preserved here in ice, something familiar
we left for dead decades ago – our reflection
warm, alive, rousing, wild.
"The Make-Up of Ice"
Gary Snyder, in “What You Need to Know to be a Poet,” says a poet should know: “The names of trees and flowers and weeds, the names of stars, and the movements of the planets and the moon…real danger, gamble, and the edge of death…at least one kind of traditional magic.” Zarzyski grasps this; he knows the make-up of ice. This Polish kid, Zarzo, moved West and became a bronc rider. Then he wrote about THAT. Hanging off a bareback bronc; face-bound for a fence pole or a six inch square of bovine night-soil, he found out about “gamble and the edge of death” and how to create poetry out of raw-nerve experience. He got his Lit degree. Studied under Richard Hugo. Hid out in Great Falls, Montana, in a motel bar that has a shark tank behind it. Zarzyski. Rhymes with bar-whiskey. Means “bard” in Polish.
Forty years ago, a college professor said Bob Dylan killed off the need for American poetry; forever. Dylan created a transcendent mix of music and poetic-verse that made page-poetry a less important form; and there was no going backwards. Damn true. Mostly. There is a short list of great poets left in America. They are as scarce as good songwriters, painters and classical composers. Zarzyski is in that handful. He is our much needed Poet-Laureate. He climbed the mountain, saw the elephant, rode the bronc, and came back down to tell us about it - with fish hooks in his cowboy hat; posole and tequila dribbling down his Polack-Dago chin. Words growing wild.
And finally….his friend Joe Lear died in a bull riding - Zarzyski wrote one of the finest American poems of the last 100 years: “All This Way For the Short Ride:”
settling to the backs of large animals
makes a racket you can’t think in,
impossible to conceive that pure fear,
whether measured in degrees of cold
or heat, can both freeze
and incinerate so much
in mere seconds…”
Check out: www. http://www.paulzarzyski.com/
(Zarzyski rides the train with the Flatlanders and TR in September, see: www.rootsontherails.com or write firstname.lastname@example.org)