Letters to a Stranger
Of sacred books, there is none better than Thomas James’ Letters to a Stranger. A cult favorite in poetry circles, this collection found its way to me in the fall of 2010; its introduction an essay by Lucie Brock-Broido: The Rebirth of a Suicidal Genius.
The words of Thomas James are the razors of sunflower pedals, beautiful and sharp. He paints a very Plath-like view of a killable world in which our own fragilities exist in the obfuscation of the every day, lingering like a miasma of truth, a reminder.
In these pages, his poem the book is titled after, writes: The wildflowers have already covered, the delicate bones of an Indian. Bees are flying across the meadow, to the hive under the rafters of the barn. Someone is leading a horse with crippled bones into the spikes of clover. The first time I read this passage I paused, and then read it again. My own words becoming suicides on my lips, “Oh,” followed with my own sense of self, “my,” with limited belief in the spiritual cosmos, “God.”
I had this beautiful and rich opportunity to meet poets who had met Tom. To hear the ghost of his words woven into their memories was (and is) a very sacred experience. And to speak earlier of sunflowers, he writes: To have gold in your back yard and not know it… I woke this morning before your dream had shredded and found a curious thing: flowers made of gold.
What I want you to know in this short staff-pick is this:
Thomas James, born Thomas Edward Bojeski, put his signature on his words as Thomas James, Thom O’ Bedlam, Thom B., sometimes Tom B. (Tomb). These are words of hurt, of a soul reaching for compassion absent in his own head.
His works have appeared in North American Review, Poetry, and Poetry Northwest. His words are of dark connections, painful reaching, and the kind that generate reflection in our own journeys.
He journeyed into the cosmos shortly after publishing his only book, Letters to a Stranger.
If you read poetry, find yourself in these pages. If you’ve never read poetry, find yourself in these pages. Thomas James wields the ink as tea, not to be drunk, but sipped, and thought over.