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Best Poems Written by James Tate

Below are the all-time best James Tate poems as chosen by PoetrySoup members

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Details | James Tate Poem

Pass the Salt, Please


Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it 
be salted? It is henceforth cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Matthew 
5:13 KJV 

In ancient history, salt was sought and bartered. In some places it was carried by 
camels across scorching deserts such as in West Africa where eager merchants 
traded it to waiting customers. Salt was used for money in some places, thus giving 
us the word salary.
 Today salt is used for many purposes, stocked in grocery stores, and is available on 
virtually every table.  
We use it medicinally, and blocks of salt satisfy cattle’s craving. Salt in water raises 
the boiling point, yet salt melts ice.  Put salt on meat and it preserves it.  Leave salt 
off the table and your appetite leaves with it. But too much salt is harmful. It makes 
your feet and legs swell and too much is hard on the heart.
Examine one grain of salt under a microscope and note its cube shape.  Its sides 
are made of two elements, sodium and chlorine.  These combine to form sodium 
chloride – salt.
  
Imagine soldiers in a tug of war.  An ion of chlorine glares from one corner at a 
sodium ion guarding the opposite side. As crystallization occurs the chlorine wins in 
the stare-down.  Sodium surrenders its single valence electron to chlorine and 
together they become sodium chloride.  Consider it in verse:
  
Salty Sentinels

Sodium ions stable,
assembled on the table,
salivating palates crave.
Chlorine ions tiny,
mustering soldiers briny,
guarding corners brave.
Sodium chlorine making,
crystal shakers shaking
cubes so salty white.
Ever fighting blandness;
vectors adding grandness,
enhance the appetite!
  
There is no wonder Jesus used salt as an example to the disciples in his Sermon on 
the Mount. He exhorts Christians to have salt in themselves and have peace with 
one another. See Mark 9:50

Copyright © James Tate | Year Posted 2011



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Hello, Jesus, it's me, Jim

A homeless man on a park bench
wore a tattered shirt bearing a stench.
He munched leftovers from garbage cans
with deep tanned face and unwashed hands.
He slept on a sidewalk heating vent,
pondering what life meant.

During the day at the Town Square
he avoided each condemning stare.
Every day at noon he would ply
to a large cathedral nearby,
To sit alone on the back seat –
a hungry homeless man from the street.

His eyes on the cross in front of him,
Not knowing how to pray, he said, “Hello Jesus, it’s me, Jim.”
The pastor saw the man from the street,
but they never had a chance to meet.
Then one day he noticed the empty pew,
Perhaps tomorrow he’d drift back through.

After the man was gone many days,
he wondered if he had gone away.
Later, while on a pastoral call
he met a nurse in the hospital hall.
“Come, see a man who has changed the whole staff,”
She said, suppressing tears with a laugh.

“Lately he has gone from door to door,
And has changed all of us on the floor.
“Doctors, nurses, patients – all are touched.
No one has affected us so much!”
In the patient’s room, he stood by the feet
of the homeless man from the street.

He saw a glow on his bright, washed face,
speaking so fast he could barely keep pace.
“One cold day I passed out down town.
When I woke I was hospital bound.
“I don’t know why I didn’t die.
In this room, when I opened my eyes,

“A man appeared, to my surprise,
Looking so calm, so holy and wise.
For quite some time he never spoke.
He just stood there in a long white cloak,
so peaceful at the foot of my bed,
and this is all he ever said,
‘Hello Jim, it’s me, Jesus.’”

Copyright © James Tate | Year Posted 2016

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Three Blind Men and a Horse


Three blind men, as in the elephant fable,
examined a horse in a roadside stable.
The owner said to the blind men then,
“Guess what it is and ten dollars win.”

The first exclaimed while stroking  its  mane,
“This animal, from a lion came.”
Another felt its dry, course hair,
“I think it surely must be a bear.”

The third, more thorough than the rest,
put the animal through a careful test.
“Its head is large for its body size,
and finely appointed with big round eyes.

“With ears alert and shoulders deep;
its neck is long with a graceful sweep.
Its muscular legs and fetlocks large,
are poised and ready for instant charge.

“He, I believe, was desert bred,
with sturdy feet to hot sand tread.
From hardy stock he will long survive
on scant water and stay alive.

“Arabian horse!” was the blind man’s phrase.
And, at such accuracy, the owner was dazed.
“How could you have possibly known?
Could you tell by feeling alone?”

To which replied the blind man then,
with ten dollars safely in hand,
“Thank you Sir, but I could not lose,
since you told it all on the Morning News.”

Copyright © James Tate | Year Posted 2011

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A Rooster Crows

Born there in a manger, shepherds loved you dear,
Welcome exalted Savior, we feel your presence here.

You hung the stars celestial on pegs to shine at night.
And gave us Words eternal to spread an inner light.

On dusty roads you traveled and washed disciple’s feet.
You loved all the children, and urchins in the street.

When Judas’ kiss betrayed you, and temple guards drew near,
There flashed the sword of Peter; you healed the soldier’s ear.

Your friend soon renounced you, the rooster crowed then twice,
Peter hung his head in sorrow, for he denied you thrice.

Ten thousand waiting angels stood ready for your call,
But you, our blessed Savior, gave your all in all!

We love and adore you, and fall upon our knees,
Never better to praise you, than in times like these.


And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried 
up into heaven. Luke 24:51

Copyright © James Tate | Year Posted 2011

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Antiquated Lady's Bout with a Blizzard

An old lady sat near a window, near a window looking out.
With her radio going she sat there sewing, with an occasional look about.
On her thumb she wore a thimble, as she pulled the thread so nimble, enjoying the 
light,
While the weatherman’s voice was blaring, declaring a storm in sight.

