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Robert Zanfad Nov 2013
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
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
Robert Zanfad Oct 2009
A new year came born last night
Or an old one died
Worn and used, useless
Amidst champaign, påte and toasts.
This new day, new noon, new year
Black tie, fine clothes folded,
Noted a shirt stud lost
And must be replaced.
Before we part five stars
Rented the night
I would
Step outside for a cigarette -
No smoking inside, only cigars.
It's just the help who smoke
Paper wrapped scraps
Out back by the trash
And I wouldn't be welcome.
Lobby busy with guests
On their ways through
Doors held open to
Black labeled autos
Where the heeled reach hand
To men whose faces they avoid
Exchanging obligatory graft
Glad their craft returned.
January air stabs
Its frigid blade slicing
Nostrils, lungs in pain, cheek burns
Frost earns my mustache.
Finally past the bustle
Some steps to the side
Where my fix can be lit
"Hey, brother"
A voice, a wretch
Cold taken its toll, nasal exudate
Frozen in a lake on lip
He hopped from foot to foot
And I smelled him, vagabond
An assault to air already painful
Oh, to walk on, feign deafness!
But needy eyes held me
Refusing the cigarette offered
He just wanted to say
"Happy new year"
Know that he existed.
Brown eyes cried
That someone finally stopped
To listen.
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 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.
Robert Zanfad Jul 2010
Oh decry the weakness of our condition,
sets brother on brother,
us versus them
as we march under banners
we’ve made to define us,
hurling words as stones
to defile and ****** the other,
huddle and glorify those loose strands
of similarity that bind the camps
we choose to be in

There is no such thing
as peace we've ever made,
only those lulls which prepare us,
tracing shapes
of the next enemy faced,
togetherness an ideal for armies
marched in lockstep.

Good God!
Were we ever in His image?
Recalcitrant, misfit
creators of the better death
Then suffer so, those who love the weak;
they own multitudes of sins
never answered,
intent yet to invent one
which will make Satan quiver,
finally prove mastery of all universes.
But they are our kin, so love them we must
Robert Zanfad Sep 2009
The sword,
An object of beauty
While mildly
Set over mantle
Displayed, idle
And accepted
'Till smeared red in the deed
For which its creator deemed
For it.
We forget the perfect
Flame from which it was forged,
Cursing creation for our failure
To understand His purpose,
Faces stained with disdain
For what was His will.
Robert Zanfad Dec 2009
I see her lips curl in grimace
A purulence of old meat
Put off too many tomorrows
Air touched disinfected, rescented
An insult in time forgotten.  

Suddenly recalled with that face
Appearing amidst the street
Girlish want of it since disposed,  
Dead flesh wafts again, decayed, fetid
Memories of it since rotten
We look away and walk on
Robert Zanfad Sep 2009
This was my sand yesterday,
Hot and gritty,
Yet comforting, embracing
Under my towel.
Troves of precious shards of shell
Mapped into mind
With the jellyfish abandoned
By the tide
Just out of reach of cool waters
And a pool carved
With ramparts and towers,
An ambitious child's construction
Proudly pronounced eternal.
But we took pictures
To remember,

Now, after breakfast,
Into blue too perfect
This morning's sun rose
To a sky spilled
Cloudless and clear
Over new land
Reformed by night swells
Gulls and terns blown on,
Friends' footprints cleared,
The castle lost
By waves or wind's gusts.
It seems alien now.
My toes dig ever deeper
To discover if warmth
Is still here, hiding below
The surface of what I can see.

