The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


James Redfern

Sanity is Not Static


Sanity is not static.


           It comes and goes

           with the weather,

           with the moon,

           and with the barometric pressure.


           It goes and comes

           with the time of day,

           with gainful employment

           and with poverty,

           it comes and goes

           with love and with lost love.


Sanity is not static.


           Sanity comes and goes

           goes and comes

           ebbs and flows

           like the tides

           like the winds

           like a boot on the throat

           like shit through a goose.


Sanity is something

           some people aspire to possess

           to prop themselves up

           and feel superior

           to their desperate animal nature

           and the brutality of human time.


Sanity is not a static state.


           It comes and goes

           and goes and comes

           seemingly of its own accord.


Sanity is not a static state,


           and sanity which is not static

           is not sanity at all,

           but rather a false claim

           staked at the mouth

           of a delusional cave.


Sanity is not a static state.


           Some like to pretend sanity is static

           and that they are, naturally, extremely sane,

           saner, in fact, than any other human, ever.


           Some like to pretend,

           yet, despite their charades

           and despite their delusional hopes,


Sanity is not a static state.


           We all have our own ledge

           which we move closer to one day

           farther away from next

           and up to and all the way over

           at the drop of a dime.


Sanity is not a static state,


           but rather an illusion

           we prop up day to day

           hour to hour

           year to year

           sometimes even second to second

           just to try to keep our shit together.


Sanity is not a static state.


           We are all at least somewhat insane

           almost all of the time.


Sanity is not a static state.


           We are all controlled

           by our own unique version

           of the collective delusion.


           We are all one event away

           from losing our grip

           on our chariot reigns.


           All of us,

           all of us are just a tripwire away

           from murder and other heinous things.


Sanity is not a static state.


           Mass shootings come about

           with immediate access

           to unlimited means.


Sanity is not a static state.


           Mass shootings are made

           a matter of convenience

           when weapons of war

           can be picked up on sale

           at a strip mall sporting goods store.


Sanity is not a static state.


           Pedestrian access

           provides a means

           that dictates opportunity


—Sanity is not a static state—


           fast-tracking motive


—Sanity is not a static state—


           to completed task,


—Sanity is not a static state—


           creating a tautology

           such that means

           equals murder.


Sanity is not a static state.


           Sanity is not a static state,

           I keep telling myself,

           Sanity is not a static state.



James Redfern

Courthouse Blues


judges in garters,

bailiffs wearing strap-ons,

jurors working on commission,

a courtroom artist sketching away

with lipstick and chalk,

reporters, digging foxholes and taking notes,

the hangman working his stick

with a grin on his face,

the daughter of the defendant

sobbing through glassy eyes

refusing to blink,

the father of the victim

plotting to spring over the railing

if the law fails to comply with his rage,

bookies still taking bets on the verdict

and giving odds on the sentencing,

a young girl sells single roses and bottled water

floating gently up and down the aisle,

and lady justice is still blindfolded

and bent over a toilet

in the last stall of the courthouse men’s room

taking on all comers




JAMES REDFERN was born and raised in Long Beach, California. Redfern is a graduate of Grinnell College. His work has been published by Whizdome Press, Great Lakes Poetry Press, Fear and Loathing in Long Beach, Swimming with Elephants (upcoming), The Clozapine Clinic (upcoming), and elsewhere. He is the author of several novels (most recently Hecatomb) and several volumes of poetry (most recently Catfish in a Bowl Redux).


Previous | Next