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Dec 2015 · 843
A Prayer of Identity
Robert Zanfad Dec 2015
From grass and stone I am shepherd of herds,
as of grass and stones have come these beasts;
and of my beasts, I soon shall be,
keeper and kept wound into thee,
Oh Grass and Stone from which I have come.
Dec 2015 · 629
The Strange Case of Being
Robert Zanfad Dec 2015
inside weeks now, first frost warmed off, a *** watered
but still sere; her leafless twigs stand here ... pointing accusingly

(she'd promised us limes someday)

hope's a careless gardener with deep roots
resurrection imagined, coaxed to new shoots, green flecks ... some sign

(and lime fruits some day)

or any season grander than aged bourbon and ginger ... sipped
the crystal decanter bides quietly with gilt china

(for our harvest of limes)

a dusty cabinet counts reasons in neat rows
plant and man await parting, those pursed lips of time

(and dream, both, of limes)
Nov 2015 · 633
Living Blind
Robert Zanfad Nov 2015
Autumn's hedges weep blood again, the eternal mystery of red leaves confounding reason, protecting and surrounding us either in gentle beauty or concealed sorrows we never knew.  Theories of our own existences are proved certainties only by the imprecision of tears as we've lived.  Rage the year. The dead season, still, nears; we too, should paint it anew in bold color and embrace it without fear.
Botany has yet to develop adequate scientific theory for the color red in the season's leaves, as it seems an otherwise pointless expense of energy for plants preparing for winter. As if everything should need that measure of reason - even this simple act of expression declares being.
Sep 2015 · 814
Living in Morning
Robert Zanfad Sep 2015
Shall we through this tall grass run, children
heed the urgency of crickets this early morning,
outrun meandering trodden trails we'd make?

or await to pack our baskets
with late summer peaches picked
after sun shakes dew from waning leaves of her laden tree

life is measured in those quick steps
the insects said,
scattering ashes of the dead never teaches them to fly

much as we might try, but we might yet
they know winter's shadow always too soon arrives,
an uninvited guest in this meadow
Robert Zanfad Jul 2015
Sadly, Kiddo, that's what's called life.
There really aren't fresh starts for day-to-day strife
just different street names to remember
(or not, as as the old ones, I find, are usually much better)

Bills, work or chores are always the same
Laundry, dishes, mopping the floors,
the phone, electric or price for gas -
don't care where you live
or that you're dragging your ***

The rent or a mortgage, unpaid, are no different;
tires, brand new or
used from the dump "down'a way,"
all intend to go flat in a week, regardless
(it's in the fine print if you read it ... I did once)

groceries cost more than you'd planned at the start,
but kids will eat food and have those "growth spurts,"
too soon outgrowing
new shoes that you'd bought them
  
When you boil it all down, we must do what is needed -
mostly for them, the brats we are raising;
it's the love of a parent: unbidden, unasked
  
I just close my two eyes before coffee on waking
(or sometimes just the one that sees that I'm walking)
and hope I'll make it to work in the morning

expect to come home in time to cook dinner,
collapse on the couch for a much-needed breather
remembering my bed is a-waayy up the stairs
where, sometimes, I make it before
the snores take me

Repeat.
Apr 2015 · 1.4k
The Rarity of Dreams
Robert Zanfad Apr 2015
I let ivy try the trunk, green all winter
yet buds haven't come with warm weather
it'll rot and drop this summer
or next, if it's too dry

I'll pretend surprise
as I oil the saw again, strike teeth with a file
left on the old tool bench downstairs...
one last time, I think, as we're all showing our wear

it's still tall, met the sky once
when it left - I heard the sigh
but turned and went back to sleep
imagining nothing but cutting until morning
Robert Zanfad Feb 2015
February's
another month marked;
its ever requisite yellow roses
unceremoniously left for a morrow's snow's
cover of quiet over stone rows;
a foot path pocked
temporarily
Robert Zanfad Jun 2014
because

on some dateless dawn
away from the mown swath at the edge of the road,
grass tall in the meadow, gold already and leaning, each piece seeming
to whisper some secret one might hear if close enough
as blades nodded in unison towards scrambled trees at the edge of the clearing

i  was a deer there, hiding, feral, eating secrets
for a moment then, free
Robert Zanfad May 2014
today we celebrated pain

crowds gathered in the close hole they'd made,
and, too, in fields where once were harvested
anonymous body parts and broken luggage straps  
and, why do they still need to remember that ...

sad birthday

he stares ahead, piercing the lens with blue eyes,
apparent youth belying ancients inside
uncertain how to smile yet,
the tie uneven around his starched oxford collar
there will be cake later, one supposes,
laughter of other children gathered 'round the table

the pretty brown girl in a pink dress
accepted presents from those who'd gathered -
maybe her mother set her hair in those loose braids-
her brown eyes brushed him, lips smiled
and newspapers said it was wrong
because it made too much fire, burned whole cities to the ground
he never saw her again

until

bobbing hens got lost in a wailing Hammond;
they'd missed The End
it was spring again then, like in Eden,
when, unashamed and perfect, her ******* danced with music
and a yellow rose was
pressed between their unused notebooks to mark the occasion
Mother was mad, and derided the prospect of pickaninny babies
taking seats at her fine linen-draped table
until everyone forgot once ... again

Now

the New Yorker has finally canceled itself,
ever a meager meal, its offerings of pinto beans and metaphors
quickly swallowed in secret
in hopes that divine inspiration might ensue
as he picked ripened tomatoes and peaches, each in their seasons,
and ate of them lustily, too

and suddenly it's spring ...  again
but eyes weak and weepy,
his life lost in stone-walled sanctuaries that protected
imaginary pickaninnies and half-breeds
today accustomed to titles of "mister" or "ma'am"
because it's America, and at her own End,
Mother fell in love with so many other brown-skinned girls
it didn't matter anymore

Clayton leans on his push broom,
always remembers to smile
as he requests the odd bit of change
"if you can..."