Morning's winds fling
Biting bits chipped
From far-off mountains
Cheek and legs sting
In force of anger born
Far offshore,
While the children nestle
My jacket for shelter
It can't give them today.
The tourists left - the sand is ours
To reshape, imprint with feet again.
And plan for tomorrow -
Umbrella, blanket, pails,
Embrace sea's eternal rhythm.
We'll stay.
Robert Zanfad Jan 2010
Were answers in rain,
Now just a fine mist.
Dark pools that remain
Seem to hint what I missed.
When it had come falling,
Wet head was bowed low;
Could heaven been calling
With answer of "Go
Please leave me to be
You simple, mad fool!
Bereave silently -
It's in quiet that you'll
Find new peace, obscurity,
Rediscover your place.
I gave you security,
Never again seeing my face",
Repeating sentiments
Expressed long ago,
In words that once sent
A weak soul to hell.
So, shoes soaked again,
Today just in puddles,
I ponder this rain
And whether it had meaning.
Robert Zanfad Nov 2009
Psychotic break stole
Sound mind with a dream
Escaped from the hole
Left by heart's loss.
Paste and paper seams
Meant to give gloss
To facades distressed
Unravel in time
And a life, no less,
Is bound to come loose
When built on old lies.
Lost to reality
In a new delusion
I watched a poor fool,
Arms flapping wildly
Certain they were afire
Set to flame by the embers
Of that brazier
Lit a life time ago,
Left hidden in past
Still aglow,
Time's slow drip
Yet unable
To put the coals to rest.
From poets,
Madman learns,
Salving fresh burns
With quenching words,
Delighting in their
Cooling flow,
A newfound remedy
For a primal malady.
Babbling in swatches,
Speaking of things
That aren't there
But maybe were.
Then lighting more matches,
Lest the glow extinguish
Its delirious illusions
Ease smoldering anguish,
But leave the room too cold
Robert Zanfad Jun 2014

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 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.
Robert Zanfad May 2010
I'm getting old;
lest I forget, the mirror's always there,
reminder in grays
and new wrinkles to start the day,
hair since forgotten to behave.

Bold hearted youth,
scrapping in dark alleys
after bars closed,
left it's marks and scars
with sins to be atoned, too;

Broken heart remembered,
even as initials carved
into bark of thick skin
fade from being embarrassing
because that pain
never really healed inside.

And as close as old stars may arc
as they fly on by, they just go on by,
because clocks can't stop
and stardust moves much too fast
for an old man to grasp.
Robert Zanfad Nov 2009
Autumn leaves chased after
One another
Spinning pirouettes like
Children at play
Rustling in gentle laughter.
I stifled a cry
To call them aside
Stand clear from harm's way
"Rest with me amid
Short grass and mud"
I thought I should say
Then, these days,
Their days,
Have number, too
So I stood quietly by,
Lived their joy
As they hopped and flew
'Till speeder's wake,
A blind, uncaring rake,
Swept them all away
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 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
Robert Zanfad Feb 2010
Last October I wandered a new trail
Leaves had begun to turn and fail
Some stillness 'tween the trees beckoned me,
"Come see"
But it was nothing new again
I had been there once before
So trod a little more
Familiar ground, green beards on rock
Crunching sounds, lichen liveried trunks
Can' t fathom still how
Solid earth let my body down
To stretch out flat, posed a corpse
In his leafy coffin, I suppose
Above, a blur of yellows, peeling
Paint drifting from the forest ceiling
Into slightly parted lips:
Ave Verum Corpus
Then remembering the cherished face
I yearned to see 'ere I leave this place
Copyright 2009, Robert Zanfad
Robert Zanfad Mar 2010
Smoke rose from a cigarette,
Broken in passing breeze
Began to dissipate,
Vanishing but for a memory
It had once lingered there
To sully spring's air.
Existence still transient,
As mind will cast away
This trivia as passing of the day.
What was becomes nothing.
Shadows are for moments,
Specters of light not there,
So as emotions profound,
Sounds of beloved voices
Once sweetening time
Cease to be when forgotten.
Robert Zanfad Apr 2010
Isn't it strange living in another person's head?
It's like Being John Malkovich,
or Anne Sexton
as I rode along with her
wild rides into sand at the beach,
lost in Boston again,
inside a mind
that was different but still mine
because I saw
that very street lamp she did,
and in her advice to me,
that yet unborn memory
that would never be,
I heard her words in soft puffs
of nicotine-scented tickles
in my ear, warm air
before young lungs
had ever breathed in,
and I cried
because she was speaking to me,
though she never knew it
when the words clattered
from that old Remington
like a machine gun-
I was just an idea
she never really had,
a wish in soft feathery hair
on the chest of man
she shared lust with as he slept,
not knowing he would father
a specter delivered from a womb
that had closed for business.
Our walks
along an asylum lawn,
returning waves
to suspicious grass,
green oceans to get lost in
after sewing leather wallets
from our own hardened skins
as if projects could ever fix
the worlds of sin we lived in,
pandering doctors offering
officious pretense of cure
against the sweet furies
of sunrises, sunsets,
earth worms and *****.
So, can I cry
having crossed a divide
into another,
for moments residing
in the soul and belly of a mother
who was never mine,
though I feel her pain
as if we own it together?
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?


