Berfrois

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by James Stotts

the crowd’s carrying
the statue of st. anthony
past my door

fruit flies drink my sweat
and bones

i’ve said it a hundred times
there was no rain before
the flood

my survival’s
an estranged western country
of oracle stones

i try to keep my hands to myself
whatever i touch
turns to wine

 


About the Author:

James Stotts is a poet and translator living in Boston. His work has appeared in journals including Little Star, The Charles River Journal, AGNI, The Atlantic, Action Yes, and Failbetter. His first book, Since, was reissued in 2016 by Pen & Anvil; his second, Elgin Pelicans, will be published this year.

  • Miriam McIlfatrick

    Extraordinary how the ‘I’ is embedded in every movement and moment of this poem yet remains at such a remove and sublimely aloof and alluringly lonely at the same time. In a sequence of near paradoxes, the crowd passes by a potential threshold, the fruit flies consume what seeps from and what is deep within the body, which by rights should not even attract them. This same ‘I’ has repeated itself – why? does no one hear or heed? Shades of the divine and the unwelcome prophet abound – in the grasp of the flood, in the wine-begetting touch. This I’s survival has an otherly strength – it has the scope of a country, albeit kept at a remove, and solidity of stones, albeit of inbetween or go-between nature. This I is (pre-)occupied with containing its uncontainable self; simultaneously beckoning and almost shunning.

    How apt that this poem is untitled, both the I and the poem are virtually unknowable. I find myself invested in – inveigled into – each word, sound, image, only to be left wondering at the next turn what I’d seen or imagined I’d glimpsed. This is a poem that makes me marvel – and understand a little better what a marvel might be.