Morning Coffee

Leather pyrography portrait by Jas Mardis

     There is a place in my throat
for when the coffee has turned cold
    for when the beans are reclaiming their shape
     and, like freed men,   begin to search out their broken kin
   like fools think it will be in Heaven
    and that somehow there will be a mist of Grandma
      holding a pan of warm bread or a bowl of second slain beast stew

   And my swallowing  is stopped at the tongue
       and I make a bowl to cradle the lacking brew
    and I can see my Grandfather’s thin lips blowing over his saucer
          of poured out   percolated   early morning   liquor
   that still wafts and wakes  the most loved place of my entire known life
   until it calms into a mellow potion  for my brother and I to fight over

       I beg my tongue to river that swallow into my throat
    like I begged my Grandfather  not to leave
            and go over the hill  where he broke open the earth
       where other men died  and were swallowed by the dirt
where one man watched a Birmingham Steel girder slice his head apart
       where White men claimed  splendor they did not put hands to

      Begged him to stay at that morning table
          where we fell asleep scrapping at his leftover grits   dry toast and runny eggs
    begged him to pick me to wear his scuffed and scraped hard hat
             that swallowed our tiny, boy heads
       and gave us echoes of his foot falls across wood floors
           and reverberations of the swooshing air thru the opening door
      and washed our blindedness with a screech of the screens hinges
            before being taken off and tossed into the station wagon

       And I tilt back my head
   like I did as a boy    and wait for the whiskered kiss
      of my Grandfather’s cooled breath
   to push the last of this morning’s brew into my remembered
                unaged soul

Jas Mardis is a 2014 inductee to The Texas Literary Hall of Fame and a leather and fabric artist

My DaddyUncleCousinWifeNem

Negroes eating ice cream in front of hardware store  Farm Security Administration Archive Lee Russell
Negroes eating ice cream in front of hardware store Farm Security Administration Archive Lee Russell

On the phone my Uncle EJ is recovering from a coughing fit and I am confused when it morphs into a rasping laugh and his signature, “Ooooh, boy“, then, “Jr. you’d be surprised at how little distance there was back in those times between a man being your Daddy or your Uncle!” Again, he laughs so heartily that he has to fight off another fit of coughing, but eventually settles himself down. Another, “Oooooh, boy” follows and I wait patiently for him to explain.

On this call we have been talking about my failure to find the marriage license for my parents in the Union Parish Records Archive. I’ve been at this task for years and am calling him from a Motel room in Bueno Vista, Arkansas. “James Jr, you are not going to find that record anywhere in Arkansas because your Father had run out of Arkansas marriages. He come and got my ‘57 Chevy and ran Route 63 to that big Bridge right into Mississippi and Greenwood to get hitched.” I look down at the cell phone and imagine a hot rod chase with multiple grandpappy’s wielding shotguns and tossing empty moonshine bottles out of car windows. They’re probably yelling, “Git back here!”…Again, my Uncle’s, “Ooooh, boy!” coughing and laughing fit brings me back to the present. I interject, “WHAT?!” “Unc, how do you run out of Arkansas Marriages?

Those days, with my Uncle EJ leaning hard into his 89th year of life and no longer able to travel back home for the yearly grave cleaning and family events, my calls to his San Francisco, California home meant everything to us both. I have been recording these talks because of their tendency to go off the hinges. “James Jr, the Clerk of Courts wouldn’t write a new Marriage Bond to my Brother because he was officially still under his previous one!” …and there is a burst of energetic guffaw so strong that I don’t need the phone to hear it. The speaker distorts and crackles with the waves of exploding cackling and I wonder if I should offer to call him back later. There are a series of exclamations that include, “Oh Lord”, “Jesus” and various versions of “Son of a GUN”, along with the surprised calling of my Father’s first wife’s name, “Stella Mae”.

The pen that I have been scribbling notes with is now snapped and pouring a river of blue ink onto the notebook and surface of the Motel table. “Your Father and Stella Mae had run off from one another and that marriage about a year after getting hitched. Her Mother had signed off on it.” He ignores my question and continues, “That’s about the same time I met your Aunt Mary up at that lil club shack and was running back and forth trying to catch her again.” Again, he ignores my question and I start to wonder if I am talking or just thinking inside my head about what to ask. I catch the phrase, “Ooooh, boy, she was some kinda gal...” and this time I stop him with my actual voice, “WAIT! Who was “some kinda gal”? and he stops the memory, saying, “Who?“. Now, we both are confused.

