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James Rives Nov 2021
reaching what you feel is unlimited potential,
trusting that you’re the main character of
your story—
you’re disavowed by actuality.

there is more in believing, trying, doing—
you are love and light and concise metaphor.
sometimes salt-soaked irreverence
in the face of reality. Scraping,
laughing, yearning.
All that you’ve accomplished with a smile
and full heart is yours.
You are inadequate and whole.
James Rives Jun 2020
night slept when she spoke,
creeping  back into its ceaseless
void in reverence or awe.
day paused enviously
at her brightness.
the winds fervently whipped
as she moved, and caressed
her in a motherly wrap.
she viewed this beauty
in nature as it viewed it in her.
taking aim at sunset,
she set herself
to become the beauty
she beheld.
James Rives Dec 2021
why artists wrestle with a million thoughts
that aren’t original,
that still still seem fresh,
when this life is universal.
when we aren’t honest with ourselves
and the introspection kills us more
and more each time.
some stupid innate desire to do
and be better,
hindered by the rest of who we are.
even this is a cheap imitation of others
who’ve felt the same.
and the anger and lack of clarity consumes me.
i was always taught to show, not tell,
but words elude me when emotions don’t.
i may be a bad writer, but never say
I’m not passionate.
James Rives Oct 2020
we tried to find solace
in unknown deepness--
warmth & respite, ignored
in favor of stranger, atypical strides.

the sounds made sense at first,
then didn't.

imagine asking a question you never want answered,
posture straight and ears turned sideways,
cupped in hand,
yet deafened by sadness.

we weren't going to work,
but only time could tell us no
so firmly we stopped denying it.
James Rives Jul 2023
her words snap me back to reality,
away from supposition and hypotheticals,
into her arms where I feel safe.

blue eyes that pierce whatever darkness
i thought i had and lied to myself about,
eyes that see me for a who I am and who I want to be.

imagine walking down a darkened path,
content in the streetlights that guided
you home, and spotting something small
and kind. whatever it is you imagine,
it beckons you to hold it and when you do,
you smile, truly and impulsively.

that essence is a woman, and one i admire.
someone beatiful, kind, and funny,
including her incessant snoring on
already sleepless nights because a cat is begging for food but you feeling comfort
in their REM cycle. too little space
to be your own, but enough heart to bridge the gap.

imagine, then, that someone places
your hand on their lap when you drive,
but are equally willing to do the same,
in what feels like an equivalent exchange
of heart and sheer goofiness.

and tell yourself it doesn't feel right
that you were able to find home in them,
effortlessly and happily. you won't
and can't, and neither can i.

words can't express that she has been
friend, confidant, and a visual marvel,
and someone i envision as a pillar
of my bright existence.
James Rives Oct 2023
i once believed my soul was black,
painted by insecurity, mistrust, and lust.
until moonlight crept in, branches swaying
in beautiful music,
like and unlike any earthen sound.
James Rives Sep 2023
what is the benchmark or minimum
for telling someone, "i love you,"?
how many i miss yous
and i wish you were heres are enough,
even minutes after parting?

whatever the number is, **** it.
because my heart remembers to beat
and even attempts to soar with you
to heights new, unfound, unseen.

where the chittering of nearby birds
is both foreign and kind comfort
in our hands;
where oranges and strawberries grow
in tandem, vine over vine, root over root,
and fall into us, sweet and kind and lovely.

if i were to say it too soon, i'm afraid
i'd lose you, your wit, your smile,
dumb jokes and blazing blue eyes.
and by withholding, i risk combustion,
and an end to it all the same.

