The Floor of the Ice Cream Parlor
There was this shape that sat upon the floor,
black and white tile squares
A pattern like chess, like a match between myself and who?
She said the way it worried her, bringing an anxiety of
Yes, No, This, That, Up, Down, Day, Night—
burrowing beneath the skin to itch at her neurons.
Fingernails press inward, peeling back layers of epidermis.
They find thick blobs of red
that dance down the arm toward the fingers
pausing in their pirouette
before lunging toward the ground.
To press these squares together for a gray
—one gray, two grays, three?
How many in the spectrum of shade and frequency
before the itch ceased
And what about the chess-boards
—the ones that Derrida and Butler found breaking
themselves down into nothing
but one’s whip and another’s back?
And her back, bones pulled out,
nothing left but skin,
as she moves each step closer to the scarlet brick
that arches up to points. Windows left to right,
left to right, with pockets of mortar to fill the gaps.
A plaster that dances down the walls,
pausing in a pirouette
before lunging toward the ground.
Memories of a waning time
I remember that great oak tree, with branches holding time,
how its leaves turned emerald to bronze, cascading down,
and that wood fence, how it reached out for miles.
Rows of crops over rolling hills, stretched to the galaxy, past stars.
My father sowed crops with hands covered in bark,
while the smell of fresh baked bread filled the house with warmth.
On Sundays faces met in an old barn, painted white
with a steeple stretched out toward the heavens of God.
Open windows mixed songbirds with a chorus of jubilee,
though voices scratched out alleluia off-key,
like the blade that sawed through those oak branches
when the fence needed fixing.
I remember my mother telling me to drink the wine,
don’t chew the bread, so dried as it was,
how Martha blew an orchestra across scripture
into crumpled tissues, from a flu or pneumonia,
we never really knew,
and smiling, ivory faces all wished her well.
I remember worn chestnut pews and the plans of fathers to build new ones,
right after they fixed the roof of the O’Brien’s house where the tree fell on it last April,
and I remember an African man swinging from the end of coarse rope like a doll,
and how I found that ivory hood in my father’s dusty trunk.
He told me, “Someday, you’ll have one of your own.”
I remember that big oak tree, with branches holding life,
how its leaves turned bronze to scarlet, cascading down,
and that wood fence surrounded miles.
Rows of crops over rolling hills, stretched to the galaxy, wanting stars.
My father harvested crop with bark hands,
while the smell of fresh baked bread filled the house,
and on Sundays, a jubilee, sang off-key, in an ivory barn built to God.
A chair, I touch the chair, I know the chair, I take a hold and squeeze it tightly and more tightly squeezing the chair, I want to know this chair, but I only feel it, only see it, only call it, “chair.” It sits behind me as I sit my ass into the chair—my ass, I can feel it, I know my ass, can take a hold and squeeze it tightly and more tightly squeezing my ass. I want to know my ass, but I only feel it, only see it in twisted gymnastics of the mirror, only call it, “ass.”
Justin M. Zyla grew up in the Midwest. Adolescence in Omaha and College in Kearney. He’s studied literature, politics, philosophy and culture both inside and beyond the walls of the Academy. Currently, he writes in a myriad of styles, plans to release his first chapbook this summer.