Woman in Red

Poem for an Unseen Woman

    I thought of you

   wearing red and looking at your face

        in the lake water that covered 

     your bare feet

       that lapped at your ankles

     that reached for your calves

 and wished for the waving hem of your

           yellow flowered sun dress

        I was standing behind you

   where the sand agreed with the pavement 

       where the flowers were real

     where the water does not reach

    until the wind wants chaos and 

        time for sun dresses   has passed 

except for in photographs.

      You left your sandals 

     just ahead of where I am settled in

   my back was turned 

         my interest was caught up in 

     things that I can’t recall just now

     I heard the tumbling of them fall

    I caught a shadow leaving you walking 

          it stretched and circled over asphalt 

      then grass   then sand  and rejoined you

  at the water’s edge

          then it was swallowed in a rippling wave of white bubbles and dark water 

      that ran against the caramel skin 

    of your legs


    now I’m waiting for you to turn

     not fully around

    just   waiting for a shift of your head

       out of the afternoon sun

     just a tilt    a taste of skin toward dry land

       I’m holding my breath 

     I’m counting the flowers of your dress

    I’m turning that same shade of red

         in your windbreaker 

     I’m telling myself 

           to pick up your sandals 

       I’m hoping to exchange them 

     for a smile

once I finally see your face

Jas Mardis

A Book About Forever


          It has been four days of hearing you

Your laughter filling me up from where my toes end to where thoughts begin
Your early days stories
Taking me into long forgotten tales of my own
Memories and wonders and hopes and delights
Slipping between us like forever is still an infant
Like these old bones are not creaking
Like all my teeth are still where they used to be

           I am not in a hurry to be the old man that I was before 
    Before you smiled  when hearing my laughter  just a few feet away
 Standing in the same aisle   Standing in the same dusty pathway of knowledge

You: forgetting about the Orishas and JuJu women book
Forgetting about the heat of the day and the market booths
Forgetting about the drum circle men and women keeping their thunder
Between their knees and wrap-skirts and welcoming rhythms

         They are all around us
         But we are alone
     Just you and your smiling to yourself about the ways I am making you want thunder

In your breasts thru your belly between your thighs

          Later   after our third night 
     You will tell me of how you surrendered  all of your old fears  to my laughter
How you spent a journey of steps  backward toward the savoring sound of it
          How you pressed your palm to your belly  exposed by your tied off shirt  
    How your fingers played along  and said that my tongue would trace your navel
   And spill cups of whispers  into you  with the same   heavy  baritone  and bouncing joy
       How you turned your face toward  me   and parted your lips  intending to say your name
  But  instead    you swallowed up the view of my walking  and  taking   you   in

Me: this is what the dreams of aloneness have taught me
And I have watched you saunter beyond and back to me twice already
You are in desire mode you came wanting knowledge of mysterious things and women
Somewhere you have reasoned that another book is waiting for you
I can see it in the way you come to the end of the shelves and take the corner toward home
In watching you I want to know that manner of thirst that way of having the tongue surrendered
That opening up and taking in of things anew

        Later    after our third night
   I will let free every thought and want of you 
               From this first moment of you  amongst these books of our people
     You are already   forever   known to me for the way you want words  around you
  The way you steady yourself and touch each spine 
                 in the same way that you will read the curve of me thru a wet towel on day seven
          already    everything  that I knew before seeing you searching   has been lost

and there is only come whatever will come whatever may

            so… I ask for the title of the book that would send you on such a journey
 and I listen when you turn your face up to me and say

              that you are looking for book about forever
          and it seems to be written  on the sound of my laughter

.Jas Mardis 2022


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.

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 or an 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

Copyright JasMardis 2019

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

I Don’t Want It All Back

“What I Miss?”

I don’t want it all back
   just that one morning 
      when I put my phone on the bumper
    and you wore that orange shirt dress
       and shook your head 
     at the idea that everything was going to 
                        work out
          that the angle was right 
     not to cut off our heads
          not to slip off the bumper 
       when the ten second timer hit
     not to have a hundred shots of sky
       on nights like this
         in the middle of the moon
      when the phone has six thousand pics
    and only one 
 of big hair   an ebony hue  an orange blur
       and endless
                blue sky



. (Oh, well…)

Jas. Mardis

I, Eye

(I Eye–audio)