i love you.
I have never felt a love like this. It's unique and pure but I worry that I'm stupid and easily tricked.
James Rives Jan 20
poetry is bloodletting
for my aching hands,
brain, heart, soul, whatever.
in maroon, I see a *****,
disconnected features, details,
themes, emotion.
all useless without the right vessel.
the pages may get stained
but the Rorschach means nothing
without rhythm and image and heat
and light.
i deserved it
James Rives Apr 2019
The canister fell, its contents spilling.
Paint-infused water covered the floor,
permeating the cracks of the tile,
staining it.
Brushes lay wet and askew.
The artist stares blankly,
briefly.
He picks up the container
and carries it to the sink.
There is little water left,
and what is there, is quickly
poured.
He watches it swirl downward,
indiscriminately,
into the drain. A fleeting
spiral.
He is finding the beauty in small things.
This is a slightly reworked version of the poem that is much closer to the original in form and content. I couldn't bear to share the fully original version, as I really don't feel like it's aged well at all.
James Rives Apr 2019
The clay mug fell, shattering,
the water inside staining
the floor with its murky
paint-infused hues.
Brushes lay, wet and askew.
Blankly, the artist stares,
the sound of his breathing
emphasizing this moment.
There is beauty in small things.
A major rework of an older poem from my high school days. I will also upload the original
James Rives Nov 2019
i was told that every poem is about death,
***, and love,
never in that order.
that it's our job to organize
the chaos in a way that makes us feel
as though we won't be forgotten
when we're reduced to atoms and scraped,
bit by bit, from every etch
we've ever made
and the earth retakes our homes,
our names,
our loves,
lives, the lost.
but it's just a feeling.
what's important is embracing
every curve, every laugh,
every spat of anger. and learning.
that hurt won't always last unless we let it.
James Rives Sep 2021
when a deep love grips you, you don’t mind—

you savor it and say thank you.

it takes you by surprise and suffocates you, hand on throat— callous, stern, kind.

at first it scares you, then comfort envelopes. possibility emerges.

you cough, your lacquer-coated, oak-like lungs tapped dry and somehow full, heart still deep, and thoroughly unsure which way leads home.

you’re still whole and never won’t be, but something tells you there’s another piece out there.

the hand on the throat; the shrapnel in your lungs; the serenity behind a contented chuckle at some half-assed joke.

all the same, it’s real. and you know it. and it won’t leave you, even if things don’t end the way you want.

it’s been said that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I want to say it’s true.

cough as much as you need, ask for a drink, and speak deeply and honestly without losing yourself.
Not sure where this came from but it’s about time I wrote something different
James Rives Oct 2023
she solidified the mist around my heart,
froze its vapors, shattered it, freed me. her quiet
green eyes speak loudly the volumes
that her voice feared.

there is deep longing in that greenness, and when i see it, i return it tenfold-- in praise,
lust, our conjoined humors.

dreaming of what could be:
a night at a lake-- mostly still, stirred only by chirps, ribbits, and croaks in dangerous proximity to our heat.
there is a picnic there, under a tree-- evergreen, stable, firm.
food, wine, ****, peace.

her beauty and kindness are now light
to me, for me, through me.
James Rives Jun 2020
night and day— a unison
in serene dawn,
entwined in hope,
lust, fun.

then flecks and flashes of flesh
and light snare souls
with optimism
and choke with reality.

until night and day, crossed
at the harshest bit of twilight,
are dead.
James Rives Sep 2021
Too many poems have rough starts to grip you but lack the heart to keep you. Each is a piece of someone’s soul. The cliché holds steady and you’ll contemplate it, but who gives a ****?

What we gather from them can’t quantify the sacrifice of being honest to strangers who’ll focus too heavily on your syntax, your line breaks, your cadence.

All the same, it matters. We choose to struggle, share, overcome, and it’s deeply un-unique— yet we always find a way to make it ours.

I want this medium to reflect what I’ve always been: present, flexible, deeply sad.

Maybe one day we’ll finish a sentence without pausing first to see who’s listening.
James Rives Jan 1
lips crisped cold, anticipation
building above and below
any seen surface.
months of waiting culminate
in an awkward embrace,
and two pairs of lips
branding one another
with tenderness and lust.
James Rives Aug 2020
there’s solace in syllables,
humming as you write them,
their slight vibrations signal warmth.

fondness gives it life
and, in turn, is mountainous
in splendor.

this might be what love is.
something short and non-descript, just to shake the dust off and maybe inspire something else
James Rives Mar 2020
you speak like glasswork--
hot, measured, and fragile.
empty promises and murky
depths, opacity that chills
and stuns.

you speak of love
as if you know it,
but you've never let it greet you
at your door.
it knocks and you freeze,
pretend it's a stranger,
though you knew its name before it did.

you've stolen more
than you can ever repay,
and brevity in stillness still stings.

