Two Poems by Jane Zwart

two people lighting campfire
Photo by Lê Tân on Unsplash

Wonder Engine

Before it is warm, even: the heedlessness
of birds, hair-trigger trick kites. Before
it is warm, dawn pong–skunk-leaked,
aerosol thiol–and clutch of peppercorns,
shit of an infant rabbit.

This is the order of things:
snowdrops come down with wry neck
come up before daffodils, manes fanned,
uncrepe their trumpets. Whisked, lees
season ponds shingled with fishkill.

Nature’s first gold is gray, fossil
her first fuel. Oh, spring: finches,
concupiscent and Triassic; oh, rot:
the earth’s meat; and, perennial, oh:
pyrophone, party horn, blast
of auriferous dust.


Old Sons

Two, going at their upbringing with scissors,
have cut such different fields
from their childhood

that you would not know they shared a mother
were it not for the sweepings.

Though both my uncles leave the slow river–
the bland passages that run through any story–
lying on the table,
the current’s remainder
is forensic; on either side its edges
fit against the banks

of the Big Muddy: one steeply, one softly.

So one uncle remembers a strand, dusk,
a woman holding a pie iron
over a campfire. He remembers a father
who twanged the lashings between
a canoe and a Century.
He remembers
four boys in a tent, playing cards, their heads
notching the bright isosceles
of unzipped canvas, an ingress.

His brother remembers the story’s other,
precipitous bank. He remembers a mother
who pretended her panic was anger, a woman
who fumbled babies.

At my grandmother’s funeral, I sit behind
her old sons. They have the same cowlick
in their thick white hair, her hair.

You would not know that once they knelt,
foreheads nearly kissing, playing a game
of war. That once they flew
from the same woman’s arms.
Shall we gather at the river? they sing.

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