Abyssal Giant!

What it is to live as an abyssal giant/ but beached, huge and primeval

Poetry by Joseph Zenoni

Abyssal Giant!


What it is to live
out of your element,

made pain by the clash
of cement on your shoes,

and by every taxonomy of actual fact:
impact, inertia, friction.

What it is to live as an abyssal giant,
but beached, huge and primeval,

made weight, hanging helpless in cruel gravity;
ancientness yoked around the shoulders;

wounds disrobed and un-scarred;
limbs grinding themselves to sand.

What it is to live.
Yeah, sure, Lord,

shelter us from impediment,
but disability, disease, disrepair—

only here do we learn the worth of a body.
The solemn pageantry of structural failures,

losses of vigor, non-functionalities.
The harsh, hilarious prognosis.

What it is to live and then,
in water, to become water,

and the agency of it, and a part of it,
to be weightless, flying silent and dissolved

above the stained tiles.


Today’s gone legend.
Sleepless nights mutated

to a scaliness of spirit, an apostasy,
a fiery iconoclasm.

I spit
at everything unreal.

The day piles sensation on itself
as I walk to the pool

trying to hold my shoulder blade
in syzygy with neck and spine.

It’s a desperate romance.
Gravity slowly tears a cleft

diagonally across my back
which I like to imagine as the grisly fjord

made by a blade in a samurai movie
but in fact looks like nothing at all.

On hard earth, dogs bark.


Sunlight drifts like mist off a waterfall.
Below, only opposites.

Forget metaphor:
swimming is how you do not drown.

Just myself and no weight at all,
I look through the lattice-work

to a further newborn blue.
Bodies disassemble, their components catalogue,

separate into a thousand slices:
and there he is,

only winged, a witness.


An apology for the ash borer

We were the sky

       on most days of summer

a wet, white colloid

       which promised no rain

ugly humidity hanging heavily

       in our clothing

as we drove around half-browned crowns

       choked by thirst

trunks riven in enemy earthworks

       hollowing in malnutrition.

Priming chainsaws coughed

       chewing through air

thick with stillness

       and car radios

while we traded insectile feints

       inflating, deflating

learning we were starving

       by starving the other.

This is my apology

       for the emerald ash borer

and all unintended nemeses—

       we are not toxic, but good

we just make poison of ourselves

       through misuse

a bruise blooming slowly

       its darkness growing only in absence

in the beat of blinks

       or the travel time of the synapses

but filled with such a slow tremendousness

       it was all we needed

to send your truck tracking

       under the nocked and knotted cedar.

Joseph Zenoni is a poet who counts the two best cities of the Midwest as home.