Poetry by James Kelly Quigley

Art by Dalanie Beach

A Visit

having a grand ole ghoulish time lying 
down in my mother’s hair 
metal albums 
learning more about Whitesnake 
than one can comfortably abide 
the boys say all their songs are love songs 
“although that wasn’t a conscious decision” 
we must counterbalance this claim against the fact 
that the phrase “slide it in” appears 23 times 
on the track “Slide It In” from their record Slide It In 
my mother’s cats are passing notes from the underworld 
in a laguna of sunlight where I could splash around too 
but I refrain out of respect for their skittishness 
why did I wear my very best suit today 
I knew I’d be doing precisely what I’m doing 
later I’ll take the Metro North back to Grand Central 
then walk to Bryant Park and take the F to Brooklyn 
I’ll stop at the bakery for some hamantaschen 
because the word came to me when I closed my eyes 
after flipping through photos by Cartier-Bresson 
my favorite kind snapped on the streets full of 
human beings being human beings 
a studio portrait simply does not lessen my inclination 
to murder passersby under a sickle of blue sky 
or a blueish sky or at least a blue-esque one 
tell the inspector my motive was love 
pornography is my métier 
a series of low-angle penetrative acts argues more 
persuasively than the suicide-obsessed French theorists 
why it’s okay that we’re all going to die 
but before I can go home I have to say thanks and 
see you soon and I love you and I need money

Door to the Sea

I don’t ask for much 
all I want is an airport 
named after me like 
Charles de Gaulle 
those winter fields wet 
with dread I remember 
the exact moment 
of my birth it was as if 
my mother were 
lacing up her rain boots 
then the canes of bamboo 
ran around headless 
I was uncontestedly me 
and I suspect this was 
if not a mistake then 
an unfortunate eventuality 
when two people are in love 
with drugs 
it’s strange they’re both 
quite easy and rather difficult 
to persuade 
picking spiders from their arms 
the innocent mysticism 
sometimes I find myself chuckling 
when a woman slips 
down the metro staircase or 
when a friend is saying goodbye 
but his eyes are saying catch me 
the pinkness of this sky 
and how the buildings step aside 
making a channel to the sea 
the pinkness of the sea 
the way that it begs



when I talk about the imagination as my condition 
there is a flooded creek overtaking the yellow leaves 
behind the bone-still summer school in Denver 
you introduced me to the most handsome pilot 
he called you his little bunny or somesuch 
and his wife the English expat 
we ate saag paneer after her hysterectomy 
a fine day in early June even the pollen pleased me 
at rest you look worried people tell you this incessantly 
you have a resting look of doom 
I know you down to the dry white cracks 
dawning on the sides of your ankles 
a stone flower pot on the steps of the public library 
walking through the drab sodden heather I know you 
at the pondside where the dogs swim I’m certain I know you 
the way a sycamore slipping out of its bark in the late season 
has a placid awareness of that long goodbye 
it’s your eyebrows that get you in trouble 
how they furl at the ends like notebook pages 
heavy with the ink of unbreakable oaths to a first crush 
this face may as well be mine I regard it as such 
quietly I try to find it in the marble

James Kelly Quigley is the winner of the Phyllis Smart-Young Prize in Poetry. Named among the “30 Below 30” list by Narrative Magazine, James is also a Pushcart Prize and two-time Best New Poets nominee. His manuscript Bath; or, My Dynamic Attitude Toward What Is Erroneously Called the Afterlife was a finalist for the Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes in Poetry (2022), as well as a semi-finalist for the Marystina Santiestevan First Book Prize (2022). Recent work has been published or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, New York Quarterly, Denver Quarterly, Ninth Letter, The American Journal of Poetry, and other places. He received both a BA and an MFA from New York University, where he taught undergraduate creative writing and was an editor of Washington Square Review. James was born and raised in New York. He works as a freelance writer in Brooklyn.