For James Ward Lee

play audio –Sting


    the smell of lemon

        on my hands

reminds me of my father

     and of being home

  for the last time

the swollen acrid smell

     of lemons

   and the remembered yellow skin

 with its pimples gone awry

           dotting the landscape and

       chasing the perfect oval


 covering all that is possible

    to cover

        in that seasonal lifetime

   of a lemon

 dotting the rise and sloping fall

     of a hull:

   Yellow to yellow-dotted black  aromatic pore

         seeping out the blinding


    quick, sharp breaths

of this lemon life

      a season of smelling

and tarting the tastes of things:

    water into thirst quinching ‘ades

              fish from bland sea palate

          into  a chasing, feverish rush

  of once fighting muscle

       pulling tightly against the line

       making this plate

    of bones and baked flesh


 worth the swollen chest

       of its being here


 the squeaky run of its juice

     of my hands


   chasing tightly into the

smallest cut

          into the hell of broken flesh

     into the naked wounds

of being


     for the last time

Home Home Home


  the worst of the four lettered



for the last time

     with my father’s breath

   packed and ready to go

leaving his heaving

      hairy chest

    beneath his sweat soaked

         death shirt


like his last words

     “lemonade” & “son”


   running over me



with these lemons

bursting under my grip



    crying the hot juice

  of giving in

     like my father


wanted lemonade

      as his last

    throat quinching drink

    So he asked me

           to make it

   and now

      the smell of lemon

                  on my hands

    will mean


    that his throat is dry

  in a room

that’s just a sting

    and a step away




.Copyright Jas Mardis 1999 Awarded the Voertman Poetry Award and published in Our Texas anthology , Center For Texas Studies @ University of North Texas Press, Denton, TX.

Drops Like Rain

(Drops Like Rain audio)

In the rain
what will be remembered of your face
does not blur so easily

and I see so clearly

the wonderful, seasonal, leaf-brown shading of your eyes
piercing thru the large pane of shop glass
as you jump the space between awnings trying not to get wet

I see you remembering to smile   then scrunching your face when
an already couple bumps into you  and
just like that
you slide back into the weather and your hair drinks what drips
from the beast that has become this night’s sky

From this booth    I cannot save you
not even in my manliest imagination
not even in the best years of my  faster  boyhood
not even     not hardly      no way

when you do not  fall into the drink
but instead bend at the knees and waist
and waggle your hips into a brake

the sound that comes from me    does not match my facade

Every  day
since first looking into the falling stream that was your face
watching helplessly    you
slipping and grinding and stopping yourself in the rain

the way you held on    stood pat     hung in there
never minding the fools behind with their outstretched, dry hands and apologies
instead,   shaking it off  and finding me in that deliberate, slow turn
of your drenched face   dry   inside  at a booth      then winking

it is hard to image how I will stop myself from falling for you
like fat drops of April rain

my fingers
down thru your head’s  drenched curls
across the wet waving line of your brow
racing in  swirls        over the bridge  of your nose
rimming silver slivers ’round your flared nostrils
before landing and lacing    and beading into the grace on your full lips

I am already learning to love the way that you hold your mouth
already slipping
already being pushed by wanting what these other couples have
are willing to race thru full streets
clearing pathways   and already full spaces beneath awnings
where some other not-yet-loved fool
is trying not
to get this wonderfully wet





Jas. Mardis    4/2015

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