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.