Poetry from James Diaz

The Dreams and The Keepsakes


“Unrequited love is a poignant state of heartbreak, with no remedy. But it is a heartbreak mirrored in the very intimate and necessary art of being able to see, to appreciate and to come to love our selves. A blessing then, for unrequited love.” -David Whyte


I dreamt I was a cosmic canopy
for your night terrors
soak up the sweat
with warm towels
lay the boards down just right
so that nothing unwanted gets in
haul the tarpaulin over the wood
in winter, keep the home fires burning
and a small square of light
outside your bedroom door

I wouldn’t need to know what you’re thinking
every minute of every hour
the wind through the poplars
would be enough
and you down the hall
writing your memoir
tearing paper and starting from scratch


dreamt I was deep-water coral
you were light cast into dark
unwavering, beautiful,
inside and out

I’d live at the bottom of any mountain you’re on
you’d never even have to come down for me
I’d send my prayers up to you
one by one
tied to the foot of a crow

be still, oh, be still here
when I wake

I pray.



“I would want things to be different than they were. The wanting was a wilderness and I had to find my own way out of the woods.” 
― Cheryl Strayed


I know

things in you broke

that never should have broken


your innocence

went up in flames,

you might think you were the one who started that fire

but you were already burning –

that wasn’t you, sweet girl

who started such a blazing


you just wanted to play your video games

and not be cornered by the dark

no one can ever take that pain from you

it will be a part of who you are, but not the only part

not the largest part


I see an aqueduct channeling all that hurt

some place else

star light burns the skin you’re in


some nights it all comes back to you all at once

and you scream

and no one hears you


but I hear you so loudly

every burning bit of you


what doesn’t kill us comes damn near close

the stain is set

but every mark on us

has an opposite side

a beautiful golden valley

outside a truck stop

off all those highways of desperation


we resurface like burning angels


we make right that broken bone

we run the road like a motherfucker

nothing in our way this time

the time of our lives


sacred, bent, fully formed


teeming with mercy.


Destiny Road



“Some women are born to Autumn. They walk into a high wind without coats… They understand mirrors in gas stations and motel pools when November magnifies fast breath and uncertain hands.” -Donald Rawley



I wintered in the warnings

brought water cupped in bandaged hands

to the smallest fire, my love was bigger


the day you were born

my mother tried to die for the tenth time

a whole bottle of Valium at white castle

I lit her two cigarettes while we waited for the ambulance


I did not know then that you were coming into this world

the only light I saw receded out on the highway

and I felt so small

I could barely breathe or perform normal


It’s said that everyone lives out their destiny

whether they know it or not

it’s not predestined, it’s all in the choices we make

the roads we choose

and those we don’t

how destiny forms depends on so much that we don’t see coming


it brought you here, to me

this otherwise impossible meeting of two broken

and beautiful souls

destiny-bound in every scar and every failure

and what was missing in us before

now holds so much light

it pours in through every available crack

in the wall.


Here is The Poem

The one I could never say to you outright

angel eyes, blackened by heavy hands

rough on your body – how they press you into

something you can’t get out of – your sleep

haunted by night terrors. When you were five

you wove crowns of flowers in Russian fields

they called you the empath of blue waters

and I know the weight of hiding your tears

wore you down, so thin you slipped through

the cracks in crumpled crowns, winter is lonely

for a girl with scars on her insides

and how long have they made you their tallest order

you walk the fields, trampled on little bruiser,

my country doesn’t exist anymore

you say, and I know you mean the place you were born

and the place inside that’s become so rotted out

it’s like you’re carrying water in your body full of holes

and here are my hands, so far away and useless

now your neighbor down the street needs you to lick

cement out of his eyes again, I’m the one they call

to do what needs being done, and I’m just the one who

loves you far beyond my ability to comprehend, how

something so necessary got so bent, light tarred

and set in stone, the angel who lost her wings

and can’t sleep at night, if saying it was enough

but saying it isn’t enough; you’re okay A –

you’re right on time.


Not Just Another Love Poem


“All hearts float in their own deep oceans of no light…most hearts say I want, I want, I want, I want. My heart is more duplicitous…It says, I want, I don’t want, I want, and then a pause. It forces me to listen.” -Margaret Atwood


I worried about the sleep-heat

of our two bodies

pressed like old shirts

into the backdrop

of milkweed dreams


billowing Autumn wind

carry me

like a father his child

like a father not strung out on heroin


a body is trouble land




pay attention to the outline

of a bruise

news travels


down the valley


river touches the surface

but won’t baptize

the memory


preacher washes his hands of you

the heat he thought was light

burns hotter than hell


the voice in the hall

is only water

falling from cupped hands


the brokenness in the body looks for an open window

knows the difference between

some things change

some things stay the same.


