Tom O’ Bedlam among the Sunflowers

By Thomas James 1946–1974 Thomas James
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,

Six-sided—more than that—broken on flagstones,
Petals the color of a wedding band.
You are sleeping. The morning comes up gold.

Perhaps I made those flowers in my head,
For I have counted snowflakes in July
Blowing across my eyes like bits of calcium,

And I have stepped into your dream at night,
A stranger there, my body steeped in moonlight.
I watched you tremble, washed in all that silver.

Love, the stars have fallen into the garden
And turned to frost. They have opened like a hand.
It is the color that breaks out of the bedsheets.

This morning the garden is littered with dry petals
As yellow as the page of an old book.   
I step among them. They are brittle as bone china.

Thomas James, “Tom O’Bedlam Among the Sunflowers” from Letters to a Stranger. Copyright © 2008 by Thomas James. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,

Source: Letters to a Stranger (Graywolf Press, 2008)

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Poet Thomas James 1946–1974

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Relationships, Love, Nature, Trees & Flowers, Heartache & Loss

 Thomas  James


Thomas James was born Thomas Edward Bojeski in Joliet, Illinois, where he would live most of his life. His poems, which demonstrate technical skill and the influence of Sylvia Plath, appeared in magazines and anthologies, including, North American Review, Poetry, and Poetry Northwest, which awarded him the Theodore Roethke Prize in 1969. He died in 1974 at the age of 27, shortly after the first publication of his only book, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Nature, Trees & Flowers, Heartache & Loss

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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