Excerpt from The Ada Poems by Cynthia Zarin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Ada Poems

by Cynthia Zarin

The Ada Poems
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  • Published:
    Sep 2010, 80 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Marnie Colton

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About this Book

Print Excerpt


Bone- spur, stirrup of veins—white colt
a tree, sapling bone again, worn to a splinter,
a steeple, the birch aground

in its ravine of leaves. Abide with me, arrive
at its skinned branches, its arms pulled
from the sapling, your wrist taut,

each ganglion a gash in the tree’s rent
trunk, a child’s hackwork, love plus love,
my palms in your fist, that

trio a trident splitting the birch, its bark
papyrus, its scars calligraphy,
a ghost story written on

winding sheets, the trunk bowing, dead is
my father
, the birch reading the news
of the day aloud as if we hadn’t

heard it, the root moss lit gas,
like the veins on your ink-stained hand —
the birch all elbows, taking us in.


Chaste sun who would not light your face
pale as the fates
who vanished

when we turned aside; recluse
whom grace
returned and by returning banished

all thought but: Love, late
sleeper in the early hours, flesh of my bone,
centaur: Excuse

my faults—tardiness, obtuse
remit of my own
heart, unruly haste

to keep my mouth on yours, to wipe the slate
clean, to atone—
what could I want but to wait

for that light to touch your face,
chaste as Eros in the first wished-
on rush of wings?

“ . . . a matter of changing a slide in a magic lantern.”

I wish we were Indians and ate foie gras
and drove a gas- guzzler
and never wore seat belts

I’d have a baby, yours, cette fois,
and I’d smoke Parliaments
and we’d drink our way through the winter

in spring the baby would laugh at the moon
who is her father and her mother who is his pool
and we’d walk backwards and forwards

in lizard- skin cowboy boots
and read Gilgamesh and Tintin aloud
I’d wear only leather or feathers

plucked from endangered birds and silk
from exploited silkworms
we’d read The Economist

it would be before and after the internet
I’d send you letters by carrier pigeons
who would only fly from one window

to another in our drafty, gigantic house
with twenty- three uninsulated windows
and the dog would be always be

off his leash and always
find his way home as we will one day
and we’d feed small children

peanut butter and coffee in their milk
and I’d keep my hand glued under your belt
even while driving and cooking

and no one would have our number
except I would have yours where I’ve kept it
carved on the sole of my stiletto

which I would always wear when we walked
in the frozen and dusty wood
and we would keep warm by bickering

and falling into bed perpetually and
entirely unsafely as all the best things are
—your skin and my breath on it.

  • 1

Excerpted from The Ada Poems by Cynthia Zarin. Copyright © 2010 by Cynthia Zarin. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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