There Are Two Magics

he said describing the fantasy novel he was reading 
as they walked the drizzled streets she was listening 
& laughing & realized she'd been walking through one city 
or another next to this man for more than twenty years 
longer of course than their kids were old 
their smart alecky sons who hadn't yet met the person 
with whom they might walk through rain discussing 
ridiculous books with great sincerity & pleasure             
Seriously he said I can't stop reading it but when they went upstairs 
to the good bed in the good hotel he did stop reading 
& found a place where her shoulder met her neck 
& touched it until her mind finally went away for a while 
& they became bedraggled & he went out like a light 
but not even the good bed at the good hotel after good sex 
could put her to sleep not the meditation app or the long online essay 
about the White Supremacy of Conceptual Poetry 
she missed her dead mother & her middle-aged cousin 
who'd died the summer before she wondered if miles away 
her youngest was whimpering was her oldest awake texting 
was her middle son worrying she wanted the husband 
to tell her the plot again but didn't want to wake him 
he lay over the covers on his back his breath audible & regular 
folded hands rising & falling peaceful & fearless as if she'd 
never once meant him harm as if she'd always loved 
this warm animal as if this were not the same summer she'd said 
If that's really how you feel this isn't going to last & he hadn't said 
anything anger sadness doubt & disappointment was a wave 
that slapped them down & under so many people had died 
& life felt shorter than how long they'd been together they had 
through so many omissions & commissions hurt & been hurt 
it was that same summer but she was alive & awake he was 
asleep & alive they were weak but still there

More by Rachel Zucker

Diary [Surface]

Spring is not so very promising as it is the thing
that looking back was fire, promising:
ignition, aspiration; it was not under my thumb.

Now when I pretend a future it is the moment
he holds the thing I say new-born,
delicate, sure to begin moving but

I am burned out of it like the melody underneath
(still not under my thumb)--
was he ambiguous, amphibian?

Underneath, his voice, the many ways
he gathers oxygen; it will not stop raining
until the buds push through the brittle trees.

If they fail we will not survive,
washed and washed with rain, will we?
No,we are not there yet.

She is pushing me two ways until
I am inside the paradox, the many lungs,
and they're at it again, gathering oxygen;

no wonder I am wrung out
holding out for the promise of
something secret, after--

Hey Allen Ginsberg Where Have You Gone and What Would You Think of My Drugs?

A mouse went to see his mother.  When his car broke down he bought a bike.
When the bike wore out he bought skates.  When the skates wore down he ran.
He ran until his sneakers wore through.  Then he walked.  He walked and 
walked, almost walked his feet through so he bought new ones.  His mother was 
happy to see him and said, "what nice new feet you have on."
—paraphrase of a story in Mouse Tails by Arnold Lobel

hey, listen, a bad thing happened to 
my friend's marriage, can't tell you
only can tell my own story which 
so far isn't so bad:

"Dad" and I stay married.  so far.
so good.  so so.

But it felt undoable. This lucky life
every day, every day. every. day.

(all the poetry books the goddamn same
until one guys gets up and stuns the audience)

Then, Joe Wenderoth, not by a long shot
sober says, I promised my wife I wouldn't fuck
anyone, to no one in particular and reads a poem 
about how Jesus has no penis.

Meanwhile, the psychiatrist, attractive in a fatherly 
way, says libido question mark.

And your libido?
like a father, but not like mine, or my sons'—

"fix it."

My friend's almost written 
a good novel by which I mean finished 
which means I'd like to light myself 
on fire, on fire
with envy, this isn't "desire" 
not what the Dr. meant
by libido?
                        I hope—

not, it's just chemical:
            jealousy. boredom. lethargy.

