Frank Van Zant


You say you have children but
this lawyer has an opera prodigy
who wins competitions using
rare, complicated German pieces,
German, not those easier Italian ones,
so we can all be sure that his daughter's
better, best,
beats yours.

You say you graduated from college but
this lawyer was first in his class,
not merely law school material,
but highly recruited.
His degree, of course,
is higher, highest, beats yours.

You say you are going on vacation
driving your station wagon somewhere touristy but
this lawyer hasn't time to take all that time you're taking.
and is jetting to Aruba
just for the weekend.
His schedule is busier, busiest, beats yours.

You are closing a mortgage for the first time but
this lawyer closes mortgages all the time,
which explains why you made a mistake on line 16 but
this lawyer never makes a mistake
(just ask his paralegal).
This is why you are paying and he is receiving $500
(an absurd figure for his involvement--
just ask his paralegal).

You say you have your life in perspective--
which is a way of rationalizing your relative poverty--
but this lawyer has his life in perspective too
and he's a lawyer to boot, so his perspective isn't pert
as he labels yours, it's perspicacious.

He's privileged, perspicacious, perspicaciouser, perspicaciousest,
better than you.

Frank Van Zant


well it's true that alcohol
has made poets

more interesting to read

though I tell my students
no, no one drinks alcohol
in order to get words
to come out right

believing, as they do,
that words will flow
like conversation,
that platelets of shyness
will evaporate
in the fuming, articulating

But I claim to them it isn't so,
a writer only drinks to fuck up his life

so that in clear moments
he can write about it
assess the damage

but look, they'll cite, look at
Edgar Allen Poe, he
was a drunk,
and Lewis Carroll
on laudenum and children,
that Sherlock Holmes dude
cranked on coke

and again I'll counter
how alcohol may uncork a person
let her know Mortality
a brawled nose or even
Psyche's bashed-in teeth

but for a poet
it's just a companion to writing
something for the other hand,
the poet already suffering,
more addicted - - pleasingly?- -
to pulling a pen

Frank Van Zant


Was it really, as you said, like a birth?
To emerge from that building, bareheaded, seeking
this world's oxygen for your held lungs, to find
the odd smoke of your life pouring up
and up, as if principles of thermodynamics were
ghosts: the photos, lockets, an engagement
diamond, anything of the spirit released by fire,
unwilling even for a detached moment to be bound to earth.

Did those two socks that survived on your feet,
your jeans and sneaks, your shirt and bra and underwear,
did the material comfort you like a final circle of friends
draped around the sickbed of your heart?

Later when you will be shopping at a store, beginning again
to surround yourself with decorations, those personal markers
holding history in our homes like a mask,
What will be most unnerving:
the violence of losing? the memory of having?
Or this skinned-knee way we all recognize,
our ordinary fragility, our purchased limitations?

And friend, if I fold this paper as arms fold
in a hug, can a poem matter, tucked there
in your one lasting pocket?

A two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a semi-finalist at Discovery/The Nation, Frank Van Zant has two new collections out The Lives of the Two-Headed Baseball Siren from Kings Estate Press and Climbing Daddy Mountain from Pudding House.


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