* portions of 100 Clews have appeared in SPORK and FENCE
clew: 1. A ball of yarn or thread. 2. Greek Mythology The ball of thread used by Theseus to find his way out of the labyrinth. 3. clews The cords by which a hammock is suspended. 4. (also Nautical) One of the two lower corners of a square sail.
This time zone is sleeping.
Shhh. The light comes.
Tuck safe away
With a carefully woven French braid.
Looks from the distance like bread
Or a brain.
Dad drifts toward moving
Out of his bed. Mom sings to him. She shakes
The soil off the roots and replants their chrysanthemum.
The white threads knotted in the hole rip free.
In the dirt, detangled, unnatural glint of key.
One heart opens into
Extravagant pain. In the darkness
Of the abdominal cavity,
Organs huddle together
Like a church congregation shaking
Hands, offering "peace be with you"
"And peace be with you." The heart
Muscles its way past all of them
To taste red wine on lips.
Sissy Spacek moves towards us
Through the wheat fields, wearing
A backpack, listening to cassettes.
The Kevin Kline we know from
Film is one dark dash below the parachute.
They are ready to take on the roles of Mom and Dad.
There is an anchorman.
He is named Peter Jennings.
He sits on a glass throne made of
Real tears. He opens his mouth and
It fills with air.
In one of the pools by the pavilion,
Connie Chung swims beneath the surface.
She moves with speed
In her athletic cut suit. There
Is love lit around her wherever she goes.
The plumber shoves
The box to reach the pipes.
Where did you expect me
To be going? We are underwater
Now, you and I.
In the air, it is said, we can breathe.
A child walks into a whale
With eyes that light up red
In a museum featuring
Biblical scenes: Jonah,
Demons pulled from pigs.
We press these towels
To our faces to blot sweat
From our eyes in the sauna.
Mom has a wooden spoon in her hand.
Her hand is on her hip.
The peppers sizzle in the skillet. The ground
Meat, a heap in the green bowl on the counter.
They have had that green bowl since they were married.
The bowl is eighteen years old.
The bumpy caravan
Travels past the people with arms growing
Out of their stomachs, the harpies and the wrens
With their wren-size lion heads.
This is the kingdom of Prester John.
In the mountains there are giants and monopods
Who know where cherries grow
With heavy pits of gold.
Dad fills the dishwasher and squeezes in the lemony goo.
Mom butters saltines that she feeds him
From the TV table. His cold is worse tonight.
The sparrows snap their heads from left to right.
Mom draws a bath. Dad wipes his mouth.
Fragrance. A washcloth. The rabbit paw fern shudders
As the heat kicks on. I come into the room from far
Away and touch one of these tendrils, the gray fur of
The rhizome reaching at its own speed into the room.
Let's sit in the mud for a moment
And look for miniature snail shells.
Discarded, they were the cups
Of tiny people tall as half a finger.
Their skeletons are not bone but cartilage,
Like a shark, so they only bend
When you step on them.
Mr. Rogers appears on T.V.
At the same time Dad
Returns home from the office.
Mom tries not to create a disturbance,
But she has walked into the glass porch door
And broken her nose. The pool
Is full of kids screaming and splashing.
Neighbors on lounge chairs take the sun.
Mom stands on the back porch and calls to Dad
Who is filming. She calls
His name and on the reel,
It's a blur all of a sudden.
Around us here there are these trees.
They resemble celebrities.
Headlights with a licorice flavor.
Kids on a trampoline.
An opossum on a sturdy log
Heads out to sea.
The cat prowls around the rabbit hutch.
The panicked rabbit
Jumps and breaks
Remember the first day of school?
How the men with secret guitars
Came walking through
The playground and hypnotized you?
Mom washes your face.
She holds your forehead
As you lose your lunch. She is
Hovering above the whole house in a recline
Of nervous glamour. Dad mulches the
Yew branches and comes
Inside for a glass of lemonade.
You lie on the chicken
Pox couch, as Lily Tomlin,
Covered in calamine lotion.
That's me. I was
A pregnancy. I emerge from Al Capone's vaults
Like nothing and everything they ever expected
And I break their hearts just by crawling around.
How can you confirm that you are being held?
The Christmas lights blink
Segments in the trees.
I walk up the street with
Your hand in mine. We are now lovers.
It's excellent. Unhitched gate
To a gallery behind the gentleman's club.
All the landscapes we've only imagined take off their
Frames and call birds to them. Badlands bellows
"Robin, come rest in my mountainside!
