James Harms & Sarah Sousa

Please join us Thursday, December 6, 2018, at 7:00 pm, when poets James Harms and Sarah Sousa will continue the twelfth season of the Collected Poets Series! Mocha Maya’s Coffee House, 47 Bridge St, Shelburne Falls, MA. ($2-5 suggested donation)

James Harms

James Harms is the author of eight full-length poetry collections, most recently Rowing with Wings (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2017). He is also the author of five chapbooks and limited-run titles which include Rachelandand Animals in Distress & Pluto (Wallflower Press). He is a Professor of English at West Virginia University and lives in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Sarah Sousa

Sarah Sousa is the author of three poetry collections, most recently See the Wolf published in 2018 by CavanKerry Press. Her poems have appeared in the Massachusetts Review, Fourteen Hills, Southern Poetry Review, Verse Daily and Tupelo Quarterly, among others. Her honors include a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship, the Anne Halley Prize from the Massachusetts Review, and a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship. She is a member of the board of directors of Perugia Press and lives in Ashfield.


LIKE LIGHT / James Harms

Where are you now
when what I have instead
is the slow percussion
of raindrops on rhododendron
leaves, the slip
of sunlight from sky
as evening solders
the soft metal
of light into night?
I love you like light.
Like the taste
of air between blue
and blue: the blue
of sky and the blue
of memory, which is
a blue bird made of
glass, a thrush through
which fields and trees
are as visible as a tiny
trembling heart, blue
bird building with
scraps of tin foil
a nest of mirrors.
For two years I turned
my mirrors to the walls.
Today I wrote
I love you. Today
I turned the mirrors
around and found
a face I recognized
instead of remembered.



The last wild passenger pigeon was named
Buttons because the mother of the boy who shot it,
stuffed the bird and sewed black buttons for eyes.

People with Ekbom Syndrome imagine
they’re infested with mites.

It’s possible the entire Buttons family
developed Ekbom, an aspect of which is
Folie à Deux (madness between two),
where a person in contact with the sufferer
develops symptoms—as in an actual infestation.

All wild things have kleptophobia:
the fear of being stolen, as well as cleithrophobia:
the fear of being trapped. I did, after
the divorce and my mother began dating—
fear of being adopted by a man
wearing slacks and old fashioned shoes, (automaton
ophobia?) who winked at me and promised to return
my mother at a decent hour. Whose accent
was southern, who pronounced his R’s
so long they became words in their own right,
words at the ends of words; his R’s
like grappling hooks, like a crocodile-
purse with yellow eyes.

Why is the fear of being trapped a clinical phobia,
while the compulsion to slit
and stuff a thing not listed in the DSM?

Nature permanence is the healthy acceptance
that you are not grass but human, beneficial
if you suffer from hylophobia (fear of trees)
not so helpful if you have Cotard delusion
and know you’re not only human, but a corpse.
Related to Cotard is xenomelia: the feeling
that one’s limbs don’t belong to the body,
chirophobia: fear of hands. And worse,
apotemnophilia, where a person disowns
the limbs, yearns to live life

as an amputee. Why the insistence
that an animal have black buttons,
yellow marbles, key holes for eyes?
that its entrails be replaced with horsehair
and rags? that the peppery dots
swarming the blanket aren’t mites? What are the chances
that a man who flashes his teeth when he talks
doesn’t bite? To fear is animal.

To create out of fear must be human—
slits to let the mites out,
steel shot like beautiful beadwork
studding lavender breasts. Phantom limbs
when real hands become too dangerous.