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.
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
Surprising only me, Antonio wrote:
“My oh my
do they smother
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.