Robert Zimmermann

Robert Zimmermann has lived in Summit, NY for most of his life. He graduated with an A.A. degree in Humanities from SUNY Cobleskill and a B.A. degree in Creative Writing from SUNY Potsdam. While attending Potsdam, his work was featured regularly in The Racquette, the university’s student-run newspaper. His poem “Change of Address” was published in SUNY Potsdam’s 2011 issue of North Country Literary Magazine. Robert enjoys biking, hiking, and spending as much time outdoors as possible. Since his return to Summit, he has been using his time to focus on his writing, as well as reading from his immense and always expanding collection of books.

POEMS

 

ALONE IN THE DARK

I’m not afraid of the dark anymore.
No longer do I hide under my blankets
when shadows tower over my bed.
If there really are monsters in here,
come get me!
I’m not a child anymore.
I’ll strike you,
harder.

I’ve fought more dangerous monsters
over the years: divorce, fighting,
every frightening silence.
Nothing the shadows hold
will make me flinch.

After years of not knowing when
the next battle would begin,
I learned to control the darkness.
Poised upright in bed,
eyes wide open adjusting,
shadows would gain form.
Sometimes it was a baseball bat,
other times a good, solid chair
sat close by.

The darkness is no longer to be feared.
It conceals my anticipation. My awareness is heightened.

The kitchen table scrapes on the tiled floor
in just the wrong way.

Which will it be tonight;
the bat or the chair?

 

SIGNED, YOUR SON

Dad,

I don’t know who you are.
I feel like I’ve never known you
and until now I never realized
how much it hurts.

Every time Mom says
“You’re so much like your dad,”
I feel like I’ve been shot.
I can’t bear being compared
to you.

I saw you trying to hide
a secret life from me.
I could see straight through
the lies. You had another woman.
You even started going to church
with her. That doesn’t negate
the sin of adultery.

There were enough problems
in our house, with us, with mom.
You added more reasons for arguments.
Fighting over petty shit wasn’t enough?

When we’d argue I’d stand my ground,
but you ended it by driving away.
Mom would cry, but I stood
smiling. The house quiet.
You always came back.

Mom isn’t implying
that I’ll do any of this,
yet it’s the only way I know you.
You may have
positive characteristics.
Did I see them and block them out
or was I not exposed
to your good side?

We are stubborn
and it fuels our feud.
That’s where
I see our similarity stop.

I wonder every time
that I’m told
I’m like you:
whether I’m growing into
a man who has my deepest hatred
or into a man
who I  will never know.
You will never know,

– your son.

 

STUCK

It was hard to be stuck for months in the North Country
when I knew my grandfather was bedridden
four hundred miles away.

He lay in his apartment, in bed, all day long.
When his condition got worse, he went to lay in the hospital.

I heard this all through the phone, from my mother.
It was my constant source of pain and guilt.

“I’m stuck up here. Mom, don’t say that I don’t care anymore.”

My grandfather’s body, his life, had been fading away in front of
my family’s eyes for years. I helped out when I could.
I once spent a sleepless week in his apartment
when my grandmother was stricken with pneumonia.
It was taxing on my spirit. I felt how she lives her life.

“Don’t tell me I don’t care. No. You weren’t there.
Neither was your brother. I was there each night for them.”

He suffered everyday, more than anyone should, stuck in his body.
I suffered in my mind.
I broke down once, some time later.
I ended up stuck to the floor.
The guilt flooded out of me
and uncontrollable tremors locked me in my body.
Is that what he felt for all those years?

I’ve witnessed the progress of the disease;
his hands shook, then his legs,
eventually he couldn’t walk anymore,
then couldn’t feed himself.

In the end, a grunt of acknowledgement was made to my father,
the man who made my life hell,
the man who lost all of my respect.
Even my father was able to be there at the end.
I was hundreds of miles away,
knowing my grandfather was slowly passing on.

 

YOUR BLUE SUIT

I put your old blue suit on last night.
It didn’t fit me. My shoulders are too broad
and the buttons didn’t reach their holes.
I kept it on regardless, imagining you.

I can see you decked out in blue.
All three pieces are lying on your strong frame.
You’re at a wedding wearing the yarmulke
I found in the jacket pocket.
I see you dancing with grandma
all night long. It was ages ago.

I’ve never seen you dance.
By the time my memories of you began,
you had difficulties walking.

I won’t picture you battling the disease,
trapped in your blue easy chair, helpless.
I won’t let your memory be limp
hanging in my closet.

You filled out this suit like I do.
You were strong.

 

BEHIND THE MASK

Throughout high school, I would hide in my books.
It was easier to lose the world around me,
and draw into myself, then it was
to face my problems.

While Hemingway was in Africa
hunting exotic beasts on his safaris,
I was looking through the page, at my bedroom
where I spent nights attempting to sleep.
In the kitchen, my parents would argue.
Hemingway’s gun would kill another animal;
shots would ring out late into the night.

I used the stories in books as a mask.
The outside world would see a reader,
while in reality,
I wasn’t reading. I was trying to live in the stories
but the tales of my real world wouldn’t disappear.
There was too much that I kept inside,
and I didn’t know how to let anything out.

No one wanted to listen.
My growing life’s story
tormented me.
The torment pushed me deeper into hiding.

_________________________

When I was reading of Jim Morrison on stage,
facing the drummer instead of the crowd,
I saw myself as the Lizard King.
I was Jim. I was hiding my face from the world.

Eventually, we turned around slowly.
There was an audience eager to listen.

I withdrew my mask.
Instead of hiding behind words in a book
I spoke out. I opened up.
I revealed myself,
my story stood naked, for all to hear.