Zinc fingers : poems A to Z /
Peter Meinke.
Pittsburgh, Pa. : University of Pittsburgh Press, c2000.
xiii, 88 p. ; 23 cm.
More Details
series title
Pittsburgh, Pa. : University of Pittsburgh Press, c2000.
catalogue key
A Look Inside
This item was nominated for the following awards:
First Chapter

Chapter One


Some people like broken glass

are known by absence:

she's one of those students

who never go to class

like unpublished scribblers

known for what

they might have done if not

for the job and the little nibblers

unvoiced echoes

of an agonized shout

someone thinks about

shouting but never does

as with a childless marriage

a couple's bind

is negatively defined

like a horseless carriage

as with an air of distraction

twiddling the doorknob

the man from Porlock

made a great subtraction

One can get further away

from life than one might imagine

like a would-be has-been

not catching on in papier mâché

or a man (say) working in rhyme

his insides much

out of touch

with the times


   ... the apple I see and the apple

I think I see and the apple

I say I see

are at least three

different apples ...

   One sympathizes with Dr. Johnson here

when he kicked a stone

to refute the Bishop: such

airy-fairy distinctions so much


   And yet when you say

what I think you say

in a way that may

or may not be final I can only hope

that cold stone that white boulder that

   ... iceberg between us

is not really there but sliding

like some titanic idea

through the North Pole

in the apple of my eye ...

Arthritis in St. Petersburg

Heat in August flattens everyone

brittles the potted ferns in three quick

days if you forget to water

Sun hammers the road and you

drive toward a slick

shimmer always a dream away

elbowskin flapping

like a lizard's neck

But is that you really? It's others

who grow old although this octogenarian

paradise declines like sour milk like bread

with its webbed mold or mined apples

and pears that scare you twice: once

when you see the hole and once when the roach runs up

   your arm:

these diluvial creatures

can only mean you harm

The older you are the harder to cope:

on fixed incomes scattered scarecrows

haunt the waterfront

mope around the park in secondhand

clothes wondering what hit them:

Nobody knows! The newspaper claims

the deficit is huge The oil

embargo jacks the price of rouge

And even you against your will

find you talk more and more about

your health: the proper diet

price of vitamin pills the warped

apportioning of your country's wealth

the way the summer makes your fingers swell

while the young artists in Banana Republic shorts

plan their next show at the Vinoy Beach Resort

Assisted Living

Hunching at the adult center

like aluminum crickets

on the ground-floor hallway

outside the arthritic elevator

our chrome appendages clanking

and hooking each other we stuff

ourselves in the box and turn around

Language is queer: adult movies

mean fucking but adult centers

mean dying though both mean

without dignity in front of others

In the elevator our spotted hands

and heads shake like mushrooms in rain

Not one in here who hasn't had

adventure We've cried out

in bed and staggered home at midnight

sung songs and lied made

hellish mistakes and paid for them

or not: it makes small difference Life

is gravity dragging all together:

the sparkiest eye the delicate breast

the sly hand the harsh laugh ...

If there were humor left in this small band

it would raise its drying voice and shout

knowing most are deaf: Going down!

But no one says a word so we wait

nodding fungily for someone

to press our number

The Brain

Sometimes I have to shake my brain

like a bad child: Behave you little shit

Politically incorrect

pimpled cerebrum a real pain

it must hate authority:

when a Great Man speaks

it squeaks

It needs a shot of WD-40

When a Wise Woman talks

for my soul's health

and I need to listen well:

Nice bottom! it squawks

In any serious place

halls where they knot their ties

I tend to cross my eyes:

my brain's unlaced

yet just as I'm about to shoot it

through my left ear

it murmurs from God knows where:

The hard rain goose-steps

forward and the crooked grasses

of our meadow whisper like lawyers:

it's unfair and mysterious

but my murderous mood passes

and I decide to keep this clown

Seems worth it on the whole

with a little damage control:

trying to hold it down

when it's around mature people

Won't you ever grow up? I beg

It answers like a dog lifting its leg

Does the Pope pee purple?


Tomorrow if it come

I (if I'm around)

will barricade our home

from the hullabalooing town

corking the walls of my room

unless I decide to go out

walking the clanking streets

in the marvelous city noise

savoring all that din

unless I decide to pop in

for a quiet drink with the boys ...

