We Give Back What We Cannot Keep

by Jim Zola
The Waters
Third Place, November 2013
Judged by Kelly Cherry


Better to begin at noon with bricks instead of river rocks,
with three train crossings we call the bones of Mister Jones,
with a river that rises in locks, with a father who works
at the ice factory and brings home sculptures, nudes reduced
to acceptability, swans without wings,
with a mother whose hands are whiter than fishbone.

So we begin with departure and travel this distance
between us, as if to touch is to travel.
Or with sleep, sound, back to back. When I wake,
I am three and flying around the basement,
my shoes scuff the red cement floor, my legs
are braced. Father kneads them with his icehouse hands.

We give back our mothers and fathers, sweat fresh
on their faces, give back birds that rise from the thin
comfort of branch to shake the elms, give back the field’s past.

Outside this window, there are no fields. There are warehouses,
the clatter of train and track, and warehouse birds.
They hop on corrugated rooftops.
They sing for our leaving.



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