Jim Zola



In Your Absence

Yesterday was soup day, the kitchen a mess
of parts, turnips beheaded, tomatoes crushed.
Hot and sour, potato, stone soup, a cure-all
or just a distraction.

I suspect the kids are feeding the mouse on the sly,
left out slices of bread stale and nibbled. I too
hide behind an armory of mercy,
putting out the traps but forgetting to set them.

On my drive to work I watch the homeless parade
from a stand of trees to take their posts at each
street corner of the busy intersection.
I wonder about what isn't seen in that small patch
of wilderness. I think of a line from a poem I read
this morning—he's made himself a study in the trees.

Before the light turns green,
I'm one of Cabeza de Vaca's lost men
arriving to a gift of 600 open deer hearts,
emeralds. The explorer wrote about a poison
the natives gathered from a certain tree
so deadly that if animals drank from where bruised leaves
had been steeped, they would burst.

What I'm trying to say is I'm lost.

You are my Kashmir, not here,
not actually mine.

I've made myself a study in your absence.

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.