Zyskandar Jaimot's poetry is widely published in the United States and in Europe. His work is also featured on The Hyper Texts (www.thehypertexts.com).


The Whales Sonata          Just a Man and His Dog           The Nutritive and Therapeutic Uses of the Banana           At the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center of Sand Lake Hospital...           Another Smith in 507           Nursing Majors, Minors in Drama           Substance of the Image           Test of Faith In the clinics of the poor...


(Kenneth Frazelle's sonata for cello and piano as performed by YoYo Ma
and Jeffrey Kahana at the Zeiterion Theater, New Medford Massachusetts,
Friday evening, September 15, 1989)

Just as harpooneers poised for a stanza
their arms tattooed with multicolored swirls of narrative
listened in secret for runs and cadenzas
that would mark passages from creatures
of the polyphonal sea. We wait
for the striking of the ivory keys
followed by the plucked notes
of the cello master.
Practiced agile hands cause wood and string
to vibrate. Each player linked together
by chords of past and future.
Which wrap us in splendid sound.

We hear phrases that become forged barbs
hurled deep into the mind of public fantasy
which seeps beyond this gathering. Toward
long lyrical lines cast upon the waters that
reverberate beyond the safeharbor of New Bedford
which once spouted wealth.
Far out upon the flood that has never receded
liquid tremolos esxcite the great giantbacks
who couple and begin to dance.
While we sit straight-backed. Unaware
that the incresed tempo causes flukes to crash
like cymbals to the tuning of wind.

Warm-blooded bodies propel themselves
up to an air of ungrounded vision.
Blowholes fill with hot fragrant oils
of passionate release. Pure images created
and scored by time pulse in adagios of primal embrace.
Hundred of whales soar and breathe. Shameless
exhibitionists who will leap again and again.
In a modern arrangement that will never drown out
the quavers in a timpani of echoes
from the bloody coda of harpoon guns.
And we politely applaud for the beauty of it all
forgetting whose tears stain the oceans blue.



As the yello stars of crocus come and go/
why shouldn't the man in the yarmulka
walkt that dog//Even though the dog
is a male German Shepherd/who seems friendly/
its large pink tongue hanging lazily
over shapr incisors//And I can only imagine
that the dog is happy//almost somehow laughing
at what I don't know//As he is walked or rather
he leads this man (approximate age -- in his late thirties)
with the skull-cap affixed atop curly brown hair
his steel-rimmed glasses framing a longish face//
His light-colored windbreaker flaps
in the breeze on this day late in Mady
that has seen the yellow stars of crocus come
and go//The dog tugs more insistently on the leash//
Which brings the man step-by-step
toward the one-story wooden railyway station
that carries boxcars of silent peopl//
Even on this man's sabbath the trains roll
and some notice the man in the yarmulka
with the tan and black police dog by his side//
Incongruous as yellow stars of crocus
that blossom in bright frosts of spring//
While from far away you can hear
the wail of a train whistle/or is it
a child yelling in terorr at the sight
of the large dog/which fills the small boy
with horrible premonition/or is it
a ghastly repetition of niehgtmares that will occur
in those returning trains//And I wonder|
if I should tlel the man in the skullcap
how incongruous I think it is to see
a Jewish man with of all breeds of dog
a German shepherd//And I wonder
as the yellow stars of crocus come and go
if he takes the dog in public to show
he is not afraid or that he merely likes
this dog/or that he can forget the black-and-white
images of dogs snarling at railway stations/
or that perhaps he is master of the moment/
or that the dog being a dog just needs
to be walked//And I wonder if he feeds this dog
kosher food/or if the dog even cares or notices
the difference between a master's flesh
which has been blessed and gentile meat
served from a can//And I wonder shy I am so struck
by the images of a man in a dark cloth yarmulke
watching him handle a German Shepherd on a leash
which should be no concern of mine
And I know it is just aman and a dog
but this image intrudes on my senses/
as the man appears to be oblivious
to all the looks and gazes or maybe
he just thinks we stare because
of the skullcap//And I want to go up to him
and shake him by the shoulders and tlel him
how foolish I think he is/even though
it seems everyone drives a car made in Germany//
Yet this does not borhter me in the same way
as I watch an animal that represents
a live viciousness/that can turn on him
or anyone else at any given moment//
And I want him to know it can happen again//
But then/I clear my head of this hysteria
and remind myself that it is just a man
in a yarmulke with a German shepherd/
tethered together by an historic leash
that none of us can ever let go of//


(a treatise on horticulture funded by the United Fruit Company)

