Backlash — by James Haines

For years a boy will watch his father’s hands

uncross crossed coils before he gets the knack

of never pulling tight, before he gets

his father’s words: Don’t pull until you clear

the nub. In time a boy will learn to make

a nearly perfect cast, to place a plug

between two lily pads or softly by

a rock. A father though won’t always clear


the nub, won’t always find the words to say

exactly what he means and by the time

he learns, his doubt has hardened to regret.

A line recalls the worst that it’s been through –

a backlash pulled too soon will tighten up

and leave a kink a thousand casts won’t cure.

~ James Haines


Jim Haines lives in Lawrence, Kansas. His poems have appeared most recently in Spank the Carp, Inscape, Naugatuck River Review, Blue Island Review, and The Evening Street Review. Poems are forthcoming in “Measure, A Review of Formal Poetry” and in “The United States of Poetry”, an anthology to be published by the National Geographic Society. He is a lifelong woodworker and is retired from a career in law, business, and teaching.


Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His collection, Paper Birds Don’t Fly, was released in 2016 from New York Quarterly Books. Ghost Sign, a collaborative work, was released in 2017 from Spartan Press in Kansas City. It was named a 2017 Kansas Notable Book. His poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he has been featured on the Writer’s Almanac by Garrison Keillor. Ortolani serves on the Board of the Little Balkans Press and Woodley Press. He has also been a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Place in Kansas City. Recently, he retired after teaching for 43 years in Kansas. He’s sometimes trips going up or down curbs. He once said that if he didn’t laugh at himself, someone else would beat him to it.


2 thoughts on “Backlash — by James Haines

  1. This poem is exquisitely tender and beautiful. I am excited to read it to my husband.
    Thank you. Annie

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