I held that, indeed, the higher was better than the lower; but better than the higher alone, was the higher and the lower together.
—St. Augustine


Work Online:


Salt River Review

and again,
Salt River Review

Switched-on Gutenberg

and again,
Switched-on Gutenberg


and again,


Biographical Profile at Poets West Directory


Available Books:

First Credo

Snail River

Making Space for Our Living

Precinct Kali & the Gertrude Spicer Story

New & Selected Poems

Greatest Hits: 1965-2000

26 Poems from Snail River


E-mail James.Bertolino


For more Poetry
James Bertolino James Bertolino


Today something fell
inside me, I heard it crash.

For a moment I'd been distracted
by the intimacy between

autumn and sunset,
and let go. I don't know

now what I'll do, because
there's a kind of ambush happening

and I've got to save what I can
of who I am.



Not to say fouled, but folded as
the wings of a downed kestrel, as wind

gone from the oxygen bellows
when the family says done.


But if you must, say it: a virtuous idea
may be fouled by prejudices and need

while the heart, fouled by fear, will
howl and destroy what's near.

Life Path Rest Stops

The priest held open
the young man's
fly, airing out
his nest of notions
about love &
the Lord.


That I care for you
is unnatural, she said,
& God will make
me pay.


If you save the world
before you save
yourself, there'll be
no place in it
for you.


My body pities me,
she whispered, & pretends
to be drunk.


So bereft of beauty,
he found an
undermining ecstasy
in a mosquito
near his ear.


Don't breathe—
this blossom has
its own star.


Between each breath
we learn to worship
the next.


Love is the only
to death.

Mud Wrestling the Angels

I'm warning you, this is a fantasy
about angels. But first some preparation:

it's best to think how leggy insects, trapped
dancing in golden sap, become esthetic moments
fossilized, become amber. I may not have the time

sequence exact, but every week, about 3 a.m.
on Tuesdays, our entire class of questers would disrobe, then spread
their limbs and torsos with molasses. Some needed help.

Who it was first knew angels liked watching us
move thus in the nude, move behind the sweet amber glaze,

that I can't say. But this was only part of it and, I suppose,
was pleasure enough. The angels also liked the mud we made.
It was a special mud, combined of gingerbread cookie crumbs

and spirits. I'm sure you get my pun. Really, though, it was rum,
and we kept it warm. We poured into a horse watering tub

the sticky mix, that spirited mud, and they'd literally dive right in!
We'd see the lumpy pond part as head and shoulders
went deep, their hips and legs following. An angel

might be submerged for awhile (some seemed
to like it under), then we'd see shaped empty space emerge

from the brown surface, pasty cookie smears clinging just enough
so we could guess a celestial face, a neck long and godly elegant.
We'd know they were smiling, and licking their lips.

Then amongst us they'd stand, they'd dance.
That's how molasses brought the angels.