“The Distracted” by James Valvis

James Valvis


Even the best, most interesting people can bore me.
I can hardly spend two minutes talking to someone
before I’m thinking of something else. A poem, maybe,
or what I was doing when I was sixteen. I remember

in high school kissing a girl I’d grown bored with, 
how my tongue circled around her mouth like a car
stuck slowly driving around a suburban roundabout.
She asked me if I had important things on my mind.

I assured her I never thought of anything but her.
She was with another guy by the end of the month,
and I had the blues so badly I couldn’t concentrate.
I’d read a sentence of a book and need to reread it

thirty times. It took me all year to read Animal Farm,
and when I finally finished I failed sophomore English.
It seems that was but one of the ten books on the final.
I tried to cram but you can only read so fast while

looking out the window at rain falling like pachinko.
Sometimes like a stalker I sat outside the girl’s house
but instead of concentrating on her my mind wandered
to that pig Napoleon, and all the trouble he started.

Only once did she come out to reprimand my obsession
but by then I was already thinking about other things
and I wanted to leave, to go on to the next anything,
but she was having such a good time yelling at me

all I could do is watch her tongue move in her mouth,
which wasn’t like a car circling a roundabout, but 
like some manic bird who, though the cage is open,
doesn’t know it’s free, and so the bird never escapes.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018


James Valvis: “I don’t know why I write. Or why I ever started. It feels a bit like asking a penguin why he eats fish. It’s just what penguins do. Still, I’m an unlikely writer, to say the least, a ghetto kid who preferred baseball to Baudelaire, chess to Chesterton, Whitman’s chocolates to Whitman’s poems. I think I simply had too many stories inside not to let some out—and not enough friends to tell them to. I have this theory writing was invented by introverts who didn’t want extroverts having all the story-telling fun.” (web)

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