Jane Zwart teaches at Calvin University (Michigan, USA), where she also co-
directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have appeared in
Poetry, Ploughshares, and TriQuarterly, as well as other journals and magazines.

A House with No Windows

Yearly, one sister says, they plant marigolds
on their mother's grave. After, they eat fritters
on the steps of some other family's mausoleum,
dirt still under their nails. My son asks if
he and I will do the same for each other someday.

Once, if you had asked me, I would have said
I didn't much mind about dying. Or will we get
a house with no windows
, Ambrose asks,
and suddenly I want for his sake to stay forever,
eating pastries and planting small suns.

Discrete Infinity

First the magnets: the red A, its rung low to the ground;
the Q like a poorly stuffed olive. The letters wed to make words,
and I learned a single set of alphabet would not be enough.

Second, a Selectric, its warm growl and spastic planet of letters
and numbers, of eyelash parentheses, pretzeled ets, mini grids
for tic-tac-toe. I learned an alphabet is a loaded die.

All along, of course, I have written nothing but ransom notes.
All along, I have not played dice but rummy, building melds
with bummed words, the tarots our language passes clockwise.

Confessions of a Silkworm

What you dress in is scorn,
a skein of ductile spit
miles long. You dress in
a pearl-coated bile
worms hawk before they boil.

What you dress in is grief. Silk
is sackcloth marinated
in the glands of moths
bred to never fly. Bombyx mori:
flap the diptych of the insects
sericulture spares. Their wings
are powdered in ash.
You dress in a whiff of death.


She must be a gnome: her hennin is red.
One eye sleepy, one eye bright, smudge
of marmalade at the mouth's corners,

her face pushes past her center of mass
like a rapt listener's or birthday boy's,
his embouchure set at Cake Candles.

But she does not tip, thanks to a bustle
and broad green hem. Maybe
the basket braided to her forearm

is also ballast.
I want it to be purpose
that tilts her forward at the waist,
and I want the blue paint that laps her belt

to be something less pitiable: let her blouse
have come untucked; let her have a paunch.
Anything before this—being marred

by negligence, by casual uncaring.
But it is too late: the brush has lopped,
in cobalt, the thumb from one palm

and, dipped in flesh, the brush has rent
both skirt and slip from under the other,
the hand poised to smooth them.

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