         ].

                        Your friend,
                        [         ]

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[another blood moon. another haunted angel. the sun]


another blood moon. / another haunted angel. / the sun
a dead star / with an appetite for meat. / an omen.
a parasite. // & what keeps us warm / when this liquid
oxygen / crushes us with shame? / is it the light
in our eyes / or the music on our lips? // ashen
& fatigued / we write this new history. / claw at & cling
to / the tyranny of our past / with ink still wet on our hands.

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These poems are deconstructions of previously existing texts. For each poem, I have taken the lyrics to a different record from my music library, rearranged the words in alphabetical order, and restricted myself to writing the poem using only those words. The album from which lyrics were taken in each poem is listed below:

  • [it’s a claw embedded] – Zozobra, “Savage Masters”
  • [all the waters are warm as blood] – Zozobra, “Harmonic Tremors”
  • [endless liquid, violent angels] – Zozobra, “Bird of Prey”
  • [we’re dust until the light chokes us] – Old Man Gloom, “NO”
  • [redacted] – Cave In, “Perfect Pitch Black”
  • [another blood moon. another haunted angel. the sun] – Cave In, “Until Your Heart Stops”

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Header image courtesy of Constantinos Chaidalis. To view his Artist Feature, go here.

William James is a poet, aging punk, and train enthusiast from Manchester, NH. He is the author of “rebel hearts & restless ghosts” (Timber Mouse Publishing). His work has been published in literary journals, punk zines, and the occasional vinyl LP. You can find him online on Twitter (@thebilljim) or at www.williamjamespoetry.com


Sam Preminger

Sam Preminger is a Portland-based poet. Their work has appeared throughout various publications and they hold an MFA from Pacific University.