The HyperTexts

James Bobrick

James Bobrick is an American poet. In his own words: "Though from the Northeast I was sent to a boarding school in Southern California. I was an indifferent student but was determined to pass the sophomore English final, which would consist entirely of quotes from Palgrave's The Golden Treasury. So on a flawless spring night I stayed up till dawn, increasingly enraptured, reading poem after poem. During that night my life changed. I knew--whatever else I did--that I had to write poems and have persisted ever since. For many years now I have lived in the New Bedford, Massachusetts area. My work has appeared in many magazines here and abroad including Candelabrum, The Cumberland Poetry Review, The Laurel Review, the new renaissance, Slant, The South Coast Poetry Journal, and The Worcester Review. In November 2005 Throwbacks: Selected Poems was published by Spinner Publications, New Bedford. I have taught at the Swain School of Design and the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth."


(after Camões)

Times change, hearts change,
trustlessness, trust;
what’s craved now must
seem new and strange.

Memories stain,
hopes go bust;
of joys (joys?)—just
longings remain.                                                                                                                                       

Time turns the year’s
dead white to green,
my words to tears—

change, each day seen,
itself appears
a changed routine.

Early Show

Semi-private screening at the multiplex—
two old ladies down in front,
yaffling about The Madness of King George
and us, in the back row, mad for sex.

Lights dim. You scrump my chest hair,
I coax wetness through your jeans,
playing tonsil hockey’s glottal stops….
Now and then I glimpse, coming up for air,

the asylum’s enlightened cruelties
Rx for the king, who, it would appear,
comes to his senses by reading (guess what?) Lear.
From this trendy costume drama,

accessories by Foucault,
I recall two lines, the first because you laughed,
my stagy “best film I’ve ever seen,”
your “I want you so.”

Senex Amator

“Love is a kiss, necessity a knot”
of drugs and meds and florid syndromes—pot,
Ecstasy, Deprenyl, Clonazepam…
it gets old, acting younger than I am,
like always being on and on the spot.

What hit made Dexy’s Midnight Runners hot?
The factoids thirty-somethings haven’t forgot
mean fifty-somethings bomb, for all they cram.
       Love is a kiss,

and, broken off, the self-destructive plot
is set in motion: better, better not
inflict sick fancies like Miss Havisham,
enter a monastery and make jam;
I’ve traded years for days.  Now it’s all shot.
       Love is a kiss.

Coding Out (in memory of Leo Kelley)

Intensive chemo as a last resort
but no remission. Tubed, drugged, mute, you lay
curled to your johnny’s length on life support.
While you could use a pad, scrawls left for me
resolved to reading lists for liberal arts
(which we both taught), a weird six-figure price
beside each item. I’m going to say
those twisted digits, skewed through circuitry
gone haywire, functioning by fits and starts,
signaled a poet’s love for what’s precise.

There were more trendy ironies as well:
the cancer ward whose layout and décor
flaunted its tacky past as a motel;
young social workers stopping by to tweak
clichés from Kübler-Ross; nurses in smart
new outfits and designer duty shoes,
interns with tailored lab coats, models for
the fashion statement hyped as “scrub suit chic”;
specialists scribbled orders, read a chart,
then pulled away in BMWs.

Ridged swellings shaped like muttonchops appeared,
the sharp blocks in the throat.  I’d gone numb, though
a day’s growth brought out bald spots in my beard
as big as quarters. On that last night there
beside you, respirator gasping, I
pondered a poster of Mt. Everest,
“Roof of the World,” a friend had taped up—snow,
rocks, nodes of cloud mass, bands of thinning air,
ice-blue, blue-black, then higher pitch-dark sky—
breath crushed under the pack years in my chest.


Iron dialectic
of deposit and withdrawal;
wage earners await the summons to approach
inside velvet ropes.

Out in the hall the brass
shoe-polishing stand looms larger than life,
pharaoh’s throne with massive arms, footrests,
a kneeling supplicant’s worn, uplifted palms.

Surveys put shining shoes
at the base of the job status pyramid,
some ninety steps below the Supreme Court Bench,
its statistical antithesis.

Paper of different value rustles together.
Fan vents softly roar like waterfalls
beyond bone-dry arroyos.
Fierce fluorescence beats down.

Life’s a Beach

Afternoons down along the shore
you appear around five, slick fashion plate—
J. Press, J. Crew, some upscale store.

Then starting from the bottom line of foam
where waves break and de-escalate,
falling risers flattening to a comb,

you zigzag slowly up the sand,
clutching a plastic scoop with built-in sieve,
metal detector dowsing and

waved over stog and litter like a fan.
Have margins narrowed that you live
on windfalls from each bottle, coin, or can?

The HyperTexts