Zumwalt Poems Online

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The Sassoon Collection: x. Particle Show

The Sassoon Collection

x. Particle Show

AND still they come and go: and this is all I know—
That from the mind I watch an endless particle-show,
Where wild and listless forces flicker on their way,
With charged and uncharged parts from small stringy strands
Because all spin so fast, and they’ve no place to stay
Beyond the frozen image of imagined lands.

And still, between the shadow and the image made,
The first desire of all of us flings onward, ever betrayed
As in those stimulant years that weight them, and have passed:
All minds must grasp these particles dancing much too fast.

– Zumwalt (2011)

Copyright © 2011

The Handcuff King

The Handcuff King

Escape pays for now:
suspend me upside down;
lock glass and steel;
fill fully;
water flowing over.

But if my escapes entertains,
understand that it is my existence.
I can handle building-size milk cans, Chinese water torture cells,
underwater crates and being buried alive.

Faced with flight or forced-fight,
the choice is easy
but understand I must force fight to flee:
no escape is without struggle.

But without escape or the opportunity of one,
I must hang on
and for how long?

Until I burst?

Or until I meet the next world:
the destiny of all that depart?

Explain to me the retreat available:
the extrication that sidesteps;
the evasion that slips the lock,
that springs a liberation.

No,  you know no more than I about withdrawal.
You just know more about staying the course
and that won’t help much
when I need to leave, not the visage of death,
but death itself
and its closely shrouded, tightly bound design.

— Zumwalt (2011)

what soul is not besieged

what soul is not besieged

what soul is not besieged by rotten eggs and soft tomatoes
by answers unreturned and questions unsent
by minutes that make up hours and hours
           that tear down the day

what mind is not put upon and
           once put upon
                           cast off into a corner
what body is not battered and
                   beaten by the blows it shields
itself from

what soul is not bombarded
         by twenty-two gauge shot and mortar fire
by unresolved cadential patterns
         that whine around the head

by invalidation of beliefs and
         of what one has seen and sensed

there is reason to suspect that one can grow
if only the rainy season didn’t last
                                                       the entire year.

—  Zumwalt (1991)

The Sassoon Collection: ii. A pickle and a black hole

The Sassoon Collection

ii. A pickle and a black hole

Mass and form had the pickle, sweet, sour, tall and straight;
The round black hole collapsing still further then it knew
Made its longest shadow with gravity
A ghostly bridge ’twixt the pickle and space.
But stars, with their continuous day, must pass;
And blustering winds will stretch all gherkins
to which I’ve no measurements to express
the moment of conjunction,
a singularity with no exit
for stars and pickled cucumbers alike.

— Zumwalt (2011)

when winning is not enough

when winning is not enough

he like a stunned animal
holds the fragrant unclothed stranger
this remnant of the victory of last night.

she is half asleep
tenderly young
sweet
and so totally a stranger.

he feels like another empty episode has escaped into the ozone layer.
There is not even anything to gnaw on.

he wonders how to wake her up
half asleep
himself.

— Zumwalt (June 1991)

The Sassoon Collection: v. Auto Tunes

The Sassoon Collection

v. Auto Tunes

I keep such music in my car
No din this side of death can quell;
Deep bass booming over tar,
And excess forged in death-metal hell.

My dreaming demons will not hear
The roar of guns that would destroy
My life that no gleeful gloom can fear
Proud-surging passages of painful joy.

To the world’s end I drove, and found
Death in his carnival of hidden stash;
But in this torrent I was drowned,
And music screeched above
the fiendishly beatific
headlight-lit
fiber-glass,
glittering, splintering,
metalliferous crash.

— Zumwalt (2011)

a single word

a single word

words, words, words
static over static
drilling deeply thru the dentine
scraping invasively against skull and skin

your line of supply is inexhaustible
arguments, propositions, explanations
predications, exclamations, excuses
all unecessary barking and bow-wowing
at hidden celestial objects

I am here
don’t chase me away
unless you want me
to be chased away

I am yours
don’t bombard
your own firmly secured posessions with
ammo best saved for those territories still unconquered

give me short compact sentences
phrases and single words
ideas as consumable as quarter pounders

don’t shove a hose down my throat
filling me with mashed escargot and foie gras

words, words, words
I can’t sustain a relationship with them
pelting me from every angle at every moment that
we’re together

take your finger off the trigger
I surrender
make me a prisoner
not a confirmed casualty

words, words, words
they all sound the same
they don’t mean anything
they just demean, meander
and make me end up thinking
that when all is said
I haven’t heard
a single word.

— Zumwalt (1990)

What am I

What am I but a commercial painter
making the same strokes over and over on black velvet nap
always charging the same prices
always settling for less

I know you, too,
paint the same pictures over and over
that’s how I can sell you mine.

— Zumwalt (1991)

asleep

asleep

My arm fell asleep
one night
and I wiggled my fingers
and then wiggled my hand
and then even my entire arm
yet numbness prevailed.

My heart fell asleep
one night
and I didn’t much care
about the starving children in East Africa
or the endangered whales in Western Alaska.

My brain fell asleep
one night
and I could no longer sort out
why I was here
or where I needed to go.

These tiny thin-tooth bedbugs bite at my body
munching on my toes,
pilfering fluids from my fingertips.

I stay awake itching
but itching only
makes the itching worse.

I, myself, somehow, finally fell asleep one night
and since then
I bounce from night
to night
forgetting everything
that happened in-between.

— Zumwalt (2011)

propulsive retraction

propulsive retraction

because he retreats she goes after
now convinced that he is more than worthy of her
and when he approaches she retreats
certain that she would be accepting
less
than what she can get

she is unaware of how she is
pulled
and
pushed back and forth like
moonlit
tide of some California beach
she
is only aware of some vague confusion
and exasperation

in this marketplace you look carefully at weight and shape, knowing that
it is impossible to judge
content

in this marketplace you try not to keep a total of cost or the number of
items
taken of the shelf

she momentarily searches to say something
that she can later withdraw
she has aleady forgotten that it always pulls her
hardest
and head first.

— Zumwalt (1991)

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