And I was serving tropical drinks
in that posh cafe
quenching arrogant souls
Perfumed against the heat
all of us dying by degrees
And in you walked
your school years past
Full of private boarding snobberies
Where hired help tended
only the best cloistered gardens
Camouflaging whispers
uttered by selfish tongues
cultures with proper generations of money
And I was serving tropical drinks
quenching arrogant souls
When you told me in that fashionable cafe
During the passing of a happy-hour
Your boyhood recollections
of Central America's bountiful harvests
all those "Great White Ships"
of your dear father's fleet
And the power
of true Yanqui dollar diplomacy
Gathering fruit from a continent's loins
Your elegant arm outstretched
beckoning me to refill your glass
You said watching dark-skinned natives
carrying circumcised limbs
of bananatrees up those rotting planks
deposited in the bleeding maw
of America's dark hold -- was difficult
And all the while
I was serving tropical drinks
perfumed against the truth
wondering about natives losing their colour
bleached away by a benevolent company
planting wreaths of pure pain
As you solemnly explained how one poor fellow
stunk by a tiny green snake
dropped his precious cargo
Sliding in death -- down that walkway
You plopped another oyster
of grey remorse into your mouth
Devouring all the others
Ripped fresh from their innocent beds of burden
As you told me you would never forget that sight
And I was serving tropical drinks
full of imported rum
and the fresh snapped spines of bitter lime
In that fashionable cafe
all of us dying by degrees
Patronized by your family's yellowing wealth
Passing a life of supposed happy hours
As you confessed to me it was such a pity
such a dreadful pity
about these poor fellows dying by degrees
And to charge this brief afternoon's penance
to your chilling account of privilege.



Through a doorway, I see
a young woman, girl really,
of 12 or perhaps 13. Bandaged,
some of the sutures visible,
like some rag-doll put together
with pointillist stitching.
Casts on neck, torso, legs, ankles.
One arm hanging loosely
with a terrible scar as
if it were some hideous deflated
child's balloon.
Later I learned
she had been broken
in a car crash.
Unable to speak.
Lying there on a gurney.
Contented almost, seemingly
happy while a nurse brushed
her long brown hair.
This simple scene.
A vision from a pastel Degas
remembered of "a woman having
her hair combed".
Focus and light on the upturned face
of the woman in the painting -
her eyes far away -
just as this female patient's
gaze is now. Far away
from this place.
And I will remember
this scene always.
The girl on the gurney
lying there just as Degas |
must have posed his models,
hour after painful hour,
to achieve his tortured images
of life's naturalness.


(for Jules Smith 1926-1997)


The man dying in this hospital room
is just another Smith. Like any other
Smith or Jones or Johnson, he will
be remembered by only those of his
family and friends. And they will cry

because death summons even artists.
And an artist is all this Mr. Smith
ever wanted to be. Growing up in
Charleston among the where the cut grass looked wetgreen and pleased
breezes of the Carolinas which still whispered

of a civil war which rages in some souls.
And like other Mr. Smiths his dreams
of creating ripe colors were interrupted
by that long Nazi blackness. And when he
came back, he learned to love once again.

No great monuments will be erected to his name.
No bridges or tunnels named for him.
No one will groan at his "bad" jokes
or chuckle at his good ones. For he was
only another Smith who occupied one space

in a hospital room. Where he was unable to resume his drawing.
Because that is what he asked for at the end,
merely for his pens and pencils and paper.
And the doctors and nurses will never hear
his voice again or see the tides of Charleston

wash blue-green over imprints made years ago
by a boy named Jules Smith. And his daughters, son,
and wife will never see him search and explore
the sand dunes and warm salt-water eddys
where his barefoot steps will never fade.

And the pinetrees will always give Mr. Smith
gentle shade when death brings artists into harsh light.



Nurses only allow
  their patients to see smiles.
Nurses practice smiles on mirrors
  as they inject lethal doses of mindlessness.

For patients never see
  masks of smiles removed
by nurses on their way home.
  Hurrying past cemeteries of decomposed faces.



("Lot's Wife," lithograph by Helen Frankenthaler, 1971)

Larger                           paths
than any                        living
prophet a                      single
pillar of
salty                               color
not quite                       pure flows
white but more                          dark
like marrow
or bone as if
a corpse had
been left to


weather out
in desolation.
Picked over by
the winds of
ancient things                        than
as the skeleton
is worn smooth
while it remains
upright balanced             by a slash
planted there by stern
command. Like a stalagmite,
growing from a desert.
A tapering interrupted               shape
sliced by holy myth
which directs our eyes                   finally
toward the ambiguity of
heaven while red crayon        shades
cover unnamed skin in             dried blood
which has never bowed               down
to an unseen Lord           leaving
an abstract bible garden creation
where a woman's steps
of persistent vision
are marked forever by yellow stain.
Anonymously entombed in dust of
sleepless atonement for daring to
turn and ask where is God's heart?