I suffer gladly

this foolish uncertainty

for which we've found no cure

I'm confused therefore I'm alive:

still lie the dead sure


    for Eugene Larkin

Well her eyes were slanted slow and brown

and large enough to let us see the whites

before we slammed the shore We slept each night

outside her door and listened to them bound

from bed to floor Her breasts were small and tight

shoulders round Her thighs (we all could see) were white:

in short her attributes were fine

and we turned tipsily into swine

I tell you Ulysses saved us no doubt

after he had his fill and wanted out

but as for me to see that lady strut her stuff

I'd grunt and snortle in the trough

A man turned pig by a goddess can't be blamed:

in front of power like that why should I feel ashamed?

The Cliff at Gorge de l'Areuse

When Tim was a little boy he slipped

and slid down a mountain and was saved

at the final instant from flying

over a cliff into a river

bed a hundred yards below This is

a source of humor now but we all

shook for days and still shake in our dreams

dreams our in shake still and days for shook

No one told us fear is half of love

love of half is fear us told one no

and travels with your heart like the black

box that's always on the plane beneath

the glowing dials indestructible

as the longing for poetry and

meaning so when we die angelic

scientists can diagnose our lives

sifting through tears and scars of nightmares

nightmares of scars and tears through sifting

printed deep as twelve-point Monaco:

`scarlet fever' `car crash on Boonton

Road' `retinitis pigmentosa'

High among these brooding images

they'll find `Gorge de l'Areuse' the leaves wet

that day the long slide the saving hand ...

They say that words are arbitrary

building blocks constructing sentences

meaningless and unreliable

but roll them as you will reverse subdivide

them into pure syllables

of sound when we say `Tim' or `cliff' the

love and fear we feel tastes real as air

air as real tastes feel we fear and love

Copyright © 2000 Peter Meinke. All rights reserved.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2000-06-26:
Sonnets, villanelles, sestinas and even a concrete poem reminiscent of May Swenson rub shoulders in Meinke's 12th collection, arranged alphabetically by title. Unfortunately, the occasions that engender these formal variations fail to yield fresh diction or insight. Take for example the sonnet "Circe," in which the temptress is described in rhyming couplets that faintly recall Hecht's equally problematic "Dover Bitch": "Her breasts were small and tight/ shoulders round Her thighs (we all could see) were white:/ in short her attributes were fine/ and we turned tipsily into swine." Akin to a poet like James Broughton, there is usually a playful quality to Meinke's rhymes, as in the opening stanza of "Grandfather at the Pool": "Now that I'm old/ respectable and white and pink/ you tease like bold/ hotblooded courtesans who think/ old men prefer thin beer to drink." But this is the kind of verse that modernity seems to have passed by. At other times, Meinke, whose new and selected Liquid Paper appeared in 1992, seems downright sophomoric, as in a poem like "Making Love with the One," where a "one armed girl" made love to in a library is mirrored by a one-lined stanza at the center of the poem. Meinke's speaker is better off in a poem like "The Waltz," which meanders down the page in musically descriptive tercets: "So we turn one last time/ more or less in tune/ across the pockmarked floor:// Scarecrows on the moon." (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review Quotes
"Meinke's latest collection stands among his best, using a variety of forms from free verse to sonnet to villanelle and a wide range of tones from light to 'first person jugular,' to use Meinke's own phrase." "In the best of Meinke's work his impressive skills yield poems of scope and extraordinary power. . . . His greatest gift may be his ability ot shed enormous light through small windows. . . . Most of us can mulch and most of us can muse, but only a genuine poet can forge that lightning connection between such things over and over again." --Tampa Times
"Thank God for Peter Meinke's voice of literary sanity, for these poems of a lovable, beleaguered man trying to make sense of a difficult world. Zinc Fingers is a delight from beginning to end." --Edward Field
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, June 2000
ForeWord Magazine, August 2000
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Unpaid Annotation
Watching Steffi beat Monica on tv at Fat Jack's in Provincetown I was seized with an urge as I sometimes am to write a syllabic poem on the spot which was none too clean and packed to the gills with elbows and shrimp Hey Sparky I yelled to the bartender you got a pen? Sure he said knowing my propensities make it ten syllables a line Well why not I said but on the other hand why? Because look this is the tenth game of the third set Sparky said so I smoothed out the napkin while the crowd screamed You can do it! and wrote
Publisher Fact Sheet
In this, Meinke's eleventh collection, the poet writes of humor & sadness, inviting readers to join him in his attempt to make sense of a difficult world.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem