James Tyner

Falling Asleep Behind a Dumpster, Seattle 1993

Chris Cornell is my pillow.
Found the magazine in a dumpster,
tore off the cover. From somewhere
there is music playing, it’s Pearl
Jam, something about crazy
Mary, must be a new song,
and there’s a thin smell of coffee
lacing everything, even through
the sourness of old milk and asphalt
coming from the trash. I’ve been
here a week, and the street
is comfortable now. I don’t mind
the dirt, rocks poking through
flannel, newspaper bedding,
and the sirens, they’re music
now, eyes growing heavy
with the howls, blues and reds
reflecting off of puddles, off of glass.

Cleaning Out the Ditch

Padre Javier said he could taste it in the water. Said it gave the water a flavor like cheap rabbit meat and rotten flowers. A drainage ditch, where water for the monastery came and went. That’s why we’re out here today. The water is black. Leaves, twigs, candy wrappers, even dust dot the water. They don’t float, not really. The water is just a black mass. Trash in the water just part of the whole. None of it seems to move, just paused. I’m poking a ten foot pole into this, it’s bottom a hook, and there’s no bottom to the ditch it seems. Just this pudding I’m sifting through. And I wonder what Padre Javier is tasting, because this water here smells nothing like rabbit or flowers. It’s filth, muddy and oily, thick. Something snags my pole, and I heave slowly, pulling up on the pole, towards my chest, my head, water slurping at wood. It’s a dead cat. The fifth one we’ve found so far. The fur is matted where there is fur left, may have been calico once, bone poking through on skull and legs. There is a wheezing of air as it comes up, like it’s taking a breath. Jose Luis, an eighteen year old monk to my left, drops his pole and throws up. He pulls off his shirt, sun glinting off of his collar bone, the sweat caught there. He’s holding his stomach, heaving, glasses falling into dirt. I release the cat, knock it loose into dirt. I try not too see it, try not to hear the wretching, just put the pole back in, and scrape loosely at nothing.

Half Mexican and half Caucasian, James Tyner grew up in some rough neighborhoods in Los Angeles and in Fresno, California. Gangs and violence were an everyday thing. In his late teens, he decided to become a pacifist. Most of his work deals with these issues, beauty in the ghetto and that striving for a different way of life.

His awards include the 2008 Coal Hill Review chapbook contest, the Larry Levis poetry prize, the Ernesto Trejo Poetry Prize, and the Andres Montoya Scholarship. He has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Working Poet, New America, and the Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. His poems "At a Barbeque for R.C." and "After the Artichoke Harvest" were nominated for Pushcart Prizes.

Tyner was recently installed as the first Poet Laureate of Fresno. For more, click HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Visceral comparison of the numbness felt to the repetitive horrors of the world versus the shock felt by the unexposed.


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