Al Zolynas

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was born in Austria of Lithuanian parents in 1945, and since then has moved twenty-eight times.  After growing up in Sydney, Australia and Chicago, he lived in Salt Lake City, and in Marshall and St. Paul, Minnesota.  At various times, he has been a poetry editor, resident poet in the schools, Minnesota Out Loud Traveling Poet, volunteer for the Hunger Project, and Fulbright-Hays Fellow to India.  He teaches writing and literature at Alliant International University, San Diego, and resides with his wife in Escondido, California.  Poems of his have been widely published in books and translated into Lithuanian, Spanish, and Polish—the last by Czeslaw Milosz. His books include The New Physics, Wesleyan University Press, 1979; Under Ideal Conditions, Laterthanever Press, 1994 (San Diego Book Award, Best Poetry, 1994); and The Same Air, Intercultural Studies Forum, 1997.  With Fred Moramarco, he is co-editor of Men of Our Time:  An Anthology of Male Poetry in Contemporary America, University of Georgia Press, May 1992 and The Poetry of Men’s Lives: An International Anthology, University of Georgia Press, 2004, which won the San Diego Book Award for Best Poetry Anthology in 2005.








The New Physics


--for Fritjof  Capra


And so, the closer he looks at things, the farther away they seem.

At dinner, after a hard day at the universe, he finds himself slipping

through his food.  His own hands wave at him from beyond a mountain

of peas.  Stars and planets dance with molecules on his fingertips.

After a hard day with the universe, he tumbles through himself, flies

through  the dream galaxies of his own heart.  In the very presence of

his family he feels he is descending through an infinite series of

Chinese boxes.


This morning, when he entered the little broom-closet of the electron

looking for quarks and neutrinos, it opened into an immense hall, the

hall into a plain - the Steppes of Mother Russia! He could see men

hauling barges up the river, chanting faintly for their daily bread.  It's

not that he longs for the old Newtonian Days, although something of

plain matter and simple gravity might be reassuring, something of the

good old equal-but-opposite forces.  And it's not that he hasn't learned

to balance comfortably on the see-saw of paradox.  It's what he sees in

the eyes of his children --the infinite black holes, the ransomed light

at the center.



--From The New Physics, Wesleyan U Press, 1979. 



Considering the Accordion


The idea of it is distasteful at best.  Awkward box of wind, diminutive,

misplaced piano on one side, raised Braille buttons on the other.  The

bellows, like some parody of breathing, like some medical apparatus from a

Victorian sick-ward.  A grotesque poem in three dimensions, a rococo

thing-a-me-bob.  I once strapped an accordion on my chest and right away I

had to lean back on my heels, my chin in the air, my back arched like a

bullfighter or flamenco dancer.  I became an unheard of contradiction:  a

gypsy in graduate school.  Ah, but for all that, we find evidence of the

soul in the most unlikely places.  Once in a Czech restaurant in Long

Beach, an ancient accordionist came to our table and played the old

favorites:  "Lady of Spain," " The Saber Dance," "Dark Eyes," and through

all the clichs his spirit sang clearly.  It seemed like the accordion

floated in air, and he swayed weightlessly behind it, eyes closed, back in

Prague or some lost village of his childhood.  For a moment we all

floated--the whole restaurant:  the patrons, the knives and forks, the

wine, the sacrificed fish on plates.  Everything was pure and eternal,

fragilely suspended like a stained-glass window in the one remaining wall of

a bombed out church.


--From Under Ideal Conditions, Laterthanever Press, San Diego, 1994.




Trying to Save an Insect


Taking out the trash, I almost step on him.  Black beetle struggling along.  Dragging himself across the pitted cement path.  I put my sack down.  He seems to be wearing some kind of a gray sweater knitted out of miniature wool.  Suddenly, he flips over on his back.  I see five of his six legs tangled up in spiderweb.  Struggling to free himself, he waves them about awkwardly like a baby in a crib trapped among knotted skeins of wool.


I go inside, get my reading glasses, my tiniest pair of scissors, the ones I use to trim nose hair.  Carefully, I cut as much of the web away from his legs as I can, though they're still encased in miniature gray leggings and socks. The clotted web on his back I can't free without risking damage to his carapaced wing protectors.  I have no choice but to leave him with his little sweater on.  At least he can crawl again, which he now does in a straight line, full of purpose, as it seems to me, across the path with not even a backward glance and into the shadows of the ground cover.




Staying Put


For years, it was our job

to move on.

Now our job, it seems, is


to stay put.

Before, novelty

and adventure were our


daring friends, sparkling,


Now, we are accompanied


by a gentleman,

a little dour

in his gray suit,


who refuses

excitement, nostalgia,

the lure of romance,


who tugs at his neatly

creased slacks, adjusts

the mauve rag sinking


in his breast pocket

and sits down to wait—

no, to attend.





There's What You Do


and then there’s what you feel

while you do it

and then there’re  the words

that come later

to describe, recreate, narrate it—

all at a third remove

from the doing. And

then there’s poetry,

a doing in words, the act of writing

and a pointing back to

the ultimate and absolute

the relativity of words

their limited and limiting circumscriptions,

their stalactites of feeling,

their penumbras of meaning,

the deep cave of their origins.