A Poem by Monika Zobel

Monika Zobel

Monika Zobel

Monika Zobel is the author of two books of poems—An Instrument for Leaving, selected by Dorothea Lasky for the 2013 Slope Editions Book Prize (Slope Editions, 2014), and Das Innenfutter der Wörter (edition keiper, Graz, Austria, 2015). Her writing has appeared in Carve Magazine, Ruminate Magazine, Nimrod International Journal, Poetry Northwest, RHINO Poetry, Redivider, DIAGRAM, Beloit Poetry Journal, Drunken Boat, Guernica Magazine, The Cincinnati Review, Best New Poets 2010, as well as German and Austrian publications. A Fulbright and Djerassi Resident Artists Program alumna, she works as a translator in Bremen, Germany.


We were practicing sailor knots.
Me a novice, a loop where a loop
shouldn't be and the lump came apart

like the calendar pages I couldn't bear
to tear off. The days soon dismantled
the past. We were practicing bowlines.

My eye at the end of the rope unraveled in your
hands. You were skilled, but too quick
with your thumbs, as if you knew I'd never

follow. Listen, you were skilled like a chef
with his knives and fingertips
curved away from the blade. I never

learned to turn away from the blade.
After the third try, I threaded the frayed
end through the void between the ropes,

what a heart where a heart was never
meant to stay. We talked of silence
at sea, something the city dreams of

when it sleeps. We both held on
to the ends of the rope. No tug, no slack,
the sky perfectly sliced in two. That night the moon

hung above the tram cables like a plump
grapefruit, craters almost fathomable. Nothing
held it there, no rope, no knot, no word

I could have offered you to pull it close. Listen,
there was nothing I could have uttered. Certain
endings are tied and loosened by chance.