She began to hurry, and to worry about her Sam.
Had he heard the early morning warning from the weatherman?
While she sat there stewing, the storm greater brewing, she thought about her 
man.
“He could work much longer, if only he was stronger— he does the best he can.”

The skies grew darker and her thoughts grew starker in the afternoon.
“Upper air disturbance; expecting turbulence with night coming soon.”
While she debated, the storm accelerated from the north.
With clouds unloading her thoughts grew foreboding, as she paced back and forth,

Qualms of duress she expressed about her Sam.
“Was he wet and freezing? Was he cold and sneezing? Poor old Sam!”
The northern air was gusting as she began thrusting shut the door,
From freezing rain fast falling, while for Sam she was calling as she paced the floor.

Back at the weather station a strange situation was spreading forth.
Not so far away an arctic foray pushed from the north.
It hardly took a wizard to see the shaping blizzard hiding every star,
A whirling cloud formation showed its concentration on the isobar.

Suddenly she started walking, while talking to her Sam.
Once she stopped to listen, ignoring the snow that glistened— then she ran.
She must’ve been unsightly as the lights shown on her brightly from a car,
Driven by her daughter, doing things she taught her, searching near and far.

“Mother! It’s me, Mabel. You know you’re not able to be out in the cold!
Look how hard it’s snowing with the wind so cold and blowing. Forgive me if I scold.
Finding you not there, I looked everywhere up and down the street.
You’ve come too far, so get in the car and dry your feet.”

“Mabel . . . Pa went out this morning . . . but he had no warning the weather would 
be severe.”
“Oh, my mother dear, please come here, come here. Dad’s been gone a year!”
Suddenly the old lady was weary, her eyes old and bleary, her body weak and cold.
She had no coat nor jacket, but in her hand a packet—Sam’s picture she did hold.


Copyright © James Tate | Year Posted 2011



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A Poetry Souper on Planet Mars

A Poetry Souper, seeing bright stars,
Grabbed his PC and headed for Mars.
He’d make some dimes by writing rhymes,
Selling them to the New Mars Times.
 
Traveling through the ethereal blue,
With revved up rockets, his fervor grew.
Orbiting the moon to pick up speed,
He’d bust his buttons for this brave deed.
 
He saw fluffy clouds for God’s gentle feet,
And wondered if galaxies were places to meet.
He visualized skipping through outer space,
Dancing with angels, but couldn’t keep pace.
 
He thought of Mars, as candidly prime,
Poetry Soup’s outpost, so proudly sublime!
Thousands of Martians were quick to enroll,
Clamoring to setup new poetry goals.
 
Little red men, each sporting a grin,
Their three-fingered fisties bearing a pen.
Female Martians seemed to insist,
On whipping out sonnets with Shakespearian twists.
 
The red planet shining bright in the night,
Beckons to poets seeing its sight.
Schedule your flight, and do it right quick,
For poem palaver, it does a neat trick.



Copyright © James Tate | Year Posted 2015

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Empty Chairs - Oklahoma City Bombing

A deluded and deranged miscreant.
Rode in a rented Ryder truck,
Sadistically opposed to his government,
He delivered a two-ton bomb.

After parking the fateful vehicle,
With time fleeting and fuses lit,
He fled to his car,
Parked, not far away.

Hearing the explosion, he made his escape,
With a gleam in his eye.
One hundred sixty-eight victims died,
Leaving countless loved ones behind.

April 19, 1995,
A date that lives in infamy.
The guilty one was caught that very day,
And eventually paid his life for the reprehensible deed.

The Oklahoma Ctiy National Memorial 
Now graces the ground
Where the Alfred P. Murrah
Building once stood.

A lone American Elm tree
Survived the blast,
A symbol of resilience,
And the will of mankind.

Hopes of closure for the victim’s families
Followed the perpetrator’s death six years later.
But closure will not fill the empty chairs
Left in the footprint of the building.

Copyright © James Tate | Year Posted 2011

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Family Heirlooms



Family heirlooms

Some collect old art pieces, jewelry or photos.
Others, end tables, organ benches, or beds
If it belonged to Grandma or Grandpa it’s a keeper.
Especially fancy needlework and piecework spreads.

And if it belonged to way-back generations,
Better hide it from inquiring siblings.
Like an antique trunk full of precious junk,
Be ready for some serious quibbling.

An agate marble with variegated colors,
A bone handled knife with Grandpa’s carved notch,
Grandma’s wedding ring many memories bring,
As does Uncle Henry’s gold pocket watch.

Many collectibles and few places to keep them.
We hold on tightly like a determined fanatic.
If embedded memories bring such pleasure to treasures
Why do they inevitably drift to the garage or attic?

Copyright © James Tate | Year Posted 2012

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Donut Hole

Quatret Poetry Soup contest

Who can describe Nothing? 
Clue—it’s a little tricky to define. 
For you see, Nothing is Something. 
To disagree you should promptly decline.
If your notion is nothing is not anything,
That is somewhat asinine.

Take a donut hole for example.
Make sure my remarks sound snide.
Do not linger If the hole is ample 
For your finger to fitly abide. 
If so, the hole, your theory does trample. 
Has the donut now injured your pride?

I say holes are definitely something. 
I may step in a hole and break a leg. 
How could this be if the hole is nothing? 
This is my plea, kind Sir, I beg.
A hole is not Nothing—it’s Something.
An orifice is something in a keg. 

Copyright © James Tate | Year Posted 2015

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Partly Cloudy pastiche, Catie

Cloudy Ominous display Lowering, twisting, threatening. Bleak, severe? Gentle showers? Refreshing, newness, refreshing Blue sky Sunshine

Copyright © James Tate | Year Posted 2012

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