Sunday, November 27, 2016

Protest Series - J.K. Zimmerman

“The Dream About the Eagle”

James K. Zimmerman

he never intended to knock at the door
just flew in through the window
(more bomber than jet) through
the screen, the sheen of his white-
feathered head was blinding, reminding
of black ice on back-country roads

he showed little fear, just alit on the table
a little ways off with the rest of us there
staring hard, didn’t care what we thought
caught completely off-guard when he neatly
removed the first of his feathers, the tip
of his tail, didn’t fail to yank hard at his chest
and his wings, singing anthems aloud
at the top of his voice in rhythm with pulls
at his pinions ‘til nothing was left save
a pileate crest on the crown of his seemingly
gleaming bald head

am I dead yet? (he asked) as he spread
out his bones on the dining room table
now known as the crypt, he was prone
to be pronate but offered to donate
his fearsome gold talons and hooked
glossy beak to the weak and the poor

to be sure, it was only a joke with a wink
and a poke at the rest of us watching to see
what he’d do or to fly with the fleas
on what’s left of his back, a sack
of potatoes by now for damn sure

but the cure to confusion was purely
his choice, his voice (still quite strong
among feathers and claws long removed
from their places, amazement still drawn
on our ashen-white faces) declared

in a tone on a par with the groan
in a bar when the bartender shouts out
last call:  remember (he said, with his eyes
turning red from the blood that surged
up in his featherless throat) don’t gloat
over things that you think you still have

or still own or still rule like a fool
or a juggler, don’t struggle to keep
what you reap for yourself on a shelf
where no one can reach it but you

then he threw the parts of himself
in a heap on the floor, and the door
flew off its old hinges before we
could move or approve of his stark
raving sanity gone

yes gone, leaving floating white
feathers and bits of gold paint
in the wake and the wind as he went
out the door, up the chimney and out
in the yard, breathing hard, and we

knew what he meant as he faded
from sight: maybe nothing at all
or to all a good fright
                                               



“Old Man Has a Can of Beans for Lunch”

James K. Zimmerman

eatin' a can of them beans th'other day
y'know the kind what got just a little
fatback in 'em an' the sauce got tomatuh
an' brown sugar an' all

makes pretty good eatin' with a roll
or a bag of Fritos or somethin' an' maybe
a Twinkie or a Ho-Ho for dessert
long as my stomach ain't actin' up
bubblin' around, makin' all weird sounds
like thunder or that ol' freight train
used to come by midnights, wake me up

made me think 'bout that ol' cannin' factory
down outside town, got a job there one time
first real job, really, with reg'lar hours
every week an' a week's vacation every year
they didn't pay you for, an' time off
for lunch, didn't pay you none for that neither

but they let us open the cans of beans
that didn't look right an' eat 'em out back
near the loadin' dock, and Ol' Charlie –
or maybe it was Mo – would bring along
a fifth of Jack or JB or a six-pack of Schlitz
or PBR or maybe even Stroh's, I dunno
and it was pretty good that way

Ol' Charlie used to nip a little more
than the rest, an' me, I was just a kid
maybe sixteen, seventeen, so I only did
a little, maybe just once a week or so
an' anyways Ol' Charlie didn't have no
wife no more an' didn't have a coupla
fingers on one hand no more neither

story goes he got 'em caught after lunch
one day in the sortin' conveyor, missed
a coupla weeks' work that way
coupla weeks' pay too

an' Mo, he had a big patch on his face
looked like somebody else's skin or
maybe treebark or a lizard or somethin'
'cause he got too close one afternoon
to the stare-lizer where the cans got clean

gone coupla months after that
jus' 'bout bought the farm, he said

so me, I didn't drink too much at lunch
those days, just ate my beans, drank
a ten-cent Coke outta the machine
listened to Ol' Charlie an' Mo tell stories
'bout the ol' times an' the hard times
an' the war an' all, kept at my job

