Thursday, December 25, 2014

Al Zolynas: "Waiting for the Present"

I would sit in the dimness
of my father's wooden toolshed
waiting for the mice
to come out and feed
on the wheat we kept
in a hundred-pound sack for the chickens.

I kept silence, refusing
even to swallow, hoping the thud
of my heart wouldn't betray me.
The only way to the sack
was over my still body.

Outside, it was Australia,
Christmas, summer holidays—
the heat unbearable to all but reptiles
and schoolboys, and the mice
who lived their small, secret lives.

When the first mouse
nosed up the unfamiliar landscape
of my body, motes of dust
floating in the beams of light
that streamed in from the cracks in the wall
exploded minutely.

After hours of sitting
through the long summer, motionless,
alert, though my limbs were asleep,
the mice accepted me.
I simply became the way to their food.
Once, as many as a dozen were on me,
each carrying a single, precious grain.

Now, years later, I find myself still
sitting in the dim light,
legs locked in meditation, monkey-mind
swinging between imagined past and imagined future,
waiting for that most obvious of hiddens,
the ungraspable present.

"Waiting for the Present" by Al Zolynas. Text as published in Under Ideal Conditions: Poems (Laterthanever Press, 1994; no bookseller link available). Reprinted with permission.

Art credit: "Mouse Hole," photograph by Olivier Le Queinec.


  1. there was always magic in the old tool shed. I love this poem, thank you.

    1. You're quite welcome. Wonder to you in the New Year.


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