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the green line

November 20, 2019

the green line trolley rumbles past park street | bolyston | arlington | copley
     | hynes convention center | kenmore | fenway | longwood | brookline village
     | brookline hills | beaconsfield | reservoir | chestnut hill
each stop blurring one into another
a boston policeman sitting silent next to me
stiff cap pointed badge crisp jacket black boots eyes forward
my parents anxiously awaiting outside newton center station

               i am eleven

(45 minutes ago)

i do what i always do locked in routine

"go down into the station
     put the fare in the fare box
          spin through the turnstile
               turn right / stairs down
                    the tunnel beneath the tracks
                         connecting east to west and home"

the station quiet and empty
i turn to take the first step down
they surround me from the tunnel's shadows
ten boys maybe twelve, buzzing with excitement
one pushes me and another and then 
a hand clamps over my mouth
     (in that moment a memory burns:
     fingers rough on my lips
     sticky smell a sweaty palm
     a burst of terror
     unable to breath)

they pull me wrestling down the stairs
smothered mouth screams tears panic and then
in a moment
	a shout from across the tracks
		they scatter into the shadows

the policeman must have appeared
or perhaps a ticket seller or passerby
i remember nothing and will never know
seconds minutes hours?
my mind erased by each stolen breath

and after a time sitting silent on the green line trolley

(50 minutes ago)

i do what I always do locked in routine

"go from mcdonald’s to the park street station
      don’t cross the street go into the station
          go down the stairs into the tunnel and under the tracks
               that’s how you go home"

my heart is still racing
when they reappear
ten boys, maybe twelve, laughing 
surrounding me blocking the station entrance

“where are you going?”
     “leave me alone!” my shy voice trembling

again they disappear
so I step down

(60 minutes ago)

i do what i always do locked in routine

"after choir practice grab dinner next door 
     at mcdonald’s
          twenty should be plenty
               remember to bring home change!"

when turning from the counter
my tray full of dinner two boys approach
“are you alone?”
     “yes” my shy voice trembles
     (knowing "yes" is the wrong answer)

and then they are gone
leaving me alone with dinner
sweat tickling down my neck

(65 minutes ago)

i do what i always do locked in routine

"grab dinner before coming home
	     mcdonald's is next door"

i walk out of the cathedral church of st. paul
stone steps carved from boston's downtown
breathing in crisp fall air
choir practice hymns ringing in my ears

i am ready for dinner and the green line home

               it was wednesday

Mawu after midnight

November 3, 2016

The velvet black of after midnight
Darkness rich in new moon’s blur
A siren sing-song distant wailing
And steady humm, mechanical whir

I leave behind cool sheets for shadows
Mawu’s tendrils teasing me through
Past stovepipes puffing tufts of memories
To wispy cumulus mists of blue

Nocturnal sprites mask their dances
Sky cast grey its colors spent
Dreamscape dunes form in the distance
A dusty saddle and monochrome tent

The new moon hints but stays unseen
Pinpoint stars on horizon’s spine
Galactic dust, distant Tucana
Comet trails etch a glittering line

Further out near big bang’s edge
Where Mawu’s creation secrets hide
Upon a throne of glistening carbon
Her song in whispers buried inside

The darkness pure, ever expanding
Through her lifetime forward and back
Time spun and twirled in Escher’s loop
Midnight’s fancy drawn in black

arcata community forest

July 25, 2016

shirtless bearded hippies sail
    (by gravity’s pull down the trail)
sky high pupils a hazed hello
    (scented wakes that wave below)

around a turn lush valleys fall
    (in Swans song fog and redwoods tall)
while high above aged sequoias groan
    (and down below roots squeeze the loam)

a knife carved bench overlooks hooved passes
    (distracted horses refuge in stray grasses)
hollowed stumps house midnight flames
    (while younger trunks twirl playful games)

i climb these circles drawn in carta
    (a treasured oasis steps from eureka)
when backdrop soothes night sounds begin
    (the last drop drained to home again)

my eyes closed still where the trail begins


140 characters

July 6, 2015

only one hundred and forty characters left to share a pacific ocean fog that whistles and swirls around me like chilled hands seeking warmth

a few more characters and later in darkness i’ll wrap my fingers and senses around your distant skin untouched by winter’s caverness embrace

and maybe with a message tapped i can pause your heart from its rushing to and fro and in that moment with only words steal your breath away

with each thought sent i wonder as the characters disappear silently into the sky from my hand to yours if they playfully change their shape

do the characters shift and twirl turning words and phrases into carelessly typed meaningless jumbles? or do they stay locked in rigid lines

and laugh or weep or sigh from the messages they form? or do they lie awake trembling unable to forget their part in a final anguished plea?

i can’t believe that these characters are nothing more than fleeting digital beats: easily swiped away or left unanswered in a digital stack

yet in the silence awaiting your reply i wonder whether my message strayed, hid deep inside the white noise floating between us in the night



