What it is to live as an abyssal giant/ but beached, huge and primeval
Poetry by Joseph Zenoni
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.
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.
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
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
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.