Side A: “the cinder path,” a poem by Zach Savich

the cinder path

harder to write
myself a note
on the back of the eulogy
than the eulogy
it takes a long time
to tune and longer
to trust sometimes
the captions say
“[gentle minor melody]”
sometimes “[wind
activates the motion
alarm]” the fantasy
at thirty-nine
is a hamburger in
the parking lot by the squat
lighthouse scrap beach
if you touch me here
below the throat
it smells of rain
there isn’t room
on the shelf so I
keep reading
years I traveled
with a suit in the trunk
outlived one
apple blossom I don’t
know which
I wanted to turn
events back
into instances broke into
bars photo’d
dartboards hung them
over my dartboard
got very good with
a throwing form
that’d get me every time
a bullseye and very
kicked out
turn when you think
you’ve missed the turn
not how to solve
but how to stay in
the insolvable what values
permit enduring not
what values permit
and endure
glycol ether esters
prevent spray
paint from drying
in midair spray
paint falling snow
dew on a thorn evolved
to glisten and warn
you see what you see wrong
the preserved eternal
blossom is no blossom

Mini-interview with Zach Savich

HFR: Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?

ZS: This morning there was light snow, just enough to highlight the edges of the paving stones leading to the front stoop. I had never known they were curved, swooping. Are they—or only in snow? Or is the snow what’s swooping? Radiator flower, I thought, and remembered a branch I saw suspended in some fishing line stuck in a tree, once. Poem as that fishing line (cast, snagged, gleaming). Branch as how we get caught in another’s words. Held and held. Poem as the snow revealing the swoop underfoot. Made coffee, backed out slow, went to work.

HFR: What are you reading?

ZS: Hayan Charara, These Trees, Those Leaves, This Flower, That Fruit. Angelo Maneage, The Improper Use of Plates. Rachel Mannheimer, Earth Room. Eugene Lim, Search History. Caren Beilin, Revenge of the Scapegoat. Manuscripts by friends.

HFR: Can you tell us what prompted “the cinder path”?

ZS: Down the street from the swooping stones of the front path, there’s a cinder path, cuts through the neighborhood. (Inspiration is pedestrian.) Known to some as Sniffly Cat Lane, because there was one, once, on it. The stones of a cinder path have been partially combusted, partially burned. That is, they’re still combustible, could still burn more. That seemed like a useful figure for the mosaic hopscotch of statements in this poem. I sometimes imagine finding a scrap of paper on the path. What could it say that would make me stop, or make me put it in my pocket, or hurry away and come back for it later, or wish I had? I hope this poem might be such a scrap. More specifically: it came from living the opening: “harder to write / myself a note / on the back of the eulogy / than the eulogy.” I spend most of the day in forms of speech I can speech. But what feels most true—harder—is akin to, in the poem, those captions for ambient sound, a turning of “events back / into instances.”

HFR: What’s next? What are you working on?

ZS: New manuscript of poetry. On an “ethics of deciding to see.” Thinking about “the language you can stand when you can’t stand language.” When “the conditions you need to think about the most make it impossible.” Three prose stanzas per page. Internal spacing. Focuses on the limits and leaps of art (“the suits we made to endure the unendurable fire could not / so we made them / prettier / and for longer”). Also an essay on recitation and community for an anthology. A piece on Robert Motherwell. Finishing up an interview with Christopher Nelson about his editing of Under a Warm Green Linden. Getting back into writing reviews.

HFR: Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?

ZS: I suppose what I want to share most right now—what I believe is the most I can share, despite how ridiculous it sounds—is this poem? Is poems. That can be hard to hold to. It’s easy to fault. It’s “most” is infinitely minor. Includes its failings, as integrity does. Infinitely. Yum. But I keep reading and writing. It does things for me that other things don’t. “The preserved eternal / blossom is no blossom,” this piece concludes. The meaning’s in motion. That will show us.

Zach Savich is the author of eight books, including Daybed (Black Ocean, 2018). Recent work appears in Fonograf Editions MagazinejubilatPleiades, Gordon Square Review, and elsewhere. He teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Art and co-edits Rescue Press’ Open Prose Series.

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