Citadel of our best names—angsty Zooey & chatty Zarathustra,
              wee Zaccheus & mighty Zorro. (Zebediah, of course,                              would place among them.) 

Experiment in endings (A-Z), as in “where the A ends up,” the crooked path
              an A could take toward some arrival’s gate (zig-zag). 
Or Z-pack: superhero strength contained in capsules. 

Like the 7, crossed or uncrossed, mustachioed or not,
              the Z with its dashing  good looks & flaming androgyny,                        its cursive tail & tiger purr. 

That Z, its maze of contradictions, shape-shifter & fortress of finality:
              N’s topsy-turvy cousin, S’s more callous sidekick,

The stuff of caped-crusader skirmishes: ZAP! &  ZOOM!

Enabler of interjections (think Wowie Zowie! think Zoinks!)
              Symphonic doppelgänger shadowing xylophone &                                 disguise

The verbage of bees, buzzing all day in a hive. 

Zeta or zed, its dialectical relatives, or the numeral 3,
              Z’s bodacious brother on its mother’s side.        

Ambiguous, flirtatious, & worth 10 points on the Scrabble board,
              Z turns out to be quite the catch—zany, zesty, &                                      remarkably well-read.

But despite its zeal, Z can also communicate quietly, eloquent as an ideogram. 
              It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring…

How do we know? Just look at the rocket of Zs rising out of his mouth.


Copyright © 2017 by Julie Marie Wade. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 1, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The first poem I ever published was a meditation on the letter Y.  I’d been wanting to write about individual letters for some time, but it wasn’t until I saw an exhibit of Harold Edgerton’s images at a Pittsburgh gallery that I knew how I wanted my letter-poems to feel. Edgerton used strobe flash photography to capture balloons in the process of bursting, milk in the process of splashing, and perhaps most famously, a bullet slicing through a playing card. To my mind, he captured how a seemingly singular object or event—the balloon that burst, the milk that splashed—was many things at once, many textures and colors and motions—the way that words are to me, and letters, and sounds. Eventually, I hope to write a poem for every letter of the alphabet, but not being a big stickler for linearity, I decided to write ‘Z’ now.”
—Julie Marie Wade