Eight Poems by Jeffrey Zable

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THE JAZZ DRUMMER

So I’m talking to this guy who’s around 25 years old,
a free lance jazz drummer around the Bay Area, and he says to me,
“A hundred thousand dollars a year is nothing any more in the Bay Area.
I expect to make more than that next year!”

We’re sitting in what is pretty much a dive bar on Haight Street,
the jazz musicians that night– who he sometimes sits in with–
are getting paid through ‘pass the hat’ donations, split 5 ways
and from the number of people there, I’m guessing that each
will make about 50 dollars for playing two full sets.

When I tell him that I know several very good trap drummers
who have at least part-time day jobs, teach on the side,
and play regular gigs, but are always struggling to survive
he responds, “They must not be doing the right things!”

He then tells me that he’s thinking of moving to Ireland,
to some small town in which his father was born,
and that over there they really appreciate jazz unlike here in America.

As he continues, I think to myself, “Why do I keep meeting narcissists
who talk non-stop ‘pie in the sky’!”

Meanwhile the band gets back on stage for their second and final set. . .

A CIVILIZED PERSON

So I pick up the phone even though I’ve already had two calls
this morning from guys trying to sell me something.
The first thing I hear is a man laughing, and then I realize
there are a bunch of people talking in the background.
After about 30 seconds the guy says to me,
“I’m so sorry. . . the guy next to me is ‘one crazy guy.’
He’s always making me laugh!” Then he says, “How you doin’
Mr. Zable. . . This is Jim Clark from ‘such and such’
and I’m just following up. . .”
“Listen man,” I interrupt, “I don’t have time for this.
What are you sellin, what are you sellin. . .”
“You know, Mr. Zable, you sound like a retarded parakeet. . .”
he says in a serious tone that completely sets me off.
“You sound like the typical son of a bitch telephone salesman
that you are. Motherfucker, you better not call me again!”
With that I slam down the receiver, but begin to feel guilty
for what I said, and mad at myself for letting him get to me.
I put on my gym clothes, leave the house and tell an acquaintance
at my gym what just happened and he says, “I understand
how these assholes can get you all worked up. I wish I had
a dollar for every time someone has pissed me off, but like
with you, it just makes me feel badly in the end. . .”
“You got it!” I responded, “I should have just said,
‘thanks but no thanks’ and hung up the phone nice and easy
like the civilized person that I am.”

IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS

Getting rejection slips doesn’t mean that much
so long I remember that I’ve published around 2,000 poems,
short fictions, and non-fictions.

And of those people who’ve published my work
on-line and in print, I’ve met 3 of them in person,
one who’s become a good friend and confidant,
while I imagine that most are still out there somewhere,
some of whom are still producing a literary magazine.

What I’m saying is that even in a world as fucked up
as this one, I enjoy seeing my work in a magazine,
and that at least I can die knowing that hundreds
of people have related to my words. . .
though I know it isn’t much in the scheme of things.

WISHING YOU

The thing about taking another person’s word
for who you are at any particular time
is not only stupid, idiotic, and ludicrous,
but dangerous to your well being,
for if you don’t know it by now,
I must inform you that most peoples’ word on anything
amounts to a rather large sack of excrement,
and that at the best of times what I’ve found
is that the majority of people will judge you
for the last thing you shouldn’t have said
or by the last thing you haven’t done for them,
and that if you’ve disappointed someone one time in a thousand
they will mostly remember that one time
and keep judging you for it in their mind.

I’ve come to realize that people are people,
and that in my entire lifetime I can count on one hand
the relationships that have gone smoothly
and continue to do so for the most part,
relationships in which I know that I’m not always being sized up
for what I can do for the person,
and that they are capable of seeing the greater picture
of who and what I am,
and in general, what it means to be a ‘real’ human being.

Now you can take this any way you want to,
and for those of you who don’t know me personally,
if you don’t like what I’ve said here and are going
to judge me completely for it, I say to you,
Good Day, Good Night, Thank You,
and here’s wishing you a short, but wonderful life. . .

 

THE THOUGHT

Handing a dollar to a homeless guy standing in front of Safeway
with a sign that reads, “I need your help!” he says to me,
“You just did the right thing!”
At first it didn’t register, but as soon as I got into Safeway,
I said to myself, “I just did the right thing!”
Now, I’ve given money to a lot of homeless people
but I’ve never heard any of them say something like that.
Thinking about it further, I wondered whether he was born
into a privileged family, somehow lost his way,
but still feels he deserves to be taken care of.
Heading out the door, I considered doing the right thing again,
and giving him another dollar. . .

SURELY

I should take Cliff’s advice and stop watching the news
because, as he said, after a while you’ll have no idea
what is happening and think that everything is basically okay,
that you’re gonna make it through old age just fine,
and when it’s time to go you’ll just close your eyes,
awaken in some magical place,
young and full of life,
and as the singing and dancing begins
you’ll turn toward the sun,
change into your favorite beach attire,
which you’ll wear each day for the rest of eternity. . .

SITTING IN A CAFÉ IN WHICH I’VE NEVER BEEN BEFORE

this disheveled looking guy walks in. Shirt and pants with visible
holes and stains; hair sticking out in all directions; face looking like
it hasn’t been washed since the days of the Civil War.
When he asks to use the bathroom, the woman working there
tells him that it’s for customers only.
With that, he reaches into his pocket, takes out a couple of coins
and places them on the counter.
Looking at the coins and then back at him with an expression
of complete disdain she says, “You can’t buy anything for that,
so you’ll have to leave!”
“What kind of place is this!” he shouts. “I need to use the bathroom!”
Rising to my feet, I pull out two ones from my wallet, walk over
to the counter, and place them next to his coins.
“This is for a cup of coffee or tea for the gentleman!” I say to her.
While she looks at both of us with an expression of controlled rage:
eyes narrowed, jaw clenched, head visibly shaking, the guy says to me, “Thanks partner. I hope I can return the favor some day!”
When he comes out of the bathroom he orders a coffee to go,
which she places down with such force that some spills over the edge.
As I get ready to leave, I feel like saying, “Your day will come, bitch!”
but instead I just flash her a smile and walk out the door.

ALL I CAN THINK OF

The thing about writing poetry is that I have no idea
why I still do it given that I’m a happily married man
and way too old to even think about fooling around
with sexy young women.
What I mean is that I originally wrote poetry so sexy young women
would think I was a really sensitive guy and sleep with me,
but year after year it was never the case.
Even though I wrote a lot of poetry and got published fairly often,
I don’t remember a single woman ever sleeping with me
because I was a poet.
It’s pretty disappointing to reflect on it, and if you ask why
I still write poetry, having been through what I’ve been through,
it ‘s probably because I subconsciously believe in Karma,
and that if I continue to write stuff that people like,
I’ll be rewarded by coming back as a rock star or a famous movie actor who’ll be able to get lots of sexy young women
by virtue of my status in the world.
That’s all I can think of. . .

Jeffrey Zable is a teacher and conga drummer who plays Afro Cuban Folkloric music for dance classes and Rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area. His poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and anthologies. Recent writing in MockingHeart Review, Colloquial, Ordinary Madness, Third Wednesday, After The Pause, Fear of Monkeys, Brickplight, Tigershark, Corvus, and many others. In 2017 he was nominated for both The Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

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