April Poetry 2016: This One Day

This One Day


There is just this one day

A set of    single       unmissed moments    occurring between us

bringing thoughts and new wants and joy

bursting from within me


riding the instant melody of your surprising voice

heaping coals onto the fire that is your laughter


unearthing treasures in each slow closing and reappearance of your eyes

upturning urges and tickling the toes of my stepping nearer to you


I won’t bother asking if this evening    is honestly    all     mine


hopefully you are asking, too

hopefully,  like     wonder,   you      across this landscape of table top

across this closing divide

on the other side of this meal     at the end of a swallow


tenderly  wrapped  like a luscious tongue ’round the tine of a fork

savoring  this new taste   that fills  our bellies


I would go ahead and cry for you

go ahead and let the held back water flow from within my soul

go ahead and fill the dry, ochre fibers of this mud cloth sewn overshirt


I would     go ahead and lay down for you

a mere bridge    a heaven’s gate    a whisper covering and claiming it’s only heart


there is never enough time on night’s like this

never enough nights    wetted     and savoring    and lavish    like this


I am certain that tomorrow awaits just beyond these windows

waits    and claims new life    just beyond the doors of this eatery

waits    and ponders  which other big, precious brown eyed beauty

what other   ebony hued and ivory grinned   slender slip of curved Sistah

wherever  other self-assured and charismatic women will be poured out before me


Tomorrow …..a desperate creator of itself

having never cared to hold over  remnants  of what Today has laid bare


already     pressing the clocks and watches into a new hour

wants me to believe that you are on your way gone

slipping away     filtered out by the cold and dark night    that we are being guided  into

the exhausted Waiter     himself a Tomorrow Man

already paid and cashed out and done with our ogling eyes   and cold, spilled fries



I am convinced that if you will accept my offer to  take you gently into the wealth

and warmth of   a moment    pressed against the tear stained ochre shirt

even Tomorrow will claim us     as its’ very, very own creation






Jas. Mardis



New 2016 National Poetry Month poems

Jas Mardis is a 2014 Inductee into The Texas Literary Hall of Fame and an award winning Poet, Radio

Commentator and Art Quilter.

Summer Story: Jeffie and The Itchy Penny

I grew up in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Texas,  just up the hill from the Jack In the Box on Corinth road and down the block from Greater Mt. Pleasant Missionary imageBaptist Church. Going a little further would land you at the Dallas Zoo or, in the other direction, the entrance to the legendary Dallas Sportatorium. No matter which direction we took back in the day we were guaranteed an adventure.

For my brother, Little S.L., and me there was nobody who took an adventure further than Jeffie Caldwell. Most of the time we walked wherever we wanted to go, so when we finally did get a bike Me, Little S.L. and Jeffie took turns riding and walking alongside it on our journeys.

Most days started with a yell across the neighborhood to find out what was going on for the day. Jeffie was always out before us and he stayed away from home longer and later than we were allowed. The next mornings would be spent sharing fried egg and Spam sandwiches while Jeffie told us what he’d discovered. We sat spellbound on flattened basketballs in the shade of our garage and apple-pear tree as he scared us with his escapes and unbelievable sightings. We learned to tell if he was making stuff up because Jeffie would pick a boring part and start poking a stick at the yellow jacket nest on the underside of the garage roof line. The hornets would swarm, we’d scream, swat, dodge and Jeffie would disappear.

One day there was no response to our yells. Me and Little S.L. went looking and eventually found him down the hill in front of the Jack in the Box. He was sitting on the curb, staring at two, white steel pennies on the pavement between his feet. Every so often he would scratch his unusually dirty palms, then rub them hard against his equally dirty handed down jeans.

“Hey, Jeffie”, we called out to him but he never took his gaze off those pennies. “What’s happening, Jeffie?” also went unanswered and it took a few minutes before he noticed that we had been standing there. Jeffie’s eyes were big, but he kept them closed to slits most of the time because he needed glasses. When he looked up at us his eyes were bugged, bloodshot and a little glassy. He called on me first. “Hey, Buggy, uh, can you do me a solid, man?” Without waiting for my answer Jeffie stepped slowly away from the shiny coins and asked, “Uh, can you pick up dem pennies for me, right quick?”

