Jim Zola



We screamed because it was expected.
He took pleasure in his timing,
waiting for a lull in conversation,
until the tension was right.
Linger Redwine, who rode a boy’s bike,
hung with us, the only girl on the block.
Mom blamed the water. We skinny dipped
until it made a difference.
When Mrs. Redwine called to say
Linger was late, my father would not sit.
Outside a chainsaw cut down a forest.
Uncle Strib popped his eye out.



My father hung a human ear from his belt.
Home from the war and many years later,
he refused to share the stories that roosted
on his shoulders like a roc. The blue
jacket in the closet is as close as we got,
gold buttons and mothball cologne. When he died,
I went deaf for a day. All lawnmowers stopped.
Back then the Mohawk stunk. Once, on a dare,
I stuck my toes in. They came out speckled,
tingling. We rode our Schwinns past the green lawn
of the Knolls Atomic Power Lab,
pedaling fast, afraid to breathe, lifting
our feet over the railroad tracks.
At Lock 7, when they flooded the channel

to raise a barge, we could scream our darkest
secrets and risk nothing. This is what
the end must sound like. My father took me there
to fish off cement walls, catching sunnies
as small as my hand. When I reeled-in
a hefty cat, my father sliced it open
to show the parts still working. I remember

how shiny it looked, the way he used the blade,
how I knew he wanted to tell me more.



Seven frozen cherries
daily will cure what ails him.
What ails him is less certain.
Sometimes the knee, sometimes

what the man on the radio says
which leads to an hour long lecture,
hands ripping exclamation points
and periods from the dusty air.

Punctuation like cherries
dropped in a glass bowl. Plink plink
plink plink plink plink plink.
Being Norwegian, nothing

ails Lillian. She nods her head,
thinks of other things, the way
the hair in Eugene’s nose wiggles
when he talks, the mouse

in the junk drawer this morning
that froze and stared with button
eyes just as surprised to see
Lillian staring back.

She makes a shopping list
in her head – red wine,
frozen cherries, poison
(for the mouse of course).



Lillian pines for Eugene’s laugh.
She tells the gals the single life
has its advantages. Still
she cooks for two. Collards,
mustard greens. Boiled, strained. What’s left
could stock a soup or thicken gravy.

Lillian sips from a blue chipped cup.
In dreams she looks into an owl’s nest
and sees Eugene in the clutch
of twigs and muddy feathers.
His eyes big as eggs,
mouth always open.



All there is left to eat is pumpernickel,
pumpernickel muffins, pumpernickel bread,
pumpernickel bagels. The sky can’t make up
its mind. Leaves still waltz, some hint at a tango,
down to pavement that peeks up at the indecisive
sky. In between is akin to disaster
if disaster were a ginger with lacy sleeves
and a ring on every toe.