you are in the diode archives v5n3



Facts about Zurich
                          —after John D’Agata

I heard only one joke in all the time I spent in Zurich,
on business, courted one night by a wry-eyed economist. 
We were in bed and he said, When the urge thickens in me
like air before a wet snow, I think I will go out to a field
and shoot myself. I didn’t say it was a funny joke. 
I didn’t say anything. He propped his neckless head
on one arm, and laughed at my mouth jarred open,
brows bent like broken legs—the face of pity. 
We were naked, there was no coffee, and I wanted
to leave because I’d lied about where I was from
—just fling out the door in the camo jacket
I bought precisely because it lent me a refugee air. 
I stayed—it was my hotel room. Our heads were citizens
of the same pillow. I saw inside him room for the field
to flatten, slip in sideways. I couldn’t leave us there,
so I recounted the time I drove into a surge
of monarch butterflies migrating home. I rolled up
the windows, blotting out the countryside,
but the bodies still slipped in through the vents,
slicking my arms and face. This happened here,
in America, where we were that moment swaddled
in sheets I hadn’t washed since my boyfriend left,
in the home I lived in like a runaway, where I wished
for all the wings in the world I wasn’t living. 
Butterfly blood is clear and viscous, it won’t stain you. 
He was silent, he tried to believe. Before he left,
he rolled down the car window and called the name
I’d given him. I would love, he said, to see your face again,
commandeered by broken orange wing.  When I called,
a recorded voice advised me to Hang up, try again. 
There, finally, was the punchline. What else should I do
but laugh, cradling my face in my own two living hands?  


James Allen Hall’s first book, Now You’re the Enemy, won awards from the Lambda Literary Foundation, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers.  New poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, New England Review, and Best American Poetry 2012.  He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts.