James P. Roberts
James P. Roberts
324 Kedzie St. #30
Madison, WI 53704
BIO & PUBLICATIONS:
Robert has had nine books published to date in the fields of dark fantasy (BOURLAND), poetry (DERNE RUNES and SPIRIT FIRE), literary non-fiction (FAMOUS WISCONSIN AUTHORS, RETURN TO DERLETH: SELECTED ESSAYS, HAUNTED VOICES: SELECTED POETRY & ART FROM LITHUANIA) and baseball history (HOWLIN’ WOLF!: A FAN'S HISTORY OF THE HIGHS AND LOWS DURING FIVE STORMY YEARS WITH THE MADISON BLACK WOLF). Previous appearances in The Baltimore Review, Urbanus, Red Owl Magazine, Requiem, and a few dozen other ’zines. Past President and current Board Member of the August Derleth Society and very active in the Wisconsin literary scene. Also sends his alter ego, The Captain, out some evenings to perform at musical venues in the Madison area where he plays the charango, balalaika, mandolin, guitar, and throat-sings.
To the Person Who Has Just Bought My Book
When you take this book home tonight, to sit in your lounge-chair
with the television turned off, and begin to read it, slowly
opening the cover, holding it up to your nose to smell the scent
of fresh ink and paper. You will either peruse a few pages
and then put it aside to go to bed, or, perhaps, the story
draws you in, by degrees, until you are trapped and unable
to put it down. Morning will come, the sun rising
as you turn the last page and close the book with a sigh.
When you have finished reading this book, having wrung
every last ounce of enjoyment, and have now made ready
to place it on the shelf with the other thousands of books,
there to rest until, one day, maybe tomorrow, maybe next year,
maybe not until a day comes when you decide to move
to another house. Then, you will see my book and wonder
if it would be better to get rid of it. This I ask of you:
Burn it! Scatter the ashes on the steps of a library.
For my worst recurring nightmare is to walk into a used bookstore
and see my book, with its personalized autograph, sitting there
in a mish-mash jumble, discarded like an old Raggedy Ann doll,
my muscular words rendered useless as yesterday's stale bread.
Fishing Another Poet out of the East River
I Midwest farm boy gone to college,
puffed by professors, his poetry pristine.
Sent in scented envelopes to ready-made
acceptances by those mid-town Manhattan mavens
who dwell at Starbucks, cell phone grafted to
Pythagorean ear, eyes frozen on his PowerBook.
Then the poetry changed, osmosis brought on
by a chance sidetrack through Greenwich Village.
Lost, he stopped in a seedy café
to ask if anyone knew where Putnam’s was,
and found himself on stage at a poetry slam.
Street people poured out their vibrant anger
and the slang became a virus under his skin.
He did not show up for work the next day …
Or the day after. His fifteenth-floor flat overlooking
Central Park grew dust, the milk soured in the refrigerator,
The cat died of starvation. The cops came, busting down
the door, looked around, and left, taking what they would find.
II He slept in a cardboard box in a filthy alley
and listened to the prostitutes at work—
and he wrote about it and distributed his poems
free to passersby.
He wandered through the darkest corners,
got beaten up, robbed, pissed on—
and he wrote about it and pasted the poems
on the walls of subway trains.
His hair grew long and stringy, his teeth
wobbled in gray gums, his eyes saw another world
beyond human comprehension—
and he wrote about it and jammed the poems
into his mouth, chewed and swallowed
and vomited up his sickness and despair.
In a wordless epiphany, he flung himself off the bridge
into the East River
on a night too cold to survive.