Jo Sarzotti teaches at The Juilliard School and Columbia University. Her work has appeared in Borderlands: Texas Literary Review and The Alaska Quarterly Review, which published I Dream My Father Drives On Ice in Spring 2000.

Four Poems by Jo Sarzotti


I Dream My Father Drives On Ice

Cigarette in his mouth, he squints through smoke
Intent on shifting,
Denim legs pump, heavy soled boots clutch
                                                                             and release,
A sixteen-wheel semi edges onto blue Arctic ice,
Wheels grind,
Cold fires thunder deep below
The ice road rivering aqua blue four hundred miles,
Wild cold is thick over frozen lakes, bleached tundra.


Ice snaps, titans clear chthonic throats, yawns freeze --
                                                                             What the ice says
Bodies stress and hardness,
Brittle breaking like china shattered,
Door slammed,
Footsteps on flagstone leaving -- he strains
For the sound of a pane of glass
On a hard frost night --
                                            he knows
To worry when he hears nothing.
In April the ice goes spongy
And silent, the road
                                 collapses.


Ravens score the sky,
Dance around upturned ribs
                                            of slain caribou,
One treads air at his window begging for a cracker,
So close he can see the black bead in its eye.

Seagulls on the beach beg food
                                                       from children.
Summer striped umbrellas, white sand
                                                                  hot underfoot,
He carries me on his shoulders -- tanned forearms,
V at his neck, eyes like mine ice blue,
We listen to surf in shells,
                                            we know
To worry when we hear nothing.



Dream On

Lying there, under yellow roses in morning sun,
Death was a kind of earth, something
I walked on, rolled in, dug up,
Ate.

A pet goat died eating poisoned rose leaves,
My mother told me he was just sleeping,
A pony died of colic, even though
We walked him through the night.

Each spring a calf was slaughtered,
The meat frozen, its name quickly let go.
I rode in mountains I thought were human,
Chewing my hair, and the leather reins.

I watched a crescent cut on my finger heal,
And dreamed of having a baby.



Loss

In the new year, my skin wraps me in loss:
My son leaves home,
His infant hand a ghost, his mind,
The archaeology of Rome.

Here are the hounds of January,
A Europe of chiseled mouths open nether and blue,
Goat headed humans, the gods of what’s next,
Their hunger a silence astride the yellow air.

In hard streets, I am muffled by cold and mischief,
Nourished by grim dried needles
Given up by the dead year,
Whose number gathers the faint nostalgia
Of long drowned bones, losing dice,
Old snow.



Wrestling King Lear

Stretched deep asleep on a slashed velvet couch,
Each breath rattling trays of china,
He swallowed words I needed.

Pummeling did no good. All I got was one the.
Armored in his mute, grey beard,
Breeding tiny spiders of forgetting,

He disowned a daughter, watched television all day.
O, to commit sweet suicide,
The kind a person wakes up from.

I don't believe in the importance of a just God.
For example, schizophrenics can't smell. I can't smell.
They have no here. I have one the.

His words had something in common with romance.
If only there'd been a mother.
If only I could heave my heart into my mouth.