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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
Inside this grave 
womb that drums 
and groans 
as it takes

picture 
after 
picture 
of my spine

I hear it 
seem to say

go        /           you go	

don’t   /           you go


don’t go          /           don’t		

go now	           /           don’t

I’m 52, inside 
this calibrated tube, this
poem
Every head should have a body.

Every body
            a soul the size
                        of a jukebox loaded

with tunes our bodies know without us.

My hips begin
            to remember
                        the pleasure I was born to

my mouth to hum the songs I never knew

I didn’t know
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.