Poetry: Chani Zwibel

Chani Zwibel


The rain tumbles
into the rain barrel
as the storm spends its rage
in a watery torrent.
We are full of the world,
and the world is full of us.
You cannot long sustain the endings,
 for they keep coming; it is a part of all we are.
 The old hound is outside howling at a stranger.
 It is a dark night, alone in the country,
 the black sky all full of pale, luminous stars,
and meteor showers streak across
 the ink of the infinite.
“Falling stars” they call it.
The most romantic turn of phrase
for what teacher says
 is a scientific fact
 of burning rock falling
through our atmosphere.
Tumbling water or raining fire,
still we wait.


“I want you to know I met Jesus Christ last night”
Said my non-religious Jewish father at our humble dinner table.
My ten-year-old brown eyes lifted lids wide,
expanded into my forehead,
and my baby-teeth lined mouth,
moving mechanically jammed, ceased,
Mom popped “What?” like a thick hiccup.
Dad smiled “In a dream”.

“How did you know it was Jesus?” Mom wanted to know.
“I felt a profound sense of peace.” Dad answered.
“What did He look like?” Mom wanted to know.
“He had a shaved head and he was standing in the sand.” Dad answered.
Dad continued. “He told me things I’m not allowed to tell you, but everything’s going to be ok. You’re a strong woman.”
That’s all Dad would say about the encounter.
Later, after the accident,
we would see a spider web spun
with a Star of David and a Cross inside it,
geometry of the spirit in nature a comfort.


Grandma never learned to drive, because her mother had been killed in a car accident. The traumas that happen to us make us who we are. It didn’t matter, though, because she had friends within walking distance, and when I was a very small child, she’d put me in this antique blue baby buggy with little white portholes cut in the sides and big white rubber wheels. She’d walk me down the hollow to see her friend Pat, who lived in the house at the bottom of skillet hill, and Pat had a fish pond that fascinated me, a blue concrete circle where beneath lily pads fish lazily swam. Weird destiny-this spot would later take my father’s life. Long after Pat had moved out, or died, I can’t remember now, a family moved in who had two little girls. Those girls had restless nightmares, thought they saw a man out by where the fish pond had been. The family moved. Tragedies and traumas get caught in the fabric of a place. They stay, energy burnt into the ground and the creek flowing around it.

Coffee and cigarette smoke make a potent blend of scent, instant memory recall, of a kitchen where my Grandma sits and chats with the wife of the meanest hillbilly on the hill. Her daughter is confined to a wheel chair, but she has a coloring book and we talk a little bit. Grandma listens more than she talks, cigarette smoke curling out of her mouth and around her fingertips. This woman always seems overwrought, stressed beyond her means, harried by her husband, a crueler bastard there never was, but her still her man for all that.  Years later, Bucky’s stepson would murder him, and they’d have to tear the house down rather than sell it. Old curses on that dark hill, always hungry for blood.


 My stories, break open from a place inside me
 where I make the rules, and no one brings the rain but me.
  Edges of this vast world cut too sharp sometimes.
 My fingers bleed.
When I am giving you these stories,
 they are a rising smoke
 billowing from the fire within me.
I am not trying to show off.
 I am giving you the full report.
You will have to find your way through the forest paths on your own.
 When you reach the top of the hill,
 where they put a metal tower
 to house the power lines,
 you will notice the fox scat
 and feel nature’s quiet
 but powerful attraction.
 We are all part of the sacred rhythm
 but we always forget to dance.
  God always speaks to us,
but we are always turn our heads away and laugh.
Search the core of your being
for what is just and good.
 You will find it,
 but you must plumb great depths,
 for it is only in the abyss
where the creatures glow with their own light.

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