Are You Ready? On Your Mark, Get Set, Love



“A little light gets in everywhere. A child puts a hand to a flashlight and it glows blood. It is not opaque – the hand – it is not impervious to a beam. The density of light is a lumen, the density of a hand is a lantern.” -Sarah O’Brien



O sweet child

that you must have been

still there was a crack in the wall

and not nearly enough light

reached you


you must be brave now darling,

accept what hurts

and love the hell out of what doesn’t


move up that paper mountain

one small foot in front of the other

leave behind the wailing

pick up the mercy


bundle it to your chest

that wild beating you’ve become

and are always so close to losing


hold on to the pieces

they are the light you keep

no matter what happens

you will never be that swallowed whole,

or that dark again.


Across the Line, These Shadows Dance



“That’s the thing: I don’t want to die because I don’t want to stop feeling pleasure. It’s that simple.” -John Casteen



I cross the tracks

past eagle eye

off route where ever

want to burrow down

like a dog near dark water,

want to be the one

who knows every backroad

of you, as it is I know only this sharp

right hand turn, past the tumble down

Walmart and Speedie’s all night diner

your initial is like all the neon letters burnt out in my heart

red flashing A, burns neath my lungs

I carry you in me like a hundred other wild things

that’ll never be mine

I call that love

but I know it ain’t

know I’ll never see the stars on your face

up close, like a moth round flame, I go in for what kills me

I don’t understand it

nothing we want that badly

can ever be understood

or had

I drop my foot on the tracks

dream that I’m what you call home

prayer on a dying lip

light on a star bout to drop out of circulation

the sky is an atom bomb in my heart

I’m flying low tonight

I got miles to nowhere

and it’s killing me

how far away you are.


Nothing Beautiful, Nothing Broken


“Everybody wants something / and nobody knows where to get it. 

Or why it would make any difference / in the long run if they did.” -Nicholas Christopher


hold me –

circle my dark

with your prayer beads

your scar kisses

whisper, spinal tap, winter waters


don’t touch me

stop, keep your distance


don’t tell me how this ends

tell me, how does it end?


is the world made in sevens or twos

or does every heart fall

hard and fast


are the pieces ever made whole again


is god a field on fire

eating the silent oak

because it can


are we too beaten to move

with the wind

down hill

where the night is as thick

as the thief underneath our skin


over darkness I’d lay every thing I have down for this one chance to know

what light moves in you

and in me…


how does it end, this story, is it a happy one,

does it work out okay for them,

do they live a very long time

are they shielded from the worst

did it already happen

stop, stay where you are

I don’t want to know

what becomes of them

I want to pretend it ends with light


that everything that’s broken in them somehow mends

don’t turn the page, I’m listening to the silence

of the ink swell up

into the world, listening to the way they bend into each other

like two leaves of the same branch

can you hear it, the two of them – out there at the base of the mountain

how far they’ve climbed


how beautiful they both are?


The Size of Stars


“maybe we’ll go out & dance all night or maybe I mean talk or maybe I mean hold each other like we are the light, me & you, & maybe we’ll make peace with ourselves & the rest of the world again.” -Michael Lally


water rushes over the small bones of what made us

the eager, infinite light climbing in the side window

of abandoned buildings

speaking Spanish to the porch ghosts

where does my mouth go

dark / and up against the moon

I could be made of paper

there is nothing written on me

quite the size of you


does your hair smell of wood smoke in winter

are there fall leaves tucked in the back pocket of your jeans

do you scream some nights because the gap is widening

between what you want and what you’re getting


if I could I would carry you to the top of the world

and show you how the lights become smaller and smaller

until we are the biggest things among them

and how that is exactly how I feel when I look at you

like you’re the biggest thing I can see


I’d wear you in my back pocket every fall

press you gently in between a book

circle the words (love) and (always)

I’d return there whenever it got dark inside me

and I would feed that light into all that hurts

I’d know the size of you is something that also lives in me.


That Love Like An Explosion in his Chest



“Everybody’s looking for something to inhale and something else to empty into.” -Amy Gerstler



He stretched his heart out in his hands like wet paper

there would always be certain things he couldn’t show her

like the scar on his arm where he pressed too hard with a blade

or the place where he kept all his secrets, right behind the eyes


he would have loved to have fallen asleep in her arms

why, he couldn’t say for sure

sometimes there are things we want

and we have no idea why

she was one of them


knowing you can’t have someone

doesn’t stop you from wanting to have them anyway

it doesn’t stop the heart from breaking

even if the breaker never even touches it


it won’t make a cold night warm again

knowing where the line between things sits

just below your breast bone

or the dip in your collar where sweat swims like tiny beads of crystal


a body, after all, can’t be rubbed and tell you everything

you need to know about your life


a body is a messy fortune

a bowl of light

which might seem empty

but has never been fuller


he leaves every window in his room open at night

just in case he hears her calling for him

through the dark hills



just in case she’s still listening…


Bio: James Diaz is a writer and editor living in upstate New York. He is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger and the founder of Anti-Heroin Chic. His work has appeared most recently or is forthcoming in Occulum, Moonchild Magazine, Bone & Ink Press, Peculiars Magazine, Drunk Monkeys and Thimble Magazine.

One thought on “Poetry from James Diaz

Comments are closed.