Little S.L. stepped in front of me and picked up the pennies, but instantly dropped them and yanked his hand away to scratch against his pants. He swore–“SHIT. DAMN”.  Jeffie didn’t say anything. He looked over at me and asked again, “Uh, hey, Buggy Man…can you pick up ‘dem pennies?” Little S.L. kicked at the pennies and said, “There’s something on the back of the pennies that stung my hand, Jr.”

We just stood there for a minute or two or longer, really deciding what to do next. I knew that Little S.L. would never swear in public and certainly not in front of the Jack-in-the-Box. I also knew that Jeffie could come up with some pretty “different discoveries” and didn’t want to pick up pennies that had been dipped in some kind of liquid. “Uh, Jeffie, where you been all morning?” was how I avoided the whole thing…for a minute. “Hey, Man…you know….just walking around and looking around for stuff…you know.” Little S.L. broke in quickly, “Where was you walking when you got dem Burning Pennies, Jeffie?” “I ain’t got no BURNING NOTHING…They Itching Pennies, Steve!”

Ten seconds later, with the pennies flying across the Jack-in-the-Box covered eating area. I agreed with Jeffie. As soon as I reached for the coins a string of pressure covered the tips of my fingers and thumb. Once I grasped the coins a quick, itch-burn-biting sensation came over my hand. I swore…in front of the Jack-in-the-Box.

That’s when the White Manager opened the side door and came out to run us off. Jeffie, showing us in real-time one of his “famous escapes” scooted over to the spot where the coins had settled and spoke up, “Hey Mister, we’re just practicing a magic trick, wanna see it?’ The Manager stopped and laughed at him, “What kind of magic trick has two white pennies thrown in the air for no reason, Jeffie?” (That’s why you didn’t cuss in front of the Jack-in-the-Box) “It’ll cost you two tacos to find out”, Jeffie recovered and the Manager lifted an eye brow and put his hand on his hip. Jeffie looked at the pennies then back at the man and added, “We only get the tacos if you can’t figure out the trick! Okay? Oh, and you don’t tell Rev. Caldwell that we been cussing next time he’s down here.” “Deal” the man agreed and went back inside for the tacos. 

When the Manager returned there were two neighborhood boys-workers with him. “Okay, show us the trick”

Jeffie made a big show of waving his hands over the pennies and muttering magic words we knew from comic books, but at the end he said, “The Witche’s Itches to anybody who touches her coins!” Then, to our surprise he picked up the pennies and placed them on one of the round metal table tops. “Now, if the trick works then the magic spell that I just put on the pennies will make your hands itch like crazy when you touch them…go ahead and see it…PICK UP THE TACOS..PENNIES!” Everybody laughed, but one of the boys reached out for the coins. He never made it. He snatched back his hand and looked oddly at Jeffie.

The Manager tried next  and quickly dropped the coins and scratched madly at his palms before turning to a smirking Jeffie, who had already reached into the bag for his taco. “Boy”, the Manager whistled out, “What in the world is Rev Caldwell teaching you boys”. Then, they returned to the restaurant and said to get out of the customer seating area.

Jeffie handed us the remaining taco to split and used the paper bag to scoop up the pennies. He rolled the bag into a tight wad and dropped it in the waste can beside the building.

Jeffie was stone cold quiet at our questions about the pennies and we could see him looking around for a wasp nest to whack, so we put him in the middle and kept walking. Stopping at his sidewalk, we waited for his answer. Jeffie told us that he had been in an alley looking for cans and bottles to sell when he saw a White lady burying something behind her garage. He waited until she was finished and back inside before digging it up and, instead of jewelry or gold, he found her cat in a shoe box. The cat had those pennies Scotch taped to his dead eyes. Jeffie had made it all the way to that seating area before figuring out what was itching him so bad.

Finally, when Rev. Caldwell came to the screen and barked out, “Jeffie, was you boys cussin’ down at the Jack-in-the-Box?’ we knew it was time to run!

