Merge with the River by James downs

Merge with the River

by Yosemite poet James downs

Cover art by Yosemite Artist Penny Otwell. Nominated for the Before Columbus Foundation, American Book Awards 2004

Published by Poetic Matrix Press
102 pages, price $15.00
ISBN 0-9714003-2-6

Available at

The Book

If you can find philosophy in rivers and trees, rocks and beasts James has done so. Here are the roots of natural philosophy of which sages old and new have spoken. First it is observed and then it is gotten up close to, soon the words come and they are the fine blending of that world out there and the poet's voice. But there are times when the blending is so complete that the two become one. James has taken us here. We go with him on the journey and we nod our heads along with him as nature gives up her philosophy when we give up ourselves.

"James touches something at once personal and yet with universal depth and appeal. His writing evokes a sense of his place in Yosemite and the world."
— Ed McCormick, photographer

"These poems will inspire anyone who lives to have a connection with the natural world. A truly wonderful poetic work"
— Ed Whittle, musician

"‘Take a short sweet walk' with poet James Downs. Come sit with him, in his forests, by his rivers. Find the simple truths that connect to all."
— Jo Maiorano, poet

James Downs

James Downs lives and works in Yosemite National Park, California. A native Texan, James moved to the golden state in 1995 and happily calls himself a "permanent Californian." James produces a twice yearly on-stage writer's night, WORDS. James has produced a number of handwritten chapbooks and Where Manzanita in 2000 for Poetic Matrix Press In his spare time James reads copiously, roots for his sports teams loudly, participates in as many poetry readings as possible and hikes all over Yosemite.


From Merge with the river:

Without falling Bait
Upper vistas
granitic rock outcropping
sit and let my mind

soar   it flies along
as the river winds
as the river winds around

i can see below
the waters flow
alpine willow branches bend

down to the edges on
the horizon   crags
and sky touch   i can

sail   silently
let my mind be
part of it all   from

this high up i float
with the sense it all
fits together   a perfect puzzle

it turns
this way then
that bending through

a sun coming up
we all want to fly
in this life without falling
Two fishermen flipping lines
out over water   over
and over again   making that

filament sing   making fake
fisherflies   alight
and jerk them back again

alight and jerk   alight and jerk
lightly flitting surfaces
with tempting allures

and the fish see them   it must be
dinnertime and their sure
shimmering bellies are empty and

along come fisherfellows with
talk of food   "oh
don't go for them" i say

"it's only these fakes
these cons   these flibbetegibbets"
but who am i to speak?

how many times have i looked
up at radiant surfaces
seen something with such allure

i was hungry or just plain bored
and bitten down   hard   taking
the bait   hook line and sinker?
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