 

Books with prominent seraphs: their feet feet feet I am
marching to the same be—

other

than the neuronic slave I thought anxiety made me 
do it, made me get up and carry forth, sally 
the children to school the poems dragged 
by little hands on their little seraphs 
to the page my marriage sustained, remaining 
energy: project #1, project #2, broken 
fixtures, summer plans, demand met, request 
granted, bunny noodles with and without cheesy 
at the same time, and the night time I insomnia 
these hours penning invisible letters—

            till it stopped.

doc said: it's a syndrome.        you've got it, 
                                      classic.

it's chemical,
mental

circuitry we've got a fix for this
classic, I'm saying I can

make it better.

Everything was the same, then,
but better.

At night I slept.
In the morning got up.

Kids to school, husband still a fool-
hardy spirit makes
me pick a monday morning fight, snipe! I'll pay for that
later I'm still a pain in the 
elbow from writing prose those shift+hold+letter, 
I'm still me less sleepy, crazy, I suppose
less crazy-jealous just
ha-ha now at Jesus' no penis his
amazed at the other poet's kickass
friend's novel I dream instead about
the government makes me put stickers
on my driver's license of family members
who are Jews, and mine all are.  Can they get us 
all? I escape with a beautiful light-haired man,
blue-eyed day trader, gentile. 
 

gentle, gentle, mind encased in its 
blood-brain barrier from the harsh skull
sleep,  sleep and sleepy wake and want 
to sleep and sleep a steep dosage— 

            "—chemical?"

in my dreams now every man's mine, no-
problem, perhaps my mind's a little plastic, 
malleable, not so fatal now 

the dose is engineered like that new genetic watercress
to turn from green to red when planted over buried 
mines, nitrogen dioxide makes for early autumn
red marks the spot where I must 
watch my step, up one half-step-dose specific—


            The psychiatrist's lived in NY so long
            he's of ambiguous religious—
            everyone's Jewish sometimes—
            writes: "up the dosage."


now,
when I'm late I just shrug
it's my new improved style
missed the train? I tug
the two boys single file

the platform a safe aisle
between disasters, blithely
I step, step, step-lively
carefully, wisely.

I sing silly ditties 
play I spy something pretty
grey-brown-metal-filthy
for a little city fun.

Just one way to enjoy life's 
trials, mile after mile, lucky
to have such dependable feet.

you see,
the rodents don't frighten I'm
calm as can be expected to recover left to my 
one devivces I was twice as fast getting everywhere but
where did that get me but there, that inevitable location
more waiting, the rats there scurry, scurry, a furry

till the next train comes

"up the dosage."

Brown a first-cut brisket in hot Dutch oven 
after dusting with paprika.  Remove.  Sauté 
thickly sliced onions and add wine. (Sweet 
is better, lasts forever, never need a new bottle). 
Put the meat on onions, cover with tomato-sauce-
onion-soup-mix mixture, cover. Back in a low 
oven many hours.

The house smells like meat.
My hair smells like meat. 

I'm a light unto the nation.

I'm trying 
to get out of Egypt.
This year, 
I'll  be better.

Joseph makes sense of the big man's dreams, is saved,
saves his brothers those jealous boys who sold him 
sold them all as slaves. Seven years of plenty.  Seven
years of famine.  He insomnias the nights counting up
grains, storing, planning, for what? They say throw 
the small boys in the river (and mothers do so). Smite 
the sons (and fathers do it.) God says take off your shoes,
this holy ground this pitiful, incombustible bush.

Is God chemical?  
Enzymatic of our great need to chaos?

We're unforgivable. 
People of the salted
cheeks.  Slap, turn, slap.

To be chosen 
is to be 
unforgiving/ unforgiv-
en, always chosen: 
be better.

The Zuckers are a long line of obsessives. 

This served them well in war time saw it 
coming in time that unseeable thing they 
hoarded they ferried, schemed, paced, got the hell 
out figured out at night, insomnia, how to visa—

now, if it happens again, I won't be 
ready

I'm "better."

The husband, a country club Jew from Denver, American
intelligentsia will have to carry me out and he's no big 
man and I'm not a small girl how fast

can the doctor switch the refugee gene back on?


How fast can I get worse?  Smart again and worse?

Better to be alive than better.  

