James Davis May's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Five Points, The Missouri Review, New England
Review, The New Republic, Rattle, The Southern Review and elsewhere. He has received scholarships from The Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Inprint, and the Krakow Poetry Seminar. In 2013, he won the Collins Award from Birmingham Poetry Review. The former editor of New South, he is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Young Harris College in Georgia.
My Keats Year
Shouldn't it be I'm disappointed by (or because of) and not in you?
We were watching Stellar's jays—I didn't know their names then,
I addressed the first one as "Monsieur Mohawk"—watch us,
or watch our meal rather. I don't know if birds feel disappointment,
but as they flitted around the perimeter of the patio
with an odd combination of aggression and timidity,
their feet on the sun-bleached railing
making sounds like a hand searching a filled drawer
for something that's not in the drawer,
the diminishment of cereal must have been processed
as the bird-equivalent of disappointment.
When I picked up Chelsea's bowl and took it inside to the sink,
I thought of California (it was my first time in the state),
and then of Robinson Jeffers,
and then of the time Jeffers realized
he was older than Keats when Keats died, and then I realized
I was older than Jeffers when he realized this.
He was taking firewood back to his house and had to walk over a very narrow
bridge, one that his dog seemed reluctant to cross again. So he left the bundle, carried the dog over, and then went back for the wood when he was hit by his age, and then the "insignificance" of what he had written.
And yet we say, "I'm disappointed with myself," which sounds redundant.
The woman eating dinner with us the night before told us there was no age she wanted to go back to. Someone pointed out that she was still young.