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from Backlist Books Archive

Items selected from books in
The Pikestaff Press Catalog

James R. Scrimgeour

from The Route and Other Poems (1996)

The Economics Professor Visits St. John,

arrives on the ferry from St. Thomas, finds
2/3 the island a National Park (donated
by the Rockefeller family) with two camprounds —
one, privately owned with “L” shaped tents
on platforms of seasoned wood;

                                        he unpacks, finds himself
walking down a dirt road — a long, narrow dirt road,
finds himself drawn like a metal filing
toward a magnet,
                                       toward the pole,
the stone column in the center of the clearing
with an old broken windmill on top,
the old sugar mill;

                                       he finds himself standing there
on the cliff looking down — not at the white sand,
the Caribbean, the snorkelers, the dots and dashes
of bright colors, the flecks in the clear blue —

                                       but at the more somber
view, the dark, half-hidden wall on the ledge
below, a mosaic of local shells and rocks
marking an old trail from the slaves’ living quarters
to the mill — to the circular path round
and around the mill, where people and horses
were whipped and walked round and around —

grinding the cane
by the dark forms writhing up out of old ruts,
spirits rising, like mist from the earth,
like steam from old kettles —

                                        the grey-brown fog
condenses into liquid, then solid form,
takes distinct human shape,
                                       their features
become clear;
                                       their eyes, deep wells
brimming with thousands of years of human misery . . .

© James R. Scrimgeour

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Rocking with Quinn

at 6:30 am — everyone else, my wife,
my daughter, her husband, resting after
the creation, after the first six days
of my grandson’s life, rocking
in the chair we bought as a baby
present, rocking in the same basic,

elemental rhythm as the sea, the strands
of grey beard on my bowed chin mingling
with Quinn’s wispy newborn locks —

the slight shudder that shakes
his entire body — goes through
me also — the warmth of his small

6 day old head seeps through his new
outfit, his blanket, my rainbow trout
T shirt to my chest, just as

my warmth seeps through to him —
so peaceful, so quiet, so serene,
as the swaddling cloth, our clothes,

the newborn and aging skin dissolve
in the stream of spirit traveling
both ways — like the warmth

mingling together — as if we were
not already, would not always be
merged, as if any combination of cloth

and flesh could ever keep us apart.

© James R. Scrimgeour

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