the boy can't remember his own name anymore
nor her's
rubs broken dust with his black leather shoes,
wonders where they've been -
because bold hues loudly pronounced the arrival of spring again,
which revives nagging pain from the picture he'd saved
and not yet time for tomatoes or peaches
nor the pretty, brown eyed-girl, her pink dress and braids

which had always come and gone without celebrations
May 2014 · 652
Blue Houses
Robert Zanfad May 2014
i'm realizing
life's now free from
pointed pens and sharp knives,
so i don't need to hide them anymore
i've brought the dog inside and don't sweep floors

the kitchen is for cooking food again

i've rearranged fleeting emotion with teaspoons of random words
found in our rain gutter among rotted leaves
i'd meant to clean away last winter
and hope you like them ... there's
a sweetness in decay

remember the cascades
of water, then snow that rippled over the brim?

no

we were so alone,
waiting for an end
you flat in bed, hairless, angry, confused;
me at your window
staring at blue light from distant windows,
strangers' homes in which i'd always found refuge
where you will always be.
Mar 2014 · 1.0k
In the Aftermath of Winter
Robert Zanfad Mar 2014
warm air crept over ice last night as we slept
arriving to offend morning with doubt
comforting, I think, the frigid sear that reminded once of life

because this restless fog obscures thought
and has made the world smaller, duller
I've begun to wonder, now, where the living hide

there’s a familiar ghost, that man half blind,
wandering creaking boards inside
hoping to find joys in his shoe box of blurred photographs,

researching meaning among reams
of precious handwritten notes and shopping lists,
their chapters stacked in magazine racks and bookshelves

opening the hapless, broken-winged jewelry box
remembered crisply wrapped in ribbons, love and flowered paper once,
to finger its claspless necklaces, orphaned earrings and half smiles


her old clothes are freshly laundered,
the favored sweater with holes, neatly folded
stored in the bottom drawer to savor forever


will we all live, neat, finally quiet
in boxes someday, just like this?
he chose to robe her in that special dress, but kept its matching scarf...



I glimpsed him in her mirror as he paced
and wait for mist to pass
Dec 2013 · 1.8k
Pollute Me Please...
Robert Zanfad Dec 2013
just a little bit o' asbestos
unwrapped from 'round the pipes,
yellow-green arsenic soap
in the bucket to make me clean
to eat... sump'n to munch on
like crunchy lead paint chips
and oh, how i love the smell o'
greasy diesel dip -
it reminds me of my last birthday
when we ate my smoggy cake
the kerosene ran dry that day
and smoked us to the street
our tummy aches that time forsake
'cause doctors cost real money.
but, hey, no choice in winter
- Obamacare or heat -
couldn't type his site with frostbit nubs,
no matter what the hype.
life ain't free,
so as fer me, i doctor fer myself
hell, in 50 years i've seen nothin' yet
some bourbon wouldn't fix.
but never in this tidy place we come to call our poverty
has ever lived the lovely stench
of crisp, green, perfect money.
I read that money pollutes societal interactions...
Dec 2013 · 1.1k
on giving advice
Robert Zanfad Dec 2013
i love stumbling upon advice from wizened sages,
who'd 'semble the tao of writing decent poetry
into a clever, lengthy monologue

read years earlier (just a few), it might save me
a hundred odd embarrassments
that, today, bear my name

like the time my kid balled his fists up
'cause i said so
but got knocked down, again, by the playground bully

not a Quakerly thing to do...
i'm still learning, too
(maybe i didn't teach the right stance?)

or perhaps we learn more by our failures;
my little boy's muscular, a confident wrestler, now...
gets along with everybody - go figure

and he writes pretty good poetry  -
all by himself.
Dec 2013 · 1.2k
Radio Silence
Robert Zanfad Dec 2013
i drove into one of those famous tunnels beneath the Chesapeake
under a freighter that lumbered in its foggy distance,
still off about half a mile
i thought the kids might get a kick out of this experience
but they were busy in the rear view mirror,
snared in silent worlds of mini screen devices i bought to see them smile
there's only static on the radio now, like no more bourbon left in the bottle
and you're so quiet
this is my life - the thrumming dented van within a sterile white tile fortress,
ears on verge of popping
i hear humming tires, the thumps of each heart beat
trapped inside, heterodyned
Dec 2013 · 2.7k
Sitting with Crimson
Robert Zanfad Dec 2013
there's a fat plastic tube taped sub-clavian carrying ruby fluid
from a clear bag that hangs overhead
draining mysteries of modern alchemy
into your body, its lifetime measured, silent droplets
inside a hermetically sealed hourglass we can only watch, not touch
but they don't change you

by protocol your nurse wore her nitrile gloves doubled-up
lest she get this stuff on her fingers - it's toxic -
advised you to flush the toilet twice,
making certain to eliminate stray molecules that might
be exposed to sitting innocents

i should be in the next chair, holding your hand

we might share complimentary raspberry danish,
stare at a silent TV on the wall
as it broadcasts flashing pictures of calamity from
the latest war or storm savaged country
but we’ve been living there for years already
our home not populous enough to draw serious media attention;  

we’d wrestle sips of anemic coffee from free paper cups
yours going into a red can when you've finished
because that brilliant color insinuates itself into saliva, eventually
as it does to blood and *****;
i could take mine home

i'd read moving captions at the bottom of the screen
to know what's going on in the images
while you'd feign interest in this tedious world and remind me, again,
how life is tenuous

ask me the name of that dripping liquid just to see if i was listening,
an appellation alien - if life were fair it would be easier
but i’d get the pronunciation wrong
maybe it could be a French word i remember reading to you from a menu in Paris
we might paste it thickly, soft cheese onto torn chunks of baguette
savored between sips of cabernet from long stemmed glasses;
pronounce it “good” as if we could own it

