Published on Academy of American Poets (


Inside this grave 
womb that drums 
and groans 
as it takes

of my spine

I hear it 
seem to say

go        /           you go	

don’t   /           you go

don’t go          /           don’t		

go now	           /           don’t

I’m 52, inside 
this calibrated tube, this 
picture box 
and singing machine 

that will tell 
my doctors if 
the drugs and

marrow have 
been killing 
the tumors set 
on killing me

go        /           don’t grow	

don’t   /           go

The droning 
chant of this 
temporary tomb
returns me 

to Junuh at the ocean 
only four 
and screaming 
into the waves

the two of us 
charging, arms 
flailing like 
the fleshy swords they are

the water beating us 
back before
we Charge! again, 
roaring the whole time.

We can’t give up. We 
have to fight, he says.
And back in we go
wild into the wake.

don’t go          /           don’t 

go                    /           don’t		

go now	           /           grow	

grow    /          you	

grow    /          no	

don’t    /           go		

don’t    /           grow	

go         /          no


From Filched (Dos Madres Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by James Tolan. Used with the permission of Holly Messitt.


James Tolan

James Tolan is the author of Filched (Dos Madres Press, 2017).

Date Published: 2017-01-01

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