James Crews

Note to Self When no one's called in days,go inside. Sit beside the box fanand watch the blades spinninginside their plastic cage, giving air.Take the time to notice howyour slow-growing coral cactushas sprouted what seems to bethe nub of a new arm ridgedwith tiny pink blossoms thatreach for the feast of summer light.Pour water onto its bed of sun-warmed gravel and understandyou've been sent here to payattention even when it seemsthere's no reward beyond thisfleeting sense that someone elseis out there noticing, too. The Pool Because he couldn't affordthe kidney-shaped, in-ground poolwe all wanted, my father went outand bought a used galvanized poolwhose rusted rim I refused to touch. As usual, he found a solution,and split a length of black rubber hosedown the middle with his pocketknifethen stretched it over the rough sides,inch by inch, until no rust showed. Back then, I never thought such gestureswere selfless, evidence of what we calllovingkindness. But now I feelmy small hands gripping soft rubber,and I see my father on the back porch, cigarette hanging from his smiling lipsas he watches me lift myselfout of the pool, flinging cold waterfrom my goose-pimpled skinas if I'd been reborn again. A Reckoning How many times have I failedto watch the pink of sunrise-lightfade from a field of clouds in a skyno one has ever seen beforefrom this place on the earth in the middleof a lucky country, far from the dinof wars drowning out the soundof bells calling the hour of prayer? How could I not have noticedthe glass of water on my nightstandwith its countless bubbles of aircontaining a bit of the expelled breathof everything alive and dead on the planet,waiting to become part of me? How many nights did I not feelthe links in the chain of the bedside lampas I pulled the wool of darknesscloser around me, and how could Ihave neglected to keep my eyes opento the flashes of passing headlightssweeping across the walls of the roomas if searching for something lost? James Crews is the author of four collections of poetry, The Book of What Stays, Telling My Father, Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of the popular Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The New Republic, The Christian Century, and have been reprinted in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry and featured on Tracy K. Smith’s podcast, The Slowdown. Crews holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a PhD in writing from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He works one-on-one with writers as a creative coach and lives with his husband on an organic farm in Shaftsbury, VT.