****** and gigolette -
we’d stolen the whole earth that moment,
grinning like a pair of cat burglars at a cafe table where i'd held your hand
but here we are, old again, bitter enemies
for the moment, i'm glad for Ativan and Motrin,
the only names i can remember from your tray of saltines and ginger ale

instead, i'm sitting alone at home with cigarettes and bourbon,
more congenial poisons
staring at a white, unmoving ceiling, pretending I’m working
we're like that, you know, tug and tow - where you go,
i'm heart-bound to follow
Doctor Jack insists i'll live much longer, a little sicker after
i might adjust expectations for a worn-out liver, headaches,
possible blood pressure elevations; short warnings written on the label

while yours smile, with more tricks than carnival barkers
they say, now, a handful - or only two - more tricks up their sleeves,
the grinning, white-coated thieves
Jack smiles, pats my hand, a warm man

smoking is prohibited in the clinic
i'd hang from the window ledge to get the next nicotine fix,
but it won't open to alive, mowed grass outside -
these proceedings always sequester hidden behind curtains in private,
a secret art of undertakers doctoring flesh to look still-living,
love making in mid-evening darkness we've long forgotten

i’d draw deeply chemically-treated air, forget it’s now happening
remind myself a paternal need to stay healthy for survivors
while trying to avoid living in midst of your horrors,
a preoccupation that subsumes my mind

if you’re right - and you always are - how could i bury you?
when the dog died,
i dug her hole in our garden myself, deep through tree roots to bedrock,
then beyond, depth a measure of devotion;
carved a stone with my own fingernails, her name in a crossed heart
and we two cried like shivering babies
as we shoveled all the dirt back in to cover her

these are words of a weak man, selfish ******* that i am
and really, all of life's slumped over in my lap right now,
just this little girl sleeping
but i should be in the next chair
if you'd only let me sit there
again
Nov 2013 · 1.4k
Sitting with Green
Robert Zanfad Nov 2013
yeah, read an old poem again and remember sitting across a dark sticky table, pitcher of beer to wash down the fear of losing control. the guys told jokes - called them "brain droppings", like intellectual pigeon **** puked on the window -  but i was fighting not to get lost in the patterns of condensed water pooling from sides of the pitcher, laughing on cue because it seemed the right thing to do. i counted bright flashes, blue, a neon sign - froggy's bar open - for clarity, my fingers still melting into pencils at fine edges of the discussion. i carried a notebook to write in but nobody noticed. i thought i was a poet.

green sat there, slack jaw acid jockey, dead eyed silent fish out of water. educated somewhere. not here. it was hot. i think he'd had too much magic mushroom or that black sticky stuff we smoked in the bathroom that made me choke like a dying newborn, or maybe the pale colored microdot collage on paper rolls we all shared at a concert hall earlier. the humidity.

cool, man - i quietly pined for some brown-skinned chick away at college, home again but still not calling, so i wanted to forget my own name and split in some dime bag fog when the sugar slipped out over my lips; i spit, he didn't, i drank. green was hungry, brain-******, out of time, dreaming about some key lime trees in florida, ogres in fairmount's forests, the dealers from new york who wanted to **** us, then gut  laughed at something funny he saw in his sneakers. we hefted him by armpits to the stairs and left him there; it was too hot to walk all the way up to the flat's front door. green **** himself;  we left. green, by any other name, got lost like smooth longhairs on motorbikes, that girl, the pretend hit men from uptown, none of whom ever cared who i was, because i wasn't  really anywhere.  but i didn't realize green could fly. it was a secret he'd left on the pavement outside. i'd wished i could fly like green. but he died. i'm still here, bluffing i'm living.
inspired by memories and "Green Sees Things in Waves" by August Kleinzahler
Nov 2013 · 2.1k
575
Robert Zanfad Nov 2013
575
youth’s days were borrowed, its number, your name
carefully journaled by razor into soft skin on the back of my hand,
the monument now gently faded into its wrinkles
but dust doesn’t stick to the digits, as scars can’t sweat

I hide them still, wiping away gritty life surrounding
and today, even my wife remains clueless
because you do disappear -
time continues with two people aging together
our gray hairs streaking the basin in morning,
phone calls to the children later

by day I may dream another filthy furrow to fit into,
needing to glimpse again that flimsy past, and then
ponder glued joints of mortise and tenon
or half-lapped, passionless, the strongest, I’m convinced

we never found time to worry over furniture,
or learn that living is contained in mundane details
like dovetails and drawer pulls
Nov 2013 · 1.3k
Teshuqah
Robert Zanfad Nov 2013
these things are yours:
the leather sofas, paintings and mantlepiece chachkas
marked with pink post-it notes
that defined this houseload of secrets to outsiders

as I wrote glories for you in forced smiles garnishing
black and white stories for a world you craved
our home groaned beneath the weight

pink notes

they feel like garottes, the
crafty complaints to strangers
duly noted in a ledger somewhere...

I never noticed 'till now
that even our children have been plastered with them,
sorry little heads bobbing under their wires,
stiff armed puppets, like me
facing ruined toys or threatened death of a pet,
love served contingent like dessert after dinner

my powder blue lips were ever too meager to say anything

I suppose the sofa your cat peed
on is mine to sleep in,
though bleach wasn't enough to get her stink out
no chairs around my foldout dinner table

I never had a stack of blue paper to paste on furniture or people

my meager parts were abandoned by curbside at night:
clothing, computer, tools;
broken finger, blood-crusty nose,
bruised psyche;
memories of a mother and father;
old desk, contents drenched in murky wash water
treasures to be gathered in an Easter egg hunt
before morning

I'm *****, broken on the street
to live in the van again and *** in a cup

yet I elate in this paucity of things; it makes me lighter
I embrace its freedom
like when I used to sleep in park trees
to avoid river vermin, hungry
(yes, pate´ in Paris was divine - I ate the serving you’d have wasted )

or on train station benches with foul-smelling vagrants
you wouldn't understand that interaction …
this devil knows names, shared their bottles and pains
(the view of Prague’s rooftops from the castle veranda -
marvelous over glasses of wine and slivers of brie)

