Guest Poet Jim Zola

The Bell

	after Christís Entry Into Brussels

One day you rise from a pile
of newly raked leaves, from the mouth
of a dog, rise like a desire to be pure,
incurable, to forget how we came to be
here, to a world beyond these
neighborhoods where rushbeds
slow the river, where men who live
nearby take razors and soap
to shave in front of marble churchwalls
twice destroyed by fire, where voices
rise as one, like smoke from a fire
that will not flame. This could be a street
from an Ensor painting. Soon people
fill it, masked faces, skeletal, roundhousing
the night, as if they just discovered
that none of their children resemble them,
or worse, that each child vowed to give back
their features, to resemble nothing.
Could the clamor of a single bell
drive the children deep through roots
and creepers? The bell is a story
the townspeople tell to explain
the disappearance. As for the children,
they came out on the other side
of the forest, not to hallelujahs,
but to second mortgages.
For them, the bell is the body
ringing blood. One day you rise
from a flutter in the thicket,
from the cold hard dirt beside
the resurging Mohawk, from the catís
split open belly, from the roe, rise
and I donít recognize you, though
I hear the warning. Do not listen.

July, 2000

Jim Zola's Questions:

My question on this poem has to do with the ending. I feel like the flow and sounds of the poem work well. I don't know if the sense is clear enough. And I feel that perhaps the ending just clunks. Should I keep working on the ending... or should I leave the ending and rework the start and middle?

After Sex and Before What Follows

In these clumsy frail moments
when my heavy breath reminds me of where Iíve been or am going;

when the hiss of a passing car
outside this window has nothing to do with the way darkness

is taken for granted, yet
I know the sound as if it were my name before birth; when you shift

your arm under my head
and this change is more complex than mediation; when words

become tools to break the silence,
as if we have nothing to say, then say it. Say

it takes our breath away, our love.
Say it is raining and you are about to enter sleepís cluttered room.

I could say anything
and it would be true for this one moment when truth

is the thin skin that covers
the eye. We grow dumb in loveís wake. If I were to say something,

it would be like the rain. You
would turn away, the back of your head, dark, like the sky

on a night when the moon is missing.

July, 2000

Jim Zola's Questions:

I sometimes become obsessed with line breaks. I have fiddle with the breaks on this one about a thousand times. Tell me what you think about the way the lines break and if it works with the rest of the poem.

Patient Language, South Yarmouth

Then, stories came easy, the patient language,
waves slapping the wooden belly, fish heads
bobbing a trail behind us like bread crumbs.
Our bodies grow heavy with salt, stink, the tug
and wait. I remember the first fish I ever caught.
A channel cat hooked on an unwatched drop-line.
My father cut it open to show the parts

still working, as if the blade hadnít reached past the wound.
I felt a weight in my hands as if they had become the fish.
Years later, when you call to tell
how your loveís blood went crazy, white cells like snow,
I study my hands and begin with fish stories ≠
one took the bait and hook and ran,
another we let go. The way it felt.

July, 2000

Jim Zola's Questions:

This poem began as a long long poem and I just kept cutting and working and slashing and burning...and now my question is, have I cut so much that any available story is lost in the poem?

I sometimes lose sight of my narrative, my meaning in favor of the pure sound or music of the language. Does this poem get lost somewhere along the way?

The Albany Poetry Workshop