Jim Ross, 5/11/2015

Current Occupation: um
Former Occupation: postal carrier, census taker, library assistant, teacher, researcher
Contact Information: A newly retired public health researcher, Jim Ross is trying to resuscitate his long-neglected right brain by talking with strangers on pilgrimages, growing fat tomatoes, and writing creatively.  As a researcher, his initial focus was police and prisons.   After several years, he made a break, and worked in public health research for the rest of his career.   Professionally, he published 70+ research papers plus book chapters and has several pieces included in anthologies.   He has always written non-fiction and occasional poetry.  However, his audience consisted of family and close friends.   He starting to write with the intention of publishing a few years ago as he saw retirement rearing its head over the horizon.  
He’s especially happy about stories published about the month the Beltway snipers worked out at the Silver Spring YMCA (TheAtlantic.com; and Friends Journal), a story about caring for his mother during her final years, when she believed her dead father and sister regularly came to visit, which complicated meal planning (Pif Magazine), a meditation on The Meaning of Endings (Friends Journal), and a piece on Stolperstine, which are personal Holocaust memorials (Lunch Ticket).  
He’s also recently published poetry, stories or photographs in The Sun, Up the Staircase, South85, RPD Society, Cahoodaloodaling, Dirty Chai, Drunken Odyssey, Lunch Ticket, and Story Shelter’s anthology “Here I Am.”   Forthcoming: In the Fray, Apeiron Review, Cargo Lit, and Cactus Heart.
Jim and his wife split their time between Maryland and West Virginia. They looking forward passionately to becoming grandparents of twins this July.

 

#

THE SUBSTITUTE

 

A beggar covered in chalk dust

peddler of dittos, erasers and pushpins

pilgrim without destination

baby sitter without snack privileges

mercenary without weapons

honored by the off-tune chant  

“sub-sti-tute, sub-sti-tute, sub-sti-tute”:

 

I had the status of a head louse

the thriftless ambition of a raven

and taught everything from turkey casserole

to the math of five card stud.

The black girls tied my long white-man

hair in corn rows and called me Mr. Shoes

because my red shoes made me fly.

 

The MIA teacher left instructions:

assign from the required list

only one word to each

student for each to create only one

sentence for use in only one

card to send the White House.

Lots cast, Antonio drew “smother.”

 

I expected a cautionary tale

about how to keep the baby warm while

avoiding tragic over-diligence

but hoped for Maya Angelou’s recipe for

smothered chicken.

 

Surprising only me, Antonio wrote:

“My oh my

why

do they smother

our cry?”

 

Often I’ve wondered:

Did the White House write back?  

Did Antonio keep asking questions?   

Did someone hear him?  

Or did they just shut him up?

#

MY SUMMER IN HARLEM

 

A whet-necked, white-faced Census taker

in still-charred Harlem, where all the jobs were,

and they paid us by the unit and head, not the hour,

I sang “Fatherless Child” like Richie Havens, as if,

singing on a hot summer’s day would blend me in,

so out of place, I belonged there.

 

Running fit, I tore up seven flights, knocked hard

and on hearing “what choo want?” shouted through

the spy-hole of the grey security door

“I wanna take your Census,” to wit,

the tiny, tinny voice of its elder single female occupant,

residing in a one bedroom, with small kitchen and bath

who with the elevator out rarely climbed up or down

or any direction for that matter came at me,

“I ain’t got much left, but what I got you can have.”   

 

We quickly dispensed with business to focus

on her gift of home-brewed ginger tea and toasty sardines.

“And here’s the two bucks for your time,” I said, plunking

down $2 of the $3.10 I just earned, thank you kindly.   

As I rushed off to the door next door my new friend

with sardine ginger lips grabbed my wrist

with gentle fingers meant to sew: “Time on your

hands creeps like chicken pox where you can’t scratch.

The days, they go slow but the years, they fly by.”

 

#

NOONTIME WALK TO THE SUN

 

When the air bit like a Nittany apple

Grey geese flew kamikaze runs to beat us back

And hardly yellow pansies replaced defenseless mums;

When Halloween cobwebs nearly cleared your mind

You’d long devoured its chocolate gobstoppers

But you flashed photographic memories, still.   

 

We walked as far as lunchtime legs allowed

In the time till time expired.

 

Before resuming the humdrum day

we’d pause for momentary magic standing

In the sun’s collected rays reflected

Off the window glass of our menagerie

In that sacred space our feet, blind

With laughter, shared a light lunch with the sun.

One comment on “Jim Ross, 5/11/2015
  1. Martin says:

    There’s much heart, feeling and experience behind these well-crafted words. I enjoyed these poems.

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