Saturday, March 17, 2018

Still in the Game

James Lee Confesses All
—Poems and Photos by James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA

How frail is this life?
It is easy to hide the truth
in the deeps of a closed room.
Ribbons of steel, blood like gold;
how can we fit these
in the hollows of the soul?

Go ahead and stand alone.
Are you frail? Then allow yourself
to fail. When tomorrow comes,
if it comes, start again.
And if, perhaps, tomorrow does not come,
start again anyway.


The smell of fallen leaves and earth.
The wild and lovely colors of autumn.
The cycle of the world around the sun,
getting farther away,
later to return closer again.
A brilliant plan?
but if not,
it is a marvelous coincidence.
Do you ever wonder
how much of life is coincidence
and how much is fate?
A circle of seasons.
A cycle of change.
Leaves fall,
then return.
The bear sleeps for a while,
then awakens.
The ground and air cools,
then is cold,
then warms,
and finally gets hot.
Again and again through the years,
through epochs of change.
And we are among the blessed.
We share the blessing. 

(for Doreen Deutsch Spungin)

 Full Moon, North Central Texas

Across North Central Texas, people call them blue northers.
Bitter winter winds blow down all the way from Canada,
racing over the prairie like Mario Andretti is behind the wheel,
dropping the temperature ridiculously far below freezing.

"Cold enough for you?"
"Yup. If this is for me, it can quit anytime."

Life slows down, businesses and schools close,
and God help you if it rains just before the norther hits;
the world will be covered in a sheet of ice.
Power lines and tree limbs snap, the roads are a danger,
and many water pipes give up the ghost and burst.
The wind speaks with a ghostly voice,
"woooo," and you had better get the livestock in the barn.
Salt the porches and walkways, put chains on the tires,
get out the old checkerboard and the playing cards,
and settle in to wait it out, like waiting out a siege.

People in other places tend to think of Texas as hot,
and a lot of the time that's true enough.
You can see a seventy-degree Christmas or New Year.
But the next day a norther strides in and slaps your face,
and everything changes for a few hard days.
I have seen my father put on his wife's pantyhose
under his long-underwear, and two pairs of pants on top.
The cold bites hard on people who are used to heat.

The smart ones are prepared, late in the fall they stock up.
Rock salt goes in the shed, the fruit is canned,
a pig and a yearling calf go into the deep freezer.
A cord or two of wood is cut, tire chains are checked,
repaired if needed, and put in the back of the truck.
The chainsaw blade is sharpened and oiled, too,
for the limbs that will fall, probably right in the way.
Then, when the norther comes like an unliked relative,
which is a fair comparison, they can smile about it.
If the power goes out, they can cook on the old wood stove,
they light the kerosene lanterns and play checkers.
There is hay in the barn and the fences are strong.

"Cold enough for you?"
"Yup. If this is for me, it can quit anytime."

The family is close, and if the cold night is long, so what?
In three days, maybe four, the sun will melt the ice,
and the world will recover, and heal with the warmth.
Time after time, winter after winter, the world always recovers.
And the life we know once again goes on. 


This is another day of blue sky and delight.
Are those the voices of my now adult children
Laughing on the sweet autumn breeze?
Is that my wife's tender smile
Above me in the soft, white clouds?
Love is a feather, floating to us from Heaven.
God is the gleam in my granddaughter's eye.
If it all ended to day, what will I have missed?
This is another day of blue sky and delight.


Soon I will plunge myself into the cold winter rain.
I love the truth that comes from shivering.
Autumn can be so beautiful and deceptive, walking
Through leaves, seduced by color and cool breezes.

Soon I will plunge myself into the cold winter rain.
I am a small thing on a small planet, in a universe
That is endless and always expanding outward.
I love to turn my face to the sky, to the rain.

Soon I will plunge myself into the cold winter rain.
Let the deluge begin. Wash the streets and houses clean.
Let winter come, and be long and cold, wet and dark.
This is the beginning of winter in my own life. 

 Sacramento River, Tower Bridge

My legs are becoming a poker hand that can't win.
My knees lack cartilage, my feet have arthritis,
but at least everything is still down there, below me,
like a pair of threes. I have to bluff to win.
I am not complaining.
Recently I was on the bus in Sacramento,
where all the buses have ramps for wheelchairs.
A fellow rolled on whose legs were shrunken and tiny,
and I could see the excitement in his face,
pleased to be out in the world like anyone else.
And I wondered about his life; how does he shower?
Use the toilet? Does he have someone to hold him,
to love him? Is he always this cheerful,
or does it all get to him sometimes?
Late at night. Alone and suffering.
Life deals from the bottom of the deck,
quite a lot. Life cheats, and wins the pot.
And life can also play fair and still win.
When we win, we need to savor it.
Laugh out loud and buy a round for the house.
Yes, walking is getting harder all the time.
Walking the six uphill blocks from the train station
to my daughter's apartment can set me back a day
in recovery time. But I am walking, not rolling.
I walk into my shower. I walk over to my wife
and take her in my arms.
I'm still in this poker game. 

 Cache Creek, Northern California

The city is deserted,
Don't lose yourself in the empty streets.
The street signs are all down,
and your feet are bloody and sore.
The electricity has been turned off,
the traffic lights no longer work.
Where have I been?
Not in trouble,
not chastised by some condemning god,
but asleep.
It is time for you to stop running after me.
You didn't need to search for me at all.
I rested the whole night through.
Your worries do not inspire fear in me,
and even if they did,
there is little comfort in a smothering love.
Walk back the way you came,
and I will do the same.
Life is fire,
and water.
Family is blood.
Fear and danger could never break the bond between us.
And I was never afraid anyway.

(for Nena, my mother, 1927-2013)


Today’s LittleNip:

May I be spared the illusion that even one second belongs to me.
I own nothing.
There is only that which I do, and that which I don't do.
The rest is an illusion.

—James Lee Jobe 


Thank you to James Lee Jobe today for some fine Saturday musings as we head into the weekend!

This coming Tuesday, 6pm, the non-profit literacy program, 916 Ink, presents Stones in the Road, a reading by Luther Burbank students celebrating the release of their
Stones in the Road anthology. Capitol Stage, 2215 J St., Sac. For more about 916 Ink, go to; for last Saturday’s Sac. Bee article, see

—Medusa, wishing you a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

 —Anonymous Photo
Celebrate Poetry!

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then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
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