Two Poems

by Jim Zola


Night Fires

What will not go away

becomes my father. I hold him

like a child with hair that smells

like smoke that travels from match

to log to chimney and keeps on

going over roofs

with faded shingles, the tops

of elm and oak. My son

turned fifteen this year. I bank

the silent hours we spend

in cars from home to school,

the occasional shared meal.

A father’s curse is to know

and not be able to tell.

Or tell and hear the scornful

sigh. Tonight the smell of smoke

is enough to douse

what memory will not.

I hold him tight to let him go,

feed the fire anything that burns.

The Sagamore Hotel

The night was all we had. We spent it

gambling. Cuban waiters spoke the language

of cards – flush, draw, no limit – smoked

loose cigarettes and stared at their hands.

By morning, chairs and slow bodies

in the room below told me the stakes

made sleep impossible for a few.

Jose, the waiter I worked with, spent three days

trying to win back what he never had.

On the fourth, the maitre d’ let him go.

As I drove him to the bus station

in a car borrowed from a drunk cook,

we talked like trees giving in to winter,

leaf by leaf. Let’s say the waiter

was my father stepping onto the bus

with nothing but a ticket for Miami,

or that he waved to me the way

my father waved on summer evenings,

home from his other life. Say the moon

was a bright saddle, that it rose

over the silver back of the bus

as I turned and climbed

into the rusted body of the car

and drove away, in debt to no one.

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, North Carolina.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s