Lynn Strongin

Notice these steps, this manoeuvre
Holiness begins with small steps.
As long as we have supper       & a time to phone home:
This is our extraterrestrial hour.
I am working so hard on our lives, wren:
We will get it right:
The rising, the dusting, the fussing, feuds & birds over small things.
No more time to fuse out
But light up
Recalling the sadness at the wedding when the rabbi put a light bulb for a wine glass for the groom to stomp on.
When the rabbi said when asked what amount to pay him for his services, “Any amount will be fine, my son. It is my honor.”
Word of God
The groom gave him three hundred dollars at which the rabbi shook his head, “Not enough, my son.”
So the light went out
Over us in that suburban home, Long Island, tuxedo Park.
      Today, at age eighty,
      I type, heater at my feet humming
      Thinking I wish I were in Cape Breton: Yes, that could be my lucky star
      My fresh start toward complete Lenten love
      Exhilaration achieved full circle for the first time.

                  “Catch to Table” fresh each morning
would ice send out rainbows?
Would iridescence be the magic password?
The floor heater takes me back to being poor:
New York, table cloths hung in windows, double glazed glass not halting the roar
Of wind up the Hudson.
What wouldn’t I give to have it back again?
Post polio
Legs purple
Mind learning hope, even cheer again
The long hours Mother read me Le Petit Chose by Alphonse Daudet.
It’s terrible missing my brother-in-law so much as if we were married in a short space for my eightieth.
Like a candle that was blown out.
Now we are each home to our own spouses.
What will the spearsman ask of us next?
Modern love      contemporary passion demanding of us less.
Lenten we have become, thru rite of passage, journey which is self-denial
            small surrender:
I have a glass chess set: pawns, kings, queens—yet to be opened.
We cannot afford to be wrong about one another
Yet continue the expense            emotion
Sealing loss as welders use fire to make the whole & holy substance:
Love for labor, endurance, breath their sustenance.

THE STORY UNSPOOLS from her lips, still a child of nine
While the bees in the burned
Of Notre Dame go about their work with fervor, dedication to their queen.
An unloved unwashed public mills in the street below.
“Be still my heart” is whispering in my ribcage over & over again
now in hope
but then in rage.
In heart of night            if love be            the abeyance of fear
The night journals come “An almanac of the afterhour” (Charles Wright)
Insufficient light to see the page
Moon rising behind the ridge
More, more to imagine
A pale boy scalded by burning wax
Made cool by wind.
A sudden oblivion
Like an amniotic sac
So soothing, welcoming, doing nothing
We are sun-catchers:
Sister and sister.
The start of winter dark comes fast. Cold. Low.
Long. My time of life in circular
Wheels on & on:
Too small
But on the opposite wall
Is a mirror
Where I am            beloved            you are.

“I saw the world of power through a child’s eyes—
Oysters frightened me” Osip Mandelstahm 222”Poems of the Thirties” January 193l
I turned left to right
This was not Leningrad, 1931
Mama & I sat for an hour in the kitchen
The good smell of kerosene
Sharp knife
Big round loaf
I looked in the mirror & wanted only to live once.
Not even that.
Hunchback? Well, his bones may be buried under Notre Dame cathedral
But he as an illustrious figure in history
In love with his Esmeralda.
I have my Juana
it feels perfectly natural:
never in the world have I seen so perfect a pearl:
She bent to her knees
Forest surged all around us
A breeze bluer than oyster.
In a phosphorescent blue dress
She knew                        I knew:
Mirror images
Our knees kissing
Until we each bent further forward
Nothing frightened me
The very air turned left to right:
We kissed each other on the lips.

I REEL  from word to word, the silken string of a document
Dr Gachet saved Van Gogh             only so far.
There was a vanishing point:
It is vanishing points of the soul that inscribe me
With their messages:             survivor guilt
Companioning depression.
And even far beyond that,       the broom leaning against the wall in the drygoods cupboard
Turning every shade of blond
Magnetizes me
Till I am blind-sighted by Van Gogh’s last days in the Auvergne
The wheat fields which must have incised his eyes with pain
As a legendary musician is cut by notes off tone, flattened:
So I lie on my back, praying for our marriage
Imagining the wild bee furry flying from bough to bough,
Yearning with the power of playing vibrato thru wounded fingers
A small, quiet space grows up around them, and inside it, she feels warm and cared for.
The vanishing point is where I am curled, warm.

LOOKING THRU ZHIVAGO COAT pocket for little things
Things that go chink & clink:
Keys to open
And to un-open:
In the ruinous heat
Bottomed out bank accounts;
To close is too formal a word:
Jack in the pulpits, shawls like shooting stars, stuck on with a hat pin;
Bruised souls
& those just coming to birth.
Whitman was master of the ceremony of the lists.
Ecstasy of my eightieth year birthday on the wane
A setting sun, rising moon the same horizon
Like lovers crossing paths
One going
One coming.
If my heart is breaking, my love, it is not glass.
Tall, slim, Lesbian love
Jodhpur grace & ease
All that is coming, going, passing
& to pass
Shines in the Zhivago coat pocket lining.

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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