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zingmagazine10 autumn 1999

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8 poets making it new
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smylonnylon
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generation z
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lutwidge finch
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the back of beyond
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Entrances to the World

by Jonah Winter

 

Everything, a front porch, snow,

Mozart, exhaust fumes

curling from tail-pipes in the cold

 

and shoreboatless days,

tall weeds you break off in the vacant lot

late in the year, the fires

 

burning like mirrors

hiding their pasts with impeccable nows,

into which you sink your hands

 

and dive head-long through your reflection

into the city where all things go backwards,

the clocks, the men who carry ladders,

 

the moon, your own steps

back to the bookstores,

back to your apartment, night after night,

 

all in slow motion,

an untranslatable quiet, like oceans

inside the ears of the deaf, inside a leaf

 

the conversations you would hear

if you were God:

everything speaks,

 

if you were only patient

as air, you would hear

the endless telegraph of footsteps

 

on a sidewalk, you would hear

the small sounds that fill a house,

the creaking wood, the long pauses, doors

 

and the resolute clicks of doorknobs,

as sentences drawn out

over hours and hours,

 

years, a poem

imageless, opaque

as the ice-block

relieved from the rope that lowered it

onto the loading dock

in the hot East Texas town

 

where my father was born

and lived in a small white house

by the Cady railroad, until

 

he was seventeen,

and like the mongrel they'd chained to the hackberry tree

forever, escaped

 

to the rain

and the small white house

where I was born, and lived, until

 

my grandfather stood at the screen-door,

turned towards the field he'd brought

from Illinois: before long, I wake,

 

falling through the open night

of my grave: it's a Greyhound station

and Pompeii's bleary-eyed immortals stay up

 

in the plastic chairs

of a waiting room

embalmed in the blizzard

 

that only snows when I shake it:

the glass dome is glued

to the base of the world

 

where the village is:

angels take turns trumpeting

over the candles

 

house after house

on Christmas Eve,

smorgasbords and steins laid out

 

for no one...

The stove is turned on low,

the borscht

steams the windows

of the loft,

black bread

 

warms in the oven, and I

am glad to be inside

chopping garlic, drinking wine

 

with you

who've come to visit me

in the almost dark

 

Where are you?

I've set out a bowl and spoon

at the table, and

 

don't tell me you're not here.

Are you

hiding in a book, are you

 

a lake,

are you mad at me

because I'm here and you're

 

the blade of an axe

as it withdraws, or

are you the stone pieta

 

alone in the sky

with the Pleiades

crying like a symphony?

 

Do you sleep, ever?

Would you like

an ashtray

 

or a little piece of metal,

a postcard,

a ticket stub?