A Gem of Truth / David James


A Gem of Truth

poems by

David James

ISBN: 978-1-59948-780-9, 68 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Release Date: November 5, 2019


David James has been writing and publishing for over forty years. His first book, A Heart Out of This World, was published in 1984 by Carnegie Mellon University. His second book, She Dances like Mussolini, won the 2010 Next Generation Indie book award; My Torn Dance Card was a finalist in the 2017 Book Excellence Award. More than thirty of his one-act plays have been produced across the U.S. James teaches writing at Oakland Community College.

The poems in A Gem of Truth focus on our hopes, our thoughts, our fears, our doubts – the secrets we do not even whisper to ourselves. At times reading one of David James’ poems makes me feel as though I am listening to a Bach sonata on a journey from the philosophical to the true. ~Bob Blaske


I smiled, blushed, laughed, cried, and contemplated. David James’ A Gem of Truth could not have been written at any other time of his life. It captures his uncompromising reflections and provides a window into the universal truths ahead of us all. At the center of his poems is the importance of human connection in all of its beauty and mess. Gems are everlasting and remain constant through time, just like these poems. ~Nadja Springer-Ali, Librarian


after Joao Cabral De Melo Neto’s “The Emptiness of Man”


The sadness of this woman
is my sadness, yours, theirs.
It makes a little room in my heart

with a bed, table, small lamp turned on.
The regret of that man
is my regret. It settles in my eyes,

a tiny floater in the shape of a shark
or bird. Sometimes, it’s a bomb.
More often, it’s a piece of hair

and I rub it out. The lies
of one boy are my lies. I catch myself
mangling the truth where there is none.

Each morning, I rise, stunned, and search the bare
room for a sign, a map or chart,
but before long, I’m drowning in the swell

of an ocean, waves churning, another storm
about to hit. And then I hear
your voice calling to me—a light, a star

in the sky of my love—your voice sailing beyond
reason, lifting me out of harm.





I’m starving for you, my hope
wasting away to bare bones.
My heart empties itself every night,

and by morning, I’m famished.
I don’t want to be here alone,
unable to enjoy the sunlight

without your face, without your smile.
Come home, dammit. You belong to me.
My world shrinks into a few dried crumbs

at my feet. All I taste is raw bile
in the cup of my heart. I’m the amputee
and you’re my missing right arm. Before long,

I’ll be nothing but skin and bones,
my belly bloated, flies buzzing around my face,
starving for love, and everything that’s wrong.





Everything’s late this year
after such a cold winter, brutal temperatures
and record snowfall. Sure, the tulips are up, like always,
with a few daffodils, but the apple tree
doesn’t have one white flower yet.
The rose bushes look dead. Of course,
that could be true. Like a sorry gambler,
you’ve planted four tomato plants in large vases,
though none of your plants produced last year,
or the year before.

You’d think you’d learn, but spring comes
and makes fools of everyone.
There’s a gene for hope that lights up
when birds wake you in the morning,
the grass is green again and needs cutting,
when it’s a sunny day, mid-70’s,
and the ribs on the grill send smoke
in your eyes.

Spring’s a time when anything seems possible,
even love, and you go on a diet, start the push-ups,
begin to consider what you’ll wear to work—
maybe that blue shirt and tie to impress
the new hire in the office,
the one whose red hair is on fire,
who with one glance
burns that last bit of ice
off your heart.

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