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Sample Poems by Zara Raab


In the hollows of lightning-struck trees,
deep in the forest of the Weotts,
the fathers ran their stills when you were
still a boy by the cold-running Eel;
they hid the cucurbit of berries,
the mash of scented, fermenting grain,
and lit their secret flames below, then
by every hook and crook jury-rigged
a rick for aging the casks of gin.

Blessed be these makeshift alembics
passed down to you––all else there was oath
and curse, every half breath a “damn it,”
or “hell,” so thank God, thank the Scotsman
for the waters of life that cleanse you,
the usquebaugh, the bourbon whiskey,
raw as salt searing the quenched throat,
turning to vapor all troubles,
de-fanged an evening and slow-content.

Old Sally James

Born in a thimble of rye,
sloshed and hung out to dry,
I live a life, transpires
in its own blessed time,
fermenting in me
this brew of poetry.

Easy I slip into sleep,
drowsy in the dyer’s heat.
That or I’m all a-startle,
my ideas abstract,
missing the simplest fact,
at odds with rational acts.

With a curve in my spine,
I tumble walleyed
in love, sock in a dryer,
rushing, getting nowhere,
cycling in regular loads,
hot to warm, cool, cold.

My yen’s a trunnion,
carriage loaded and wrung.
I can’t go home ‘cause
my taw’s disappeared,
my only means there
a red-nosed reindeer.

Pine Trees

The pines grow bored with mountains,
wind whistling in the quarry,
making rute of needles.
Yet they are loyal, steadfast,
indifferent to vainglory:
They let wind tease and wheedle.
When I see their simple grace,
can I mind my sad story?
Spring comes, and pine’s there, bustling.
Do they yearn for the seaside?
They seem to rise against wind,
but wind blows through them, rustling.
It moans Who are you? to them.
Still they stand like bowling pins,
lined on the crests of valleys.
Though once legion in this place,
a handful still bowl and spin
their cones along the gullies.


The blue Chevy with the windows down
is his idea of indoors, summers;
he has the spine and walk of hogback,
his bones the dark and coarse-grained basalt;
his stained, half-missing fingers fisted
over the wheel, he cusses, and pulls
the trigger on a harem of does,
(and misses) downwind in the tare grass,
then roars into third so’s to bypass
thinning pinewoods and ferret the coves
for three braces of pearly mollusk.
He’s a jack-of-all-trades. Come sundown
to the lit sawmill, he’ll strut around,
trimming the burl and burning the husks.

His new woman stands by the oven
of her gold-dun kitchen, baking rusks,
she’s a girl of the wide open fields,
home in fescue and tare and chickweed.
Sundays, while he jaws the venison,
she’s yet to rev the Chevy’s engine,
or sight along a twenty-two,
she’ll come along, he says, none too soon.
This very morning she took her knapsack
to the blue-lupin pastures, loony
as a bluebird among the dobbins,
and in due time, she’ll mount the hogback,
track bucks with points on the knobby spine,
and shoot to kill, too, and not soften.