Erasing Cabeza de Vaca / Jim Zola


Erasing Cabeza de Vaca

poems by

Jim Zola

ISBN: 978-1-59948-835-6, 100 pages, $15 (+ shipping)

Release Date: November 5, 2020

The Advance Sale Discount price expired October 6, 2020.

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For those who prefer to pay by check, the price is $19/book (which includes shipping and applicable sales tax) and should be sent to:

Main Street Rag
PO BOX 690100
Charlotte, NC 28227-7001

Jim Zola has worked in a warehouse, as a security guard, in a bookstore, as a teacher for Deaf children, as a toy designer for Fisher Price, and currently as a children’s librarian. Published in many journals through the years, his publications include a chapbook, The One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press), and a full length poetry collection, What Glorious Possibilities (Aldrich Press). He currently lives in Greensboro, NC.

Jim Zola’s poems are heart pinching meditations on loss. They are so quiet you can hear the snap of endings, absence, nothingness. The speaker of these lyrics is conquistador who trudges through the wilderness of lost names, places, mothers, fathers, and lovers. He bears witness to Nature’s beauty then becomes its beauty. This is how Zola’s poems teach us how to survive. ~Cynie Cory, author of Here on Rue Morgue Avenue and American Girl



Erasing Cabeza de Vaca skitters through deserts, the Bay of Horses, the Town 
of Hearts like a lovesick lizard changing colors and mood, evolving into magical
lyricism for our enjoyment. This book is a bobby dazzler, a hare being shot
out of a black silk hat. This poetry is a kaleidoscope of emotions; poignant,
immediate, mesmerizing, heart-breaking. Jim Zola is Prospero creating
for us, an island of half-forgotten dreams, enchanting landscapes, lines
of sweet air.  ~Laurie Byro, Author of D’eux & Other Sorrows


Even silence finally spends the last tongue.
The breaking up of stars, songs that loot

love’s misfortune, what broken glass tells the wound.
It’s all been said before. A field is something less,

it is tired of being a field. No one is buried here.
The stars repeat themselves, with faith or without.

Dying men fail to whisper what their fathers
failed to whisper. My father died several deaths.

Nothing dramatic. The ordinary wasting
of what we can never possess. I don’t know

His last words. Maybe a sigh or a return
to childhood, to a language scrambled

by all the beautiful lies we learn to forget.
These were my father’s last words,

whispered to a nurse in upstate New York.
Say nothing – say this is all I said.



From The Journal of Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca


Departure from the Bay of Horses

Heading towards the River of Palms in barges
made from palmetto husks, with riggings braided
from horsetail hair, with sails from shirts and oars
from junipers, with flayed horses’ legs and tanned skins
to carry water. Soon these rotted. We went five days
without, and those who drank the sea died in ways
my words can only now surrender. We gave
ourselves to God, and spoke as if it mattered –
our lives, a wife whose small hands fluttered to her face
like birds after a storm. All we had was sky.
But once, in the middle of a tempest,
I heard voices and music, bells, flutes, a song
too ordinary for the living to hear.
I’d sing it now, but my throat is dry
and all I can think about are the horses.


Three Days in the Town of Hearts

We knew so little we knew it all, the way
one wife left behind had a premonition
and told the others to find new husbands.
In a village, the people gave us six hundred
deer hearts, a feast, with powered rushes, straw, fish.
They thought we could bring back the dead. Each night
I dreamed I held my heart in my hands.
The dead know how our wives lick sweat from the brows
of merchants as they nap with coins pressed
to their eyes, how they give their children our names.


An Enumeration of Tongues

Leaf, bird, illness become fever, grackle, oak.
Before us, they had no names. I planned to conquer.
Black oak, black bird, yellow fever. The insects
drive us mad with their confessions. I was named
for the skull of a cow that marked a path.
The names follow us. Pine-nut, coot.
All paths lead to disaster or water.



It is the Unremarkable That Will Last


Here I lie fallow beside the doddered elm,
a clod of lost hope. I’m not some field, the bottoms,
muculent. Voices rise, the patter of coot
and rail. Yet somehow I become the field,

the one lark feather half-buried, the silence
of a 3 a.m. snowfall and no cars,
no light beyond a haze of filtered moon.

It doesn’t matter where my absence leaves
footprints. What matters is that you open
the kitchen door and for one brief moment,
hearing nothing, stop to listen.



Defining Faith, Asylum Lake, Michigan


Driving to work I see two people ice fishing.
That the lake is frozen deep is based on faith.
All week, perched on lawn chairs around a cook stove
used more for warmth than brewing, they ignore
this endless casting of cars, settled in the silence
of father and son. You believe if we say
the right words, whatever they may be, that nothing
in the world will harm us. My grandmother swore
blood fed to a black hen cured fever. Blood
from the left arm. Just before the fever breaks
you can reach into the mouth and pull out vowels
belonging to the dead. Once I made love
while in the throes of influenza,
and felt my body float to the ceiling.
From there, passion appeared akimbo, all limbs
and studied ignorance. And when it was over,
my body resisted reunion. Sleep
is a kind of faith we return to.
By dusk, I hear footsteps outside and watch
the fishermen slump back from the lake,
having caught enough of nothing.

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