Tag Archive for James Preller poem

A Simple Poem — Upon the Passing of Thich Nhat Hanh

I wrote this yesterday upon hearing of the passing of the Buddhist monk and Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, at the age of 95. 



Simple Poem

— after Thich Nhat Hanh

Nothing is bigger

than the wee chickadee

in her cup-shaped nest.

Not the tall mountain,

not the deep blue sea —

not you, and not me.


Poem: “Written at Four A.M.”

I don’t usually post my poems on this blog, but wrote this one last night, as the title suggests, and felt I might as well put it out there. I am quite sure that not everyone understands, or even considers, the terrible stress and anxiety that our healthcare workers are under. There are heroes among us, and they don’t wear capes.



Written at Four A.M.

– for Lisa, 3/29/20


My wife cannot sleep these nights.

She lies blanketed in worry,

rueing her sleeplessness and tasks

undone, so much still to be done,

and afraid of what’s to come:

hospital beds in cluttered corridors,

patients sharing ventilators, alone

and clawing for air and surcease;

the fear in everyone’s eyes; the nurse’s

front desk, so often a font of crude

jokes and late-night laughter, now

red-rimmed and fraught. Awakened,

I rouse and speak: it only annoys her,

so I rub Lisa’s back in night’s full dark,

resort to an old trick, and pick up

a bedside book of poems, Philip Larkin’s

The Less Deceived, to read aloud.

It never fails. My good wife listens and

only half-hears, the words washing over

her in waves, undulant images, a mind

open like a drawer of knives, a hometown

recalled, a horse troubled by flies. Finally

I reach the last poem, read it twice

as I often do. Lay down the book,

the reading glasses, fumble with

the light. It rains outside our window,

a soft pattering urgency, dawn’s chorus

still two hours from us, if it comes

at all. But listen: at last she sleeps. I yawn,

thinking of poems and hospital beds,

and cough.



My wife, Lisa, is a midwife at Albany Obstetrics & Gynecology. Her work often finds her in the maternity ward of St. Peter’s Hospital. She’s also recently created a Facebook page, Reproductive Health at Home, which you can follow in these days when access to healthcare is challenging. These are hard times, and very scary for many. I write children’s books, a far less perilous venture. In support of teachers and parents as they scramble to provide online learning for young readers, I’ve created a variety of free videos for ages 3-14. You may access them at my Youtube channel. Just stomp on this link and it’ll bring you there.

Be smart, stay home, protect the vulnerable.

BOY: A Poem

A couple of boys I know.

A couple of boys I know.

Funny, I just discovered this poem in an old file. Never printed a copy, never thought about it again, though I can faintly recall writing it a few years back. I don’t write many poems anymore, though I used to write them often. My first love as a writer, in fact, and certainly a good education for any aspiring wordsmith. As Donald Trump says, “Even bad poems can teach us bigly.” In this case, I surely figured, not good enough, and rolled on. Like usual. I’m not sure I’m even okay with the idea of attaching the word “poem” to this rambling meditation-slash-manifesto. But today, before I think better of it, I’m going to take this forgotten thing down off the shelf and place it before you. Kick it, pull it apart, ignore it, whatever. Because what are blogs for? My poem, “Boy.” 


BOY, by James Preller


I am a boy.

I can pee standing up.

Some days my dad knows

exactly how I feel.

Other days, it’s my mom

who understands.

I am more than farts and fire trucks.

Though I won’t deny — 

farts are funny

and fire trucks are cool,

especially if they let you

scamper up,

wear the hat,

and blast the horn.

I am more than

rocks and spitballs,

dirt and hammers —

though I am that, too.

I am boy

and I am friend,

tustled head

and wicked grin.

I am sweetness,

I am love,

I am trees in the wind,

kites crossing a pale blue sky

like the billowing sails

of pirate ships at sea.

I am pieces of bright glass

found by the curb,

jagged things,

bee stings and

dead birds and fascinating bugs,

cars and dinosaurs

and trampolines.

I love secret places to hide

and spy

and see unseen, invisible

to every eye.

I am boy,

so much more

than cupcakes

and rainbows, farts

and firetrucks,

but I’m those things, too.

I am laughter and I am love.

I am boy.


My cousin Billy and yours truly, 1968.

My cousin Billy and yours truly, 1968.

JIMMY TIME! (And a Poem for Dad)

I don’t write many poems these days — and no one has complained about that. But lately I’ve been reading a lot of poetry. I’ve been drawn to plain-spoken poems of late, not the dense, compressed, intellectual type I used to favor. Actually, it’s not either/or or neither/nor, it’s everything, arms open wide.

Anyway, I wrote this on a Sunday morning before anyone else awoke.

That’s my new strategy for my 50’s, btw. It used to be that I could outwit, outplay, and outlast everyone. I’d stay up late and it would be: JIMMY TIME!

You know, those few hours when it’s just you and whatever it is you want to do. Eat ice cream, listen to music, watch a late movie, drink bourbon, try on the wife’s shoes, prance around, whatever.

Wait, what?

But nowadays, my rotten kids stay up forever. I can’t outlast ’em anymore. But I find that I’m waking up earlier, in the morning quiet, and love it: THE RETURN OF JIMMY TIME!

So I wrote this little poem. It’s nothing, but I was glad to send it to my mom today. Another thing about my dad: after he died, I grabbed his gray wool, button-down coat. Then I didn’t wear it for about five years, but I’m wearing it this winter and it always keeps me warm. I feel good walking around in it. So that’s my advice, kids: when Daddy kicks, check the closets and grab something, anything, you’ll be glad you did.

As for the poem, I just wrote the thing. Three minutes, done. Weird. Then I tinkered a little a few weeks later, today, but I didn’t want to get too fussy and ruin the thing. (Meanwhile you’re thinking, maybe you should have tinkered a little longer.)

Rescue on the Southern State

I was 19, we’ll call it that,

19 or 22, it doesn’t matter,

but a boy at a certain phase

of eclipse, when my father called

and said his car broke down

off the Southern State, near Mineola.

He needed me

……………………..to come get him.

He gave me directions, and I drove

Out, hoping not to screw it up.

I found him there by the side

of the crowded highway, looking

a little lost, a man out of place,

high and dry. But he knew

I’d make it.

Why that occurs to me after all these

years I don’t know, except that

It’s a quiet morning and I have not

Leaped into activity just yet, sitting

With my coffee, my book, these

Thoughts –- remembering the day

My father called and how I went,

As if it were nothing, as if I would never

give it a second thought.

Poetry Friday: “In a Red Baseball Cap” by James Preller

Just dug this unpublished poem out of the file cabinet, must have written it about 25-30 years ago, so might as well finally see the light of day. I always liked this one, that connection between the boy and Willie Mays, the white ball a communion wafer, H.D.’s companionship of the flame across time, space, generations.

Speaking of my lifelong love affair with baseball, one of my happiest moments as a writer was the day I published this book, which felt like an outpouring of years and years of baseball thoughts, dreams, memories . . .

I love the new paperback cover.