—Public Domain Photos Courtesy of James Lee Jobe
You must have taken the wrong road.
You have arrived at a place where people eat filth
And live in pens,
The smell is terrible.
You want to go back the way you came,
But the road has one-way traffic only.
There is no going back.
You can stay,
Or travel on;
Those are the choices.
From the pens,
You are called by naked people,
Covered with their own mess.
One of them knows your name,
And says it again and again.
Returning to road,
Feeling lost, you slowly begin to walk away.
First the right foot,
Then the left,
Then the right again.
Sunlight filters down through the branches of the trees,
Sunlight, beautiful and warm.
I am no longer young. The master
Never speaks now when he throws
More straw in my pen. I am alone.
An old sow napping
In the cool mud
No past, no regrets
And cool mud
On such a lovely day
One by one, the campfires
Light up across the valley floor.
Not that long ago.
Humans on the face of the world.
Here in the Sacramento Valley, a bat
Can eat ten insects in one minute.
Mexican free-tail bats. Red bats.
Millions of them.
And on those campfires?
Some kind of game.
Rabbit on a spit. Mule deer.
The power of the tribe.
The food chain at night.
When I die, I want the darkness
"I live for this art of mine," I said,
"Or perhaps it is a craft."
"Is it a chaotic, bohemian life?"
He asked me that with a sound in his voice
As though he already knew my answer,
And that answer was yes.
What did he expect of me?
That because I am a poet
I must live a life of wine and women?
A life without roots or rules?
Friend, that isn't true at all,
Like most people, I have rules I live by.
Praise the light and the dark equally.
Be true to your family and friends.
Be honest in your business dealings.
Try to cause no harm to anyone.
Be thankful for your life and your soul.
If you can help, then help.
Look hard to see the joy in things,
Especially the hard things.
Let go and laugh when you feel it,
And when the rain falls, dance.
Time was passing and I still hadn't answered.
He was waiting, not for truth,
But to be correct, and thus superior,
Which meant that he was not superior at all.
"Yes," I said, "Chaos. It's anarchic."
We parted ways then, both of us pleased;
He was pleased for his superiority,
And I was pleased because I had a poem to write.
This life is my oak, its roots are sixty years deep. The branches reach out farther every year.
—James Lee Jobe
Our thanks to James Lee Jobe for starting our weekend off right with his fine poems and photos!
Izzy Lala will be launching a book today from 2-5pm at Avid Reader on Broadway in Sacramento. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.