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.
Robert Zanfad Jun 2010
wind arrived in secret waves;
chime strings tangled
while tides
crept neigh strangled
piles, seaweed, dead skates they gave
to sand last night.
white moon's
bright light
broke on water,
like mirror's shattered shards strewn.
Robert Zanfad Mar 2010
It wasn't long ago
Paper crowns could make princes,
Dandelion hair blown to the air
Granted us all of our wishes;

When wheeled toys on the floor
Kept us playing for hours
Just like two little boys.

Oh, those joys of the swing
I made and hung from the limbs
Of the cherry tree out in back!
Eyes tightly closed, arms spread this wide,
A son once dared learn to fly
Like a nestling soon the wing,
Singing "Daddy! Push me s'more!"

Even strong trees do tire,
Branches growing too long in the sun
Now ropes and plank seat are gone,
So long since unused became nuisance.

But I miss them now,
Those times we plucked cherries
From the tree that once stood there,
Laughing like two little boys.
Copyright 2010 Robert Zanfad
Robert Zanfad Feb 2010
Just the smallest speck  -
A mote of red, reminder
That bare hands aren't best
Used to wipe at shards of glass.
Funny we use something as
Delicate to cover a photo,
As if there beneath rests
Something so precious
It can be protected
By crystal fragility.
Yet paper's still intact -
Even were it not,
Image is stored digitally.
There could be hundreds more
If they're what we'd want,
Enhanced to erase blemishes
Unwanted age, pasted ersatz
Smiles upon our faces,
A window into a past
That probably never existed -
I don't remember anymore.
Perhaps plastic covers
From now will be best.
I prefer the sound acrylic
Makes when it strikes.
Dull thuds die easily -
No sounds of permanence,
Nor as hard to clean, either.
Though, picture's stained,
Shouldn't have touched.
Then, frame wasn't the aim
Of all that rage, was it?
Copyright 2010 Robert Zanfad
Robert Zanfad Mar 2010
Moving among those colors,
Shades of blue in green,
Listening to Miles explain
Living in between
Sun and rain
Where there's
Blues in yellow, too -
Hues of some old pain
That became a warm friend,
Embraced when awakened -
Familiar, slow and easy
As an understanding face.
Listening to Miles explain,
"So what?"
Comfort in the voice again
Who knows the color blue.
Copyright 2010 Robert Zanfad
Robert Zanfad Feb 2010
Glass in my windows rattled
So furious was the birth.
Once over, peace more
Serene in face of wrath
We had seen.
All who saw regarded
In awe fresh beauty -
Time did stop, and sound.
We saw wonder in newness,
Familiar land transformed
To heaven's purity -
Then set out to to sequester innocence,
Sacrificed to our convenience.
We moved and pushed
Poisoned and cursed,
Rallied weapons to beat it.
So now Snow looks like us
Broken, finally defeated;
Grey, scarred and ugly,
Age taking shares by day,
Life by slow trickles
Ebbing away,
Long since lost of purpose.
Copyright 2010, Robert Zanfad
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
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
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
God gives tomorrow to continue the counting
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
Robert Zanfad Aug 2010
In somber autumn dreams
we watch as clocks melt,
time the illusion once felt
on a creaking porch swing
one summer somewhere

