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James McMichael

James McMichael

James McMichael’s most recent books of poems are The World at Large: New and Selected Poems, 1971-1996 and Capacity, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2006. Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Arthur Rense Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Shelley Memorial Prize, and an Academy of American Poets Fellowship.

Redemption

Each morning this
July so far,
(in back,

and from one house down)

I've overheard people I haven't seen.
I think there are three of them.
They have a dog that right now
can't cough something up,

and they have a pool.
They're always
mild with one another when they speak.
I'm favored that they
of course don't expect to hear

anything back from me.  Reading,
listening,

I'm at my estimable

ease here
for any
familiar or new

next sound from outside.
I might
for the first time yet
claim that

Jesus is my redeemer.
My wife and

step-daughter aren't here.
Nothing
either has heard me say would be as big.
But they love me.
I'd be making them take in from my

uncircumcised heart that it's
not what I feel.
It happens that
today

for my ears only

I can practice
"Jesus is my redeemer."
I knew what she was talking about
when someone I say I love
told me

I'd destroyed her life.
Later, I could hear the exaggeration in it.
She was talking about my not loving her enough

to keep my word.
Two nights after I broke it,

I was watching another Yankee rout in October,

I dropped off,
and when I
woke right away,

no one I could recognize as me
would do what I'd done.

In remorse,
a wrong that's been done takes up
one time in its doer,
another in the person wronged.
Redemption comes when the person no longer

hurts from that wrong.

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