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James Lineberger: Two Poems

Bogota | Now When I Dream


In stiff-legged essence, in leaf shadow beauty, it stands,
the poem entire. What I give
you is merely the opening
for what lies in wait. And we say it together: horse.
There, yes, the air filled already
with the odors and the noise of saddle leather,
limning the leaping jolts from
youth to age, all your pitiful longing wrapped up
in a single image bursting
through the frame
like a Remington painting, movement at the apogee,
frozen. Waiting for the breath
that only you can give, cheeks rouged with fear, clear back
to your childhood,
the wet caress of the mist touching you,
high in the mountains of Colombia, half-starved ponies
drifting ahead like ghosts,
your uncle calling over his shoulder
"don't let the shitass balk, you'll be left behind,
and no one will know."

Now When I Dream

I no longer visit the old ones,
that stunning collection of freaks and cannibals,
but a quieter, less predictable group,
whose presence seems almost stately, like snow on pines,
like Frankenstein's monster tossing his little playmate in the river,
thinking he's sending her to fetch more flowers,
only to look on helplessly as she drowns, in a frozen charcoal moment
as private and personal as graffiti fading on brick,
no monsters left now but me,
who, in big ideas of myself, must stumble about in elevator boots,
striving to impose order on the endless chaos
beyond bones and flesh. And on those rare nights
when neither the restless dogs or cats disturb my sleep,
I find myself boarding
the subway with a diminutive oriental businessman, accompanied
by his daughter, eight or ten years old, an Anime figure in white,
lovely in her stillness,
who stands very close to his thigh,
holding on to his hand tightly, and when she looks up at me, her expression
though shy and demure, is somehow possessive,
as if she knows already
the bride she will grow up to be, the unfolding tenderness of her breathing
when she offers her flowers to a stranger,
in darkness, in a black
so bright against the blackness of the day.

Poet's Biography:
  James Lineberger is a professional playwright and screenwriter. His poetry has appeared in New York Quarterly, Verse, Hayden's Ferry Review, Hanging Loose, Ontario Review, Exquisite Corpse, Snake Nation Review, Sonora Review, Praire Schooner, and a number of online publications. He was twice awarded First Place, IBPC, and has been a Pushcart Prize nominee. His book, JUDGMENT CALL: COMPLETE POEMS, 1994-2004, is available online at

© 1999 - 2003, by the poets featured herein.