            "...listen:" says the doctor, "sleeping isn't death.  
            All children unlearn this fear you got confused 
            thought thinking was the same as spinning—"             
            Writes: "up the dosage."  
            don't think.  this refugee thing part
            of a syndrome fear of medication of being better...

Truth is, the anti-obsessional medicine works 
wonders and drags me through life's course...

About this time of year but years ago the priests spread 
rumors of blood libel. Jews huddled in basements accused 
of using Christian babes' blood to make unleavened bread.

signs and wonders.
Christ rises.

Blood and body and babes.
Basements and briskets 
and bread of afflictions.

I am calm now with my pounds of meat 
made and frozen, my party schedule, my pills 
of liberation, my gentile dream-boy, American 
passport, my grey haired-psychiatrist, my blue-
eyed son, my brown-eyed son, my poems on their 
pretty little fleet-feet, my big shot friends, olive-skinned 
husband, my right elbow on fire: fire inside deep in the nerve 
from too much carrying and word-mongering, smithery, bearing 
and tensing choosing to be better to live this real life this better orbit this Jack

Kerouac never loved you like you wanted. 
Blake.
Buddha. 
Only Jesus and that's his shtick,
he loves

everyone: smile! that's it,
for the camera, blood pressure
normal, better, you're a poster child
for signs and wonders what a little chemistry
does for the brain, blood, thought, hey,

did you know that Pharaoh actually wanted
to let them go?  those multitude Jews
but God hardened Pharaoh's heart against them [Jews]
to prove his prowess show his signs, wonders, outstretched 
hand, until the dosage was a perfect ten and then 
some, sea closing up around those little chariots
the men and horses while women on the far shore shook 
their tambourines.  And then what?  Forty years to get the smell
of slavery off them. 

Because of this. Bloody Nile. My story one of
the lucky.  Escape hatch even from my own
obsess—

            I am here because of this.
Because of what my ancestors did for me to tell this
story of the outstretched hand what it did for me this
marked door and behind this red-marked door, around 
a corner a blue-eyed boy waits to love me up with his 
leavened bread, his slim body, professional detachment, 
medical advancements, forgive me my father's mother's
father was the last in a long line of Rabbis—again! with this? This
rhapsody of affliction and escape, the mind bobbing along
in its watery safe. Be like everyone. Else. Indistinguishable but
better than the other nations but that's what got us into this, Allen,
no one writes these long-ass poems anymore.  Now we're
better, all better.  All Christian.  Kind. 

Letter [Persephone to Demeter]

At home, the bells were a high light-yellow
with no silver or gray just buttercup or sugar-and-lemon.

Here bodies are lined in blue against the sea.
And where red is red there is only red.

I have to be blue to bathe in the sea.
Red, to live in the red room with red air

to rest my head, red cheek down, on the red table.

Above, it was so green: brown, yellow, white, green.
My longing for red furious, sexual.

There things were alive but nothing moved.
Now I live near the sea in a place which has no blue and is not the sea.

Gulls flock, leeward then tangent
and pigeons bully them off the ground.

Hardly alive, almost blind-a hot geometry casts off
every color of the world. Everything moves, nothing alive.

In the red room there is a sky which is painted over in red
but is not red and was, once, the sky.

This is how I live.

A red table in a red room filled with air.
A woman, edged in blue, bathing in the blue sea.

The surface like the pale, scaled skin of fish
far below or above or away—

 

Related Poems

In the Light of One Lamp

I crawled into bed and closed my eyes and not long after heard the small hooves of the horses, the tiny ones that gallop in our dreams, or are they the dreams of our children, galloping through the black ruins. Everything we do is against the crippling light. To hear them cry at night is to know they are alive. When they are scared they come galloping down the long hall calling your name. Tonight, it is our oldest daughter, the red mare with her fiery mane, she snuggles in between us and falls back to sleep in your arms, to that secret place inside her, she barely moves, crossing over the river, through a grove of alders, through the black ruins, she is the one who once whispered, the grass it knows everything.