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About this poet

James Tolan received his PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He is the author of Filched (Dos Madres Press, 2017) and Mass of the Forgotten (Autumn House Press, 2013), and coeditor of New America: Contemporary Literature for a Changing Society (Autumn House Press, 2012). He was the recipient of honors from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and taught English and creative writing at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Tolan died on March 8, 2017.

Filched

Is that vintage? they ask.  

It was my father’s, I say and think of a man for whom 
that word meant only a crack about drink—

            Gimme a tall one of your finest vintage!

I found it among tie pins and cufflinks in his top drawer, 
filched it years before I knew the word, 

            knew only that I wanted something I could take from him
            who knew work and the bar better than home, 

            something I would have never called 
            beautiful and ruined. 

Crystal scratched, leather dry and stitching frayed. 
He never noticed it was gone, 

            or else he never said. 

From his dresser to the carved wooden box I buried 
inside my hand-me-down chest, 

            until the no more of him sent me rooting 
            for some relic I could hold. 

Glass polished and gears set right, new band strapped around my wrist.

Vintage? 

It’s beautiful, they say.  

It was my father’s, and I let them assume, 

            inheritance or gift, 

that he was a man of taste, who shared it with his son.  

From Filched (Dos Madres Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by James Tolan. Used with the permission of Holly Messitt.

From Filched (Dos Madres Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by James Tolan. Used with the permission of Holly Messitt.

James Tolan

James Tolan is the author of Filched (Dos Madres Press, 2017).

by this poet

poem
At Edwards’ Field, near the marsh, ours was the blood 
the mosquitoes in their gangly stealth sought. At dusk 
the city sent a truck, its sprinkler spraying 
a cascade of malathion, foul line to foul line, 
from out past the chain-link fence. Time called, 

we spread our arms and turned like we’d been told,
poem
I'm 28 years old in the flesh
but in a mirror all I can see
is a boy after his first crew cut,
five years old and wondering
what happened to his hair,

disbelieving it would ever
grow back, as the barber
and his grandfather promised,
while he wept, silently,
trembling air through his lips,
pointing at his hair
poem
More than the execution
of what we owe 
to whom and for how long,

more than attention 
swallowed and returned,

love might be the kindness 
that bathes the crust from life

like scalding milk 
and a wire brush
to thick and brutish hides.