^z poems v.01

Here are some efforts at verse by ^z = Mark Zimmermann They've appeared variously in his ^zhurnal! during the past nine months Please send comments to "z (at) his.com". Thank you!

(This page has been accessed 10944 times. It was last modified Sunday, 05-Dec-2004 14:51:35 EST. Copyright © 2001 by Mark Zimmermann.)


A rose
That grows alone
Without companionship
Can never know how beautiful
It is.

Suburban Deer

Shadows slip out of the woodland
  Leap over fence behind park
Clatter their hooves on the pavement
  Prance across grass in the dark
Nibble the succulent rosebuds
  Trample the newly-mown lawn
Scatter their scat on the sidewalk
  Then fade away before dawn.


Downstairs the ceiling overhead consists
Of beams and joists and rough unfinished boards ---
The splintery skeleton of floors above
That varnish, tile, parquet, or carpet hide
From delicate perception, lest offense
Be given to the senses of the sleek
Who glide from room to room on polished tracks ...
Exchanging pleasantries ... sipping their drinks ...
Admiring the portraits on the walls
Beneath the chandeliers that sprinkle light
To mist bare maiden shoulders with a dew
Of wealth and beauty. Music now cascades
Soft in a waterfall of liquid sound.
A dozen conversations splash and fade
Like waves upon the shore of a bright bay.

But underneath the surface of the sea
A colder current flows. The denizens
Of basement chambers, servants of the house,
Can hear the creak of floorboards as new guests
Arrive and doff their cloaks. They know their job,
These underfolk: to stand, obey, and wait
Upon their betters. So they lift their eyes
To naked bulbs, stark shadows, rafters, planks,
Preparing to put on a cheerful mask
Of gracious acquiescence in their rôle.
They fix their smiles in place and go upstairs.


Imagine a cavern: darkness and silence,
Broken betimes by the faintest of glows,
  Trickle of water in rock.

Then for an instant a sliver of sunbeam
Slips through a rift and reflects from a pool,
  Scatters off facets of gold.

Light breathes on a mirror of ice and then focuses
Down to a point, at a droplet that hangs
  Poised on the never-yet-seen.

Two ponderous, pendulous, crystal stalactites
Touch, clasp, and fuse --- and the pattern is changed.
  New threads appear in the stone.

As neurotransmitters bridge gaps in a cortex,
Water's course shifts; pathways open and close.
  So thinks the mind of the cave.

Uncivil Servants

Mazes of cubicles, windowless corridors,
  Warrens of bureaucrats, beehives for drones:
Stalls filled by mules who are serving their sentences
  Pending retirement, dogs gnawing bones.

Down Danger Drive

My risky choices tiptoe into town:
  They creep across the plaza like a fog
And glide through intersections, silently
  As ghosts which drift from pools of dark to dark,
Where streetlights fail and shadows under trees
  Cling hard to night long after risen sun.
My hazards come, at first unrecognized.
  They smile, shake hands, make conversation light ---
And so I welcome them into my home.

Just as a swimmer strokes out one last time,
  Not feeling tired yet, nor knowing fear;
Just as a hiker in the forest climbs
  Up one more hill to reach the summit view;
Just as a pilot skirts the edge of storm
  To make the destination's scheduled stop;
Just as an erstwhile lover presses on
  Past hesitant objections, asking more
Than what the other is yet poised to give ....

So step by tiny step I venture out
  From harbor's safety toward the foaming reef.
And all along the way there is no sign,
  No tipping point, no knee, no line to cross.
The gradient is imperceptible,
  Continuous and smooth as down I slide ---
Until the spider's silk clings, cloys, winds, wraps.
  My desperate struggles only tangle more,
And self-selected doom embraces me.


In exchange for silence --- conversation,
  At the cost of solitude --- a friend;
Give up certainty --- discover freedom,
  Cast off inhibition --- put on love.

Color Chains

Dawn blushes pink
  Pink skies fade blue
Blue winters chill
  Icicles glue

Flame tongues lick red
  Red coals die black
Black ashes blow
  Foundations crack

Green leaves dry brown
  Brown hairs go gray
Gray hills erode
  Sands sift away

Pyramid Peaking

Tips of the iceberg and front-page phenomena,
  Ten in a million, celebrity-kings:
Obsessing on fame makes foundations invisible.
  Roots of the forest are critical things.

Right & Level

Who can pass judgment? Yet each day one must
A thousand verdicts render, each unjust
If time for thoughtful jurisprudence could
Be found to weigh the best against the good
Enough. Is that unfair? Where lies the truth?
Objective standard, geometric proof,
Requires perfect knowledge, error-free,
Plus power of reason past humanity
In order to apply such starry rules
To earthy situations. We are fools,
Admittedly, to even try
To implement the absolute. So why
Must all then struggle in the vain attempt?
"We hold these truths to be self-evident"
Is partial answer, as are other words:
Equality, peace, fairness, freedom, love,
"My country" and "Pursuit of happiness".
But words are not enough. If we do less
Than strive with every atom to achieve
That measure full of justice we believe
And know ourselves are capable of, then
The fight is ended; we have lost again.


Two vines:
Entwined each climbs
The other's stair to heights
Neither alone could touch. Like us,
In love.

High Glider

Silent satellite on the edge of space
Slides into formation as information skates
  From earth to sky and back.

Bird spreads broad its wings while swift it flies along
Gathers solar beams to pay for its soft song
  In coin of captured light.

