James Ragan is an internationally recognized poet, playwright, and essayist. Translated into 12 languages, he has authored 8 books of poetry including In the Talking Hours, Womb-Weary, The Hunger Wall, Lusions, Selected Poetry, Too Long a Solitude, The World Shouldering I, To Sing Us Out of Silence, and Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s Collected Poems (co-editor) He has read for six heads of state and for audiences in China, Japan, England, France, Spain, Brazil, and the Czech Republic etc. In 1985, he was one of three Americans, including Bob Dylan and Robert Bly, invited to perform at the First International Poetry Festival in Moscow. Honors include three Fulbright Professorships, two Honorary Doctorates, the Emerson Poetry Prize, 8 Pushcart Prize nominations, a Poetry Society of America Citation, and the Swan Foundation Humanitarian Award among others. He is the subject of the documentary “Flowers and Roots” (Arinafilms, 2013). Ragan’s plays have been staged in the U.S, Russia, Greece, and China. For 25 years he directed the Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California. In 1996 BUZZ Magazine named Ragan one of the “100 Coolest People in Los Angeles: Those Who Make a Difference.”
A Good Sky
I show you a good sky.
It could hold a fleet of geese
above a kite, sipping in a breeze,
or foliate the wind
with leaves of cherry wood
It will blanket your sleep
with mirrors of stars
in the soft undressing of night.
It will love you, soley,
through the Venus dawn,
rubbing your eyes awake
a moment before the day’s
light hangs its spars.
I show you a good sky.
It will rain its reflection
on your one troubled eye,
the one that blinks
each time a hawk rants by.
I am no one’s romantic.
No. I am the sky’s shadow-wish
writing this only
to breathe its light.
I show you a falling sun,
passing like a lover,
to be near you, allowing
no star, no bulb on a corner lamp
to possess you as you are.
Look. Here I am, the sky’s moon
down. I will shave
a horizon out of peaks
like none your memory
has ever carved.
I show you a good sky,
its broad blue ribbon will wrap
its mind around your eyes’ imagination
and tease you into smiles—
Now, be patient,
let your grieving rest awhile.
If For Each of Us
a rope could swing us
long and light across a widening trough
of all that fails us in our lives,
I would want to land upon the Isle of Echo,
lush with repetition, green with being
original in birth and twice the twin
a wave might dance along the skerry.
I would want a canyon tall for hawks to carry
long the deep tattoo of voices on the air.
I would want an ear to hear
what words to read again to memory,
what verse to carol, thoughts to root
before the sparrow’s flight the mind has taken
comes to rest on truth. I would want
to hear a vowel repeat in consonance
with alliteration’s frothy throat.
And should the landing fail its footing,
I would want to know what inspiration
in shorter flight one syllable might repeat
as in the swash the flat-stone makes
to skip across the light in water
or the voice a wind gives to birch and linden.
I would want the distance to all understanding
to narrow just enough to fail at failure.
I would want a melody of chances
to learn to love again what first I dreamed,
free as wonder, soft as touch,
and of all things simple
to care again for them as much.