James Ragan




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

and hedge.

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.




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