Jim Zola, Blues

Jim Zola

It’s not 1963. Still, heaven
is a Falcon, sky blue with rusted chrome.
It’s not how, but where
and why. The town beach after a day
butterflying jumbos at the Fish Market.
A girl with tan shoulders, a fisherman’s
daughter. Cheap beer, but what does it matter
after the first, the second. Who’s counting?
Not the fisherman who dreams of Tautog
for chowder, walking the flats. His daughter
dreams of a wedding without sand. You ignore
dreams and drive to get gas, to watch a man,
maybe 5 years older than you, rub a rag
across your windshield as if the salt and grime
might actually disappear. His name
is on his shirt. Soon he disappears. But you
aren’t interested in the schedules of grief.
Good grief the cartoon shouts. Yes, it’s good.
She becomes your wife. In a few years,
her blood talks back to her, resists, the way
a three year old does after a day
at the beach, exhausted, refusing
to acknowledge sleep. Says no. Big Blues
eat the little Blues. Deep below,
something joyful swims out of it all.

Author’s Comment: I spent many childhood summers camping with my family along the beaches of Cape Cod. In my early twenties, I returned one summer to work at the Bass River Fish Market.

10 thoughts on “Jim Zola, Blues

    • thanks — there are some poems that, even though I have written them myself, or maybe because I wrote them and know the entire back story, make me almost choke up each time I read them. Or if I’m reading in front of an audience, the kind of poem that makes you stop after reading for a long awkward silence. I love it when I find poems like this. There is something about sadness (and even grief) that is joyful and joy that contains sadness. Like the short poem by Galway Kinnell Crying. Happiness was hiding in the last tear…

  1. I love the mystery of this one. It is sublimely sad, and the reader is saved from that sadness only by the something joyful swimming out of it all. Whether that’s memory or a daughter, it is still a saving grace.

      • Wow! We do grow old. When did the last gas station attendant drag the last gritty rag across a customer’s windshield? I know that you know how truly the details in this one take us back. The surprise in the ending is extremely successful, at least in my estimation. I read the poem, then found myself going back to it three or four times to be sure!

  2. “her blood talks back to her, resists, the way
    a three year old does after a day
    at the beach, exhausted, refusing
    to acknowledge sleep. Says no.”

    Since I do what you do for “real” work – if you can call being a children’s librarian ‘work!’ 🙂 – you have seen the tempest surrounding a grouchy three year old many times. To compare that to blood talking back is sheer brilliance.

  3. Phebe — i think that might still drag that rag in some places — maybe New Jersey. this is a poem that certainly takes me back — bittersweet memories indeed

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