Nebraska Center for Writers


The night is open to the stars.
I'm clinging to the planet
lost in whole flocks of them.
Enormous sprays of light
glisten across the long-domed sky
like ideas jump-starting
along the sinus of some great mind.

Some flutter in their places
like the pulse of frail things
at the edge of cold waters.
A few, constant as the seasons,
blink their red and platinum codes
through the milieu of time,
rich in what I hope to know of them.

How proud I am to walk among such stars,
to watch them carve out
their bright pastimes,
sure as the urges that conceive us.
Tonight, whole clumps of them
want me to know I'm the way
stars contemplate themselves.

Reprinted with permission
from Stumbling Through the Stars
Copyright © 2004
by Fredrick Zydek
Holmes House Publications


My father liked to dance alone.
Late at night, when he was sure
the rest of the house was sleeping,
he would turn on the old Philco
and dance with the broom.

One Summer, when mother sent me
out with his lunch, I caught him
doing the rhumba in the berry patch.
Music seemed to come from his pores.
One Winter, he waltzed for the cows.

I went to the barn to feed the cats.
I found him doing a perfect pirouette.
His arms spun out and up
until he was like a giant top
spinning before the stalls.

The cows were lowing into their cuds.
I could tell they'd seen it all before.
Occasionally he would spin to a stop,
bow, kiss one of them right on the
and two-step back into his turning.

One day I caught him dancing nude
in the small meadow down past our creek.
He and the dance were exquisite as prayer.
I thought of Noah's sons covering
their father's nakedness, and wondered why.
Reprinted with permission
from Sojourners Magazine, March/April 1996
Copyright © 1996
by Fredrick Zydek


—for Abbot James Jones

I'd be a tea drinker
and joyous walker—
one who lived a life of landscape
instead of skin and kisses.
I'd be a votive
moving down an unlit hall—
one who steps from darkness
no matter where he goes.

I would learn to sing
in one long motion,
let my every bone be renamed
by the little light
tuning itself inside me.
I would be like a block of marble
giving way to the image
waiting like a seed inside

I would give away
the quiet agony of little things
and no longer seek,
in the pits of the flesh,
what I know is not there.
I would take the death
waiting in my veins
and let it hunt its season of peace.

I would become a thing exempt
from time's hideous crumbling—
a creature in transition
chasing all the famished beasts
back into the bush.
I would become the bridge
left uncrossed by their darkness,
the lamp that lights their way.

Reprinted with permission
from The Abbey Poems
Copyright © 1994
by Fredrick Zydek
Lone Willow Press


The Queen of heaven,
child slung on her right hip,
contemplates the little pond—
the reflections waiting there.

The child is restless.
He wants to try out his legs—
to stand like a rock
on the round and willing planet.

But the lady keeps him balanced
between her heart
and the stones they have piled
like altars in the garden.

Today she has dressed him
in the garments of a king.
When he is older
she will tell how at his first steps

it was the poverty of stones
that first adored him—
and the poverty of stone
that gave Him the crown.

They are standing by the pond now
The child is giggling,
digging in with his toes.
The lady is lost in prayer.

Reprinted with permission
from The Abbey Poems
Copyright © 1994
by Fredrick Zydek
Lone Willow Press

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