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
Available at Amazon.com
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 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:
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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
let my mind be
part of it all from
this high up i float
with the sense it all
fits together a perfect puzzle
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
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?