                    I, Eye

there is some other way of naming your attraction
some other ways
of counting out the names that I have given to your beauty

some simple method of calculating the hours spent remembering

all the joy
made possible      simply and wonderfully by looking upon you

and knowing  that
no other person or thing or moment on this old Earth
is ever going to bring me such a wonderful aching
until it returns   comes back around     knocks…enters…home

tell me again how I first came to be in your eyes

dancing my old bones and flesh thru the sunset rivers of your stare
holding your browned, honey glazed look upon me
and being swallowed into your pupils   as a precious light

just      once      more
say my name   without opening your mouth
without parting your lips     without any sounds  at all
like you do on your pictures
taken from above your head    from your camera’s phone

selfish selfies

with the whole world wanting to be part of such a moment
men and women     themselves  watching for their turn in your eyes
willing to settle for a moment    of you   thru a lens
wanting silent credit for capturing all of what you want    just me to see

and  moments later     there you are

the distance    miles of roads   acres of grass and river waters
steps and tip-toed inches   erased with a button’s push

and you

your eyes so brilliant and bright and beckoning me into that flash moment
your silliness     your awakening into morning light    your muscle work
spilling out from my phone
sighted   suddenly    like lonely sailors must have seen Mermaids

missing home      watching  dark water       a noise
the  glass eye  raised to see         whatever could it be

Captain, my Captain…oh, my soul…”



Jas. Mardis  (06/ 2015)

Jas. Mardis is a 2014 inductee to The Texas Literary Hall of Fame and Editor of KenteCloth: Southwest Voices of the African Diaspora, UNT Press

Between Then & Again…

(audio: Then And Again)

between seeing you
between having a moment of your smiling
and the absence of you
between the early afternoon sun on your face
and the memory of wanting to keep you longer than one meal

between then and again
the same again of wanting and waiting
the same again of hoping and having
the same again of knowing and wanting to know more

between  all the stops and starts of doubting
between every ounce and measure of experience
between each one of my days and nights of aloneness
and the heavier weight of choosing rightly who to kiss  twice     first

between every moment that chases me toward the   again
I am awash and dumbstruck by the moment of  THEN

I remember every step that I’ve taken in your presence
and every time that you turned toward me
every flash of recognition in your eyes
each of your tentative smiles   each parting of your lips
the opening and closing of your mouth  to greet me  and to send me on my way

I had thought of you before   from a collection of distances
thought of you married    thought of you otherwise taken and claimed and loved
thought twice of you younger   twice your dynamic  in that youthfulness

I had checked and held my breath in your presence

checked for those awkward, low whistles that the body creates around breathing

checked on my taking in and letting out

checked out those risings and fallings of your small chest

checked on the way your stomach fills to a tightness then yields to the belted waist of your black dress when you chuckle

checked off all of the reasons to leave you in the distance


checked off all the reasons to close that distance




Jas. Mardis is a 2014 Inductee to The Texas Literary Hall of Fame. He is an awarded Poet and Fabric Artist living in Dallas,TX

Lily of the Valley

      Photo credit April Anue

Lily of the Valley

by now

we are clearly smitten

unsure of the end but certain of the path to it

all at once I understand something that others have wanted me to read

or at least the reason for so many to agree
it is a simple coming together

the rising voice of two people who know truly of love

somewhere along the way

their tongues have merged into a single song
you and I know it as kindred spirits

we already know what the hours ahead of us hold

so few minutes make up a night together

that we are both out of time before the clocks have run full circle
I want you to be sure of the brown bud

frozen outside your window

baked brown into a dormant husk in defiance of the driven snow

and laced poorly with the ice-cicled web of a lone spider
I want you to know that it is a bud of the Rose of Sharon

again cast against the shadows of another fair Maiden

the sun darkened lily of the valley

biding time in the season of bitter cold and frozen brambles
and so, let’s answer the question rising and falling within your breast

the one that begs at the corners of your mouth

the one that is awakening the unfamiliar craving tugging

riffling and running with your blood’s fire thru your soul
listen, Sweet, as I speak with a plan of love on my lips

with every intention of your flowering and blooming

of covering and protecting              of comforting and pleasure

listen, like this bud in repose, for a strum of the web in your Winter
Our’s is not the Solomon Song

but You can be the dark maiden come in from the sun

breaking free from all of the known words of men and sisters

pressing your head gently to the thunder of my welcoming breast
you have been found

every whisper of your heart song is heard without need for reprise

each of your nights are calling for voluminous joy

endless is your destiny        evermore becomes the only answer
and so to your soul I speak:

  Lily of the Valley      Rose of Sharon

    do not bother with the brambles that have so long entangled ’round you

press into the shadow of their brittle vein and thorns
come forward to my arms and favor

 wipe the weeping memory of any binding rope

    untie the warm caress within you

  undress the trembling, waiting, loving, searching hopes.

Jas. Mardis    12/28/2017

Jas. Mardis is an award winning Poet, Commentator and a Fabric Artist living in Dallas, TX. Jas. Is a 2014 inductee to The Texas Literary Hall of Fame.