While reading this delightful collection, I thought of the old Beat epithet, “gone.” Artists may come and go, but the best stay gone. So it is with the groovily gone poems in this chapbook, at once witty and poignant, sensual and fractal, while admirably economical. These poems reveal how “everything is velcroed / to each other thing”; how once “the illustrious ancestors” of gnats were “the scourge – of dinosaurs”; how in order to bake an apple pie you must first create “the milky way / so there will be butter . . . and dragons, / so there will be fire”; how “every day another disappears / this singer / this poet /this actor / that friend”; how memory confronts us with “a conveyor belt /of morphing /and unmorphing / returnees.” This is a gone collection you will wish to return to often. — John Roche, author of Topicalities, On Conesus, and The Joe Poems.
if i had been born with that y chromosome
i might now be scraggly-bearded and gray,
chomping on a thick cigar, ever grumpy.
if i had lived my life as a boy,
i would have been
the last picked for the team,
perhaps leaning on a wife for support
to pursue a doctorate
and write the great american novel.
if i had been born with male parts and male privilege
maybe i would be running for office,
or building a dam in a thirsty third-world village,
with my engineering skills and grunge
or grousing in a bar during daylight,
tossing back shot after shot of bourbon,
embittered by every slight, real or imagined,
cursing the unknown opponents
who kept me down,
the women who left me,
the god i could no longer pray to,
and the long, cold empty nights.
out into the darkness
far, far away,
12.9 billion miles
beyond the count of skipping rope,
a golden record
of the sounds and sights
of the planet earth
we are so fond of
gold, a thing that never rusts,
holding the beats of a human heart
the lilt of a child’s laughter,
a whale song of the fog,
the whisper of the wind
on the flutes of a nomadic tribe,
the roar of saturn V lifting off,
a navajo night chant, a mother and child,
the alima song by mbuti of the ituri rain forest –
all, that you might hear us.
voyager has taken it all
to interstellar space,
the dark end of the universe,
we have never seen,
(except in our imagination),
where we expect
some other intelligence
will access our old 70s technology
and have some way of seeing and hearing
what we want them to know of us
and our distant locus.
we hope they are a gentle species
and do not use the information
we have sent them
to come and wreak havoc
in our corner of the galaxy.
after all, we have been doing
such a good job of that ourselves.
for james, on facebook
he’d sent me his photo
he’d brushed green ink over,
a marine during vietnam.
i put it in my wallet
but one day dropped my purse
in delaware park
and went back looking for it.
the little thieves who’d found it saw me
returning, ran off with that wallet, that photo.
he had wooed me those years ago.
he had wormed into my heart
and then left me behind.
what fault was it
of his that i wove a tapestry
of him as poet, artist, and lumberjack?
he was these things
but not true and still
i held fast
i know there were wives and near wives
he may have not been gentle with
and in later years
a wife he settled down with
near where his family lived
in rural new york,
his mother the glue,
his siblings nearby,
all years younger than him,
and the youngest, his brother,
who suddenly got ill
and died, swift cancer.
i know there were bar-b-ques
and church, his mother’s quilting,
his wife’s singing.
i know there were floods and
recovery, maybe moving uphill
and cozy days indoors in winter storms.
so many years without any conversation
and i know he was not true
but something still moves,
returns, never left,
a green photo in a lost wallet,
a wisp of leaf skeleton.
something still flutters and gasps
when i think of him,
remembering what was
and never was.
ryki zuckerman is the author of the full-length poetry collection, Looking for Bora Bora (Saddle Road Press, 2013), and also six chapbooks: the skirt at the center of the universe (The Writers Den, 2018), Three Poems (University of Buffalo Poetry Collection, 2017), the nothing that is, (Benevolent Bird Press, 2015), a bright nowhere (Foothills, 2015), body of the work (Textile Bridge Press), and suite of six (Destitute Press, 2014).
Copyright © 2019 ryki zuckerman
Cover photograph from the collection of Lauren Leja
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.
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