you will do well
without your opaque glass
and brittle words,
but I can't promise the same.
we all write poems to play a game
James Rives May 2019
My sunlight burgeons,
burns, brightens, sears, and sees all.
I'm the son of light.
James Rives May 2020
have you ever felt a friendship die,
gasping for its last breath between scattered texts and awkward compliments?
each wincing inhale a deliberate pause
to find the words you force
yourself to want.
you may need each other but the knife
between the ribs didn’t.
time won’t heal what’s already dead
but the memory of it may be beautiful
and kind like ocean air before your lips
are parched, a firm kiss you want to linger (and does), a lightning bolt against the ****** that reminds you of their warmth.
James Rives May 2020
i bare myself in word-song to share
in rhythm and sound,
to release this pressure in crisp,
light notes-- palatable.
to share sordid beauty
that i've yet to understand,
to let you know you're not alone.
to dig to the core of something likely awful,
nasty, and stupid, and reason with it to
kindness and love.
i bare myself to understand
and be understood.
James Rives Nov 2023
in an r&b slow jam that's stuck under my skin, there's an ocean filled with love, lust,
and peaceful eyes between green and blue and me.
James Rives Mar 2020
i'm tired of being boiled down
to my barest, simplest parts,
and compromised beyond my core.

my facets ignored as if repugnant
or strange--
as if all i can ever be is what portait
painted itself.

to yell into an unyielding void
and be met with a stiff and resounding silence.
to be so resounding unheard despite
sheer and shrieking volume.

to exist in a space where metaphor scarcely follows for fear that truth will dilute it.

what importance did it ever hold?

it was all a cry.

and no one heard.
tired
James Rives Apr 2019
At times I feel lost, like I'm wandering
through lush forestry,
picking the pretty flowers
that probably don't belong here
because they look like they'd make the best
first impression, leaving the ugly, thorny weeds and vines alone.
But they spread,
by some innate instinct to fold,
pressurize, concentrate, & consume.
I take the flowers that I want to boast
and view them again,
hoping with each passing glance
that they'll grow
golden and refined.
Instead, they dim slightly,
petals pursing in rebuttal
of the light they once held.
The weeds and vines have staked their claim amongst this density
and continue their expansion,
yet among them sprout more beautiful flowers--
gleaming despite the pain.
A rushed work, but the first real thing I've written in years. Thank you for taking the time to read it.
James Rives Jun 2023
in the stillness where critical thinking dies,
and your heart wins over, what silence
do you **** to make room for love?

is it the white noise of a nap
that leaves you groggy, pillow wettened
and intimately familiar with
your cheekbones?

is it the satisfaction of a fast food order
that exceeds your want for grease
with deliciousness and clean hands?

is it the feeling
of a project completed,
a pat on the back,
and the firm touch
of another capable human being?

i say it's everything
and nothing,
all that is below
and remains beneath
reach and understanding.

pervasive kindness is rare
yet attainable,
and i aim for it,
not just in pursuit of romance,
but to be happy and free.
James Rives Jun 2019
the hearth embraces truth,
and ends it.
searing corners, ashen smiles,
traversing time by burning
in the opposite direction.
slowly, at times, yet infinite.
we forget to preserve emotion,
as the rest of us are dead
or nearly there.
James Rives Apr 2019
Light in Latin is lumen--
It has many meanings,
the word, the idea.
Something or someone bright,
that brings clarity, clearness,
understanding.
Is it possible for people
to be lumen,
for others? I say yes.
Yes, because
my magistra taught
me that, through enthusiasm
and a language others thought to be dead.
In memory of Magistra Molly Higbee. Requiescat in Pace.
James Rives Nov 2023
complex in its twisting, winding way,
where and when sound escapes,
intentionally beautiful in an ugly sense.
James Rives Sep 2023
i hope the poem that rests on your tongue,
vibrant and lovely, speaks your truth.
and that this truth is all your own and knows
your love in its wholeness; anxiety, fright,
happiness included.

that the object of your desire, human
and beautiful, meets you where you rest,
and loves you with the same heat
and kindness that you deserve.

and that you grow from the experience
of wanting beyond your selfish heart,
into something that only wants the best
for another, for no reason
other than their happiness with
or without you.
she makes me so happy that I hope I never spend another day without her.
James Rives Oct 2023
love, in essence, is blind,
and knows more than it can convey.
the simple sound of your cough
amongst a crowd of weekend shoppers,
red onion in hand for your next soup.
the scent of lemongrass, patchouli,
home away from home.

