Three Poems by Thomas Zimmerman


A beer in front of you, the spruces dark
out back, wife gone, and something weird
playing soft: the set and props you want
are all accounted for. Now needs: go deep.
Your mind’s been listing too much to the east,
you’re braver with the demons of the west.
You haven’t seen Orion yet this year,
and yet his preys’ screams sizzle in the skillet
of your dreams. You walk the dog at night,
a red light on your chest. Most codes crack simply
if we haven’t lived them, thumbed the years
that slide along the abacus of the spine.
Your dad worked in intelligence. His myth:
he counted fingers, toes, and made damn sure
he knew your sex, the moment you were born.


These days, you feel the need to stare an animal
in the eyes. Be eaten, even. Wear
its pelt or fill its belly. No, it’s not
the whiskey talking. Cabin fever, maybe.
“That buffalo was bigger than our Subaru,”
you say, your wife and you remembering
your North Dakota days. “They’re bison, honey.
Look it up.” You do. She’s right. But so is
your urge for juices—something—flowing. Doing
evil is banal, and virtue is
a luxury. But binaries are not
enough. The landscape, mindscape, scapegoat, great
escape . . . all stark but fossil-rich, big-skyed.
You wondered how you’d finish life? Not wise. Amazed.

The Idiot

My window low, I see no stars. Barbarians
at the gate, and also in this shabby
palace. Oh, to bore a hole in space
and time to let a pretty woman saunter
through. I’m despot of a world that spans
a postage stamp, and maybe, maimed, she’ll be
my queen. At least my girlfriend while I shake
my madness off, a black horse in a storm.
You idiot, it’s not that simple, croons
my fool. He’s simmering, about to boil
till he’s ghost or angel of my slaughtered
daughter. One hack actor nails both roles.
And me? I need no beard, magenta cloak,
or tough-love acting coach. I play myself.


Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the Writing Center, and edits The Big Windows Review at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. His poems have appeared recently in Rasputin: A Poetry Thread, Little Rose Magazine, and Furtive Dalliance. Tom’s website:

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