Come move among my humps!"
Painted Desert calls:
"Canadian geese, I'll stroke your neck with
My petrified wood!"
And then Grand Tetons whispers
To the whippoorwills who tentatively arrive
In the summer wind.
The whippoorwills hover above the yard, waiting.
Your hand hovers in mine waiting.
My mind hovers over your hand.
"Okay" I say. "Okay."
In the sun is an animal with seven French
Horns and six heads. We learn this from the Bible.
When the animal
Decides to make its move, we get
The first step on film.
We get the second step on film.
We watch the show
Through publicists, pinholes.
Some shows had bright color
That would pull into a comet —
Round like a mitt, with a silver
Oiled for maximum spin.
The spin was silent. The room was beige.
A carpet of burning
Colors hung on the wall.
The center of gravity somersaulting.
I could hear kind Muppet voices
In the fizz of rectangular light.
The skeeballs roll up the lane and leap
into a pocket. Dad's tickets
Buy a suction-cup
Crossbow and a cat-shaped clock.
Drums beat by themselves
If you turn up the volume.
Every morning begins with the Christmas parade.
Have you learned to love the Law?
Were lovers. The same two continue
To keep secrets and hide.
Watch the shadows as
The Christmas lights begin blinking.
From the silky
Coats of her yappy little dogs
and looks at you.
Mulch bags, a driveway, a car.
Here is the meter and anything else is
Measured more or less.
I mean empirically.
The building you lived in,
Your first kiss folds into the story.
Think about your collarbone
Feel it there a solid thing
And let it be the cornerstone
Of our prosperous dukedom
With its citrus, antennae, buckyballs, prairie dogs,
Diane Sawyer on her raft and the grand river's expanse.
Its suggestion of graced flow
For flow's sake alone through
The remarkable random slopes and gullies
Of North America and its shirt of embracing intentions.
Remember the glacier?
What it did to the marigolds?
Things that begin with an "S."
What a doctor might say.
Things in a glove compartment.
Jane Pauley swims in a lake filling with the light of dusk
One arm rests on the floating transparent raft.
She kicks her way to the ladder, breathing.
Article 2.6 of the New Jersey constitution is a seatbelt:
"No idiot or insane person shall enjoy the right of suffrage."
Tom Brokaw is on the air.
His soul sprays on us like snow,
Like grace received by the upturned hand of
A whirling Sufi dervish.
Mom turns the Today show off.
Dead Dad's place at the table
will be played by the ivy outside.
Dead Dad will be played by Disneyworld's
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Those first spins
Take you by surprise, but
I see Mr. Toad checking his pocket watch
In the corner of my eye.
Mom is climbing the big silver
Ball that stands for EPCOT.
Get down we cry to her.
Get down right now.
Mom stands next to us silently
And I see she has bought a keychain
With a miniature model of Mr. Toad's car.
Dad can't swallow.
He throws up.
Never you mind. I have a button
That, pushed, whispers
You to sleep, holds you,
Pulls the string of your words
Loose, fastens it
From your mouth to
The way the pencil sharpener smelled.
The way the vote turns on feelings.
The way a crutch feels in your armpit and how it lets you fly.
The world trade organization
Cobbles shoes for you. The fairies in the night
Help them. They sneak around Geneva disguised
As Laplanders, mapmakers, achievers, conventioneers.
Christiane Amanpour is gathering the facts.
She disappears like mist beyond the checkpoint and
Leaves the streets of Geneva to their own devices.
The town council draws maps
And unveils a new Wendy's franchise.
The municipality is illuminated like
The whole place is on fire.
Smokey and the Bandit
Help the elephant down from
The space shuttle exploding in
The back of a truck.
In sassafras, a carcinogen.
The sassafras leaf alive has fingers
Soft like velvet and crushed smells great.
Dried and made into tea it can kill you
From the inside which was never its intention.
Sometimes there is something not human
In the middle, like a dog that sees things
Differently. Here's a personal story:
When I took "Old Yeller" out
Of the Cherry Hill public library in elementary school,
There was a paper inside that said if
I wanted a blow job I could call this number
And ask for one. Did I? No.
You are the first to witness your own life.
The speed and the amount of it in the light.
Behind her back, Dad
Fills the dishwasher and squeezes in.
Mom butters saltines. She feeds him
The TV table. Dad's cold is worse
Tonight. The swallows bite the rabbit.
