Issue 38 — 

James Bland
James Bland

Featured on ArLiJo

Easter Suits

Each Easter I received
a Sears suit:
The shoulders fit smug;
the arms reached the base
of my thumb,
revealing an half inch
of shirt cuff —
as a gentlemen’s should,
but the jacket waist ballooned.
The bow tie clip-on
bit into my neck.
Excess pant waist was tucked
under double-looped belt;
and cuffed hems
piled around ankles.
But if I puffed
out my stomach
and distributed my weight
on both feet,
the suit would fit right,
causing big-boned
church women
to wrench my cheeks.
Seeing them coming,
I’d hide
between dad’s legs,
peeking out.

Copyright © 2010 by James Bland.


After a swelling
Sunday dinner,
relatives would
wade out
onto the porch.

Some sitting
on foldout chairs,
charitied to us
by the Baptist church.

Others squatting
on porch steps
after a brusque

Bossy uncle Edward
and big-boned aunt Betty
always swayed
in the hammocks
that draped the porch corners.

No one talked much,
but watched the neighbor-kids
peddle their Big Wheels
up and down black tops;
or run in and out
automatic sprinklers,
timed to go off at nightfall.

Always plaited girls
sprung up and down,
playing double-dutch,
their sing-song, somehow
more clarion
during the descent of dark.

Copyright © 2010 by James Bland.


After washing clothes
in the Maytag,
dad would haul them
to the backyard
in a green laundry basket,
cooked on one side
because I once left it
too close to the heater.

He’d lurch forward
like a robot,
the knitted sack
that contained
the wooden clothespins
baby-birded in the nook
between chin and clavicle.

Unable to do it herself,
grandma would eyeball him
from her bedroom window:
“Clothespin them at the seams.
If you spread them out,
they’ll dry faster …”

Glimpses —
in his frustration,
when she corrected him;
in his pride,
when she was content —
of the boy he once was.

Copyright © 2010 by James Bland.


James Bland earned an MFA in Poetry from Cornell University and a PhD in English and American Literature from Harvard University. He has received a collegiate Academy of American Poet 's Prize, a Bread Loaf Writer's Workshop Scholarship, a Saratoga Springs Writer's Fellowship, a Key West Writer's Fellowship, and has been awarded two MacDowell Colony residencies.

His work has or will appear in Callaloo, Agni Magazine, Columbia Magazine, Key West Review, Muleteeth, The Windless Orchard, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares Literary Journal, Standing on the Verge, South Carolina Review, Blue Moon Review, Antioch Review, and Potomac Review.