Six Poems by Zachariah Wells

New Work


With that glum grimace and globular
schnozz, Sir Blob, to say nought of a slimy bod
aquiver on trawler deckboards as though plopped
untimely from a jello mold, you’re not
exactly what I’d call embodied grace.
Wanting the spines and fangs of deep-sea monsters,
lacking luminous bulbs and underslung jaw,
you sponsor no awe. We see you and go awwww,
what a sadsack. Scrawled on that only-a-ma
mug—gasping on alien oxygen
following a four hundred-fathom haul
from the niche in which you’re fittest—is a law:
in the dark, you won’t need a pretty face;
those pressures rewrite the idea of grace.

for Arthur Danto

As if modernism never happened!
Rice Krispies are bland,
but oh, how they snap and

crackle in milk! That dope
in lederhosen yodels on, unaware
he’s a Swiss cheese

cliché of
pastiche. Worse:
he doesn’t fucking care!

A dozen avant-tarde
blowhards just exploded:
Jesus was steeped

not in piss but in piss-
warm Mountain Dew—
he’s stoked for a second

kick at Canaan. What is this?
I couldn’t tell ya, but sure
as hell’s a fecund

stew! Brother, you had me
at hello:
I know what I like

and I like what I know!


I set the dream machine in motion
and closed my eyes to see what shapes emerge
on the cave walls of my eyelids in the
stroboscopic flicker of its spin.

I closed my eyes to see what shapes emerge
but nothing coalesced in the rhythmic,
stroboscopic flicker of its spin.
I dozed off, the dream machine still running,

and no forms coalesced in the chaotic
welter of my sleep. I had a dream that
I dozed off, the dream machine still running,
and that it showed me things I couldn’t see

in the welter of my waking. I had a dream that
a scorched fox emerged from a forest fire
and showed me things I couldn’t see
were killing him. I woke. From the flicker

a scorched fox emerged. From the fire
a voice was speaking. It told me that
we’re killing him. I woke. From the flicker
of the dream machine, I saw nothing,

but a voice was speaking. It told me that
I had to look beyond the patterns
of the dream machine. I saw nothing
but the wavelengths of its light.

after Ted Hughes


For every one there is a one, and one
and one make one, divided.

For every one a one must die, and every
death is one, provided

every other is a one and one
is every other.

An other and a one make one,
husbanded and brided.

The union of a one and one
makes other, suicided.

Self-murder of the one-in-one is mother
of the other one and one

another’s one-in-ones conspire to smother
other ones, while lovers

wire their one and ones
implacably together.

One is bound and gagged by one, one
saws and frays the knot

of one, and one
lets slip the tether.

after George Herbert


Broken again. Again I lie broken
by barley and far. A corvid croaking
draws dawn from behind ocean’s smoking
horizon. Moon, that grimy old token,
clatters into its slot. No word spoken
now could cradle my aching, no cloaking
device keep in the raw wattage poking
beams through my stitches. I’ve been awoken
nights—more than I can name—by your breath’s pause
and lain with my ear to your mouth, love.
With others and others I’d lie before you,
broken, awake, but bound by no laws,
I’d steal out, my departure a lie of
omission—even words left unspoken aren’t true.


People who live by a pen
mightier than the sword beaten
into a ploughshare don’t share
their secrets lightly. You can’t
make a silk purse from pigs in a blanket
no matter how well
you porkbarrel over the falls.
If you get caught fucking the dog,
deny the devil his Scooby Doo.
You’ve got to give 110% of your ass
on the line if you want to get in line
for tough loving. It’s hard to get head
when your ball’s in the bunker
and your club is a spade.
Stupid is as smart phones; my darling
is an open netbook, a bitter tablet
to spit or swallow. That fish
out of water is off the hook
and into the line of fire. Dead men
don’t chase their own tails
down blind alleys. If I wanted your vice
I’d bust my balls to live by the sweat
off my bag. Wall to wall shagging
leads to black eyes and blots
on the bottom line. At the end of the day
another day comes knocking. Seize
the dayjob you won’t quit
and throttle it to within an inch
of your wife. Pull all the stops
out of the dike and throw away
the keynote address. Dressing for success
is bound to fail the acid test
so don’t sweat the small stuff
in your boxers or briefs
if you can’t get it up the garden path.
Go hang your twisted knickers in the wind.

after Jeramy Dodds, Christopher Dewdney & Paul Muldoon

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Zachariah Wells

Zachariah Wells is the author of Unsettled (Insomniac 2004) and Track & Trace (Biblioasis 2009) and the co-author, with Rachel Lebowitz, of Anything But Hank! (Biblioasis 2008), a children's story illustrated by Eric Orchard. He is also the editor of Jailbreaks: 99 Canadian Sonnets (Biblioasis 2008) and The Essential Kenneth Leslie (Porcupine's Quill 2010). Originally from PEI, Wells lives in Halifax, where he works as a freelance writer and editor, and seasonally for Via Rail aboard the Ocean Ltd. Photo by John W. MacDonald.