Published poetry of J. Zimmerman

Poems by title

4th of May

  4th of May
  J. Zimmerman

        Bartolomeo Cristofori (born 4th of May, 1655)
        invented the pianoforte;
        Thomas Henry Huxley (born 4th of May, 1825)
        coined the word "agnostic". 

  Each instant
  today worldwide
  ten thousand pianos
  resound, mostly
  un-tuned, many
  played with one 
  hesitant finger,
  striking keys
  by chance 
  more than choice
  with only hints
  of a tune.
  Laughter over
  each wrong note
  outweighs the sighs,
  teases the scales
  toward, even 
  a grouch agrees,
  glee. Only a few
  listeners wince.

  Meanwhile this moment
  a hundred women
  and men
  in separate workrooms
  abandon their plans
  for proof
  and disproof.
  Alpine meadows 
  of flowers
  are toe-prints
  of gods,
  or they're not.
  Cloud banners
  streaming from peaks
  in Tibet and Peru 
  hide the sighs
  and wings
  of gods,
  or they don't.

  Nobody knows
  what is true
  inside every niche 
  of a soul. Could a man 
  be mud sparked 
  by a finger of light
  that glinted
  five millennia 
  or five billennia
  since? A woman
  can't decide,
  dithers and lingers, 
  begins to play 
  a partita by Bach, 
  glides into a line 
  of walking bass,
  slithers singing
  into boogie-woogie
  in a major key.

Basket of Bones

  Basket of Bones
  J. Zimmerman

  The man with ivy leaves in his hair
  wants a bagel and a bed, a reason
  to stop walking, wants the motion
  in his mind to cohere in a rhythm 
  to soften stone, wants an audience
  that widens its eyes, that waits 
  for seeds to unfold from the earth and 
  breathless waits for a woman to rise
  naked and new from the sea.

Bearers of Gifts

  Bearers of Gifts
  J. Zimmerman

  She gave him five kiwi fruit.
  He gave her the breath that pushed the claws away from her inner ear as the plane

  He gave her the Baptist's head on a golden tray.
  She gave him the seventh seal.

  She gave him the tiny cog left over after she put the clock back together.
  He gave her a day on the river where pink geodes grow.

  She gave him the carnelian blood stone of the sixth chakra, and the means to pass
	  through it.
  He gave her the green elephant, its ears, its memories of childhood.

  He gave her a whirlwind.
  She gave him the envoy to the east who retrieved the hostage.

  She gave him the sound of his own voice.
  He gave her blueberry branches, leaf buds slow as stars.

  He gave her snow cornices and avalanches.
  She gave him the winter sun and her tongue on his chest and thighs.

  He gave her the smoky eclipsed moon.
  She gave him the comet suspended in black above the tsunami.

  She gave him the wax that bonded wings to skin.
  He gave her the box from which ten thousand would escape.

  He gave her bread and wine.
  She gave him sand, water, a place to begin.

Between "No" and "Forgive"

  Between "No" and "Forgive"
  J. Zimmerman

  One word was my first;
  one shall be my last. 
  Meanwhile the years break 
  into gold-flecked water.

  Two red wings pivot
  past the ball of light. 
  Trees breathe. Everything
  moves with me toward home.

Calling the Council of Beings

  Calling the Council of Beings
  J. Zimmerman

  "Beings," he said, "are anything that is."
	Rivers as well as fish were what he meant.
	Wind as well as the grass it bent.
	Rain, the clay it cooled, the worm that went
  through loamy earth. 
  He touched all lives to his.
  "Counsel," he said, "is what they give."
	He meant that all beings will advise;
	that attending to nature makes you wise
	of the taste of granite, sight through spider eyes,   
  eaglets at birth,
  oceans where dolphins live.

Earth in the Left Hand

  Earth in the Left Hand
  J. Zimmerman

  My sister keeps falling in love with soldiers,
  the righteous right-angles of disaster 
  perpendicular as tombstones. They grow

  like worms: you cut off a piece and it grows again. 
  I ask her how the lover makes supper for the woman 

  he is about to strangle. I ask her 
  how safe she feels when another stranger 

  walks into her house with a gun in his belt, 
  a knife in his boot.  She laughs at her tumbles with death.  
  Her years slough off with her skin, peel away like masks.


  J. Zimmerman

  The skin was scarlet 
  and quite bitter
  where her lips wrapped around it
  and her teeth broke it open.

  "Mpf" she said to the serpent. 
  She pulled the apple away from her mouth.
  "Why'd God demand we never eat this?
  "It tastes foul." 

