Six Poems by Jeffrey Zable



After explaining the grading system, and reviewing my life
the Maker gave me a “C” overall.

“I would have given you a C+,“ he explained, “if you had given
more to charity, and if you hadn’t said ‘God damn’ so many times!”

“How could I have gotten an A?” I asked out of curiosity.

“For you that would have been impossible,” he responded.
“Being an “A” person was not in your nature!”

And so I was led to the level half way between Heaven and Hell
in which the dead still have to work and are paid in tokens that
could buy the same kind of stuff one found at Target or Kmart–
those discount stores that you shopped at back on earth if you
didn’t have the money. . .


I’m walking up New Montgomery street when I see this guy
whose upper body is almost parallel to the sidewalk.
He’s holding an open newspaper in front of him,
seemingly reading the contents. I notice all this before I realize
the smell he’s exuding, which is the strongest smell of excrement
from one person that I ever smelled. I’m so surprised that one person
can smell that bad that I stop off to the side just to make sure
the smell is really coming from him. I look at people passing by,
many of whom have pee-yew expressions on their faces.
Mostly I’m feeling sad to be witnessing yet another modern day tragedy. The guy is obviously homeless, has serious back problems,
and is oblivious to the fact that he smells like a pile of shit.
As I continue down the street it seems like everyone else smells like he does.


is always an option when there’s nothing else to do.
What I mean is, if you’ve flipped all the channels
and the best you can find is a rerun of “Gilligan’s Island”
or if you’re out of bread and therefore can’t make a sandwich,
or if the cat or dog is peacefully asleep on their favorite chair
and doesn’t like to be suddenly awakened, or if all you get
is answering machines when you call your ‘so called’ friends,
then it’s a pretty good option, except that there’s always the possibility
that the person you’re with may not be in the mood,
preferring to do their nails or continue reading the novel they started
a couple of months ago and planned to return to,
but always seemed to get sidetracked with something else.
And then there’s the possibility of driving to that part of town
in which women and men frequent the streets,
who will usually give you what you want if you’re willing to pay for it, including a room at a cheap hotel, or at the hot tubs, or if it’s not too far,
will indulge you in your car so long as it’s in a part of town
where there’s mostly no one else around.
And of course there’s the option of pleasing yourself the old fashioned way, which humans have probably been doing
since they were able to stand upright,
and no longer lived exclusively in trees, caves, or underground. . .


passed lots of females while walking along,
realized that the ones around 50 and older
were the ones who acknowledged me
if they acknowledged me at all, and that
the least attractive ones gave me the most
eye contact including a smile with a show
of interest, that those under forty seldom
gave me a glance and if they did it was probably
to make sure I wasn’t some psychopath who
would knock them down and try to rape them
right there on the street. I thought to myself,
so this is what I’ve come to, remembering
when at least I was able to get a nod from
a pretty young woman, and that once in awhile
one of them would sleep with me and ask me
questions like how long have you been playing
conga drums, and what kind of poetry do you write,
as if such things really mattered. . .


On the Facebook of one of my former students there’s a clip
of a nude woman bouncing back and forth,
screaming out in orgasmic joy, though we never see the person
who’s giving her such pleasure.
The clip is short, but definitely has all the ingredients
of hardcore pornography.
With this, I write to my former student–
who was in my third grade classroom,
and who must now be in his late teens–
that if I were him I wouldn’t have that kind of video
representing my personal taste as it could come back
to do some harm.
Within an hour, I get a note from him
in which he explains that his Facebook keeps getting hacked,
and as a result he has to keep getting rid of stuff
that other people put there to make him look bad.
Thinking that he may soon get rid of the woman
getting it doggy style, I decide to take a few last looks,
which I have to admit are quite enjoyable
under the circumstances. . .


I can no longer keep up with all the poems I’ve written.
Some of them I read over, and think to myself,
“I don’t remember even writing that. What could’ve I been thinking!”
And then I go and write another poem.
It often appears in a magazine and I think again, “Well, that’s good,
but now what!? And then there’s another and another.
I’ve written over three thousand poems, two thousand of which
have been published through the years, yet I seldom hear from anyone
who’s read my work with the exception of the editors.
And one day I won’t even be able to wonder what anything thinks
of my poems. I’ll just sit there staring into space
like most of the people at my mother’s care facility. . .
waiting for the end to begin. . .

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, Awkward Mermaid, Ink In Thirds, Third Wednesday,  Uppagus, After the Pause, Rosette Maleficarum, Chrome Baby, Former Cactus and many others. In 2017 he was nominated for both The Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

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