What it will not use it scatters off its sides
Gifting fairy glints to all who scan the skies
  In envy of its flight.

When its course is run the crystal bird dives down
Into ocean air where with a flash it drowns ---
  And dark returns to night.

Cosmic Context

Anonymous, a star glows in the void
Ignored among the billions of its kin:
Galactic trash, detritus on the fringe
Of spiral arms, it slowly wheels about
The distant core where cataclysmic blasts
From violent collisions generate
Raw pandemonium of radio
And infrared and ultraviolet flares ---
Dramatic entertainment for remote
Observers' instruments that scan the skies.

But what of that unnoticed, obscure star?
It shines in peace, unchanging, stable, calm.
Around it orbit scraps of the dark cloud
From which it formed. Those negligible bits
Have since condensed into some balls of gas,
Too small to merit notice from afar.
And lesser still, a few scant leftovers ---
Poor remnants, near-invisible --- remain
Like dust motes in an ocean, eddying
About a bubble as it rides the waves.

Upon one speck, a thousand million years
Of nothing happens: random jostlings
By atoms that link up and then dissolve
Into the brew that percolates the crust.
So meaningless millennia pass by.
At last, alignment clicks: a pattern gels,
Persists, and makes a template that now builds
Self-replicating molecule machines.
Wee engines harness energy to clone
Themselves, and thereby propagate their form.

This flurry of activity is yet
Unseen at any distance from the globe:
Mere rearrangements of the building blocks
Without a ghost of purpose or intent;
A thoughtless copy-cattish crystal growth.
But over time, the simple pattern spreads.
And as it does, it fails. Mistakes are made
Resulting in flawed copies, most of which
Are hopeless failures at the repro-game.
They wither and then die, that never lived.

But of the garbled versions, a few thrive:
Machines that out-compete their ancestors.
Efficient, accurate, precise, controlled,
They manage resources with thrift and grace.
Increasingly they spread, until they fall
Themselves as victims to still lustier foes,
Fortuitously optimized designs
Which somehow find the trick of partnership,
Alliances among the replicants,
Whereby more complex structures then emerge.

And after countless microscopic wars
Across the surface of a puny world
(Inconsequential flotsam circling
A sun entirely forgettable,
The suburbs of an average galaxy)
A change occurs: configurations bloom
That think, first crudely, then with greater power.
These patterns can manipulate themselves,
Communicate, discover, teach, and love.
--- So mind appears to shake the universe.


Chill silence broods
Stars shiver in the skies
All Nature holds her breath until


Three schoolgirls trudge along the street
Encumbered both by summer heat
And weight of bookbags on their backs.
They wedge their hands under the packs
In fantasy that some stray breeze
Will circulate to slightly ease
The burden. None arrives. They cast
A glance at standers-by, feign vast
Contempt for boys who swerve to see
The passing female scenery.
Young women toss their ponytails,
Converse until the pretense fails,
Then turn to look back at the same
Young men who must now play the game
And act as though they fail to spy
The girls' inspection. Both sides try
To nonchalantly disengage.
But sweat and sun and summer's rage
Have melted coyness, softened will,
Dissolved the mating ritual,
Left neither party strength to pose.
A shrug and 'See ya' serve to close
The interaction. So they go.


Fixed eyes reflect screen glow:
Bright pixels flicker past
As fingers twitch and mind decays
To ash.


A person's time on Earth is spent
Not in a straight line, but a bent
Progression of trajectories.

One first is spider-silk on breeze,
Threads set adrift by parents who
Have minimal control or clue
Of what genetic forces they
Release during a roll-in-hay
Unconsciously conceptive act
Of passion, love or simple fact.
(A crass process to contemplate,
But one which ne'ertheless our fate
Condemns or blesses us to try
If our own line is not to die.)

So starts a life: a random mote,
Potential energy afloat
In seas of possibility.

But soon what seemed completely free
Has settled, put down roots, and grown
Into a pattern, flesh and bone:
A bonsai sculpture, shaped by force;
Limb, twig, and leaf pursue a course
Defined by the environment
Plus countless influences sent
From families and societies.

Now in the forest of these trees
Which constitute the living world
So many plants are crippled, curled
Into burnt matchstick shadows of
What could have flourished given love,
More tender care, and fortune kind.

Some lucky few, however, find
Themselves well-placed in soil and light
To thrive and grow in beauty bright.

Then at their death they sublimate
Into a subtle, diffuse state
Of deeds and words, or flame and air.
We breathe their thoughts and sense their care
As gifts which they have left behind ---
Crystalline structures of the mind.

Seven Manes

Dreadlocks drift forward and back every stride,
   Like kelp in the ocean as seen from a pier,
     Swaying with each passing tide ...

Blonde cap explodes at a toss of the head
   Into a pale nimbus that floats and then falls
     Over a glimpse of an ear ...

Ringlets cascade like a waterfall down
   Twin ridges of shoulder blades, pouring a flood
     Into the valley below ...

Ponytail pendulum tick-tocks a beat
   That follows the jogger intent on her pace:
     Metronome cadence for feet ...

'Lectrified 'Fro forms a spherical cloud,
   Dark halo defying conventional style ---
     Natural, nappy, and proud ...

Bald rocky pate gleams through whispy gray threads;
   Yosemite dome-like, it looms over brows,
     Monument-weathered by age ...

Strands of brown dangle and sway in the breeze,
   A curtain of beads or a jungle of vines,
     Blowing a kiss to a cheek.