The fern shudders.
The heat kicks.
It's okay, the whole time,
Betty White was frying up bologna
In the center square
Keeping it warm there and safe with provisions.
You can visit the Museum of Television and Radio.
You can watch Hollywood Squares happen again.
Spagettios. With frank slices.
Long hair. Travel kits.
You may taste three flavors.
Then you may discuss
The ones you neglected to select.
Boys catch trapeze handles they fly
Holding chalky hands.
Coupon to mom to store to shelf
To box to cart to counter to dollars
To bag to trunk to kitchen to thumb
In perforation to bag to boil
To butter to savory smells to steam
To dish to fork the salty creaminess,
The Rice-a-Roni parmesan noodles.
Crimson spirals made with
Dyed sand poured from the steady hands
Of Tibetan monks. The customers
Scramble to get a pinch.
There's even a waiting list.
Table for four?
Kelly McGillis in her role in
"Witness" takes our coats.
Barbara Walters fastens the microphone clip to
Amy Carter's White House cat,
"Misty Malarky Ying Yang."
Mom wipes Dad off.
The swallows kick the rabbit.
A "Hear me out,"
A "This just in."
I told the beautiful girl
I was gay half a mile uproad
From the drowning of Jessica Savitch:
Her car sunk in mud.
Alexander Hamilton dances
Alone along the edge
Of Christmas morning.
He is passing the time.
He is waiting for desire
To flash clean through
So he can go and write
The most perfect federalist paper.
I am Mary with blue towel hair and
A basketball zipped into my sleeper.
The pool is emerging from its
In-ground concrete surroundings.
It's moving like a grand ghost, silver
Slippered around the backyard. Touching
The pine trees, their viscous sap
The ivy, the pool is standing blind
To the baby rabbits running at it
In ecstatic madness, nosing it, the squirrels
Too they are thirsty they are thirsty.
Mom under the table is thinking about the bills.
The boys that I will kiss are in the water.
The cooled voices of the anchors
Hold the water to the ground.
The pool stands still and shudders against the voices.
Come let's swim. If buoyancy
Is still here then we can float in this.
We'll be carved for the banquet
From the ice of the frozen pool.
The careful sled dogs will nose the caribou meat.
The convertible will arrive with the icy stars
Who will mill around, mill around.
The children will tumble
Like tokens from the igloos.
Moss forms on the north-most bark
Because the earth is tipped.
Pine needles will turn to us, play the wind,
Like a first-level language tutorial record.
Don't you agree that no education is complete without
The mind expansion of travel?
Isn't it great to let your senses go everywhere and take it all
Into your soft brown brain?
Dad listens to Mom put the dishes away.
Katie Couric's relaxed sphincter allows
The endoscope inside her colon
To take a look around
On live and later previously recorded TV.
It doesn't hurt, Katie says
Through sedation. She talks through
The whole segment. We see inside her.
Here are the soldiers
And the actors who will play them.
Joan and Stan
Were their names in my case
Like arbitrary noun genders in another language.
I would like to learn yours.
To unlearn my Joan and Stan
And see another pair
For what they accidentally are.
The kids run to catch their buses.
Mom as Moonstruck's Cher,
Stands in a corner of the room
Holding a cool wet washcloth.
The breadfruit is a delicacy
That people would kill for but
Goes ahead and grows on all the trees
So nobody gets hurt.
Where does our mad love affair fit into the scheme
With its actual kisses and measurable mouthfuls?
The old man in his wheelchair in love
With his Doctor of Philosophy and his virtuoso violin.
Dad moves through a fur
Closet that becomes a wardrobe.
It closes him into the cold.
He steps past a pile of Playboys
With their photos of vaginas
And interviews with Koko the Gorilla.
Koko's kitten has gone to the dark place.
Dad takes one of the furs
From its hanger and
Flies up into the snow.
Faces press against the coffee shop window.
The lady startles and spills herself.
One of these kids gets a facial cancer
And half a face is removed, replaced
With a snap-on plastic model.
Mom and Dad hold their kids to the sun.
The kids hold punctured black paper
And through, on white, a point of light.
Now, under the magnifying glass,
The sun finally begins to burn.
The sun will explode and take everything and not even know it.
Let your hair down, Katherine Hepburn,
Let us climb in to your Connecticut mansion
Where the fireplaces
Are confidently burning.
Here she comes with another armload of logs.
Rest here awhile,
On the carpet, your hands to the flames.
