By James K. Zimmerman


that old man
because he can’t
get his bag down
from the overhead bin

because he can’t
unzip it with bulging
knuckles and neuropathic

because he can’t
find the whatever
he was looking for
in it with eyes
that don’t see as well
as they should
and thoughts that don’t
come so easy anymore

who has too many
chins and bags
under his eyes
and knees and elbows
that don’t cooperate
like good children
or well-trained cockapoos

who is chewing chips
with an open mouth
and salted tongue

who is blocking
the aisle so I can’t
get by to get
my bag down
from the overhead bin

that old man
may be several years
younger than I am
and not even realize it
until he gets off the plane

and we go home

Strangers on a Train

I want you to pay
attention, see my 
wryly dark sense
of humor, cool new
tattoo, awesome
designer shades, ‘cause

I like the way you stare
out the window

so I clear my throat
sniff a couple of times
blow my nose
clear my throat again

I want to say look:  don’t
you see how deep I am?
a sensitive soul?  don’t you
see I am, y’know,
a poet?  so I

riffle through my narrow-
ruled Moleskine with the ribbon
bookmark – ‘cause poets
don’t use iPads –  stroke
my three-day beard, totally
into it, click my pen, chew on it
a little (deep in thought) and

write something profound
and metrosexual but not
too touchy-feely, nuts-
and-berries or emo and

write it big enough so you
could read it if you happened
to look my way

it says, like, I want you
to know I think your head-
phones are, y’know,
a totally awesome
shade of black

After We Deplane

someone has the job
when the pilot drops
the ponderous bird back
to earth, when passengers
and bags pour out
of its portals like eggs
from a spider or maggots
from an open wound

someone has the job
when the flight crew
thanks us, smiling
in so many friendly
languages for riding
over clouds and mounds
of brown and green below

someone has the job
when we come to roost
when the great bird nests
before it rises once again

someone has the job
of cleaning out the cisterns
that pend beneath the lavs
where we go to piss or shit
or vomit or just to stretch
our legs a little when
the seatbelt sign is off

and of course someone
knows the better job is up
in business class or first
someone knows to work
up through the ranks
to where the pool is clean
and clear and odorless

unlike the fetid mess
left behind in economy
by the rest of us

Ten Minutes Before Boarding (Gate C7)

she sits alone among her close friends
Gucci, Fendi, and Prada
her coat a down-filled Burberry
hides her rosebud mouth behind
hair glistening like a black
satin cat

he leans, professorial, smug
over her shoulder from behind
cradling a Starbuck’s venti

she cringes in her faux-fur collar
as if he whispered sadistic fantasies
she could never quite forgive
or his mouth
stunk of last night’s prawns in garlic
or this morning’s bitter coffee
black, no sugar

her mouth a jagged gash
in the offence of her paling face

he leans in again, on the attack
she parries with the screen
of her iPhone, its cover dusty rose

his Razr Maxx responds
with a face the green of April rain

thumbs stutter on the glowing glass
a fever of furtive conversation

now she does not balk
as much, her shoulders fall a little
the rosebud starts to bloom

he leans in once more, softer

she does not pull away

About the Author:


James K. Zimmerman is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and award-winning poet – most recently the Edwin Markham Prize and the Pat Schneider Award.  His work appears or is forthcoming in Miramar, Pleiades, Chautauqua, American Life in Poetry, Nimrod, The Evansville Review, and Kestrel, among others.  He is the author of “Little Miracles” (Passager, 2015) and “Family Cookout”(Comstock, 2016), winner of the 2015 Jessie Bryce Niles Chapbook Prize.