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
Mungo Park Finds a Tuft of Green Moss
in the African Desert
I should have been a farmer,
instead I plant bribes for passage –
an umbrella furled and unfurled,
my prize blue coat with silver buttons.
I marvel at the curiosity
of Moorish women, their corpulent
beauty, feet and fingertips stained
dark saffron. They explore
my shining whiteness, offer
bowls of milk and water.
I should have been a farmer,
instead I harvest the hate
of arrows in Bussa
where they call us Tanakast,
wild beasts, and say the river
starts at the world's end,
then show us the way.
In the back of her uncle’s black continental,
they listen as Ozzie steals home.
Goldfish at the Botanical Gardens
muddy the pond. She moves her hand over
the water. They feed on what isn’t there.
Losing his hearing, he watches mouths as if
words might come out like smoke signals. He nods
and picks an expression. Later he hears the ocean.
One day she forgets the names of her children.
One morning he walks into the empty hall
and finds them standing there in shadows.
That’s when Ozzie breaks for home.
Before the Old Craig Hotel Sank Into the Mohawk
On River Road just before the bridge
crossing water we were afraid to touch
because of General Electric,
because of the factories that made god
knows what, because of the stories we heard.
It was never a functional hotel
in my lifetime. Ruin resurrected,
if a dingy bar is considered restored.
The attraction was they seldom carded.
Legal, we went there just because. Foosball
and quarter beer nights were our hosannas,
faces morphed beautiful in dim light.
Stepping outside into the gravel
parking lot, we were aware of the river
creeping beyond our drunkenness. Some
winter nights, zaftig flakes coated cars
with a crystalline skin. I can still smell
that air now a million years later
after the river has forgotten it all.
A Somewhat Inexact History of Flowers
I could write how I’m amazed
at the yellow of spring’s first
daffodil. But that would be
too exact, untrue. In fact,
it’s just the first I notice,
looking up. It catches my eye,
the bud not yet fully open,
poking through a layer of dead
leaves. And I’m not amazed by it,
but more by the consistency
of things, the plodding
renewals of crabgrass.
Of a yellow flower.
Younger, I might have stomped it,
angry at everything then.
But it would take sixteen steps
to reach the garden’s edge,
and sixteen back again.
My anger’s burrowed
deeper than a seed. Besides,
a neighbor now is out walking
his overweight dog
as he does every day,
and will continue to do
until one of them gives up.
We wave without speaking.
Muscles and brain, as if saying
- I see you, I don’t see you.
Nothing disturbs the berm
as it aspires towards
a grassy knoll, the path
to your misgivings. I pocket them,
touch my freckled hollow, my whiffet.
Here, take a digit, an ounce.
I practice the reverse of no,
of knowing. My cock
points towards the moon.
Things fall off. I pick up
stones from wet morning grass,
wash them in my cheeks.
I speak of love and poetry,
rigmarole and poppycock.
Who is the you of this?
Not the wife I left,
the wide windows
of another man¹s life. I know
you are out there too.
I save my broken teeth
for when we meet,
your dress, bone-buttoned,
scrunched about your hips.
There¹s not much left.
I sit in the grass and count
the birds. I could name them
if it mattered. Sulky whiff,
cat bait, breath of my dark. I wait.
Nothing creeps closer.