Lynn Strongin

HIS FIRST PRESS was a Prouty & sons
Our first pressed
      Flower fell out of the collection album
Tea stained.
The rice paper documents      was what I was writing then.
Powerfulest preacher, pain.
Tenderest teacher, thou.
I was fighting the idea of spinal surgery then.
No tooth to the paper I wrote on
I cut a dress, ripped it.
Who were the builders of this suffering?
Question not the silence that falls on the pool.
The echo answers from the ash ladder
In human life there is a gap all deplore
Between feeling & action.
Arm slim      hand graceful
No one springeth to bloom
From legend
But from love you blossom.
Our long pressure is to survive this challenge
When age by age weakness threatens
Washing round our island.
No faint sigh from these lips
Which used to share a cigarette with you.
We kept, on fear of penance, a low profile
While immigration
Knowing every home is tormented to turn toward bliss
But in this ward, the world bliss is delusive
 & we women are a shadow of an indicting kiss.

          The Love a Mother Does not Give
Ye Shall Find a Light more excellent than that which shineth—
                                                Apostles, 19

Haunting, crystalline as a monk’s hand
His nib pen.
weren’t some monks women? It was sculpt paper
Would be a veritable anatomy lesson:
How to mend internal change: of crucial organs
Like organ pipes
In a great European town. Bruges?
Yes, in Belgium.
 Like slipping a small child’s hand in a mother’s comforting one.
  I would give you the love a mother does not give:
  Relax taut tendons. 
                        Bring you to a childhood memory:
                        So tender-young, it is green.


LIFT me to my love loft
Doves dare not rise higher
I feel again patterned fabrics, mainly flowers,
When I stood
A girl
Under hard pearl sky.
Me & my shadow above taffeta choirs
Above velvet
Then place us down.
Some days have a door of stone
Others it pushes in as if made of velvet
I lean down
To whisper in your ear, “Such it is to be disabled”
You lean, taller than me, five foot-nine, down
“Others do not understand. They are on the ground. They fail us”
“Totally” you answer back, your command
at which doves flicker
& flame
find their wick until the whole sky flames: 
The skull is not pretty with its tumor: old grandfather covers it with cap for meals
Some days are soft as silk, pearl sky above a girl
Of nine or ten.
Others are of stone.
We have grown into full-throated women 
who voice their cry to the sky.
If it cups an ear back, no echo sounds.


SHE WILL HAVE HER FINGERNAILS painted up high purple
To take the gloss of rain.
Lacking sun
She will tilt her Artful Dodger hat at a new level
Bought at Second Hand Rose
Long ago
The kind worn by Lili Marlene in the streets of Berlin.
I can see her taking from a fellow a light for her cigarette
Blowing out huge puffs
To make embryonic the German night.
Fetus that earliest form of human
Breathes in her ribs.
Mountain hiking boots are on      cleated.
Oxblood chukkas.
Husky voice, whisky voice
She’d whisper some words to him
Lodged in her core the ace for the love a mother ought provide:
But here, beneath a skull smooth sky,
No cap to cover
That pang for lost love
No snowfall can soften, no deeking in a door & lighting up can provide.

A Pulitzer Prize nominee several years ago for SPECTRAL FREEDOM, Lynn Strongin has been nominated five times for the Pushcart Prize, and this year for the Lambda Award. Received an NEA creative writing grant in New Mexico in the seventies. Studied with Denise Levertov, Robert Duncan, and others.
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