love, in essence, is blind,
and can see beyond itself.
it touches the ether and knows
your kind soul, your hurt heart,
the deepness of your hugs,
the tickle in your lungs,
the curl of curses on your lips,
and the warmth in your bright blue eyes.
to the one I couldn’t help but love
James Rives Jun 2019
hiding behind false bravado
and an epoch of shame
twists uncertainty,
anger, and stubbornness.
this wasn't going to be a long
one but it was there to say hello.
James Rives Sep 2020
inside slovenly crystalline stares,
words flitter, flutter, settle,
nest. resting on pages
that they couldn’t truly claim
as their own, yet still find love in them.
breakneck, fast-paced loving and mayhem,
turn around, find peace, lose it and question.
your process: sputter to a void,
senseless, demanding.
you dry-faced cry and burgeon.
love is in your heart, so claw it out
and be truthful.
admit yourself to yourself.
James Rives May 2020
moonlight is invoked
as a beacon--
in taut-fingered metaphor
as beauty's parallel.
but its power is in reflection,
in meditation, in echo.

but what value is there
in light stolen and returned
softer, gentler?

maybe understanding
that these radiances exist in balance
and liken their charm
in effigy to ourselves.
James Rives Jul 2023
in moonlight whispers love fills my heart
and glass with wine, and magnifies
my soul to tenderness.

the biting, scraping, lustful pining
for distant and abhorrent truth
is solace in place of reality.

a reality where we address the trauma
of unkind childhoods, bloodied knees,
and chipped teeth.

misunderstandings that follow the gap
in a shortness of breath before an apology.
that remind you that your thoughts
can only love if you do.

and years later you will have some drunken
outpour that darkens the moonlight
and comfort, but makes way
to some otherworldly dawn beyond
the you that reads this now.
James Rives Nov 2023
in moonlight whispers love fills my heart
and glass with wine, and magnifies
my soul to tenderness.

the biting, scraping, lustful pining
for distant and abhorrent truth
is solace in place of reality.

a reality where we address the trauma
of unkind childhoods, bloodied knees,
and chipped teeth.

misunderstandings that follow the gap
in a shortness of breath before an apology.
that remind you that your thoughts
can only love if you do.

and years later you will have some drunken
outpour that darkens the moonlight
and comfort, but makes way
to some otherworldly dawn beyond
the you that reads this now.
James Rives Dec 2023
seamless seamoss green and blue,
tundra indifferent and speckled.
cascading across my heart, mind, soul;
the entirety of my reality.
essence coiled tightly in preparation,
I flinch. it is filled with an energy
that I am not intimate with but the two
that wield it teach me separately.
how to see and be seen, how to love
and be loved, how to listen and be heard.
to **** and be beckoned back to where you began, love in-hand, heart appeased,
and content.
James Rives May 2019
Night stirs, stars surging
in the hushed & vigorous
darkness.
That void, ambient
in its design, holds artistry
and grace. Stars burst through veil
and shadow,
highlighting an ebony spire,
whose apex threatens
with beauty beyond
comprehension.
Their juxtaposition, a dance,
of heat and light and dark.
a poem inspired by Van Gogh's A Starry Night
James Rives May 2020
a poem never writes itself,
but will guide us.
its sinister intent half-mechanical, as if by formula,
yet imbued with fresh shock
and sound. a word
settles on the bones
and then another--- another.
their emergence rings hollow
before unison and rings
loudly as a whole.
cascading rhythms,
parsed onto pen-pricked page,
gasping for more
and wanting less.
a poem about poetry