The stilled frames from The African Queen
And Bringing Up Baby are themselves
Tonight, as it is night.
Behind the sofa,
One shy cinematographer
Places a purple lens over the room.
The papers strewn by me on
The floor I dropped them by his desk
To sneak a look up
The sleeve of his loose T-shirt
His warm buttered bicep and further up and under
Curlicue of jet black smoky goodness.
I put the papers in a stack. I got an "A."
Dad's cold is worse tonight. Love
Takes a spoon to the ice cream and opens his hand.
Mom kisses him.
Dad tries to lift his head to her.
We pulled up runners of ivy
To find the underground railroad.
The first missile flew overhead.
The glaciers calve into the sea.
The calves melt among the pilot whales.
Elsewhere, Rather, with a retractable telescope,
Discovers the filaments from which hang Saturn's rings.
Prickly heat on your neck in the summer when you
Have been sitting in the humidity, when Mom was
Standing by the tree, when the tiki torches lit
Themselves. There's Mom crying. What can we do
What can we for her to make her feel better.
What can the pool do for her.
What can the grocery store do but offer itself
Up. One child descends and puts
The laundry in the hamper.
Let Mom be played by Candace Bergen.
Let Mom be played by Mom.
And those aren't kisses. Who gets their obituary
Big. Like a fruit, like the expansion of space.
Dad what are you doing here? I thought
Your audition was over.
The sea turtles hurry
As fast as they can.
South of the trade winds is an island
Covered in Reagans. They look up when an airplane
Flies over and fall over backwards. They spring right back up.
Mom and Dad are rooting around the island
With the metal detector. Here and there a dime.
Here's a baby in the brambles and all of this
Is natural because how could it be other really.
Beyond these hills you will find the six-sided pavilion.
A pool filled with buoyant toys.
Towards the end, the captain has a heart attack.
He gets Parkinson's so he can't steer well. He gets the news
That the anchors have disappeared
Due to necrotizing mycosis. A lie. They guide him to the ground.
The abbey glows. Cold blue lit cauldrons,
The Calders in motion, the kittens' collar bells
Are lit by water surfaces refracting.
Lovers arrive in the cold rooms and insert their coins.
All the rooms of the monastery
Have two feet of water to wade through,
And the floor is one translucent panel.
This is a vacation.
The moment when you whisper
Is the moment when the hammer
Taps the anvil painlessly.
The marigolds shed their parasol seeds and the magic happens
Again with water, the roots rocket down
The fist of new leaf punches up.
Your eyes attached to your brain by
Nervy ropes you made in your mother.
Here is a roll of quarters for the arcade.
The clean love of the grown men
Striding through the woods. Their green fingers.
Their cool bottled notions. They are out of the wind.
They are calling each other like owls.
Their thick feet barely touch the ground;
They leave the air behind them whorling. I could have
Imagined you as this—I am healing
And taking the rest of orienteering
Into consideration. The only compass that works
Is the one you build and smelt and magnetize
With your own iron-studded pigeon head.
There isn't a keyhole.
There isn't a door.
I mean America empirically including all over the body.
We were all born, beaten into
Breathing, bathed, burped and tossed away.
Over there's Death squatting
With the soft mitt of vacation.
Tapenade. The marigolds
Rising from Dixie cups.
The lemony poo.
Are you able
To break love down into its constituent parts.
A cradle. A pinwheel. A basketball.
A cargo ship.
A plastic lemon on the end of a tether.
An anchor lodged in the mud.
Breathing underwater now.
Relax, this is how anemones
Do it, through the skin.
Mom tries to lift his head to her.
My brother and I
put pine needles
between the pages
and smoke the TV guide.
Dad wrestles his two sons up into the air.
The atoms move around
Like skee balls thrown with all Dad's skill
On the boardwalk up the lane up
Into the fifty-point hole, one after another.
The night owls hoot in all the forests of the earth,
Turning their heads almost all the way
Around. What can't they see? They fly
Into the fifty-point hole to take a look around.
Take your ticket and hurry on in.
The role of love will be played by your entrance.
Jason Zuzga completed an MFA in poetry and nonfiction at the University of Arizona, followed by a year as the poet-in-residence in the James Merrill House. His debut book of poetry, Heat Wake, was published by Saturnalia Books in 2016. His poetry and nonfiction has been published in numerous journals, such as Tin House, The Yale Review, and The Paris Review. He is Editorial Co-Director of Fence with Emily Wallis Hughes.