I learned hope is thin, frail skin, aetherial
my scars are hard, heavy, battle-earned wings that will never fly

as to things I do own:
love of self left after your half-portion spent;
poems scorned because
you never understood how they could be born without you

soon enough
we'll both be ashes or dust;
I’ll go in puffs
of swirling cigarette smoke and cheap bourbon
you under soil, I think
while words and our children
will both outlive the good sofa you sit on

I want them to be happy
Oct 2013 · 2.1k
Stacking Stones
Robert Zanfad Oct 2013
it's another autumn
migrating geese bark like dogs in distant clouds
marking their journey for earthbound creatures;
tree-crowns browning in rust
frame liquid skies neither of us reached,
though, our younger selves tried

from shelves of every Beatles' album ever made
organized alphabetically by noon after a vetted maid left;
we imagined rock stars strumming guitars,
turning our godawful poems into even worse lyrics
to make us feel important
in hungry aftermaths of disappointments

five star dinners cloistered within the entourage
of strongmen your father sheltered;
they would close restaurants for us
he spoke hushes of business from a stead at the head of table,
and broke men like you,
ordering salads made only from tender hearts of lettuce,
the rest set on plates of those less demanding

I remember blinking away teenaged intoxication like fever,
a world without rules for behavior,
a sixty mile drive to buy Italian hoagies in Atlantic City after midnight
because there was no one to deny an urge
to bend night to daylight; they reopened business for the son...
you knew they had no choice...

you showed me how to climb to my second story window once home again
leaving me hanging from the sill 'till Mom woke to let me in -
mind spinning, mumbling my drunkenness -
goodfellas never worry over consequences
she thought she hated you then,
I learned a measure of self-assurance

but there, in a too-small pup tent
you bought one summer by the sea
to work a job flipping burgers at the boardwalk for money
otherwise spent like water at the public shower
you bathed in

to be near any nagging mother
who set out an extra plate at dinner, because she secretly loved you, too
to be close to broke, dangling brothers like me
I felt the poverty of family

this morning I found the black suit and shoes in back of the closet-
abandoned search for lost yarmulkes that lived among mated socks
and wondered when my shadow disappeared
so many agos, this beard gray, time a dead skin I live in today

we'll lower a set of mortal remains into yet another Gethsemane -
under the cemetery canopy,
covering a carpet-rimmed hole still moist with yesterday's rain
I'll see the blue tent you sheltered in that season at the beach
feel closeness again as if there were no
intervening ocean of living between

there will be neither memorial service nor repast, after ...
only this
Robert Zanfad Oct 2013
useless, this skyward nightblind stare
was it there, from lost flecks of  stardust
that God wrought
this species of heroes and heathens?
these eyes don't see much anymore

I've tired of my own sophic nonsense,
pretenses ****** to any screed that might buy words
to publish under slews of anonymous names...
real life is not vague
we chew it, hard crusty bread

before dinner, my own fingers rummaged deep
planted within loose root shards, chewed chicken thighs, other things
we've eaten,
ever since days as young children...

Our Father consumed simply

like a banged and dented '57 Chevy
adorned pretty with loose bananas and oranges
freed from paper cartons,
his rusty wrenches tucked in my toolbox
built solid, still colorful, if not as useful anymore;
a ***-stained carpet too good to throw away
left to rot in the driveway; I called a tow to haul it all
yesterday

Oh my Brother...

when it rains
I drown in his rolling wheelchair
and rubber-tipped canes, set out plastic buckets

... and I think to drink them in...

the stories of glory or warning,
conquests and war,
apple pies left to cool on a sill
awaiting harvest by the bravest soldier

today:
gifts of old shot glasses saved in the cellar
(I drink from the bottle)
a box of fine cedar from the back of the closet
(though odor not telling, for a decade at best)
more stories...

but still
we're both grown men now, and safer for past efforts,
the lawn neatly mowed if not always ****-free.

does it matter?
winter's soon coming.
what could it save me?

it's a cold wind -
in time enough, some men
newly minted, will gaze inward - outward, too
search for food left in the pantry
the paltry stocks I put up:
canned spaghetti, dollar store crackers, salty powdered soup mixes...

they'll wonder whether a father ever listened
cared enough to spout useful advice...
weigh one heathen,
the *** who wrote poems only for himself
Sep 2013 · 1.2k
On Reading Poetry in Public
Robert Zanfad Sep 2013
restless, the echoes have flown
beneath a poem's mortal remains;
like desperate ecstasy dancing loose,
their words feast on familiar nightmares

passing tongues painting ecstasy
on the mirrors I fear,
forging storms of **** mermaids and pearls,
or short-haired girls who charged the sky
for a time blossoming orange or lime,
shunning rhymes but still...
sang syllables as heartbeats,
swaying like ripe summer wheat
in time with a young life's breezes

none of which could have been real
a singular eye peering back
from a black and white, whiskey blind
... not mine...
his, the mind of a stranger who stole a name
and tomorrow more the same,
soon forgotten, but by then sober
Sep 2013 · 1.9k
Again
Robert Zanfad Sep 2013
It was cold last night.  Grandma’s homemade crocheted afghan wasn't long enough to cover foot to nose. It had too many holes where hugs should have been woven. Numb toes woke first in hollow shoes, dancing and eager for morning to come. I ignored them.  But a filled bladder proved too much to pass, so I rose to *** in the paper soda cup I’d saved for the purpose. Now, hours later, the sun is shining, burning our condensed breathes from the windshield. It’s warm again.

We’re both hungry again, too. The yorkie yaps his need in time with mine:

“Let’s eat.”

“Hush! Wait, “ I say;

“Gotta check our balance.”

As if He were listening... no reason to draw attention of passersby to out position inside.

There’s not much left in my pocket; bank’s closed ‘till tomorrow.

Yesterday’s highlight was our dollar store lunch for which we gave thanks:

cold, fat-pocked, vacuum-packed salami between pale, tasteless crackers. The biscuits came in a shiny mylar bag which I found more fascinating than than its contents, even on an empty stomach.

All that for two dollars. No tax. A deal.

