poem index

Skating in Harlem, Christmas Day

Cynthia Zarin

To Mary Jo Salter

Beyond the ice-bound stones and bucking trees, 
past bewildered Mary, the Meer in snow, 
two skating rinks and two black crooked paths

are a battered pair of reading glasses 
scratched by the skater's multiplying math. 
Beset, I play this game of tic-tac-toe.

Divide, subtract. Who can tell if love surpasses? 
Two naughts we've learned make one astonished 0-- 
a hectic night of goats and compasses.

Folly tells the truth by what it's not-- 
one X equals a fall I'd not forgo. 
Are ice and fire the integers we've got?

Skating backwards tells another story-- 
the risky star above the freezing town, 
a way to walk on water and not drown.

Excerpted from The Watercourse by Cynthia Zarin. Copyright © 2002 by Cynthia Zarin. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.

Cynthia Zarin

by this poet

poem
Bone-spur, stirrup of veins—white colt
a tree, sapling bone again, worn to a splinter,
a steeple, the birch aground

in its ravine of leaves. Abide with me, arrive
at its skinned branches, its arms pulled
from the sapling, your wrist taut,

each ganglion a gash in the tree's rent
trunk, a child's hackwork, love