James Coats
October 2022
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James Coats is a poet, performer, and educator born in Los Angeles and raised in the Inland Empire. He believes that poetry has the ability to bring diverse groups together, offering a way to connect through shared challenges, achievements and experiences. He is the winner of the 2021 San Gabriel Poetry Slam. You can find him attending poetry readings throughout California or follow his poetry via his Instagram @MrLovingWords. Additionally, you can take a poetry workshop with him through his organization Lift Our Voices Education which hosts an award winning workshop monthly called Be The Change: Social Justice Writing Workshop. He also has three self-published poetry collections If I had Lived published in 2018, All The Ways You Are Wonderful in 2020, and Home Is A Voice in 2022. His newest poetry collection Midnight & Mad Dreams was published by World Stage Press released Aug. 13, 2022.

THE HEAT OF THE LIGHTS

 

These days the stage feels foreign,

the collective breath of the crowd

missing from the all but empty rooms.

Now they are soundless squares,

muted mosaics issuing silent snaps,

fingers waving like butterfly wings

that never seem to land the way a clap does.

 

Something is better than nothing I guess,

but I want to hold the mic in my palms again,

the heat of the lights shining on me,

eyes waiting on my words to move

through viewers like air through a room.

My fingers sweating, shaky knees knocking,

a whirlpool blending in my belly,

anticipating my name being called.

 

The performances at home do not

deliver heaviness behind their punches

as if shadow boxing in light wispy jabs.

No knock down power in baritone base

or fluttery footed flirting in tenor tones

that whisper around the crease of necks,

sliding past lips and rushing between laps.

 

I am a preacher without a pulpit,

diligently perfecting my sermon to deliver,

but we keep skipping Sunday services:

this three-fold connection between

audience, poem, and platform torn asunder.

We’ve lost the power of the stage,

where artist creates incantations,

spellbinding attendees like the first time

they witnessed a magic trick and wonder

How in the world did he do that?

 

 

 

DREAMS

 

These wispy wire fingers keep trying to hold

on to the intangible, things that move too fast

to grasp like luck or love. Still, they are going to

reach knowing what it is to chase starry dreams.

Each day the end comes a little closer for

so many and the future even more hazy, if

only we had a map to follow our dreams

then I would no longer be afraid to die

because of my striving to make this life

matter to someone other than myself. Is

it a crime to imagine launching toward a

desire, learning how to fly with broken-winged

gestures aimed towards hope, freely moving as a bird.

Not worried about tomorrow’s meal, trusting that

provisions will be taken care of, knowing we cannot

run from the sky we were born into - ready to fall or fly.

 

I’m desperate to make the right choice, hold

the line thin enough to blur needs, at this speed fast

appears as if it is not moving forward to

those standing still, while watching their dreams

pass on by. Maybe, they have time or are waiting for

the next life to take a risk. Once the dollars are secured that’s when

they will begin to work on their Dreams.

However, what I know is even the best plans don’t go

exactly the way we intend, there’s a serendipity to life

and I can only count on this one breath. Time Is

cruel if you allow it to become your master. A

cage no matter how opulent its bars are as barren

as a soul with no reason to plant or tend its field.

The sun will rise even in winter and the frozen

ground will eventually melt, but what will you do with

all you are given - enjoy or curse the falling snow.