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The Milk Hours: Poems

The Milk Hours: Poems

by John James


Available for Pre-Order. This item will be available on June 4, 2019

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571315083
Publisher: Milkweed Editions
Publication date: 06/04/2019
Pages: 88
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

John James is the author of Chthonic, winner of the 2014 CutBank Chapbook Award. His poems appear in Boston Review, Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Poetry Northwest, Best American Poetry 2017, and elsewhere. Also a digital collagist, his visual art is forthcoming in the Adroit Journal, Quarterly West, and LIT. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of California, Berkeley.

Read an Excerpt

The Milk Hours

for J.E.J., 1962-1993

and C.S.M.J., 2013-

We lived overlooking the walls overlooking the cemetery.

The cemetery is where my father remains. We walked

in the garden for what seemed like an hour but in reality must

have been days. Cattail, heartseed—these words mean nothing to me.

The room opens up into white and more white, sun outside

between steeples. I remember, now, the milk hours, leaning

over my daughter’s crib, dropping her ten, twelve pounds

into the limp arms of her mother. The suckling sound as I crashed

into sleep. My daughter, my father—his son. The wet grass

dew-speckled above him. His face grows vague and then vaguer.

From our porch I watch snow fall on bare firs. Why does it

matter now—what gun, what type. Bluesmoke rises. The chopped

copses glisten. Snowmelt smoothes the stone cuts of his name.


April, Andromeda

I am in this world, not self, not seed, not stamen-dusted

pistil flicking in the wind—the eye sees past its limitations.

Crushed petals in the dirt, I’m courting a horse with an apple,

watching its white tail swish along the fence. Somewhere,

the galaxy spins. I smile at the cloudless sky.

Continuum of frequencies, Ptolemy’s

Almagest, the star charts called it Little Cloud

chained constellations in The Book

of Fixed Stars
. Nova for new, cut fish

for never. A heart held back for the knife.

The opening of large

tracts by the icecutters

commonly causes

a pond to break

up earlier; for the water

agitated by the wind

even in cold weather

wears away

the surrounding ice.

This morning I walked past

rows of jeweled honeysuckle

twining through the square

links in an aluminum fence.

They glistened in the sun,

as they always do. You

could say their vines shuddered.

Photographed by Isaac

Roberts, 1887, again

in 1899, the galaxy, the ruler

of man, the pearling

spiral takes its name from

the area of sky in which it appears.

Sussex, England, retrograde motion.

The daughter chained to a rock.

We forget rapidly what should be forgotten. The universal sense of fables and anecdotes is marked by our tendency to forget name and date and geography. “How in the right are children to forget name and date and place.”

Pained loveliness—the sonnet

sweet fetter’d.
Morning, still, couched

in narrative—carrots

taken from my palm. Horse nose,

its silken touch, teeth against the skin.

The eye sees the mind sees

crushed pedals in the pestle.

All parts are binding.


man wearing a crown,

upside down with respect

to the eclipse. The smaller

figure next to him sitting

on a chair. A whale

somewhere beneath it.

By ear industrious—attention

met—misers of sound

and syllable.
See kale, see

rows of collard stalks—think

Cassiopeia. Think arrogant

and vain. Greek models, sea

monster Cetus, the errant study of.

I shall ere long paint to you—as one can without

canvas—the true form of the whale—

my parts are all binding—

as he actually appears to the eye—

I wonder, now, how Ovid did it—I pass that matter by.


Driving Arizona

Saguaro in headlights, we touch like foreign bodies.

Sedona recedes against the sky’s aperture.

Roll the covers off, the coldness in Williams—

Aren’t you afraid? I’m afraid, too.

Wanting to know you, thinking I do,

Thinking of the miles unfolding before us,

The highway beating through rows of golden cacti.

I want to remember things purely, to see them

As they are without the urge to order.

To take the pictures down, and say what hurts.

Say we’re able to enjoy this more than we ever did.

Somewhere behind us, the mountains slope off.

Sunrise breaks over fields of whitened heather.

Let’s only sit and listen. Only stare at the open earth

Without saying why. If approximations are the best

We can do—fine then, let’s approximate.

Home is a question and we’re drifting from it.



My light bulb is gone.

It was dying anyways.

The room goes dark

before I sleep. I lie

eyes closed, listening,

hoping the radio waves

cause only one type

of sick. My bed’s

not safe. The feathers

in my pillow came

from a factory in Beijing.

Their birds fly east

in the shape of a V.

On the edge where

my mother sat reading

a bright picture book

something has taken

her place. My father’s

mouth, which I lost

years ago, speaks

from a jar on the shelf.

I ask my mother

what she did with the light.

She says it’s

under the bed. I ask

my father why

he can’t hear. He tells

me he’s underground.

Table of Contents


The Milk Hours

History (n.)


April, Andromeda

Poem for the Nation, 2016

Klee’s Painting

Le Moribond

Spaghetti Western


Story with a Shriveled Nipple

Driving Arizona

Catalogue Beginning with a Line by Plato


Delaware, I-95

At Assateague


Kentucky, September

Clock Elegy

Years I’ve Slept Right Through

Fig. 1: Botany


Poem Around Which Everything Is Structured

Fig. 2: Roots, Tumble



Heirloom (Wreck)

Other Adam

Fig. 3: Colonialisme

Beneath the Trees at Ellingsworth

Forget the Song