Syracuse with Varying Proximity to Death

by Michael Zinkowski

Renting Next to DeathGood morning $300 rain boots, polka-dotted,
taken by the mud. Good morning faceless

red chucks walking to campus through these
cemetery roads, chewed-up by a snow plow.

Living basement-level, I toast my morning
coffee to all the fleeting footwear, all the “I”s

I’ll never know passing by my window.
Are we neighbors? If so, do we share the view

of late October’s oaks all gaudy and skeletal?
I can pretend like I know these answers,

but the people whose carved names peek out
above the snow are the only neighbors I know,

quiet, comforting, buried at the same depth
as I am, a detail so plainly keeping me alive.


Somehow without slipping, one boy jukes
and weaves through headstones in the snow.

He resists what’s come easy for me –
to ask why a dozen pick-ups are parked

on the cemetery lawn. Must be spillover, I guess,
from the stadium’s lots. Oh well. Another season’s

started without me, sold-out, full of loss.
The boy’s father splits a sizzling burger

checking for shades of pink, and misses
his son break free for the pass, wide open.

The boy stops running to watch specters billow
from the grill. Hey Dad, he asks, do you think


these people care that we’re here, stomping
on their houses?
and waits for an answer.

The Lion, a Statue Again and All Along

The backhoe driver extends the neck
of his rumbling machine, readying

a plot for my newest neighbor. Another
young one, maybe your age
, he turns to me

to whisper. The engine’s petroleum cough
wakes the old, stone lion who can’t see

his kingdom growing, like I can. Since I moved
here, I’ve been visiting his sheltered den

to pet his mane and update him on his favorite
fare (new names, dates, quotes) that,

he says, sustain him when the ground
is frozen and cannot be dug. When these

are not enough his ribs punch holes
in his sides and I lie about the roses

(always fresh), the victims of violence (always
old age, in the quiet of sleep, natural causes,

or heartbreak) and why I choose to visit him
(for his well-being, to keep him alive).


Author Bio
Michael Zinkowski left most of the snow behind to earn an MFA in Poetry from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro… More >

2 thoughts on “Syracuse with Varying Proximity to Death

  1. John Zinkowski says:

    Hi Mike,
    Wonderful word images – you have the touch, the word magician, creating worlds from simple letters.


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