2 Poems by William James


Call me backwoods. Call me small town,
seven-churches-and-no-museums, call me
trailer park. Call me summertime, back yard
call me kickball in the empty lot. Call me
tire swing. Tree fort. Call me boot stomp,
creek mud, call me playing hockey
in the street with asphalt and a broomstick.
Call me brown-bag lunch, mayonnaise & bologna
sandwiches on white bread. Call me
too poor for picnic lunch on field trip days,
call me I brought my own from home, call me
leftovers. Food stamps. Church donations
& government cheese. Call me white trash.
Call me No TV, call me Sweaty Palms,
call me eww don’t stand next to him
his hands are gross.
Call me repulsive.
Call me church on Sunday. Church on Wednesday,
church every night one week in summer,
call me altar calls instead of fireflies. Call me
camp meeting. Revival service. Call me
separate shower after gym class, call me
note from parents, call me religious freak.
Outcast. Call me hey fat boy, hey Jesus freak,
why ya always readin’ a book?
Call me
everyone hates you, you know, call me
Hey man, what’d you get on question six?
Call me not letting you cheat off me in class.
Call me teacher’s pet. Suck up. Kiss-ass. Call me
Fuck you, call me honor roll. Principal’s list. Call me
example of academic excellence, call me unwelcome.
Call me you don’t even belong here, freak. Call me
restless. Wanderlust. Call me getting the hell out,
call me escape. City life. Streetlights, lock your doors,
call me restart. Call me not dying in your
hometown, call me 600 miles away from high school.
Call me success story. Call me happiness is
a new life in a new world.
Call me living free
instead of dying. Call me homesick. Call me


I don’t even know what bands are cool anymore
& the ones I do know, I can’t stand. I want everything

to be 1996 again. I remember what sounds make me
feel safe. I don’t want the latest hype – give me

yesterday or give me death. My waistline hasn’t
expanded since 9th grade, but all my t-shirts

have gotten smaller. I should start working out
or at least replace one or more meals a day

with coffee & existential dread, but I fail to see
the point. All my favorite songs are about things

that used to be, or old factories, or how
there aren’t as many railroads as there used to be,

I belong in a museum. Or a hardware store
full of things I can’t identify & certainly don’t know

how to use. I’ve never believed in the Apocrypha
no matter how many of my professors swore

that it was truth. A girl once told me she thought
my poems are too loud, right before I kissed her.

I don’t want to stop screaming until my lungs are
full of blood.

William James

William James writes poems and listens to punk rock – not always in that order. He’s an editor at Drunk In A Midnight Choir and a two-time Pushcart nominee whose poems have appeared in Word Riot, The Bohemyth, RADAR Poetry, and Potluck Magazine, among others. His first full length collection “Rebel Hearts & Restless Ghosts” is forthcoming from Timber Mouse Publishing.