The Joy Sequence | The New Engagement

The Joy Sequence

By James Nawrocki


Love lives at the corner
of Prince Street and Broadway
amid dishrag air and the shrill of renovation
where the beverage cart man
pushes annoyance across the heat
and a father leans toward his boy
in a shadowed doorway.

I carry a copy, just bought,
of Islamic mystical poetry,
entreaties to a God impatient,
a God unseen, a stolid God who sits
as each new day sends up its tendrils
of prayer.

Down here in the throng
youth blazes towards us
and I tell you it’s okay as it passes
incarnate along these brown boards
that skirt gaping holes of excavation
where sun sears old pipes and the scurry
of displaced rats, and we know we’re as old
as we’ve ever been.

I’ll take this year and its tentativeness.

I’ll read Rumi in the clouds
as we fly out from this city
into the all-too-shallow pool
of blue and pollution
far above the absent towers
and new ones trying for heaven.

Love is our arc across the continent
over states we imagine empty.
Love is all the furrowed rows of seed.
Love is each little pearled light
nudging across the crooked, worried quilt
that is the land’s darkness.



Nothing reached me except
a death sentence and doubt.

I knew that black cables
pulse on the bottom of the ocean

crossing the great darkness
between the continents

with voices other than mine,
a multitude of ambition and hunger.

I crumbled against a wall of transit
and cried

amid all that thundering on
toward silence.

And then the tunnel
opened into a muted daylight,

peaked rooftops under
a sky pewtered with ribbons and rain.

My dead mother and father
surfaced in memory, each one

looking down with me
at the tableaux of their last beds

and last days. Their faces said:
It won’t be the same for you.

On my way home, I passed torn-open
garbage bags, sidewalks of flotsam.

We make such bright things
and hope.

Spills of green glass,
recent plunders, crunched underfoot.

I stood at the bleak intersection,
the bottom of the hill that looks up

to the sky’s emerging canvas of blue.
A sugared white moon hung, traced there

almost like a whisper:
There are other worlds than this.



A coverless book at the edge of the yard.

It must be winter and it must be at the margins

of what I know.

A biting wind turns the gray pages

without looking at them.

And of course, the wind cannot see,

at least not in this poem.

This book holds all of my rooms.

It holds those days that rose up

and pushed their obstinacy

like a cold car working along a path

plowed through deep snow.

I had my secrets; so did you.

Mom, there you are, staring

through me, out the window.

Dad, there’s you, years later,

standing secretly outside

my closed bedroom door, straining

to hear the music I fed myself

when I thought I was alone.


Jim Nawrocki’s poetry has appeared in Poetry, Kyoto Journal, Poetry Daily, Nimrod, Santa Fe Literary Review, and Mudfish, among others. It’s also been included in the anthologies, The Place That Inhabits Us: Poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010) and Art & Understanding: Literature from the First Twenty Years (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). He writes regularly for the Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, and lives in San Francisco.

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On May 1st, we announced the winners of our Flash Fiction Contest: Thomas Garcia (1st), Rick Krizman (2nd), and Rios de la Luz (3rd). Read more.

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