an on-line poetry magazine
for the 21st century


Zev Torres


It doesn’t really matter who among us heard it first:
The conspiratorial whispers from A source unknown,
Followed by a haunting sigh hinting at Resigned compliance.
We heard it, the whispers and the sigh, almost simultaneously,
And stopped talking, as if on command,
Never to return to the subject that diverted us from our watch;
Stopped moving, no more than ten feet from The edge of the frozen pond
And listened, Processing that which we had heard through
The warnings implanted in our minds by our own parents
Long before we ourselves had assumed the mantle of
Protectors and dispensers of sound judgment,
Hoping it was only the wind passing through
The black birches and white oaks encircling the pool,
Or the fluttering of a raptor’s wings,
Or a creature nearby feverishly burrowing through
A matting of fallen leaves,
Their decay suspended by a flash freeze.
But the stark skeletal branches pointing towards the steely sky were still,
And somehow we knew the sound was not that of a being,
Winged or otherwise, going about its business,
But rather an alarum to be ignored at our own peril,
And that of the six children hiking with us through the Bolton watershed,
Who had already slipped and slid twice as far from
The reservoir’s edge, well beyond our reach.
It doesn’t really matter who yelled first
Before we all joined in, calling their names through
Hands cupped around our mouths to deaden the echo,
Calibrating the pitch of our voices,
So as to not further agitate the aggrieved ice.
And as one head followed by another turned our way,
We mouthed “come back,” augmenting our
Silent command with a myriad of gestures —
Alternately raising our hands and patting the air, before
Turning our hands palms up and curling our fingers as if to say,
“Hurry. But slowly. Hurry. Carefully.”
Or as if our movements themselves,
Without any volitional intercession on their own behalf,
Could draw them in to safety.
And only after the children, one, two, four —
No wait, count again, three, four, five, six —
Were secure on the verge of the pond, looking in our direction,
Did we, the oh so responsible adults who should have known better,
Begin our own laden retreat,
Turning deliberately and cautiously,
Taking care not to allow the whole of our weight
To settle in any one spot,
When the pond’s baleful chorus of whispers and sighs
Was cut short by a sound underfoot,
Freezing us in place,
A sound that permeated our core and resonates still;
A sound not unlike the scratching and crackling
Of someone clearing his throat.

ZEV TORRES is a writer and spoken word performer whose work has appeared in numerous print and on-line publications including NYC: From the Inside, Three Rooms Press’ Maintenant 16, Poetry is Dead, The Rainbow Project, My Father Taught Me, and Escape Wheel. Zev hosts Make Music New York’s annual Spoken Word Extravaganza, and in 2010, founded the Skewered Syntax Poetry Crawls.