Tell It All


TELL_ it all


      It seems silly    in this moment 
   but let me just say:
William TELL! Do TELL! TELL Me A Story!
 or, maybe just …TELL Me Something Good!
   how could I not take the advantage 
       the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity 
   to play with your name
       to chance your smile
     to risk a another slap on my wrist
       Truth be told 
Entering the room where you stood eating  
     confident … owning your ground
  I expected you to say:
        Angel.  Vixen.  Joy.  or just for once
 the Sistah to say “You can call me Often”
    you are called by the most unexpected 
    of monikers: Tell
  Tell me you love me 
floods my mind from songs on the radio
    “Tell Me…Tell Me…Tell Me….
   Won’t you tell, tell, tell …tell me”
       I’m certain that the crooner is crying
     his tears are starting their journey 
his shirt front stiffens for their weight…
     Wait, I have it wrong
   the song is, “Say You Love Me”
but what a wonderful mistake!
     Forever and more the thought of you
  the first thought of you 
       and every time I say your name 
 and consider your face  
        every time I 
           enjoy you chewing 
        recall you standing in a room
            every time I 
           drink the aroma of your memory
    it’ll come with the joy of song
Jas. Mardis

Poem: winds of change

Winds of Change


      I found myself 
            standing in the wind today
     standing and pushing my body against the idea of falling
     against the thought of twisting 
    against the desire to move on 
       I was standing 
          and steadfast 
       in the spot where I’m sure 
      I’ll kiss you for the first time 
          you were on my phone
      a text   an emoji    a silly, moving image
    telling me that you were certain
        its hands/your hands
       tiny/small   but thick and lined with years of muscles  delicate caresses waiting to be rested against a fold in my cheek 
        waiting to trace the rivulet-curls 
       of my new beard 
   into the curve of my jaw
         onto the bulb of my ear’s lobe
      where you’ll pinch it gently 
      and guide the awe of my opening mouth 
      onto the wanting blush of your grinning 
      and so
        I stood      still 
       and took the biting wind 
       took the pressing hand of that force 
    took the whipping chill  
 took the harsh whistling  growling  bark
   took the pushing and twisting at my legs
 took the tugging away at my hat brim
     took that moment 
             before I had known you existed
   before there were snatches of thoughts
        and remembrances of your faces 
    and reasons to hide away the echo
          and fullness and temptation 
      of you laughing 
         I took that past me
      absent the coming moment of you
    absent the pulsing  racing  hoping 
          days without you and emoji you 
        and watched them eclipsed 
 like useless    wasted sunny days of youth
    covered over
        by the chance of a day
     with you tugging 
       tugging    tugging 
   into the winds of change 
Jas Mardis

National Poetry Month: Translation Challenge

Here’s a new poem for National Poetry Month that needs to be translated into English to be fully appreciated.

MERS : vous

J’ai pensé mille fois
d’être pris
dans l’espace entre votre
que nous continuions en passant nos navires

sur les premières mers de cette nuit

pensais que mille autres
de comment il est incontesté
à trouver des manières de dire une fois
dans chaque regard de localisation

Oui, je vois de vous, trop

depuis cette nuit
Votre visage a dansé mon
dans le verset nuageux dans des visions brumeuses

et donc je me demande–

vous saurez mon navire

par la projection d’un mille avirons rapides

puis-je savoir votre port
par votre propre mille

la recherche de lampes…

Mardis Jas.
vous première: 14aa

Companion Poems from Jas. Mardis


I have thought a thousand times
of being caught
in the space between your
as we kept passing our ships
on that night’s first seas

thought a thousand more
of how there is unquestioned
in finding ways to say once
into each locating glance
that Yes, I am seeing You, too

since that night
Your face has danced my
in cloudy verse… in foggy visions…
and so I wonder–
will you know my ship
by the splash of a thousand fast oars…

will I know your harbor
by your own thousand
searching lamps….

Jas. Mardis


Library of Congress


This time makes a full      first one thousand
grains of sand        passing thru the narrow path between
what has been      and        come whatever may

this is the instance the best of moments     on new winds
this drawing of you     near to me from across the ocean that is this room
your anchor swaying       your angles    among this fog of bodies
become a recognizable mast
the sails in your smiling glance      full-winded,     then folded fast behind your closing lips
gathered shamefully away on the softly-browned deck of your face

the iceberg of restraint is broken      beneath the surface of greeting
broken, most importantly, where it has been heaviest built

