Four Poems

     -indebted to Ashley Schaffer, Sun Tzu, and Nick Sturm

Don't ruin the gifts
but in some situations one could do it,
wreck them, take a bat and pound them
to blisters. Easing them however
is much better, eating gifts is great too
but only edible ones. Toramoko is tiger cub,
a paper tiger, someone who pretends
to be brave, awesome.
When there is no pretending to be anything,
the toramoko gets lost
inside a wilderness of tentacles
way too strong, even for a tiger.
On being blindsided: go to nowness
after. On being pissed: I don’t know.
Nowness may equal the weight you carry
in medieval humor/ armor/ honor.
On obsession: every man carrying a bouquet
is meeting her somewhere right?
On sexy: it is power plus the antithesis
of power. On separation: for one part
it's grief, for the other
a joyful aeronaut, blowing up ships.
On awareness: it is everything
and nothing. On throwing out the everything:
there is no such everything.
On throwing all of you into the lap of your lover:
makes you weak, too succumbing.
Do not give in too far to your lover
Sun Tzu says if he were interested
in love. When you fall down you may really fall down
or just something more slippy.
Depending on the state of the mind:
On the state of the mind: I don’t know.
On hurrying up process: avoid and do not
avoid. A tiger is actually shy
in many circumstances.
This is the way it is: dream a little dream
the song goes, that is good, dreams are not
mirages, they are talking to you.
Like how a cloud talks, a cloud you found
wandering around the woods with your dog,
it was like a curious creature above you,
an un-identified object of a cloud,
waiting to be made sense of.
A cloud when it gives up
is what a cloud just does,
made up as it is
of cloud.

     -God accepts counterfeit money   -Rumi

Holding this thing of air energy,
like a beach ball full of sperm,
is a welcome thing that can ground you.
Is it better to be grounded or groundless
and is it the poem’s job
to pose this question.
A tiger eye is a kind of stone
as well as the thing itself,
good for courage though
as I rub it between thumb and forefinger
a cloud enters my heart,
like a clown sitting on a cold seat. 
The dew freezing to my feet just past dawn,
I do this exercise called Chi-Qong
and the sky opens up
the way a huge coil of red licorice
widens the eyes of a child.
Sometimes you just want to take a head
and noogie it lovingly, or feel
an invisible stream
lead to a form of drowning.

Verdween is Dutch for Vanished

“...zodat wat verdween er nog is als iets dat verdween”

“ that what vanished is still there as something that vanished”

     Cees Nooteboom, from his poem “Basho”

The vanished are out there, and you must
understand at least a part of them.
The vanished want you for their finishing
because at this point they think
you are finished. They need parts of you,
the ones you don’t care about,
to admire themselves with. Like the glistening
that accompanies coins, rings, fish lures,
fresh waxed cars, a little brilliant
silver bell. They are not often lost,
and you must open yourself
to their silent musings, their throats
which are permanently parched in words
they once said and still hang around them
like hunks of interior mist
even if they wish it were different,
like you never knew that one vanished person
had said something and something
about your mother. The vanished are like a significant other
you believed you knew intimately
but only discovered that there was something about them
completely mysterious and removed.
The way you might mistakenly think
killing yourself could lead
to this whole other world.
With the vanished, these things are never personal.
They are just such that cling
so that we may know otherwise what we could
not know otherwise: the ideas
of the dog wandering through the fog,
his little head full of mystery,
the glance of the girl whose incredible ghostliness
you wanted to record though there
is no way to record it, even with the speed
of a hundred cameras, seemingly mystical
remote devices of which the vanished
care nothing, they are on this whole other plain you see,
it is like a bird stuck onto the dashboard
that twitches somehow its busted keel
and when you stop takes flight.
There is no word for this kind of flight.
You are looking at it and it might melt inside
the bruised part of your mind
but the only word that comes to your head
is so quickly gone you felt there
could have been a whole storm system there,
a motion that was not apparent
at any one time.


Lightning. Starfish. A vacuum
inhales the world dust. My dog
sheds honest light, like honesty
is a huge tree. To dust away jealousy
into little dead pieces, wander
the wilderness of one’s making.
The mouth of the cave
like a gigantic blowhole.
In a letter of cessation,
a mistress lifts a gun.
The minute hand
unmoving in the minute-ness.
The phone card drained of magic,
sitting at the feet. It is a quiet, empty lot
devoid of activity. Yikes.


In the land of the stuck
is someone waving a bird.
Where exactly is what’s to get to?
In need of medication. In need
of a long ship.
A Viking trapped on his longship
in poor snow at sea
romanticizes the past,
Vikings actually did this
I bet. In the mood a snow squall
lodged in a murderous rage
might take of the rage and make it
something warm, like
the mound of an island
with a single tree. But the tree
is like the middle finger of a fist
raised up at you, just doesn’t
want to be reached. Darn. 


After the fight, words fell,
their blood-marks sending out weird ghosts,
the kind that sing and throw
bouquets around the hooves
of the horse they named Pedro,
though he was lame, tired. 
Pedro only trod when sung to
though when he trod
he tried to gallop. It was dawn
when they arrived at the silent village.

JAMES GRINWIS' second book of poetry, Exhibit of Forking Paths, was published by Coffee House Press in 2011. He co-founded Bateau Press with Ashley Schaffer in 2007. 

The Adirondack Review