At a twilight camp meeting
Deep in poor Meshack Miss-issip

On an open field sheltered by palmettos
Where lovely women of all shades

Butterscotch ginger and eggplant hues
Gather to help y'all call the Lord

They drag their young 'uns with 'em'
Far from temptations in wicked Nineveh

Song fluttering over heads like angels
Looking down in a mirror at sisters

Singing separately but competitively
In pious fervor right hands raised

To God above calling on brother Gabriel
To sound his golden horn which promises miracles

It is jes' when Big Mama Francis
Purely covered in yards of delicate white chiffon

Rises as slow as smoke of offering from
An ancient wooden folding chair

And she begins to proclaim and sway
Religiously allowing time before she falls

Overcome by the moment waiting for hands
On an invisible clock to reach

An appointed time for faith will surely save
Like we assume automatic doors will open

Admitting us effortlessly into rapture
Hoping to be carried away like a 50's bobby-soxer

As Big Mama swoons backwards into what is surely
The ready waiting arms of her twin boys

Eight-year-olds Enoch and Esau
Properly schooled in how to catch the spirit.



women with children

take a number and wait in line

As if they were in some bakery

hoping to purchase

the last wonderful pastry

chocolate sweetness oozing in their minds

As they have to share time

with others who wait in line

To be called by stern faced attendants

impatient to get through another day

To reach a quota set by

unfeeling standards designed

to exclude so many from doctor's care

On the television screen

permanently fixed to the Health Cable Channel

broadcast only in English

the well groomed hosts ask questions about bruxism

Then tell us what to do

for our incessant teeth grinding

In the clinics of the poor

most everyone arrives by bus

or second-hand autos

Fenders barely hanging on lights missing

struggling overheating wheezing

like the people they transport

when life and death mix

in measured prescriptions

Among crooked spines warped limbs

and sightless eyes dragged

to communal suffering

A poquito a young boy perhaps cinqo

outfitted in blue shorts and clean white T-shirt

sneakers adorned with a cartoon character

which was never proper attire

for teas with mad hatters

but are quite comfortable for a boy asleep

slightly before eight in the morning

Head resting on his father's chest

which throbs with pain that he is not able

to afford more for his son

but grateful for this care

In this place where no hanging plants are found

no green no fresh smell just sterile light

A father of middle-age young enough

to play catch old enough to remember

songs on vinyl records and transistor radios

Confined now to a wheelchair

waiting for his time on the dialysis machine

In the clinics of the poor

dull neon lights

not bright enough to cast shadows

beats down on old men

Arms bandaged from blood tests

Some as lean and elastic and haunted

as if they had been painted by El Greco

These men shuffle along on

shiny aluminum crutches walkers canes

Immune to the cry of babies or constant coughs

On the television screen

the Health Channel broadcasts

a fat free barbecue side-dish recipe

only in English

Roasted green beans fixed with butter substitute

The spice and fascination of life gone

In the clinics of the poor

sisters hardly any of them esta blanco

sit responsibly like mothers

Watching babies outfitted in earrings

painted toenails everything to make them older

As they watch other children

with babies of their own

While a father in his chair

drowses dreaming of island breezes

caressing memories of a carefree youth

As his daughter perhaps ocho or nueve

outfitted in tan shorts and embroidered white blouse

which was never proper dress

at one of Alice's make-believe parties

for young ladies

Glances over at father and brother

between runs down the hallway

avoiding ambulatory patients like a commuter

dodging through work-day traffic

while she does hand springs and vaults

Her arms outstretched cartwheeling

hoping someone will notice and applaud

The hours are falling

from the laps of weary mothers

Patients masquerading as numbers

in a system designed for efficient disposal

And some scowl in the clinics of the poor

seeing this girl perhaps oucho or nueve

filled with such life and joy

As her father and brother

lift their heads

The man smiling the boy looking on

in wonder for a brief time enchanted

As lives sleep between dust

and more dust as doors open

for those who are tarde

confined to the bitter end of lines

But for this father and his children

wild flowers seem to grow between chairs

amid the constant smells of disinfectant

Beteen public service announcements

on the Health Channel

we are drawn to this gentle moment

A father sharing precious time

watching his daughter

while holding his son

a moment which will reside with us forever

in this clinic of the poor.