Jane Zwart

For D, reading poems
June 24, 2024 Zwart Jane

For D, reading poems


When I was a kid, only a flu could buy me
a screen cubed and populated. In morning,


the mugging Bradys, appraising one another
above and below, glancing summary judgments


through the lattice bordering their blue cells,
like a yearbook page come to dubious life.


In afternoon, an ennead of actors and comics
in Rubixed cubicles, a tic-tac-toe board:


nine rooms, mostly desk. And this is what
we thought of when the world got sick,


we who, now middle-aged, watched Jan slide
her siblings the side eye and Whoopi


wise-crack from a grid’s center square. It is
what we made jokes about, seeing ourselves


populate cubed screens. That spring
we subscribed to Zoom and pretended


that we, too, were one thing: a family, a troupe.
In illness, you do what you must. You build


the dollhouse or dormitory a diorama at a time.
Tonight I am listening to my friend read poems.


Here it is the hour before dark. There, too—
a high window turns cobalt behind him—


but not everywhere. On the first floor, a man
in an apron makes a late supper, his back


to an obsidian pane, and on the third is
a yellow room, a woman capped in sunlight.


When I was a kid, I wished the Bradys
would lean past the sashes of their squares


and chat across the matrix of that rookery;
I wished the Hollywood types would visit,


would exit their kit-cat portraits and cross
the shotgun tenement, the game show’s set.


And for us, too, I want this trespass: egress.
I want the courtyard our quarters overlook.


I want the illicit bonfire lit in the cube of air
that belongs to all of us, or none.

Jane Zwart teaches at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, Threepenny Review, Ploughshares, and Plume, as well as other journals and magazines. She also writes book reviews, and she has published edited versions of onstage interviews with writers including Zadie Smith, Amit Majmudar, and Christian Wiman.