Ugly Duckling Presse

Mr. Z., Mrs. Z., J.Z., S.Z.
Mr. Z., Mrs. Z., J.Z., S.Z.

John Surowiecki

illustrated by Terry Rentzepis

Poetry | $10 $8


"Sister Ruth Picks Lice from S.Z.'s Head (1948)"

L’enfant se sent, selon la lenteur des caresses,
Sourdre et mourir sans cesse un désir de pleurer.

—Rimbaud, "Les Chercheuses de poux"

Little S.Z. refuses to cry, drowning
in the folds of the nun’s black wings.
The other children are also red-eyed;
even the tough guys are quiet.

She dips her fingers in a dish of kerosene;
the acrid smell makes him queasy.
Her breath burns the backs of his ears;
her nails move like plows across his scalp.

A click here, a click there:
that’s all there is. No real pain after all,
only the sarcasm of her caresses
and the embarrassment of being unclean.

Close ˆ

About the Author

John Surowiecki is the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation's Pegasus Award in Verse Drama for his play, My Nose and Me, based on his Further Adventures of My Nose,  a chapbook published by UDP. Surowiecki is the author of four poetry collections:  Flies (UDP, 2012), Watching Cartoons before Attending a Funeral (White Pine Press, 2003 White Pine Press Prize), The Hat City after Men Stopped Wearing Hats (The Word Works, 2006 Washington Prize), and Barney and Gienka (CW Press, 2010). He is also the author of six chapbooks, most recently, Mr. Z., Mrs. Z., J.Z., S.Z., put out by UDP in 2011. He has published widely and has won a number of awards, including the Pablo Neruda Award from Nimrod International Journal, a silver medal in the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival National Competition, and an arts fellowship from the State of Connecticut.