January 19, 2015

i saw beauty beyond a towering cumulus top
storming over verdant hills caressed by passing shadows
and an emerald figure vanishing
i could only watch

i saw beauty resting in dimming light
your head held still on a slender palm
stories told with moistened lips slight and shimmering
i could only listen

i saw beauty in sleep like death
so calm yet breathing still
tucked out of sight once again in dimming light
i could only feel

i saw beauty deep inside your pupils’ ochre rings
passion cloaked by solitude unyielding
rainbow shades i can see but never touch
dreams that awaken me drenched but i cannot recall
and a whisper in the air so sweet infectious pure
that i search the earth’s crevasses for just one breath

i saw beauty and it was you

brush strokes and flickering shadows

April 26, 2013

in memory of sheryl noonan

down below tip-toe with care into the room where shadows grow
   where cocooned nestled draped and still the filmstrip rests by furnace glow

a garden strung of hanging cels pictures reversed so cool and slight
   her captured frames my shoulders brush their stories sing in fading light

the first cel taken by cupid's true arrow
   a smooth sculptured sprite in silvery gold
the artist's slight frame eyes focused and narrow
   brush and palette grasped ready, a well postured hold

cels flicker back softly two sisters in pose
   curled fingers together in loving embrace
a pair of young sculptors on winnipeg snow
   wrapped in crystals and fur on white sheets of lace

or a moment suspended the swing at its arc
   our smiles so joyful in that sun-captured frame
my face seems to tell her again! higher! faster!
   these memories timeless undated unnamed

the next cel a view of manhattan's famed skyline
   an unfinished beauty the canvas wood grain
feathered strokes inspired by nature's work guided
   pencil sketch shadows ever waiting for stain

A rough rush of air as the subway car passes
   the crowd pushes forward i glance was it you?
and forward i'm pressed with the TTC masses
   then years trickle by that slight sighting now through

in a room crossed and guarded, protectors still, waiting
   i flip through the cels ever searching for reason
every corner stacked perfect for balanced detection
   i cry for your terror this delusional prison

are those feared shadows scattered by joy's infinite light
   no longer trapped in celluloid frames?
i dream your art soars now free of the night
   peace be with you dear sherry ever more ever slight

sunlight dancing on water by James Morehead

March 9, 2012

sunlight dancing on water

a friend posted on facebook
"of sunlight dancing on sparkling water"
and in that instant eyes closed
transported past office walls and cubicle rows
to a childhood memory buried deep for forty years
balanced waist deep in atlantic surf
on a sand bar far from shore
in swells white caps and swirls
with sunlight dancing on sparkling water
hands outstretched for elusive shards of light
finger tips wrinkled in salt soaked water
feet curled gripping sand and shells
until sunlight and memory fade

shadow’s play by James Morehead

December 23, 2011

shadow’s play

the shadow enters on cue
behind the viewers seated row on row
hands placed shoulders still
following players' spot lit forms
and projected well-worn phrases
out and over the darkened theater

the shadow floats unseen
between a couple's hands entwined
a young child tugging with whispered questions
and a solitary critic quietly scribbling

the shadow drifts delicately along the stage's edge
invisible to the spotlight's tracking beam
beneath illuminated twinkles of drifting dust

but the stage manager suspicious and watchful
from a booth tucked high above
adjusts her squinting glasses
while the apparition plays tricks
by the stage's edge

the shadow sensing her drifts stage right
tucks behind a gilded throne adorned with
plastic jewels casting deceptive sparkles
no more real than a shadow's touch

and with that the shadow melts into the stage
among the words and phrases
masquerade and dancers
foiled fighters' tears
and fool's laughter
her voice long since hidden and forgotten
her steps no longer beholden to blocking
her beating heart just a trick of light
that vanishes in curtained darkness

serpents by James Morehead

September 26, 2011


driving back from reno up a twisting mountain pass
while either side lie serpents as i silently trespass

rotting oak posts stand close, buried shallow
a careless worn serpent in quiet fields left fallow
crooked barbed wire across a dust thirsty plain
while bolts flaked with rust hint of last season’s rain

elegant serpents strike parallel lines
bolted rail ties and wooden brace spines
held firmly in place forming strict even spaces
racing forward never touching to faraway places

this serpent’s turns churn soil and silt
through fields of husks, yellow hints of gilt
sand bags for storm clouds create sturdy walls
fighting flood’s fury as the last drop falls

a serpent in air floats to and then fro
steps into thin air that opens below
his sail slaloms silent (or perhaps it is hers)
swooping forward then back - once still, then a blur

bemused by imposters still under smooth stone
this serpent forgotten for now left alone
tongue tasting the air to sense passing prey
while outside dusty sand swirls in circles of grey

reach by James Morehead

August 10, 2011


reach and unfurl smooth tendrils of silver thread
set them down in perfect parallel lines
set them just so a breath apart
one by one by one
until silver lines blur into shades of grey
shining smooth and sterile into the horizon

reach and dig out pebbles worn smooth by ocean surf
set them down still damp and glistening
set them just so a breath apart
in geometric swirls opening ever outward
until you touch shadows cast by the setting sun

reach inside me for buried fears
set each fear in metered rows or rhyming verse
set them just so a breath apart
until words become a blur of black ink and blank space
then take my hand and close my eyes guiding me to horizon’s edge
   where in a single breath scatter those fears turning words
   into scrambled letters tumbling until gone