The Heights of Inanimate Things

by Jane Zwart

One summer the boy I babysat
kept cuffing his ears against
doorknobs. I know that makes

him sound like a cartoon
stooge, dense or insensible

to pattern, but his hurry was
glee, he ran between rooms

sure the world would give,
only give, and for a kid like that,

lucky, incredulity and injury
are hard to tell apart. Which
is why on finding him folded,

knees to chest, red with weeping,
hand cupped over auricle—

like an imp being told off
by a conch shell—I could not
think how to console him

except to second his fury.
So I did. I blamed the handful
of brass that smote him.


I think of this, of how I rebuked,
without even loving him really,
the knobs the boy clipped, reckless,

while a man I work beside cries.
He asks why the far-off, flagrant bridge

his daughter chose
had to be so damn high.


I do not mean the two
are the same: the bridge

and a dumbbell built into a door
to start and steer
its swinging. No,

I do not mean the two
are the same at all: the world
where the consolable live

and the home of the ones
who have been more than undone
by the heights of inanimate things.

Jane Zwart teaches at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, The Poetry Review (UK), Threepenny Review, and Poetry, as well as other journals and magazines.