this was rushed-- will revisit
James Rives Apr 2023
I imagine sitting on a porch somewhere humid and calm,
a tall tree, full of hand fruits, providing shade to foot traffic.
In this imagining, the lemonade is almost too sweet but doesn't stick to the table when it dries, and the mesh lining of the patio denies mosquitos all entry.
Their buzzing is drowned by the sound of ice being crushed three or four times with margarita mix and my favorite sin. Here, life has halted so dearly in a way I've always wanted, and in this, there is peace.
My parents would have kept a container of peanuts nearby to have with their Pepsis for days like this--
days where sound and warmth and humidity mingle, and fanning yourself with an old church pamphlet was better than being
bored, comfortable, and air-conditioned.
James Rives Oct 2019
the truth, fettered and afraid,
hid behind pain and silence.
the poet, his eyes bagged and blurred,
tapped pen to page with ink-stained fingers.
per steady grip and endless drafting,
truth came out, and cried.
it didn't know why it hid
but teased the poet to try again.
as such, he rubbed his eyes once more,
his other hand caressing bourbon and ice.
I love this
James Rives Jun 2019
poems are my escape
into worlds where sense
is measured in meter and rhyme,
and the undercurrent of meaning.
i make regrettable decisions
and excise those
that meant me well
in exchange for a pain
less familiar.
i would apologize,
but pride dictates
i stand my ground
and put pen to paper
instead.
James Rives Jul 2023
I break my own heart with hope
that it mends stronger,
and that others reach out to help.

i cling to false independence,
and bitterly bite back blood and anger,
sadness and complacence.

i create a fortress in my mind,
constructed, brick by brick,
to shield me and complain
when no one finds their way inside.

i'm not sure what i hate more-- everyone else?
or me.
James Rives Jun 2023
imagine reaching deep into yourself,
past any sense of doubt or regret,
and reliving what made you -you-.

saturday mornings when your dad
cut grass and expected help he didn't ask for while bacon and eggs waited
in the kitchen,

or sundays where evening cartoons robbed you, so you wished
for extra sleep before sermons
and trips to CVS.

or holidays alone because jobs
are demanding, and it won't happen
again next year, where stillness forms into repression,
fueled by discomforts, angsts,
sadness.

and it isn't until much later
that the light of your own existence
takes root, petals up toward the sun,
and chooses to flourish.
James Rives Jun 2020
the truth chained itself and,
grimacing, he followed.
each star he eyed blew past,
one by one, and perched
themselves within him.
he picked, prodded, pleaded,
sleep smudging the night's corpse,
and optimism left him.

bit by bit, he read her heart
and lost it in translation.
her energy was effervescent,
and warm. inconsistent.
--
her energy was eclectic-- fierce,
and her words: silken, undisturbed
--
he lost himself in her songs,
the playlists of past hurts, wants, haves-
and happiness. rhapsodic
--
pain is a telegraph,
a tactile sensation that sounds off,
telling stories of past mistakes.
James Rives Oct 2019
smoke fills his lungs and clings
to his jacket, mixing scents--
his cologne, wet grass,
the lotion on her hands,
their hearts.
in an uneven dance, riddled
with missteps, miscommunication,
missed opportunity.
they can't bear to be bare,
but there they are.
James Rives Dec 2021
corridor
metallic
humming
internal
buzzing
askew
ghosted
in return
metallic again
*****
pricked
prone
assailed
memory
conclusive
pennies
dist­ance
blood
change
James Rives Apr 2020
i have resolved
to let these moments stab me,
teach me, by reaching my core
and harming me.
it will carve me into something
daring and emboldened;
perhaps i will be smelted,
reforged--
still stronger all the same,
especially without you.
rough draft, will revisit
James Rives Apr 2019
A water bottle perched
on a desk, cluttered
with papers. Old writing,
portfolios of work half-forgotten.
A hand grips the bottle,
untwists the cap,
sips. Right now,
her words
are her only friend.
James Rives Feb 4
she sometimes views herself a burden
but in reality she is part of my ever-evolving serenity.

imagery of the sun invokes heat, brightness,
positivity-- the moon is cast aside.
but in her blue-green eyes, I see the tides pulled by sincerity and pride in tandem.
bella luna pequeña.

coffee mugs, chocolate milk, Bob's Burgers, black cat, canned soup, Civilization, peace.
her rhythm matches mine and blesses me.
we aren't perfect, but who gives a ****?
i will be the sun.
James Rives Apr 2019
Emeralds and diamonds,
Affairs of State.
We didn’t build our bridges
simply to avoid walking
on water.
A bridge is a meeting place.
Neutral, casual.
A bridge is a possibility,
a metaphor of chances.
For the traffix in whispered
goods, where else but a bridge
in the night?
A philosophical people,
conversant with greed and desire,
holding hands with the Devil and God.
This living bridge is tempting,
you may lose your soul
or find it here.

*an erasure poem
An erasure poem after a page from Jeanette Winteron's The Queen of Spades.
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