Jane Zwart teaches at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, Threepenny Review, TriQuarterly, and Ploughshares, as well as other journals and magazines. She writes book reviews regularly, too, most recently for Plume (where she is co-editor of reviews with Timothy Liu), and The Los Angeles Review of Books.
Some, brought up to oratory, can pen
entreaties for every airtime—pleas to last
a hundred last breaths, pleas five casualties
long. In the time I’ve been speaking,
the samaritan reads, and then it’s the dead:
ninety of hunger, three swept out to sea.
Missionaries on the Sunday School junket
pass the plate. Malaria has killed a dozen kids,
they say, in the time this slide show's taken. I think
The lives a shorter speech could save.
I want never to say another word.
I know, I know. But it is hard to uncouple
the synchronous, the pitch and its perished, hard
to believe you will add nothing to death
by metering your speech against its rattle.
After a lecture on Milgram’s experiment,
I dreaded the one lightswitch in the house
that seemed to turn nothing off or on:
how could my finger on the toggle dodge
the instant some stranger fell down dead?
I know. To name a simultaneity is not
to have a hand in the ongoingness of things.
. . .
In the time I’ve been writing, the purslane
has set out the bees’ yellow bowls.