when fireflies held in our hands
transcended brilliance of stars
because we sat there together
hiding smiles in the dark,
believing there was forever
Robert Zanfad Jan 2010
Desperate these words,                          
Chasing fleeting shadow,                      
Echoes flocking like birds                
Amid myriad distortions,
The unquiet mind's sorrow.                
In birth chosen for sweetness,                    
A bid for attentions of one                        
Soon fade mere whispers,                        
Weak and defeated tomorrow,                
Exhaled anguish unheard.                        
Written lines would have best
Been spoken in ears years ago
'Ere time flowed its course,
When ever softer verse
Might shimmer
Then a symphony,
Maybe able
To drown life's other sounds
Like Mozart, loud as one can turn up.
Would there be any remedy
Which relieves burdens of memory...
The music of dulcet strings
Does dull stings, still only temporary;
And since abandoned,
Thoughts of more ultimate things.
So still, some poet's quill
Crafts dreams into sparrows,
Sets fluttering free
Their unnatural wings
To sing a song of regret,
Share madness with the winds.
Robert Zanfad Feb 2010
I've read far too much psychiatry -
Now knowing from ear to there
Many mysterious processes
That make one's mind blink -
Acute chemical reactions,
Therapeutic medications...
But academic texts
In their dryness
Seem to lose
Life's realness,
Why we think
As we do.
That *****
That comes loose
To throw one off course
Could not be all chemistry.
So academically written are words
To those authors who don't live them.
I'd rather imagine some error of cooking -
That tarragon substituted for basil
Or marjoram instead of sage
Gave that strange taste
To the sauce of my life
That salt could not
Cover over.
A wife
Wasn't my choice
As young lovers married.
Yet in time I heard the voice
Mimicking demons, evil in cycles.
Excused and forgiven as nature's vice
At first  - then when wrath affected children...
A man can only accept his own scars
As the consequences of his living,
Entered into wide-eyed, willing.
By knife's nicks I've survived,
Callused skin is tougher.
But to save the tender
I think I'll give up

Insanity isn't contagious
As go diseases,
But as butter
It does
copyright 2010 Robert Zanfad
Robert Zanfad Sep 2009
Back to the closet to await another year
The black lapel of my jacket
Sparkled with lost glitter
From a little girl's ball gown
A thousand stars in a night sky
I'll not brush them off
Just yet
So to remember tomorrow
Joy in the eyes of my little angel
And that I was a prince once
Robert Zanfad May 2010
Truth was always found
in tongues of loose razors;
sarcasm's edge pared
flesh sentimental,
weakness fallen
in strips to the ground,
where salt sown in handsful
ensured earth never fertile
that any blossoms might grow

So long food for the soul,
sharpness scooped up,
that bare hands
drunk in deep draughts,
and welcomed the cup
from which they poured forth;
occasional trips into hell,
for audience with the devil
to discuss global weather,
other pressing matters...

So to find anything of beauty,
like treasure revealed in moon beams
striking at just the right angle -
intricate, delicate, diaphanous
scarf trembling in melodies
only I hear, heartsongs
escaped lips of a siren
in distance where
stars grow...

Reading wonder in silk strands
woven as if by angel's hands;
imagined some magic
spun for me
a web that had existed
eternally, though never seen
'till revealed accidentally
in reflections of some
ancient lights

Today I'm made of starfire
sharpest blades can't uncover;
in morning, pondering patterns
clouds make in blue skies
like child's discoveries;
listening to sonatas in sunsets
as sweet tastes of poetry
relieve lingering stings
of doubt in my mouth
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"
Robert Zanfad Apr 2010
Ditch diggers don't write poems -
As if there might be found
A single thought  profound
Amid the mud they go in;
The pungence in essence released
From trees' roots that are severed
Is never fragrant like lilacs,
And their labor is of purpose,
That dirt removed by aching backs -
Gashed earth becomes the grave
In which our sins can be hidden;
Tomorrow ditches will be filled in,
Restoring peace which land craves,
The simple laborer's work done.

