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.

Four Poems by Jeffrey Zable

sc june 18


Coming into the kitchen to eat my breakfast
I immediately saw a huge moth lying on its back
perfectly still in the middle of the floor.
And looking down upon it, I imagined that my own ending
would look pretty similar,
the only difference being that I’ll likely be lying in a bed
with someone looking down on me
who will then call someone
who will call someone else.
And not long after that,
I’ll either be buried or turned into ashes,
while a few may comment on how I seemed to be okay;
that lately I seemed to be in a fairly decent mood–
which was seldom the case. . .


Hell, I would have gone into politics too
if I’d been better at faking a sincere desire
to help a lot of people: create jobs, lower taxes,
and keep the bad element from their doorsteps.
Well, even though I didn’t go into politics,
I’ve always supported people in small ways
by laughing when they say things that I know
they think are funny. And I pet their animals—
mostly dogs–as if they’re my best friends.
And I always say, “Great to see you again!”
even if I’ve seen them earlier in the day
while at the corner store, the gym,
or just walking in the neighborhood,
where I spend most of my time these days–
not much interested in going farther than that. . .


I think at this point I mainly keep living
for something to do, even though I’m bored
and don’t get much out of anything,
whether it’s talking to people, taking a walk
in the park, or eating a ham and cheese sandwich.
I do get some enjoyment petting animals
like cats and dogs and then responding,
“Yes, I too see a lot of road kill these days!”
or “Most certainly, it’s a dog’s life!”
which really means that not much makes any sense
except asking oneself why as we get older
it makes less and less sense,
until one can’t ask even that,
and then someone else takes over the space
that we formerly inhabited,
and maybe or maybe not will ask themself
the very same question. . .


I pick up the phone and it’s a guy with a thick foreign accent
who tells me that the IRS is suing me, and that his company
can help me avoid financial penalty and possible jail time.
Deciding to play along, I ask him what the IRS is suing me for
and he responds that I’m being sued for falsifying my tax return
and that the IRS considers this to be a very serious matter.
And when I ask him what his services will cost me, he states
that first he needs to see my latest tax return, and that in general
the cost runs anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000, which is very
reasonable under the circumstances. Then when I tell him that under
the circumstances I’d rather pay the penalty and go to jail because
I’m a poet who’s always looking for new and different experiences
to fuel my writing, I hear that familiar click, which makes me think
that he considers a poet to be a poor candidate for paying such a fee,
and not worth any more of his valuable time. . .

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, Rasputin, Fear of Monkeys, Brickplight, Soft Cartel, After the Pause, and many others. In 2017 he was nominated for both The Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

Eight Poems by Jeffrey Zable



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. . .


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.”

Continue reading “Eight Poems by Jeffrey Zable”

Four Poems by Jeffrey Zable


The Sharing

I’m standing on the corner of 24th and Mission
watching a middle aged guy with a megaphone
in one hand and a bible in the other.
He’s warning that the only way to be saved
is to come to Jesus.
He’s saying it all in Spanish, and though I’m no longer
fluent in the language I do understand about half
of what he’s saying.
He affirms that it’s never too late;
that when you open yourself to him you’ll have a life
of peace, harmony, and tranquility.
He continues to preach with great fervor
even though people pass him as if he doesn’t exist.
Then suddenly he stops and places the megaphone
and bible onto the ground.
He takes out a handkerchief, wipes his forehead,
and after putting the handkerchief back,
he takes out a candy bar from his front pocket,
rips off the wrapper and starts eating the bar.
Not seeing a garbage can close by,
he drops the wrapper onto the ground,
wipes his hands together,
then picks up the bible and the megaphone
and continues to advocate for Jesus.
And as I walk past him toward my destination
our eyes suddenly meet, and I give him a nod
to which he meaningfully nods back,
as if we share the same excitement for the lord. . .

Some Serious Thoughts

Thirty minutes ago, I was making a left turn
while the car coming toward me was also making a left turn.
Then, the car behind the one coming toward me
speeded up and swerved around it
missing me by no more than a few inches.
I didn’t have time to honk my horn
but I did see that it was a man driving solo,
maybe in his forties.
For a moment I had the urge to turn around
and track him down.
And when he got out of his car
I’d use the small bat that I keep under the seat
to beat his head in.
Now I must admit that I’m getting way better
at controlling my anger,
as I had myself completely under control in just a few seconds,
which I’m very thankful for,
because I’d make a terrible inmate,
and my wife would probably find someone else after a while,
and I certainly couldn’t blame her. . .

At the Corner Gym

I started talking with this acquaintance who’d just returned from traveling,
and at some point he mentioned he’d been in every state
in the United States and most of Canada and Europe,
to which I responded, “Then you must know everything!
Anyone who’s traveled that much must know everything about life.
I’ve suspected this about you all along!”
Not realizing I was joking, he responded,
“Come to think of it, I do know a lot!”
And after we went our separate ways
I felt a bit jealous that he’d traveled that extensively.
Then I recalled that on a previous occasion
he mentioned he hadn’t worked a real job
in longer than he could remember,
that his wife supported him so that he could write
and smoke cigars in the afternoon.
Reflecting on this, I felt a lot more jealous
as I hopped onto a stationary bike and began peddling away. . .

Under Any Circumstance

As long as I can write at least one poem per day I should be fine.
But should my output completely dry up. . . who knows!

I doubt that I’d kill myself, but its possible that I’d only get out of bed
to go to the bathroom and/or to put something in my stomach.

I doubt that I’d take longer trips than to the corner market,
and even then I probably wouldn’t do so until the refrigerator was bare.

I certainly wouldn’t go to any museums, music events, or places
where there are lots of strangers, some of whom might smile or nod
and force me to respond in kind even though I’m feeling a desire
to disconnect from the entire human race.

I would never want to be forced into that, under any circumstance. . .


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.