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.

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