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Sample Poems by Joseph Zaccardi

You Have Ten Minutes to Explain Infinity

First minute: a butterfly.
Second minute: petrified wood.
Third minute: the molten core of the earth.
Fourth minute: a leviathan.
Fifth minute: the fossil of a fern.
Sixth minute: a dead star.
Seventh minute: conception.
Eighth minute: a newborn.
Ninth minute: truth.
Tenth minute: a silkworm.

And when you meet God, you’ll have ten minutes.
Explain: you didn’t know.

Two Things

In a cemetery an old man
clacks two stones together
as he passes each grave marker.
Across the road, a woman sits
on her front porch and plays a flute
made from the tibia of an elk.
Occasionally, travelers pass
between the cemetery
and the clapboard house.
Where they are going
doesn’t matter.

A Season

She lives on West Mountaintop Road;
the trees on either side of her house are like a sea.
Today, as she does every spring day,
she goes out for a walk, wades in the smells,
and calls to her dog, Sophie, who rolls
in the grass, chases anything that moves.
Back in the house, she soft-boils an egg
in its shell for three minutes, toasts one slice
of whole grain bread, opens a gift of mango jam.
Outside the clouds are distant, and the dog
is resting under blooms of weeping cherry.
The peonies are almost ready, the ants
feasting on their sweet nectar,
and the trees swell.


My mother calls from her nursing home.
She says, Get me out of here. Her voice
is forceful. I say, What’s wrong?
There were spiders lined up around
my bed last night, she says, they didn’t
move. I held still until they went away.
I don’t remember when or where they
had gone to. Not this, not this she says
to her undying self. There were white flies
in my garden and they hovered over
the sweet alyssum, and when I went out
to see them they left me, the ground
cover left me, and the yard was barren,
the fruit trees were barren. And where
everything had gone I do not know.
I could touch nothing and nothing
could touch me. And there was no place,
there was no place. Perhaps the gods,
she says, are jealous of death. They hold
you until you are still and then they leave
you because they do not care. Faith
does not prove anything. Why
won’t you, she says? I say, I can’t, let’s talk
about this tomorrow. She hangs up on me.
Ten minutes later she calls again.
She asks, Are you all right? You’re doing
too much, let the laundry go. I say
I’ll see you tomorrow. She says, Good,
get some rest.