The disks of sustenance were ringed in pink plastic which pulled away easily from the soft, greasy “meat”. Dog ate meat, accepting crackers, seemingly, as a reluctant favor when the flesh was finished. I didn't mind sharing salami. The texture of crunchy crackers was better, no matter how wanting for flavor they were.

I thought of the animals from which the label claimed the slices were made: chickens, pigs and cows; lives awaiting harvest to an unknown and grander purpose. We’re not so different. Dog, me, living only in cages of different sizes. From enough distance, who would know?

Just before - they cried with horror. I might, if I were looking. I don't.  It’s nice that weeds and wheat don’t weep. It makes it easier to eat them. God prefers blood but I could never understand why. I used to stare, silent, at stars for the answer, printed words found lacking. But, for certain, we like ******, we just give it different names so it tastes better. Like hamburger.

It is Sunday.

Better dressed,  I could be in church reading words, pretending to sing hymns, eating His flesh. That has always had the form of torn shreds of bread because He’s been dead forever, and now fat free. The blood of wonder, still sweet and fruity in tiny plastic glasses, is not the thick congealing kind like mine or dog’s.  There's a reason to look forward.

(I'm too slow to block blows and can't see up-close without glasses anymore. So she always goes for my eyes first. It doesn't hurt. Machines wear out - they don't feel pain. But I still bleed -it stains the torn shirt.)

Jesus doesn’t allow dogs, so we sit outside and imagine grace behind the colored glass. At least I do. Dog can't read and prefers to scratch the grass. Besides, he might ***. They say He cried, too ... just before harvest. Jesus should have had a dog.

There will be a call later, as always. We’ll go back of habit, pretend mind storms are over. We’ll get warm again. Eat real food again. Get another broken finger or whacked on back of the head by a random household implement. I won’t flinch; just wait like another chicken or man. We’re cursed in knowing our ends. Dog licks my hand. Jesus might understand.
Sep 2013 · 1.1k
Dust Doesn’t Cry
Robert Zanfad Sep 2013
in that junction between summer green
and autumnal auburn skins
peaches dropped
their soft, burnt chins melting into ground
bearing teeth within like
quick-basted skulls reopened
or pages unread

the sugar’s been wasted,
a sin unexpected in spring
when first blossoms burst ...

then
like giddy children,
we would have us gathered ‘round early,
setting ladders, laughing to pluck ecstasy
and gods we might have been
or butterflies

not knelt so, the weight from this diet
of nameless hard words we’ve breathed,
boundaries woven into our clothes
worn to spite ourselves,
graceless beggars defeated

but restless, this:
echoes, now, of childhood and lovers,
friends who came and went as rain
another cold winter soon again,
the peaches we never picked
Apr 2013 · 1.5k
Sermon in Brown Paper
Robert Zanfad Apr 2013
he took my last quarter and dime,
pocket lint, the missing *****
of something I’d meant to reassemble
if I’d remembered or had time

then wandered off
rubbing shoulders with the sidewalk preacher
searching for signs of end times in rainstorms
or faint rumbles of passing traffic,
holding high his Good News
in a half-folded forecast for tomorrow;

this exodus -
across a patch of crabgrass
following a diagonal path of earth foot-worn
into a thin gray line defining the shortest distance
from his concrete corner to the door of the liquor store
justified a sacrifice of hours, the cold lies told:

lost wallet,
old mother,
car just out of gas

practiced to passersby or filling station patrons,
their rumpled tithes
reborn into an afternoon sermon
wrapped tight in brown paper
still warm with silent echoes of amen
Aug 2012 · 5.3k
A Turn to the Right
Robert Zanfad Aug 2012
“the nation needs new direction...”
a talking head on television
got me saved as he began
“abandon investigations into global warming,
polar bears and orangutans,
other pseudo-scientific distractions
from proper resource extraction that could save us
from the mess we're in..”

proposing, instead, the latest in scientific experiments:
ascertaining the flavor of blue jelly beans,
or the true origin of belly button lint -
useful information for armchair navel-gazers

now I'm one of them

we want an installation of mirrors on the moon
so we can watch ghetto children clean toilets after class
as they repay their debts
for the free ketchup they get
from socialist school lunch programs
they’ll learn valuable skills for eventual careers
as lifetime sanitary engineers

our right-minded scientists are poised soon
to upend the old myth that earth is round
because out in Texas, anyone can see that it’s flat;
and monkeys be ******
none of those letters are in us,
the old book says it in black and white

but we’ve since adopted the newer testament,
improved through Ayn Rand
(an atheist...imagine that!)
The Savior is an investment banker, job creator
who kept his accounts off-shore
out of reach of commies and single mothers, the ******

we still espouse good christian values
(charity for the poor, yaddayadda)
cooking pots of pasta in church kitchens
to feed them;
God helps when they need more -
like medicine for uncontrolled diabetes -
which is when we lay-on-hands and prescribe
heavy doses of prayer
(the approach doesn't cost a cent)

after all, poverty is the neo-cardinal sin
(greed, by conservative decree, is now good),
unforgiven within gates of the convention
but we’ll guarantee a spray of white carnations
on the pine box at the altar if all else fails,
complements of the congregation...

just not for gays or lesbians ...
or loose women who seek abortions
before we have a chance to peek inside them...

we aim to reclaim freedom
(from guilt and contemplation,
cerebral things like thinking...)
take our country back from
the legions of excess population
who, by some estimations, seem a lot like us
but aren't

we’ll be winners again
Robert Zanfad Jul 2012
how often good Christians offer to hold us in prayer
friends of the ill, they intend well
I don't refuse, of course

Father catechized He was everywhere -
in flowers and butterflies, even all living things

so when He seemed never to notice the obvious

I'd squeeze my brow tight
as if the effort might shine invisible light
bright enough to be seen at universal distance...
my prayer

awaking mornings still cradled
safe in the branch of a tree
or folded in the back seat of our van,
alone

in the dark, no more a devil,
even I've heard the whispered words
of "Our Father..."

