[Poetry] — Jane Zwart

Ars Poetica

It’d rather be negligible, a drop of water
clutching a branch, but I am sure
that a goddess has lost her earring here
and someone hung it up for her to find.

It spangles a color that I cannot find
in any nearby flower or fruit or bird
or child’s romper drying on a line.
So its salmon must belong to the light;

it must be exhausting itself against the river, 
prismatic, against the current’s going. 
In this analogy, I am not Devi, and I am not 
the fish. I am the mortal at an ordinary desk, 

looking through an unwashed window 
at a diamond chip, holy, holding onto a twig.
I am the lady at the fish ladder, muttering over
a page while the salmon run. Just say it:

I am the poet, and the poem only 
the instructions for drawing a circle
around the water that will not stay,
around the goddess that will not come back,

around the fish that won’t survive.
Of course the O precedes an X, and the poem
is already burdened and already
the shorthand we use for love.

A Virtual Life

The spammer calls me dearling

for the year I have lived 

inside an affection. My hooves 

thicken. The petal decals 

fall from my back. The spammer 

prefaces her promise 

with a sticker zodiac: what happens 

to me next will be 

extraordinary. It is. Laughing,  

I do not snap a single twig 

from the sea fan inside my lungs. 

A factotum cranks 

the brain’s Rolodex and finds 

the word bronchiole

The spammer tattles. Someone 

has run a background check

to find out who I am. Judging 

from photographs, they will 

see sky. They will see strangers,

forks wrapped in angel hair.

Beware of Dog

“The sign that he hung on the neck of the cow was an exemplary proof of the way in which the inhabitants of Macondo were prepared to fight against the loss of memory: This is the cow. She must be milked every morning so that she will produce milk, and the milk must be boiled in order to be mixed with coffee to make coffee and milk.”

— Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude 
(trans. Gregory Rabassa)


Lagging behind the plague of insomnia,
the plague of forgetting— 
                                                 but forgetting
pushes before it, like a wave, like a broom,
the premonition of loss. 

                                               Thus, the livestock
of Macondo: the sheep tattooed Shear Me,
a tonsure around the reminder; a mare 
wearing a saddle blanket cross-stitched 
within an inch of its life, a picture dictionary 
of horse tack; and the cow, captioned, 
a placard thumping against her dewlap 
like a seasoned protestor’s cardboard sign,
worn on a string to spare the arms.

. . .

Sometimes I walk past yards guarded
by dogs and wonder at the sign Beware
of Dog, whether it too has been posted as a stay
against some coming amnesia, an erasure 
so perfect that we will see an animal 
on a cable run and not know its species; 
so total that, years removed from brushing 
and flossing, we will see the canine’s canines 
and forget to scare
                                       and I wonder whether
the rest of the signs are still in production. 

Or do we not believe yet in a forgetting 
so absolute, so lucky or ruthless as to rub out 
all our grudges, dissolve our loves?
we are still waiting on the exemplary proof
that we need to beware. Or maybe on the lapse 
that will scare us into writing it down: This is 
the self. They must be made much of. 
They must be held willfully dear.


Jane Zwart’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Threepenny Review, The Poetry Review (UK), and TriQuarterly, as well as other journals and magazines.