Zachary Bos


stall aria

the mildew writes its mottos all in vowels:
vows, rotten notes of awe, a kind of damp
incredulity, scrawled in a penmanship all of
pale green stars on the sweating ceiling

its ungorgeous gangrene blooms veridical
proving that poetry is as much a gorgonic
song as a witness to experience, even here
in the basement watercloset of a paper mill

or university where we grapple in a losing
game against authentic feeling every cluck
tack tuck
of the work clock; a flat cosmos
crawls upon the belly of the floor above us

footfalls and insensible concussions shake
through the ceiling and the walls, adding a
concert drum thrum to the bath chatter: the
grunting in the adjacent cell; a lilting

clatter that is the running water in a broken
urinal as well as the unseen unlit streamlets
feeling their way down through a grotto in
search of a hidden reservoir to merge into;

a murmur, another worker stolen away from
his desk, stealing time from kirke to lean
forearms on bare thighs and read
unhindered, unauthorized, for half an hour 

in this pisspot underworld; his subvocal
chorale is from a myth we used to know:
you’re rid of chi, listless and unpowered,
maximize your correction, become a hero

of production, fulfill your promise as a cog,
and so on for endless grey chapters that
linger without lamenting the absent
orpheus—all self help for the helpless

the steam whining as it wriggles out a
leak in a hot pipe loses all its heat
transfuming onto the blistered paint on
the mildewed ceiling overhead:

a water cycle that turns a water wheel
of decay, leaving verdigris around the chrome
stalks of the toilets, corruption on the
cerebral tiling, a largish puddle

in a low place on the floor—a vernal pool or
mouth singing or a mouthful of water spat
out by a believer of myth who meant to use
it as a circular door

in this warren motion becomes atonal
benevolent and involuntary, and time is
nothing but a wet glissade; we resent art
and labor; we grunt and retest god

our challenge is to make a song here out of
only sweat and decrepit novae our throats
that are our only route out turn into gorges
that only lead down

graffiti on the door reminds us count the
koines in your eyes
(and call me) buoyed
we recite ad astras, and speak and lo: a
teat appears upon his cheek.




digitus medicinalis

a poet in the agora shakes a vagrant cup,
counting up all his coins, god-forsaken, but
glad that it not windy his dented cup,
press-ganged into receiving alms, is not full
enough yet for an amanita or bag of betel
nut, blessed affordable forms of anodyne
his lips are stained where the honeyed
drool spurted and ran, red juices from god’s
chewed finger bones he sucks the phalanx
of his filthy right ring finger idly while he
squats where donkey shit turns into dust

tell us, gaping cup, is He at all ashamed of
poverty, of privation, of how our hungers
expand when fed, of our intoxication and
nakedness, of our willingness to  swallow
handfuls of coins that distend our
stomachs and crumble so that the faces in
relief redden the water with rust coins that
could have bought a meal or a stub of
sharp pencil



Daily, unimaginative cycle: unslit throat,
seasonal, rolling barrel of decades. The
world too dumb or fearful to innovate. The
mechanical whine of each dawn tumbling
into twilight, smoothed by the grit of
moments into something semiprecious, like
water-polished chunks of agate, purple
quartz, or other junk.

Its pigments fall out into three clear
bands: a crisp citrus blue, a cerulean,
and a darkening tint that saturates the
edge of vision, unlit sapphire.

A tawdry penny dropped back in its bank: its
radiance lingers like a dim stain.


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