Sunday, March 05, 2006

THREE POEMS by Snezana Zabic

I Am a Horse

osiris in / vented the popcorn, the / slow drag & the lindy hop.
he’d rather dance than rule.”
(Ishmael Reed)

I saw a sage in a beige trench coat.
His library card said: Ishmael Reed.
He stood there, an unlikely patron

of the Oakland Library for the Disabled.
I didn’t remember to extend my hand in greeting
a simple “did you find everything

all right, Mr. Reed?” escaped me,
and I muttered something about
an overdue policy, careful not to show

my excitement, mind blank & all I could
think of saying was: “I saw you on TV!”
So I was mute, wishing I could quote

from Conjure. (The word almost
sounds like “horses rushing”
in my language: konji jure.)

That morning, it rained. Outside
the city guttered, its milky lights
mixed with fog. I couldn’t talk

to Mr. Reed because, true, I’d seen him
on TV, but what a thing to say to a writer,
so I busied myself with bar codes, dates,

keyboard, dropped my glasses on the floor
bent down to get them and thought:
“Address him, damn it, are you scared

of controversial black intellectuals?”
But actually I said it all out loud. Or maybe
Ishmael could read my mind. He stood there,

shaking his head slightly. The host (white)
of the TV show the night before seemed
nervous—it goes with greatness.

That’s all I meant. But it was too late.
“Sir, I’d rather dance too,” I said, and:
Conjure sounds like konji jure. Which

means horses rushing in my language.”
“Toward what, poor Caucasian,” he replied,
“And what for?”

Instincts in Sequels

Instincts, I say, instincts:
dominoes toppling in the DNA spiral
pearly white with spots black
as gun wounds in a 1930’s film.

Whose covetous fingers
what ghost tore me apart
like a placard confiscated at a rally?
I’m learning how (muscles
contract when danger fills the air)
to learn how to fight back.

In the movie of wrong moves
I’ll show off my new skills
blocking even the most devious
enemies who speak
in saccharine registers
to soften me pussycat-like.

To learn how not to repeat
my last mission that
wound up in the abyss:
I jumped from the aircraft
yanked and—nothing!
Parachute all tangled on my back
a bundle of silk
refusing to obey
my master’s voice.

songs in quarter notes of rain
explode on the sidewalk
my shoes soaked
with violin clefs
bigger with every step
mouthfuls of hymns
in praise of subway neon
yelling back, echoing
trains clack and clack
swollen city’s throat
gives way to a growing sphere
on a planet-sized high “C”
I fill the day till it bursts

Snezana Zabic currently lives in Chicago, or more precisely in West Humboldt Park. She goes to school at UIC. E-mail her at