but we both know Jesus gave up his practice
of psychoanalysis long ago
so I wasn't surprised - just disappointed
when each resurrection of hope died

now I'd rather mop,
having collected an assortment
of surfactants and disinfectants suitable
for a wide variety of household surfaces

killing the unsuspecting bacterium,
allergen or virus

I set blossoms in a sterile vase at bedside
by her arrangement of amber pill bottles
they'll wilt; I'll empty
a prayer she doesn't notice
Jun 2012 · 1.4k
Early, the Hour
Robert Zanfad Jun 2012
a soul breathes in morning darkness
worshiping the milkglass existence
of God’s naked syncopation

grasping at artifice written slow,
framed impossible
in time forgotten

my dream world soon stillborn
under the unsympathetic eye of sun rise
casting cruel a transformation
of imagined fertile bodies into dust airborne,

their amputated molecules
vibrating strangely in its light
flecks of white death,
mist of last breaths dissipating
to bequeath flesh a new day
Mar 2012 · 1.1k
Eat
Robert Zanfad Mar 2012
Eat
fresh tilled soil revealed phalanges of innocents
disarranged,
like chewed chicken bones, pointing or reaching
mixed with lost tree leaves that steel tines stirred in;
twigs snapped from limbs by some storm long forgotten,
skeletons left behind after picking the cotton

the Farmer sows afresh earth’s next crop rotation
seeds of winter wheat for bread we’ll be eating;
or grasses and sorghum for new cattle pasture
laid in shallow furrows with prayers for cover
a swaying anthem of living,
our losses forgiven by a harvest of summer
Feb 2012 · 831
Counting Ashes
Robert Zanfad Feb 2012
a new morning huddled
over the small stove set on snow
cold-numbed fingers
fumbled with matches
to light it

coughs punched at a dust rag sky,
the dull rasps
embarrassed near neighbors might hear
how the weak
body heaves, wracks
they'd smell kerosene on hands and clothes
if they came too close

the bent over figure
counts ashes afloat, relics
of fresh disasters wrought high,
loosing tally at one in hope it was the last;
restarts the reckoning -
it might be a tempest this time

fire fed by collections of poems,
old histories of things with no purpose,
expired quickly in overnight darkness
cold, gray their corpses still lay
beyond brushed bricks of the hearth

even a grocery list,
its page neatly erased under flakes,
chases after vapors escaped an empty fuel can,
hunger replaced by craving to be warm again

inside, behind the door
they bow heads and say grace at the table
praying over slices of light from a window
intoning with cotton puff voices
still
God gives tomorrow to continue the counting
Robert Zanfad Feb 2012
As a kid, my best days had a trip to the park
in summer,
when Mother had time after work
and it didn't get dark so fast

we rode bikes on the paths between broken glass,
watched for stray dogs
(and avoided the grass)
once we saw two men strolling, holding hands
and Mother said not to stare,
"They must  be  Europeans - they do things like that"

her best friend was Mrs. Cohen-Around-The-Corner
they could cluck across our rough fence out back
or toss apples to one another
were there an apple tree nearby
(but there wasn't)
so they used the telephone instead

the woman, she once told me,
"would just die"
if her only son ever brought home

"a shiksa"

I laughed at the word,
because it sounded sounded funny and ethnic
(Mrs. Cohen taught English)

she let her boy back-talk,
even express profanity
in graffiti on a bedroom door
with black permanent marker
(it could always be repainted later, she explained)

mine met reason with
quick backhands or glowering looks;
once even washed my mouth out
with soap
so I nodded in agreement

I revisited the old neighborhood,
to the teacher long retired;
showed wallet photos
and discussed our health
(hers mostly),
hearing accounts of the son away
years at kibbutz,
too busy to call regularly
or make any grandchildren yet

I didn't mention the trip to the park
which was neater than I remember
the kids played tag
(on the grass!)
until a skinned knee needed a kiss;
where I'm certain I'd seen him, now balding,
the kid from around the corner,
holding hands with a European
Robert Zanfad Dec 2011
Communion of Soft Fingertips

speak, modern world
we are sketched in languages of digital bits,
parity shading certainty with probabilities of truth
giving us form and existence across distance,
distilled to series of warm, invisible numbers

frequencies divided step-wise, as Fourier found them
in noise amalgamated as information heterodyned,
left to be separated out, reordered
by advanced statistical protocols
that trace our borders with delicate, unseen fingertips
 
a description of new beings, relationships between them
uncertain at first in the short trails
of data they create

but there eventually - by the law of large numbers
or acts of successive approximation

we'll find them

revealed, like a pointilist painting
or seemingly random collection of string
whose elements are alone meaningless
unless we step back to see an entirety of mass
which we recognize immediately
as true love and intimacy
Oct 2011 · 1.4k
Once, We Picked Peaches
Robert Zanfad Oct 2011
autumn had been only imagined
lurking in small cracks between days,
paving heaved from fat roots underneath;
its arrival seemed improbable
in summer's heat

vernal green leaves grew only deeper
in generous sun,
promising some future harvest of fruit
far off distant, but sweet,
certainly, when it would come

cool, now, faded mornings break;
the pursuing season
sheds desires wizened,
of pages yellow-brown and finger-worn,
already memorized
as if being is cast aside in a child’s game
of loves me or loves me not,
youth’s clothing otherwise unneeded

they were, maybe, sins of greed
befallen all new living things
seeking moments owed but soon forgotten;
the scent of pink spring blossoms,
or how the peaches blushed in bunches
before we ate lustily from supple branches

how soon this winter comes
a tree’s hard woody bark will bare to needs,
extend dark arms, spindly, old
to splay against a field of gray
declaring stark existence to a callous sky
that stings with wind and cold
Sep 2011 · 1.1k
Scene at the Beach
Robert Zanfad Sep 2011
as if by artist’s craft, that sky,
a painted bride blushing
her blaze of blistering crimson
like a blossom opened to
a blue black ocean’s kiss
colors bled in slender fingers
caressing wind-blown waters
and united, they melted into starlight
Sep 2011 · 873
Last Thoughts in Passing
Robert Zanfad Sep 2011
I’m lying on a beach, sun-punched subconscious
not too hot as a briny breeze still blows ashore,
but warm and melted onto the ground
like candle wax spilled over

