Rachel Zucker, a graduate of Yale and the Iowa Writer's Workshop, is the author of Eating in the Underworld, a collection of poems forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press. Her poems have appeared in various journals including APR, Barrow Street, Colorado Review, Fence, Pleiades and Volt as well as in the anthology Best American Poetry 2001. She lives in New York with her husband and two sons.

"I Cannot Write Essays, Will Not Be Famous" was published in APR. "Not Knowing Nijinsky or Diaghilev" was published in Barrow Street in 2000. The poem "post card (central park)" is part of a series called Annunciation; seven of the poems from the series won the Barrow Street's Poetry Prize.

Four Poems by Rachel Zucker


the spoke holds the wheel's intellegence but controls nothing
like the spine aware of danger tightens but cannot move
these stupid limbs have so much power

behold the downed perimeter and beyond
the frail limbed fathers bringing things in ziplok baggies

meanwhile I must get up and make his childhood
up this steep embankment of no sleep
to sort stones from snail shells though
he is too young to count or fathom matters

just one moment, please, I beg to conjure:
the neck of the lute
the rim of the glass
the way the wheel eventually stops without knowing


A certain kind of man asks the same question
again, again until it isn't a question but
              a threat, shove, spit in the eye.
Phyllis says you're sitting on your power but
I know what I'm sitting on: my ass. Obviously,
running out of language.

My desire is "A pre-electric impulse with a too-small synapse."
What a tired image that is. I sit on my power.

Finally, in the boxed-up city, night comes on
without a sunset; books push out their backs,
turn stiff arms away, press closer together.

       The editor says we have no patience for metaphor.

In the dream the baby carrier is crammed with plastic bags.
My ex-lover shoots hockey pucks at my breasts through a metal tube.
I want to hold you once before the world explodes I say to the baby
who is not there. Two women screaming "Filthy Jews!" die too.

       The memo from the editor: it is even sub-Hollywood.

I sit on my power and try to describe anything.

"My mother inside me": air in a well; a heavy, starless chill.
Her love the texture of canned lotus root, the color
a cross-section of diseased lung; slight smell of vinegar.

       The editor jots no patience for description.

So I am back where I started; another old man and his helpful invective.

He suspects me. Uses the words musicality, mimesis;
              what do you know, if anything?

I think: I know what it is to have a childŠ but (truth is) not now, I only know
                     what it is like.

Here: here is a picture of me in labor:

       ...hand around the metal bar the body
       crushing in and in the room white hot,

The reason I even mention       [it]     is that I don't know anything
but memory which is nothing except— child, sleeping in my elbow—
marks and tracings, a neural map, my thoughts are like piranha,
transparent and vicious, but no one gets away with similes like that.
Where is the pool of diction the myth described? The old man
spits in my eye, says a child is no excuse and points, pushing me
toward the shallow pond.


It's not what you suspect.

       (Taking a taxi home for no reason.
       Leaving the movie early. Who is it
       I'm talking to on the phone, in the
       room, in the end, where do I go?)

              The essay is too easy
to dissemble. The sentence
       sickens, then dismisses:

   The boy with two arms is not an amputee.

   I leave the ring on the nightstand.

   There is a will under the pillow.


post card (central park)

       Jesus in the water does not look clean or fish-like or marine
at all but only unafraid as if he knew he had gills as if the oxygen
       in the sea was the same as air— I will not get clean but will drown
I have one name only— a spider rests in his lazy cross of web high up
       above the park bench— one branch to another— why in the world
did the dove’s tiny sprig comfort Noah? he had no gills—

       I see now I was not the subject but location— the dove spies
an ark on the horizon then atop the mountain beached, harbored—
       and see how they occupy the pagan temples slap on another
fresco— now who does it belong to?— the architect won't live to see it
       so designs his plot inside— now these first buds some plot
within my very death I hardly mind have eyes enough to see: this
       ravishing there may not be another like it—