Jane Zwart

Poem Without Myself In It

To say these words without breathing on them,
to give them to the page unbranded by the hand—
how can such a thing be done? Think of the widow

who covers her face with a man’s winter coat.
Think of the phantom whose shape will fill
that jacket for years and years, even after the scent

pulls loose from its quilting. How quickly a man
can clone his ghost just by being missed. How dutifully
absence can ransack a closet of disused clothes,

putting every outfit on. To invent and smite a man,
to push his widow’s nose into the smell of loss—
how can there be a poem without someone to blame?



Two Earths

My son is sweet and stunned to learn
there aren’t in fact two earths:

one to traverse and mow and sweep
and one to lap the sun.

And I’m well-read and stunned to learn
there must have been two earths

insinuate in what I said
or what I failed to say.

We do take trips, and he keep tabs.
Which is to say he’s flown

and so has watched in slow cartoons
jets set square pellets down,

a trace across green continents
too flat to favor land.

I know he knows the earth’s not small.
We’ve driven through the night

and once he’d hardly dozed before
we’d driven into day.

He does not make too much of dawn
but lets on giants turn

the dimmers in day’s tall foyer
and so manhandle light.

An oaf, a dial cranked clockwise,
and then sunrise ensues.

But the sky is not a moat.
It is the shallow end,

and space’s sweet, weak centrifuge
lets hosts of details last.

Two earths he says, and then she steps,

before our car. I stop in time, and she,
with clip-art octagons,

keeps batting traffic back. The shapes
are pasted to pew-fans.

It plays host to long-lived details,
our yellow dwarf, the sun.

Its engines pull the pink from trees
too slow to warrant blame.

To wrest a STOP sign from a gran:
that takes more orbital

but not so much unspooling as
will cost the kids to cross,

still trippingly, behind her,
toward the buried curb.

My son is sweet and stunned to learn
there aren’t in fact two earths.



Jane Zwart’s poems have previously appeared in Poetry, TriQuarterly, Cincinnati Review, Threepenny Review, and Rattle, as well as in other journals and magazines.