nearby recumbent girls, unmoving as statues,
**** Aphrodites raised of sand and sea foam
splay across loose opened chitons
unfurling scents of oils and lotions,
awaiting their animation from kisses of salt mist
or ocean tide come in too close

they’d vanish by next glance
lost in minutes or hours passed
the impressions they’d left filled with glistening sparkles,
constellations of miniature stars fusing
then extinguishing by pairs to gray flatness

ascendant on gulls' laughter, wind-stretched,
entangled among broken waves
in an endless silk scarf god once made
but left behind in his dream at dawn
when light then carved each grain its shape -
this beach for me to sleep on
Robert Zanfad Jun 2011
life lost new words
like old eyes bereft of light
and work of thought
comes at painful price
a man's mind dreams old air, faces stars
and remembers real flesh, lips, love;
the lightness of falling leaves

and knows their memories
of a watery day in spring,
when past beauty used red steel
to hide a child shared with rain,
his face unseen, body gray
under waves kept closed to wonder

sky, loose at the fine ends
of dark death’s skin
has seen years, the trees
now sleeping peacefully
relieved of the burden they’d borne
embracing the coursing winter winds
where a son might live as breath-thoughts,
the little cloud of wild hope passing
giving purpose to the heavens
Jun 2011 · 877
Comparative Shades of Mars
Robert Zanfad Jun 2011
It was there tonight, crimson bright, pointed, starlike
driving attentions as if by divine intervention
(some said, rather, evil - that the devil had come)
inviting irregular cracks to the shield of glass between us
by which we could gauge its thickness, at last  

regardless, eyes focused in darkness
on the pointed part of a blade
dodging ****** by coupé with the leg of a chair
blaming planetary alignment for the thickness of air

it was always here -
before, somewhat yellow or orange
but at such distance we could pretend it a figment
or blur on the lens, enjoying toast slices at breakfast
despite its tempestuous hold of our lives
Jun 2011 · 854
The Simple Truth of Poetry
Robert Zanfad Jun 2011
Poetry is poking through the ashtray
for the lost word I spit away
on the the last cigarette to make sure it was out
(because I sicken from smoke of burning cellulosic filters,)
distracted, tapping another growing ash
into a glass I'll surely sip from later
It'll cough out dry and chalky
from my fingers
they all go to the same place -
whiskey, cigarettes, words -
and presume to have meaning
when it's late,
making a game of speeding clocks
until they're bored and stagger home
to their closet under the stairs,
leaving me to wash their empty glasses
and sweep off the dusty pretensions
they've left on my desktop,
wishing I'd gone to bed earlier
or repotted some geraniums instead.
Mar 2011 · 1.5k
Guarding the Roses
Robert Zanfad Mar 2011
Edgar Allen settled evenings in the room at the rear
at a desk by the window where he could hear
breeze-rustled sycamore leaves sleeping
behind the neighbor’s house next door

through night’s florescent blue moon light,
its mist through low leaden clouds
he imagined the phantom he named Lenore,
and remembered lost Annabelle Lee  
amore he'd left laid alone aside a blackened sea

hers, the voice of a tree speaking, hushed,
like distant waves rushed upon shore,
faintly whispering heart-secrets
the ardent couldn’t keep evermore

was it she who sighed with love’s breathless lips
to flicker the flame of a tortured oil lamp’s light
the words born laboring children
with pen put in service to cover past rent,
refill an empty flask of verdant absinthe
for a nine-dollar-half-column poem -
fodder for fickle romantics to tear over
before a performance of Bellini’s new Norma

hardened, our modern hearts
fattened on diets of swollen bellies
that belie the dour misery of starving
they’ve grown sclerotic and cynical,
hungry for suffering flavored substantial -
a greasy disaster to stain the paper wrapper
enclosing depths of the human condition


sophisticates, we dismissed puerile appetite
for honeyed songs of longing,
the ornamented confections of jealous angels
old drunken poets sang
until dark full comes, alone, and we’re small again

then shadows still speak to starry skies
and fairy tales may come alive
to suspend belief with secret dreams
of the dear, lost Annabelle Lee
In an annual tradition that ended in 2009, a mysterious stranger would place three roses on Edgar Allen Poe's grave to commemorate his birthday.
Robert Zanfad Feb 2011
in the city where they rise now,
weeds waist high in summer times,
aglitter under with still-luxuriant diamonds
when the sun shines just so,
even in winter
before lost under snow

all that's left of the window
from which a sweet Juliet surveyed prospects
playing touch football below in the street,
pausing gridiron glories for passing cars
or ladies with bags of groceries in arm

the broken tooth of the block,
just a lot, brick and rock
packed hard
under metal treads of reaping machines,
attracting a profane collection
of neighbors’ wind-blown refuse
to which none will lay claim today

the lovely vanished,
as if her gaze west as sun set
finally pulled her away through clear panes,
one life rejected limited, mundane
and left lifeless a cradle to crumble

none here remember her
every face changed, new as the years
or aged by insults of time and moved on -
nor she the stoop, once so sturdy and safe;
an ancient sycamore's welcome embrace,
cool every August,
would last forever
to the innocent mind of a child

and the woman forgot the crack
in the cemented back yard
where ants lived -
a girl once stared for hours
as they harvested
a crust of sandwich
hidden from the raucous street,
the heat of the sun,

which she decided to follow to its glorious end,
leaving behind a field fallow
where ants,
oblivious to a world that had changed,
fend, still, for a meal
in their broken concrete
Feb 2011 · 677
Too Soon We Wake
Robert Zanfad Feb 2011
Morning woke to a sky cloaked in white
as mist rose, smoky, from snow
now shedding its innocence
for smoldering, bent cigarettes
left to extinguish themselves overnight

Infinite blue was lost under cover,
down shroud erasing each page
of tales that reveries replayed,
myths of forever and love
rubbed away in a new day's color

Haze bound dreamers by cords of reason,  
who surrendered their searches
in surges of x-rays weighed
for presence of a life’s tuned waves
to prove existence an ancient season

Like a fragrance they vaguely remember,
confusing a vapor trace  
painted nostalgic - the face,
arching brow, how soft her hand -
and wished magic had lasted one more hour
Jan 2011 · 705
Counting Breaths in Winter
Robert Zanfad Jan 2011
Poverty strummed weary bodies
with cold, bony fingers
flesh quivered its rhythm
as they sat at the table
drinking powdered breaths
and eating light cut in slivers

cloaked hope was preserved
in an emptied jelly jar,
safe, stowed behind old coats
warming hooks in the closet

the seed meant for a summer
when water fell freely
if minds would remember
where it was hidden
Dec 2010 · 1.9k
Elegy for a Lost Friend
Robert Zanfad Dec 2010
land’s become copper and rust
but for a few golden strands
of heavy-headed grass
spears tall, yet avoided harvest

appetites of roving deer
will soon consume them, too,
overcoming fears, that gray-band
of asphalt they dance against

they stand silent, await frost
certain to repaint the place
as cotton clouds, my breath,
remind the lie of endless life
clutched fast in cold-numbed limbs

this web of brittle bones,
like the huddled trees outstretched,
is tossed in bitter winds
and in there I lost your face

the body stooped and shuffled away
with never a backward glance
taking our childhoods with you,
old man
Dec 2010 · 750
Disquiet
Robert Zanfad Dec 2010
autumn's last leaves lingered,
bearing witness whiteness
of first flakes
to fall, whispered
to one another
"warm summer is over -
now’s time to go home"
Nov 2010 · 819
Autumn Airs
Robert Zanfad Nov 2010
on winds broke words, gentle echoes -
piano's chords, sweet, freed foregone sins
by its voice lost from across a vast canyon
recast halcyon the tempest -  it paused, a tree rejoiced
pitched leaves, ever bitter, tasted gentler breaths
rested, murmuring their peace which weaved
season's tapestry, as poetry
came home to its nest
Nov 2010 · 646
Smoke Rings
Robert Zanfad Nov 2010
hope's breath was spent-
broad shoulders wiped tears in
bruising pools, skin flayed raw
colored more lifeless gray
than black and blue in the mirror
amid clouds of nicotine blankets
their weakness hides beneath;

blood encrusted nostrils,
newly immune to floral smells,
told their ringing ears
which found sounds of acrid words
tolled loud and certain,
making children cry to hear them
like promises made but forgotten,
pillows framed aged eyes,
devil-weary, blurred furrows
in which to sow sorrows

saccharine love bound,
secured, in smoky rings
of siren song’s early death -
for a moment, soul fled flesh,
where even soft heart
felt dark, strangled in
its tangled vessels,
left for dead, to glimpse
an imagined pulse of brilliance
its refuge for the morrow,
as that  anticipation’s
life’s only worthy pain
Nov 2010 · 755
The Good Families
Robert Zanfad Nov 2010
grand those fortunes
which still pour,
grains of purest sugar
from sores in sacks where it's kept

they never bother the floors -
hillocks at times swept
for country club dues,
or spent on jaguars
the youngsters will drive -

it refills from endless supply,
now out of ransomed dreams
a rabble may dare,
repaid in their knees
and knuckles worn bare

bleeding tremolite lungs of old men
lending respectability to old names,
ensuring children's safe distance
from wizened brown limbs
of people forefathers traded,
broken black bodies hidden
in mounds of white wealth,

heathen souls saved at the altar,
naked but for irons they wore
lives mortgaged for
their good Christian deaths
all for sweetness
of more.
Oct 2010 · 2.1k
Next Neck, Please
Robert Zanfad Oct 2010
I find that chromium-vanadium steel,
while holding glimmer and shine
through much abuse,
is harder to hone
to that razor-like edge
that truly makes chopping a breeze
(watch the fingers, please),
merely mangling fine fruits
and tomatoes, instead.
(just tilt your head, thus)
It's a tool best left
for whacking at meat,
as its heft and its strength
make short work of bone;
more cleaver than scalpel,
if truth will be said.
I've always preferred
the high-carbon alloys,
though now out of fashion
in today's haute cuisine.
While rusting and blackening with age -
not the type you'd put on display -
the blades stay as keen
as the day they were minted,
and wipe down nicely on sleeves.
Oct 2010 · 1.1k
Everlasting
Robert Zanfad Oct 2010
I wonder ivy, ever green
embracing faces no longer seen
were better tribute to love immortal
than fragrant blossoms strewn on soil;

too soon they loose their hues, perfumes,
becoming dust like those they'd honor,
when life's the thing we thought was cherished -
then remind us only flesh will perish

but love attaches to the stars
and lives forever in our hearts
so never work to mark my path    
with stones nor earth, for they will pass,

erode of tears and sighs of heaven
that earth should suffer my disruption,
her milk I’d stolen might sequester
locked in darkness forever from her

rather, vest me in some far off light
that twinkles in the dark of night,
thy wistful eyes to visit there
and meet my love’s returning stare
Sep 2010 · 699
Finding a Road
Robert Zanfad Sep 2010
it's a wonderful day
to run away
watch codes echo
in window glass,
flashes in flecks of sunlight
as clouds and trees pass,
the encrypted secrets
only stars will ever know

dust lies still
at the edge of the road
where once we traced our names,
awaiting wind to blow,
erase us,
cover old shoes
we’d left behind
Sep 2010 · 2.0k
Dried Flowers
Robert Zanfad Sep 2010
the azalea grew there
twenty years,
its grey body now
but scratchy bones,
browned blossoms
to ponder
until someone with courage
pronounces it over

cuts barren spines down,
and mulches the ground
with faded smiles
aged between pages
found saved in a shoebox
string-tied tight in darkness

will we still want spring
when we remember
our missing fuchsia
or discover
a new color to admire,
forget it ever was,
as we’ve manged
to forget laughter
in passionless winter
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