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James Davis May: Out Too Far

Home from work, he’s taken off his coat,
turned off the light, and lain in bed
alone, as he has done for months,
though it’s only five o’clock or so,
and his wife and daughter are downstairs
wondering why he’s not with them.
His wife, he’ll find out later, is worried
he hates them. How to tell her
that he sometimes doesn’t know how
he’s ended up in bed? That he’s not
sleeping, or even thinking? That he’s
gasping, and that’s about it, that his day
has been moving toward this moment—
the dark room a piece of driftwood
for an unskilled swimmer who’s gone
out too far and pauses to gauge the distance
he knows is likely to kill him? Still,
through that distance he can hear
voices he loves wondering where he is.

Copyright 2023 James Davis May. From Unusually Grand Ideas (Louisiana State, 2023).

James Davis May is a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Creative Writing and the author of two poetry collections, Unquiet Things and Unusually Grand Ideas. Originally from Pittsburgh, he now lives in Macon, Georgia, where he directs the creative writing program at Mercer University. He is married to the poet Chelsea Rathburn.

Source: Blender Stack Exchange

10 comments on “James Davis May: Out Too Far

  1. Lisa Zimmerman
    May 17, 2023

    Wow. I feel breathless after reading this poem. And those closing lines–😭

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bosselaar Laure-Anne
    May 17, 2023

    What a poem — I’m buying his book today. Again and again, thank you for bringing us such powerful, essential and deeply inspiring poems, Michael.


  3. David Adès
    May 17, 2023

    Wow. Just wow.


    • Vox Populi
      May 17, 2023

      Yes, my reaction as well, David. For those of us who suffer from depression, as well as those of us who have a loved one who suffers, this poem strikes a chord.



      • David Adès
        May 17, 2023

        I’m lucky to live largely outside that experience, but I do know about being overwhelmed and how people can retreat from those that love them for any number of reasons. So, this resonates with me, too.


  4. Warren Obluck
    May 17, 2023

    A soul-wrenching poem from one of the best books of the year. May is on his way to becoming one of our major poets. And his wife, the poet Chelsea Rathburn, is going to be there right by his side. Talk about power couples…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      May 17, 2023

      I agree, Warren. They are a pair of great poets.



    • Vox Populi
      May 17, 2023

      BTW, I published Chelsea Rathburn’s second collection A Raft of Grief at Autumn House some years back. James and Chelsea are two of the best poets writing today.


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