Box of Stars

by Jim Zola
The Waters
First Place, February 2014
Judged by Robert Lee Brewer


Truth is that box of stars my kids press
on the bedroom ceiling. Shine a light
and they glow a little in the dark.
Then they stop no matter how much light
you give them. They fall one by one.

My father told a story about how he cut off
a man’s ear and stuffed it in his pocket.
When I was seven, the doctors
wanted to break both my legs to fix them.
They bowed just like my father’s did.
Standing side by side we made an M.
Mother told the doctors No. She wore

her anger like a scarf. Father
talked with both hands, grabbing air.
I thought if I could see the shapes,
I might understand his logarithms
of happiness. At eighteen, I ate
a paper star, saw colors in a lover’s face

that weren’t there before or after.
I walked my dog along the broken notes
of railroad tracks, memorized each missing
spike, her favorite spots for squatting.
I walked in shoes of blood. I walked away
from love so many times I ended up walking
back to it. When my father died,
I searched his pockets and found the stars.


This poem sucked me in at the beginning because of it felt familiar, but then it captivated me with its combination of interesting stories and inviting images. From the thought of breaking both legs to fix them to walking away from love to walk back to it, 'Box of Stars' is a great poem about things that sparkle for a finite time before fading and falling away. --Robert Lee Brewer

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