Champagne for One

by James R. Whitley

A drink: just because.

Fizz of burst
         -ing bubbles,
sting of,
in the throat,
beneath the eyes.

Spill of
over the aching rim of the glass,
        wanting to contain,
onto the hardwood floor,
        sealed to remain.


a flatness creep
         -ing in,
what was once
a joy
in the liquid,

A dried cork,
an emptied bottle:
just because.

The last dying suds.
A lessening of.


Jumping Bean

As Iím heading home one evening,
I see a group of children kneeling
on their dirty knobby knees, circling
around, playing with a jumping bean,
holding a magnifying glass over
the small brownish thing,
heating it to make it jump higher.
And as it somersaults and flops around,
the kids jump themselves,
all the while screeching with glee.

I want to tell them how
unnecessarily cruel this is, tell them
about the poor trapped moth larva
squirming around inside the hard casing,
and how it is actually writhing in agony.

Then I start to think that
so, too, like this is the heart--
tragic prisoner thumping doggedly
within the confines of its bony cell.

Without interrupting the torture,
I continue on my way.

Perhaps I want them to learn
for themselves as I did--an ignorant child
uncovering a terrible secret one afternoon
in a small dimly-lit library in New York,
the room growing, suddenly, brighter.

Or maybe I let them continue
just because I was born a sinner.
Or maybe they already know--
captives, all of us.

I leave the little mob squealing with
delight as they go on tormenting
the smaller distressed creature.

And while I hope it is not the case,
I may be judged harshly for this one day.

But I survived searing heat before,
I imagine I could do so again.

©2002 by James R. Whitley

James R. Whitley currently lives in Boston, MA. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and has appeared in several journals, including Coal City Review, HEArt, Peregrine, and Xavier Review. His first book, Immersion, was selected by Lucille Clifton as the winner of the 2001 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award.

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