Ditch diggers don't write poetry -
Palms calloused in pick and *****,
Too rough when art 's to be made,
Remain convinced by sophistry
They've no true claim to a pen.
Clods of clay always remain
Adhered to heels of workmen's boots,
Becoming my life's defining metaphor.
So we forgo more ethereal pursuits,
Though forever treasuring sweetness
Flowed over soil of our dank holes,
Loving breaths exhaled from souls,
Floral kisses blown across distance.
Robert Zanfad Apr 2010
Try working in a nonunion shop
******* on bottle tops
in August heat, begging the boss
to use the phone in his air conditioned office
to call home,
check in on Mom,
even on your own dime
at lunch time;
working on the bottom rung
among sweat-stained princes
who get to drive forklifts
because they're so much better than you,
dreaming that one day
they'll be allowed to push buttons
and throw switches, too,
which is why they don't share lunch
with the ******* who
sweep floors
and paste labels on boxes;
but the cool air
never made it out there
where any of us worked.
Or Divide and Conquer?
Robert Zanfad Mar 2010
I've sworn off dreams,
Willing, instead, gray nights,
A sleep of the dead
To match the day.
That loss of control
Over thoughts that
Were once so carefully
Jailed and forgotten
Is hard to regain
As sun arises,
Consciousness reigning again.
Memories of faces, their places,
Feelings best left suppressed,
Otherwise find freedom -
Unchained to dance in
Convolutions of mind
That bend time,
Like letters folded
Bringing beginning to end,
Blurring new words,
Ink not yet dry -
As awake, at work,
In midst of a chore,
Suddenly expecting
Young lovers will be sitting,
On that stoop over there;
Night's scenes will still dance,
Steal away the days,
And life become one long
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
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 ...

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
Robert Zanfad Sep 2010
Air fills with sharp shrills of jays,
the sounds
gratuitous warning
for feet adapted
to ground-
better directed
at a stray cat
that will dare limbs
in hope of his prize

dreamer's ears once heard
melodies of Verdi arias
through leaves,
their sweetness seeping
as from blue overhead
and imagination lured
to seek beauty in them

learning from too often falling,
wishes earning scars
that made skin numb and hard,
morning's music found muffled
by deaf cowardice,
its promise of safety
worn on gray,
dusty shoes
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
Robert Zanfad Mar 2010
I think I should invent
a GPS for life -
Little dots on a screen
Showing where I've been,
With bold yellow lines
Defining safe paths
Through its strife.
Technology that'll calculate,
Then efficiently navigate
Roads blocked or doors locked.
Better to enjoy times
Spent flying along
Distances lying between
Beginning and end.
Robert Zanfad Mar 2012
fresh tilled soil revealed phalanges of innocents
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
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
Robert Zanfad Jun 2010
blunt tips of bent cigarettes
were incisive as razors -
sliced wrists weeping
bright red sentences,
spattered unborn to blank paper
and turned into statues
so the dead would always remember
what they did,
never safe in the graves
in which they'd took refuge

but blue on blue
was ever her color;
blue on blues
seeping from old sins,
deep, hidden within spidery veins
that traced pale, soft *******,
finally filling mute lips as she slept,
subsumed in oceans of color,
blues that gave stories, as waves to shore
subsided, reclaiming their pain,
and cleansed sand once more

