Jane Zwart

A yawn is contagious, and grief is a stone thrown into stillness. Everyone knows these things: how loss has an epicenter and puckers a ridge into the matter around it, how its upheaval breaks in radial zones, how its far valence is just a ruffle. Everyone knows weariness is a chain letter, that it travels the same as a ripple of abandon through a bored crowd in a baseball stadium.


can also be had secondhand, involuntarily as mourning or yawning. This morning I walked past a coffee shop and saw a man telling a story. His gestures made bundles from air and swatted them wildly apart, and four people in chairs pulled close, knees almost touching, laughed, and I could not hear them, not a howl, not a syllable, but I knew then why both laughter and bells deserve the words peal and ringing, and my mouth filled with something, half hum and half guffaw, as unsought as a sob or yawn and as useless to swallow.

Jane Zwart teaches at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Threepenny Review, Poetry Northwest, and TriQuarterly, as well as other journals and magazines.