Jim Zola


We fell in love in the key of C – Wilco

E muddles his alphabet, stuck on any letter
not his name. A flaps her wings until my patience snaps.
When I least expect it, grief grabs me by the throat.

On the hike to Tupper Lake it was just the guys,
which meant two men, a teen, a boy.
I leapt from root to rock, running far enough ahead
so my imagination could do its work.
Even then I knew what I explored
was already discovered, if only by the man
who named this lake. Mr. Tupper, who trudged
through thicket and underbrush, perhaps hunting
or curious about what was on the other side.
We found a rotted rowboat with oars left
in the Y of an oak split long ago
by lightning. We named it CDC and risked the ride.

See, love was easy once. It raced, it rolled,
familiar. We rowed into the dark. Maybe
Tupper slide down the other side, too drunk
to bother grasping weeds that slice the skin.
Maybe there was no Mr. Tupper.
It wouldn’t surprise me.

Surprise is an element like thallium or gold or fire.
My father, surprised by the sudden wreck
of his burnt out heart, tumbled to the other side.
I wasn’t there. My imagination is my azimuth.
See the sea. E recites what matters, trails his thumb
through evening’s dust. A flies towards the stars.

God is in the Details

Waiting at the dentist for my name
to be called, I thumbed through issues
of Highlight Magazine, entranced
by the hidden picture puzzles.
A toaster in the trees, a chickadee
in a pig’s ear, a wrist watch ticking
in jungle moss. These days, I find
what brings me joy is the details noticed.
I search for the fork hidden
in gravel, the needle in the man’s
clenched fist, a face in the too blue sky.

In the Schenectady of the Mind

I hung with boys
who had no brothers.
We pedaled our Schwinns
to the reservoir
or downtown
to the forbidden zone
where Last Tango
in Paris was showing
at the old vaudeville house.
We eyed locked cases
in shops without signs,
dreaming of knives.

In the Schenectady
of the mind, I trudge
slushy sidewalks,
waiting for ghost boys
to zip by propelled
by red metal wings,
laughing and pointing.

Jim Zola has worked in a warehouse, as a security guard, in a bookstore, as a teacher for Deaf children, as a toy designer for Fisher Price, and currently as a children's librarian. Published in many journals through the years, his publications include a chapbook -- The One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press) -- and a full length poetry collection -- What Glorious Possibilities (Aldrich Press). He currently lives in Greensboro, NC.