  "You're still thinking of surfaces,"
  said the serpent. "You can learn anything
  once you get past the skin.
  Surely you're curious?" 

  "Anything such as what?" asked Eve,
  peeling red fragments, gulping
  before their gall and brimstone 
  bit her tongue.

  "Such as the truth about 
  how you were born," said the serpent.
  "Discard that propaganda
  about your arrival from Adam's rib.

  That's merely another of men's 
  womb-worshipping tales.
  Forget the story about him being 
  an assemblage of mud glued together 

  with God's spit, though that 
  has some splashes of truth."
  "Mmm," said Eve, licking the golden flesh     
  beneath the skin. "This tastes sweeter."

  "Bite," said the serpent. "Eat.
  You'll learn what's right and wrong 
  the moment you break
  the rule. And that will please him.

  You will be the creature 
  God loves best,
  the one that chooses, 
  the one that's free."

James Moore

  James Moore
  J. Zimmerman

  Last night the man who said he wrote 
  seven poems a day might have rolled 
  a grenade into the room, he left us so 
  stunned. This morning, the city still quiet, 
  soft late rain writes a different poem
  on each luminous tree.

Occupied Norway: The Resistance Angel

  Occupied Norway: 
  The Resistance Angel
  J. Zimmerman

  someone with a gun
  shoots me down
  nicks my left wing
  but I can almost
  glide a little
  as I fall

  three farm boys 
  find me
  on the snowy fjord shore

  one tears off
  his shirtsleeve
  to bandage
  my bruised brow

  they cut saplings
  make a stretcher
  on which they carry me
  to the school
  for the crippled 
  and the blind

  behind the shutters
  and the passworded doors
  thin children
  sit at low tables
  constructing bombs

  no matter who 
  shot me
  these children
  bandage my head
  take me in
  splint and fold 
  my wings

  they feed me
  a bowl of fresh milk
  a stew of winter turnips
  let me sleep

  next day they show me 
  the map to the enemy's
  Base of Occupation

  something bites me
  sharp as a ferret
  on the shoulders
  but it's only my wings

  now the children
  strap bombs to my body
  lead me outside
  to the colder air
  the starlight
  the free and buoyant wind

Still Waters Run Between Cup and Lip:
The Advice of an Immigrant to her Granddaughter

  Still Waters Run Between Cup and Lip:
  The Advice of an Immigrant to her Granddaughter  
  J. Zimmerman

  There's many a slip not heard.
  Little children should be seen and unturned.
  Leave no stone out of mind.
  Out of sight, soon parted.
  A fool and his money are a silver lining.
  Every cloud has no moss.
  A rolling stone gathers for no man.
  Time and tide wait, lost.
  He who hesitates is the fair.
  None but the brave deserves the most noise.
  Empty pots make the heart grow fonder.
  Absence makes you gain on the roundabouts.
  What you lose on the swings comes around.
  What goes around as handsome, does.
  Handsome is the worm.
  The early bird catches just before dawn.
  The darkest hour is deep.

To My Authorized Biographer

  To My Authorized Biographer  
  J. Zimmerman

  I am Catholic but my priest lets me talk to God in my own kitchen.
  With my husband each equinox and solstice sunrise, I ride a Harley,
		mauve and Barbie pink, along the coast highway.
  In private I practice flagellation, the use of masks, the tenor sax.

  My mother and father live in northwest England in a grey-stone cottage 
		overlooking hills, snow, a long lake.
  I have a large dog, fox-red, Australian shepherd cross-bred with Chow, 
		sweet as honeycomb, fierce as a killer cloud of bees.
  I am a juggler, a tightrope walker, a dot-com.

  My sister writes screen scripts in Hollywood. She plays a silent bit part 
		in each film, like Hitchcock did. I've seen her leave 
		the train with a tortoise and a daypack drooling lettuce,
		board the high-jackable plane with a case shaped like a violin.
  I am allergic to Swiss Chocolate, king salmon, Bosc pears, and 
		Roederer L'Ermitage sparkling wine.
  Last summer, I kayaked from Alaska to Siberia, headwinds the whole way.

  My maternal grandmother was a niece of the Romanovs; I own 
		a thumbnail-sized swatch from the robe in which Rasputin died.
  In the Gulf War, my fighter plane was shot down on the fifth day. 
  I evaded the enemy, hiked through India, reached Japan, where 
  I raked pebbles at a Zen monastery for three years.
  No one I love has been lost to me.

Links and Books.

Links and Books.