What end to life!
a collection of furies like stone turtles
arranged on the mantle -
just a few dozen last words
tucked among ads for
Old Spice and Polident tabs
unread, used to line
litter boxes in Cambridge
or wrap fresh fish at Hay Market;

then, someone pausing to wave at the sky
missed saving the drowning woman
by years, if he'd tried,
finding questions in every answer;
child curled in hard lap of his mother,
her cold affections of words
blew from dead lips like old wishes
without tender touch or wet kisses;
but that life continued,
if lived only blue on blue
From memories of Anne Sexton I never had, but only imagined were real, from that time we met on Mercy Street.
Robert Zanfad Apr 2010
Body and mind in turmoil
Painted manic swirls of color,
From dust raised
In wind from soil
We sit at eternity's gate.
Within our simple frames
Rests God's nobility
Invested with His breaths
'Till called to home at last.
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
Robert Zanfad Apr 2010
i've come here to commit the quivering weak,
feeding scurrying beasts more reeking fodder
sentimental flesh no match for their razor sharp teeth
banging *** lids, stomping feet
hoping that rats near, feasting
on scraps and detritus will scatter amid bluster
before eyes dare to open - perhaps catch sight of things
that might scare us
our cans, never closed -
left always ajar, an offering of communion
lest they grow too hungry
gnaw through walls and come inside,
share foie gras with guests I'd hoped to impress
now seated and dining behind;
disgust them in sights of sins best hidden out back in the darkness
and leave fine linens soiled with meals yet digested

his body's been disposed before,
innocent specter resurrected by morning to fog up the mirror
reciting novenas as beads of his rosary roll in counts down its surface
never suspecting fate that awaits as night falls once more
daytime is easier, drowning sound
from his voice in symphonies of piano and strings
Mozart's or Mahler's  -
other things of distraction...
that aren't there to hide in when
sun fades and sleep, again, tries to invade
his figure repudiated, extracted
from a psyche dissected years ago, like a tumor threatening to grow
swallow the Now from which time's made.
in pretense of conversion for the moment,  i take his hand and lead him -
more fresh meat for the rodents
(even saints sometimes lie when they don't like the answers - they atone deception later)
he still cries when I leave him alone at the altar

a shaman shaking dried heads tied to a stick with palm leaves
promised mysterious potions that would strengthen the weak
reciting magical incantations expected to exorcise spirits within
for all those who believed
practicing his science of faith or faith in his science
for clients lined up at the door,
seeking doses of hope that he sold them -  returning each week for some more
but for those apostate, left to stare in the glare of florescent
humors never found balance in bloodletting
lancet nor leaches
the weakness of faithless was in never tasting the cure
or trusting tears could ever be wiped away by ice picks
he ****** deep in eye sockets, the sweet lies he told us
holes left in the soul could never filled by blue pills -
they couldn't reach there

missionaries positioned their ways
through that breach,
preaching a new theology requiring surrender
of my reliquary of cherished memories
as precondition for salvation,
discarding polished bones i'd kissed and prayed over:

Her precious pink t-shirt, coil of hair still stuck there,
though having no root it could never be proved
from whom it was groomed,
it was article of faith - who could dare question it;

the used ticket stub with date imprinted
indicating temporal evidence that
once something true existed
that i, too, felt part of;

words bound in a covenant sent by saints
in small pieces of lavender-scented mail
though having waited so long
faith in The Coming had wasted
and perfume, long ago, faded to imagination

and so, a soul abandoned all hope of redemption

a red rose rendered in oils
expressing devotion for eternity lost meaning
when it withered
watered by hope, as it was and forgotten;
our castle built on clouds came tumbling to the ground
when we looked up, stared at the sky;
the permanent brilliance of diamonds become mere stones in the garden
when sown from a window on high -
wealth for worms to covet and fight over,
though the fool still knelt to sift soil through his fingers
in search of lost sacrament
finally planting his hope
in the many graves that he'd made
otherwise, for forsaken,
faith is just hope not yet ready to die

then, there's the weak one i'll face in the morning,
likely still worshiping old bones and reciting from memory his ancient liturgy
when i let it, a cacophony of questions
can echo about paths never taken, and why some vows, not others;
and i wonder if there's a heaven for heathens when clocks cease their ticking
off nows that i try to live in
For the stout of heart who have made it to this end, wondering why they've wasted their time with obscurity and lunatic rant,  my apologies... the outburst felt good in its writing.
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