How strange to be strangers when so many know our names

Forge the smile-readied waters of this greeting
we are grown      our keels made true from       having been kissed
having been held close in fragrant gardens at midday and midnights
having been pressed against ruffled linens down pillows disheveled quilts
having been called gently and longingly from distant rooms
distant, beautiful, magnificently just departed rooms and being instantly needed back
following moments that began just like this

my ropes are moored to the pier of this distant chair
there is a breeze gathering and shaking my lamps
you can clearly see I have no Captain to calm their clattering song
you can clearly see
at my feet there is a newly lighted torch
Jas. Mardis 05/2015

CRAVE (a read poem)


I have lived long enough
to know the ebb of blood through the veins of emptied arms
to know which wind will carry memories gracefully away
to let go of the idea of wanting someone to watch over me
at rest     from just beyond the open door      while I shower

and yet
what beckons greatly and returns with vigor is     to crave

not just wanting    like a sleep blinded babe at a teet
the animal within     seeking greedily the life from within      another
sloppily hanging on         pushing out weaker comers until your belly lifts you from the task

not just staggering onto half of a glass       and making the next perspective easier
not just yielding and waning      vexing thru a shadow of thirst with recently wetted lips

craving is its own penny
the start of something that has no forseeable end
something found or gifted or lost or earned
that opens up     suddenly and     graciously and       invitingly
it borrows all of your unused begging into an oyster-bothering spec of dirt
and hangs in for the licking    and lapping     and longing       to begin

gleans the edges of the not-yet-sowed field
it taunts this and that idea of knowing     what truly can come of it all
it beckons an easing of the earth
it presses the softest petals into the aperture of cured asphalt
it does not remind what has been opened         to close

craving is seeing how you loved water on the faces of those children at play

how you lifted your sunglasses to rest on the crown of your twisted braids
and smiled from your soul thru your eyes at the tiny girl
who’s Father is already in trouble for getting her hair wet
but who used his t-shirt      and gracious laughter     to dry her water-drenched brow
then let her go back for more

craving is knowing that you do not want to leave      this moment with me
do not wish for fresher air        or fewer sprays on the splashing winds made by
these smiling and life-living children of all hues     in the sun of this day
out with me      with you

craving begs a self-taken photograph
it does not allow me to impose on the friendly father with his drenched belly
he has already smiled at what is on the way for this moment
he has sent his child back to the water
back to another surprise shower burst
back to purse her lips and try to take a drink from the falling finger lake
it has caught her imagination
it has grown into one of her first real and complete ideas

together we can see that she is learning to anticipate
learning to stamp and stomp and dance her feet above the last sprouting place
learning    and leaning   into having known a drenching   joy

once already

and …

Crave (CLICK TITLE and I’ll Read it to YOU)

Jas. Mardis 5/2015

Final Natl-Poetry-Month Poem: How Sweet It Is… (audio and text)

Audio: How Sweet It Is

How Sweet It Is…

I want to sing
not just that hand moving vocalizing from American Idol tryouts
but sing in a way that makes men    wait to go pee

when the alarm has gone off   and it’s me on the radio
and the morning is still cold on the other side of his woman
and she is barely making a sound
but her mouth is a smile
and her hips are exposed from beneath and around her gown

and I’m chiming something from The Originals

and I don’t even care that it’s four-part harmony
’cause damn    he’s looking over across her curves and sweetness
and remembering a few nights ago   that should have been last night, too

and she’s curling her shoulders into the full light of day  breaking across into the room

and her leg straightens   and the gown   just gives up

and there is something rising in the air on the sun’s rays and in the mist of dust
and there are all kinds of “yes” in the way that she opens her eyes to him

and the covers and pillows    fall into line

and there is nothing to be said with words
not even that line about “gonna be late for work”
because I’m on the radio

and what they HEAR when I sing: “DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR”
is “I’ve been missing you since yesterday night”

and what they FEEL when I sing: “WHEN YOUR LIPS ARE KISSING MINE”
is, “Yeah”

and what they KNOW when I sing: “DO YOU HEAR THE BELLS, DARLING”
is, “All I need is five minutes to show you”

is ask, “Can we turn that up a little bit, then?”