Jr. I’m talking about Rosel, now. We had come up to Camden and was running around on a Saturday night. I come up on a little ol’ thang who told me she was Mary’s older Sister, then she asked why was  I out here calling her Sister’s name in the street like a dog?” “Ohhh, boy. I was standing about three feet over that lil gal and she had her fist cocked back when she come up to me”. In the Motel, I check the cassette tape for time remaining and hold on for the ride. I just went from not finding a marriage license to an unresolved separation, court clerks, an unpaid bond, my Aunt and Mother “in dem streets” and my 6’4″ Uncle about to get punched out by someone three feet shorter,  but ready.

He picks up again, “Pay attention, James Chris. Yo Mother, well, she was still just a girl then, run me back up the road about asking  around for her sister.”, He coughs, then continues, “An’ just before she lets loose on me…up comes J.C.!” I ask, feeling lost in the night’s events some forty years later, “From Where?!”We both laugh thru the speaker phone.

J.C. had rode with me up to Camden and was having a pretty good time.” Uncle EJ calms down but there is a lifting in his voice. I ask, “So, they met because he had to save you in a juke joint from an angry midget?” and the phone again erupts from our guffaws. I follow up with, “Wait, where was Stella Mae?” and he snorts, “Most likely with her new fella back up the road in ElDorado!” When I remember to check the cassette recorder it was stopped, so I turned it over and tried to continue. My Uncle is a laughing mess on the phone and there is somebody knocking at his apartment door. Listening to digitized recording now I hear a woman’s voice say that she wants in “on this laugh party you are having“. On the phone my Uncle quickly wraps up the story by saying, “Well, James Jr, you can probably figure out the rest.” I ask, “So, did you and Aunt Mary ever get back around to each other?” and Uncle EJ responds, “Ohhh, boy. The next time I saw ol’ Mary was when Granny LaFears delivered my first niece about a year later. I gotta run, James Jr. See ya in the funny papers.

The next day at the Archives I easily found the Marriage License for my Father and Stella Mae Coldure. On the license is permission granted by her Mother for the 16 year old to marry my 19 year old father. In the digitized archive is another surprise marriage record. I call my Uncle EJ early in the afternoon and when he answers I say, “So, who exactly is, Miss Tandy Oscar?” He holds the line for a few seconds then retorts, “Ooooh, boy, James Jr…seems like I’ve lost some memories since last we spoke...”

Copyright to

Blue-Green Leather

Sometimes…the Leather Wins🤦🏽‍♂️. I don’t need another satchel, but there was this blue-green designer leather with a pearlescent undertone. I cut a piece to make the last two monocular cases…and the leather touched me like a loose woman💃🏾💃🏾💃🏾🌚💦🍑! Three hours later I’ve nearly finished the new bag!… 12 cases/pouches with monoculars drop on Wednesday #mardisart940 #leather #jasmardisdotcom #birdwatchingnewbie

Jas Mardis: Hand and Laser Exhibition

May 2021 I return to the display case of the Main Lewisville Library. I’m displaying laser enhanced designs and hand pyrography items with small quilts and the new wood hangers and candleholders. The laser engraving machine is part of the Library’s HIVE MAKERS SPACE. I was introduced to the progressive creative space during my 2019 Library case exhibition and enjoy the knowledge and skills of the HIVE staffers.

Jas Mardis: Hand & Laser Pyrography and Portraits runs May 1-29, 2021. Mask up and see the work, then tour THE HIVE. #LPLthehive Tell them I sent you!


11″ x 17″ color prints on acid-free Fine Art Paper are $200 per item, s/h included in the price within the United States using Ground Postal rates. Expedited FedEx shipping will be quoted.

If the PayPal button does not appear on this page please email me your request at and you will receive an invoice via email.

“Yal Royalty” is available on 11″x17″ acid-free coated German Etching Fine Art Paper.

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Title: ‘Yal Royalty” 11″ x 17″

Yal Royalty 11″x17″

“Yal Royalty” is available on 11″x17″ acid-free coated German Etching Fine Art Paper.


“Amazing Grace” _Light is available on 11″x17″ acid-free coated German Etching Fine Art Paper.

Title: ‘Amazing Grace_Light” 11″ x 17″

Amazing Grace (Light)

“Amazing Grace” (Light) is available on 11″x17″ acid-free coated German Etching Fine Art Paper.


“Amazing Grace” _Color is available on 11″x17″ acid-free coated German Etching Fine Art Paper.

Title: ‘Amazing Grace_Color” 11″ x 17″

“Amazing Grace” (Color)

“Amazing Grace” (Color) is available on 11″x17″ acid-free coated German Etching Fine Art Paper.


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