Object Lessons / Fred Zirm


Object Lessons

poems by

Fred Zirm

ISBN: 978-1-59948-848-6, 40 pages, $12 (+ shipping)

Release Date: January 28, 2021

The Advance Sale Discount price expired January 2, 2021.

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

Fred Zirm spent nearly 40 years teaching English and drama at an independent school after earning a B.A. and M.A. in English from Michigan State and an M.F.A. from the Playwrights Workshop at the University of Iowa. Since his retirement, he has continued to direct plays but has also focused on writing poetry, flash fiction, and creative nonfiction. His work has been published in about a dozen small literary magazines and anthologies, including Still Crazy, cahoodadoodaling, NEAT, Voices de la Luna, Greek Fire, and Objects in the Rearview Mirror. He lives with his wife and younger daughter in Rockville, MD.

The poems in Object Lessons are exacting and timely. Zirm never flinches, even when he leads us into captivating worlds where “…the hurt has hidden under the table.” ~Aimee Nezhukumatathil


Whether tending to his wife’s ailing sister in her twilight chapters or a daughter back home “with her cats, lizards, and tears” after a boyfriend’s untimely death, or in his many, wry observations (see “Honest Appraisal”), this is a poet who sees “the chaos in the cutlery,” the hurt that’s always lurking “under the table.” Reading Fred Zirm’s Object Lessons reminds us, at its best, that “every day/should be treated like a special guest.” ~Rick Hilles, Whiting Award Winner and author of Brother Salvage

An Elegy for Analog: June 12, 2009


On this day, analog TV gave up
the ghosts – and the snow and the tin foil
on the antenna and the test pattern at night
and the national anthem at dawn
and “this is a test” and horizontal hold
and the slap on the side before you phoned
the repairman who wore a uniform
and tubes that glowed like embers
and tube testers at the local hardware
and the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show
and Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show
and opera singers and jugglers
on The Ed Sullivan Show
and families huddled around that black and white
campfire, eating Swanson’s TV dinners
before the sets became behemoths
carted off on gurneys
to make way for the flat screens, as slim
as trophy wives, to be put on a pedestal
and admired, picture perfect as only
a paint-by-number picture can be.
the supermodels say.
Digital is so decisive,
but sometimes I miss maybe.



Putting the Spoons Away


When I unload the dishwasher,
I place the spoons in the drawer
in separate stacks:
one for the curve handled
for company,
another for the flat
for every day.

Once they are placed
in regimented rows,
I am the captain
of the cutlery.

But when my wife’s sister
beat a retreat from her Boulder
trading post in Utah
and came to live with us,
her blood and brain
polluted by the waste
her failing liver could not purge,
all my systems were upset
by her addled efforts
to be helpful:
bug spray mistaken
for carpet cleaner,
the vacuum constantly clogged
with debris she could not see,
and the silverware a jumbled mess
until the final days
when her Burr Trail ended
midst Maryland oak
rather than quaking aspen.

Then, after a few years of order,
our daughter returned home
with her cats, her lizards, and her tears
mourning her boyfriend’s death
the loss of her scar-crossed Romeo,
a creature of a different spoon-filled habit.

Now when I see chaos in
the cutlery or other things
in disarray, I am reminded
that a little disorder is better
than early death,
that any death feels something
like defeat, that every day
should be treated like a special guest.



Hard Plumbed

The delivery man tells us
he cannot replace the old
dishwasher, with its solid
copper connection and no
cut-off valve to accommodate
a new and improved successor.

It was installed as if it would
last forever – like a monument
or a bank vault
or a heart.

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