How sweet it must be    to sing

Jas. Mardis (04/2015)
National Poetry Month 2015

**Click here to see The Originals sing their hit song properly

Jas. Mardis is a 2014 Inductee to The Texas Literary Hall of Fame, Multiple National Association of Black Journalist GRIOT Awards for Radio Commentary and  a Pushcart Prize Winner for Poetry. He is Editor of KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora (UNT Press). For booking information of poetry or The Family Story Project workshops–j.mardis@verizon.net or just send a reply from this page.

Summer Honeysuckle, Like Manna

Creator(s): Lange, Dorothea, photographer
Fruit jars being sterilized on old lady Graham’s back fence in berry season. Near Conway, Arkansas. Lange, Dorothea, photographer

Audio: Summer Honeysuckle Like Manna

Summer Honeysuckle, Like Manna
for Terri Boyd

Go ahead
let the air  move in and out of your body   again        just breathe
let your surprised  breast rise and fall and rise
as we talk about  what is    familiar     between us

breathe      like
the last time you crossed the just cut grass of your Grandmother’s yard
where the air was sweet and new and Summer morning fresh

and remnants of those chopped blades clung to your greased legs
and dusted the patent-leather reflection of your shoes
and you kept on running     because there was blooming honeysuckle
to pluck and strip and lay gently on your tongue
then   pull back thru your pursed lips   and enjoy   in joy

it took all our breaths away to know that a wisp of honey hid there
like manna
opened  anew    each morning    always, just right there
laid out across
simple post and wire fences  that partitioned off the journey
for those blocks and corners that created   neighbors and later  hoods

every time I say it   I crave
another sip   of that backyard heaven weed
grown from vines that seemed to fall from an endless sky
yet   reached up from miraculous patches of ground cover

even now    we cannot run our minds into believable paths to their roots
where old bees    too fat for flight       must be relegated to stuffing
and slathering new vines with left-out and spilled-over nectar

what else could  explain it

surely not just childhood
moments of wonder and growing  and seeing mysteries so clearly
so wonderfully happy with just   sunlight   and cool winds on our face
sun soaked, nappy heads and pool water burned eyes and nostrils

surely no dog chased existence
or tree-climbing      bare-foot-racing mind could make up
this terrible goodness    grown wild and fetching and free

were there always wasps and yellow-jackets to chase you    screaming

do you remember the sting of that surprised you
as you watered the garden in burping  ripples from that tangled  hose

did your Grandmother come running to hush your scream

do you remember
if you left the water running when you dropped the hose

did that sweet, Summer-warmed stream run all night
did it run
until it found a way         into honeysuckle’s roots

Jas. Mardis  (7/2015)
* Happy Birthday, Terri. Thx for your support

Jas. Mardis is a 2014 Inductee to The Texas Literary Hall of Fame

Miss You Much (poem and audio)


audio:Miss You Much

Miss You Much

I miss you so much that
I retrace every other mere woman and girl back thru my heart
I recall the error of their kiss    the yielding moment of their last breath into my mouth
I recant all of those restless declarations of love
I slit my tongue.    I weep.   I moan.   I return to a fetal pose.  I re-die to them.

when I am unable to lay your old touch asunder
when there is so much of you in the air that I breath in sips and get dizzy
when a fever rages in my bones  as though I am leaving my own flesh
when so much of what I want is found in stories of moments with you
I slit my tongue.  I weep.  I moan.  I return to a fetal pose.

the most pleasure that I can manage is the remembrance of your “yes”
the chime of my mantle clock gathers me back to when you stood naked at the fire
the ring tone for you on someone else’s phone revives your first,  “Hey, Babe”
the way that I try to love others makes them cower and leap from my bed
I slit my tongue.  I weep.  I moan.

well past bedtime I do not lay still against your long absence from my life
well beyond my reach   your laughter rides every gust of wind until it reaches my heart
well after I am soaked and awash in tears and aloneness    I apologize …again
well into the days of living on without you    the thought is foolishness to my soul
I slit my tongue.   I weep.

there is everything and nothing left to say between us
there is my hand on the phone   with your number dialed  and knowing that you are waiting
there is every little thing bringing me back to my side of town   there is your darkened door
there is the distance being closed by looking at our pictures on my screen
I slit my tongue…

Jas. Mardis

Jas. Mardis is 2014 Inductee to The Texas Literary Hall of Fame and is the Editor of KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora (UNT Press) and a Pushcart Prize winner for Poetry.