365 Degrees

Tom Johnson
Poetry Editor



She sat across the aisle from me,
With her black hat with seven little flowers,
And her paper bag,
And her straw suitcase
She was so palpably going on a vacation.

But her eyes had stayed at home

And deep within their shadows
I saw the bare farmhouse
On a sun-bleached hill,
And the kitchen with its milk-pans
And thumping churn,
And flies droning in the summer heat.

She was going on a vacation,
But her eyes had stayed at home.

Farm Poem

Steadily the mules
Moving across the March fields
Plow a long poem.

Now the spangled lure is out,
Now the dogwoods gleam,
Life will play me for a trout
Though I know the stream.

Life will play me for a fish
Again, the reel will whine.
Life will always have its wish;
I, though briefly, mine.

Now When Spring's Candles

Now when spring's candles burn upon the pines
Above the dogwood drifted in the green,
And stars hang yellow on the jessamine vines
Against the blue lake shimmering between;
Now when the world needs only to be seen,
These are the days when seeing will not do.
Here is the corner where the live-oak leans,
Here is the place I planned a house with you.
And here are other lovers also true
Within the very house that we had planned;
They stand beside the window looking through,
Watching the spring returning, hand in hand.
While you have vanished from the blue lake-shore,
And call no welcome to me from the door.

Two Loves

Strange that this afternoon
Mending the door
I should see my lost Love
Standing as before,

Smiling there upon me
From out the lessening light,
Though she will never seek again
Shelter from the night.

Stranger still that striving
For her approving eyes,
I should see my new Love,
And without surprise

Know that I was mending
The same door for her,
Who'd soon fill the still house
With a friendly stir.

My early Love, my new Love,
Together at the door;
One had returned, the other
Was never there before.

But both of them were smiling,
For both understood
That love drove the hammer
And love shaped the wood.

To a Lombardy Poplar

So frail and slim, you, silvered by the moon
'Tis strange what memory comes stalking back:
A tortured road in France, tree-bordered, black
With smoke that stained the loveliness of June.

James McBride Dabbs (1896 1970), of Sumter County, is largely remembered as one of the South's outstanding 20th-century prose stylists (he was inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors in 1990). But for at least 30 years (1913 1943) he was also a published poet. In this season of the centennial of his birth (May 8), 365 Degrees is pleased to present a sampling of his poetry. "To a Lombardy Poplar" appeared in The American Poetry Magazine, August 1923; "Bondage" in The Carolinian, April May 1924; "Two Loves" in Spirit, July 1935; "Now When Spring's Candles" in Driftwind, March 1937; "Fisherman" in Kaleidograph, February 1938. "Farm Poem," probably written in 1922, is published here for the first time.

© Copyright by POINT, 1996
Last modified 4/6/96