worked my way up from the loadin' dock
to dumpin' them beans in the sortin' machine
an' even sometimes – 'cause I guess the boss
he liked me – sometimes loadin' the cans
on the trucks when they was all done
an' ready to go to the IGA or Kroger
or A&P or whatever

but after a while they came in with them
new-fangled, fancy-ass machines
with lotsa buttons to push, an' you gotta
have high school or so an' all kinda trainin'
just to run em', so we all got laid off

just 'fore Christmas, think it was

but the beans still taste just the same's
they always done, just the way they's
sposed to, the ones with a little
tomatuh an' brown sugar an' fatback

still make pretty good eatin' with a roll
or a bag of Fritos or somethin' 
an' maybe a Twinkie or a Ho-Ho
or a PBR for dessert, maybe even
a Stroh's if it's a Saturday



“Hero Worship”

James K. Zimmerman

thirty-gallon garbage
bags, home on the broken
dog-shit sidewalk

black ones tied with rags
savings bank for nickel-
deposit bottles and cans

shopping cart of sweat-
stained shirts, torn pants
year-old magazines
            laceless shoes

any change
            to spare, brother?

buy you something to eat?
(won’t help you feed
            your habit)

I could use a hero

oh -- can’t do that
            but here:

(hand in pocket
            singles snug
between fives, tens
and twenties) 

here’s a buck

thank you, brother
            bless you

walking on, venti
latte, house and car
two-hundred-dollar
shoes
            quicker step

a hero



“A Fable For Our Time: The Fox in the Henhouse Revisited”
with a nod to JT

James K. Zimmerman

There's this fox, see, and he's really, really good at breaking into the henhouse. He can get in any time he wants and take whichever hens and chicks he chooses, with impunity and no repercussions. And certainly without any regard for the effect of his skill on the chicken population as a whole.

So he goes to the chicken farmer and says, "Y'know, you've got a real problem with security around your henhouse. I can go in any time I want and take whichever hens and chicks I want, and you can't do anything about it."

And the farmer says, "Yeah, you're right, it's a real problem! It's making it so I'm not so sure I can even keep the farm going. I'm feeling like a loser. But what can I do?"

"Well, here's my plan," says the fox. "Since I'm the best one in the world at breaking into your henhouse, I'm the only one who knows how to fix the problem. So what you should do is hire me to tell you how to keep your hens and chicks safe. I can make your farm great again. Whaddya say?"

And the farmer says, "Y'know, that's a really totally awesome idea! Why didn't I think of that in the first place! You're on!"

So the fox designs a really, really beautiful system for protecting the hens and chicks, much easier to understand than the one the farmer had originally, and the farmer is totally happy. "Life really is great again," he says.

But after a while, he notices that his poultry population is continuing to decline, the ones that are left seem really anxious and off their feed, and the fox and his family are getting sleeker and happier all the time.

Eventually, the situation gets so bad that the farmer decides to give up his farm, declare bankruptcy, and sell off the few remaining hens and chicks. And even his last rooster – to the fox and his beautiful family.



“Celebration”

James K. Zimmerman

it is moot to maintain hands
up don’t shoot will change
the world when a little
girl with errant aim can
claim the life of her instructor
at a vacation-destination
firing range with one stray
shot from an uzi

accidentally I’m sure --
no one to blame, no
cure, the same all over:
guns don’t kill people
            bullets do

and who’s to know how
many of us would die in
any case, of shark attacks
lightning strikes, black  
widow bites, or apples
fed to us by green-faced
vampy witches if there were
no guns around to jam
those evil bullets into

and too there are the rituals
we share to keep our fair
humanity intact:

we openly carry high-
powered pride and stand
our self-determined ground

we hunt our ducks and deer
with rapid rounds to keep
them from escaping

we die and rise to play again
safe within our online web
rebooted from the ashes

and to celebrate when peace
breaks out we fire our bullets
in the air so sure when they

return to earth they will not
find their resting place directly
on uplifted heads of blissful
cheering children



All work Copyright©2016 by James K. Zimmerman – All Rights Reserved

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