Three Poems By J. D. Graham


With apologies to Emily Dickinson

Prometheus stole fire from the forge
of great Hephaestus, gave life to mankind.
High Zeus sent feathered eagles as a scourge
to punish him by whom he’d been maligned.

Pandora came, and brought her troubled urn
to Epimetheus — that backwards man
received the one that he’d been warned to spurn.
From high Olympus, Zeus worked out his plan:

The urn was opened; feathered Hope remained —
a cruel god in whose worship mortal men
restrain themselves — or are themselves restrained —
for hope that evil might be stopped again.

Fear feathered things, though sweet their tuneless song:
Immortal’s grudges perch on mortals long.

Editor's Note: Please read Emily Dickinson's “Hope” is the thing with feathers for further context.
ars poetica

My father, though no carpenter, still drew
a careful line, took measure, counted feet,
converted them to meters; my dad knew
a neat beginning makes an ending neat.

He made a point of finding finer wood
for finer projects, rougher for the rough.
In both, my father’s work was always good;
he never was content with “good enough.”

From him, I learned attention to small signs:
the sound of lumber at its breaking point —
from him, to craft precisely measured lines:
lines balanced with each piece in perfect joint —

to plane and smooth, to whittle, grind, and sand;
to craft a careful art with careful hand.
On Language

Thucydides wrote how, in times of war
(though he said stasis, which means civil strife),
words take new meanings — meanings are assigned,
and words aren’t used how they were used before.

Isaiah trumpets woe to those who call
good evil, evil good; to those who trade
the light for darkness; woe to those who make
the sweet things bitter; woe unto them all.

Originally from Charleston, J. D. Graham is currently in exile from the Holy City while he pursues his law degree. J. D. spends his free time with his family, often enjoying nature by hiking, fishing, or foraging. J. D.’s poetry has appeared in or is forthcoming at Modern Age, The American Review of Poetry, Plough Online, The Lyric Magazine, and West Trade Review, among others. Find more at

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