Lynn Strongin


MOTHERS hemming distances
(water burns hot as fire) We have crossed the brook of memory.
Distances stitched up between emotion & expression
Till child stands up bold to the cause, saluting the flag, five-year-old ensign.
Folk smoking the bees out of hiding
Translucent hexagonal combs front air:
We are the smoke when the bees zoom off.
While Dominique, Solange, & Huegette stand up in the butterscotch blond classroom:
Their fathers worked in an auto plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Now it’s gone.
An atmosphere of loss hovers over classrooms, sewing rooms, the needle
Accidentally pierces mother’s index finger.
Such bright blood on pale skin, Solange catches her breath, she is the youngest one
Four, runs to her mother hugging, hugging her
Which only makes it worse.
The elder girls get band aids
All the while humming Hymns they learned in Sunday School last weekend:
         The air is honey:
         There is a sting to morning:
         We are the haze when the bees are smoked out of hiding.

LISTEN, SUGAR small fires burn everywhere
Here come your nighttime pills in lucent vials
Your lucid mind turns pages of the hospital’s
Ward for children.
Hold on
Tight to the reins:
Night nurse, night station:
Water glass & bunny
Velveteen from so many lashings in the industrial washing  machines which chug chug chug like trains.
Only there is nothing childlike about it:
Nothing left of childhood
Except shreds
Like those balls which “Bounce don’t smell—sweeten
Like new mown grass.
They are past leukemic blanched.
They should have caught them at the earliest touch of girlhood turning anemic
When she lost the will to turn pages in the grass
But that, alas,
Was caught too late.
At last the lung made of iron rolled in like the white truck up north when she followed her lover
"Iron Mountain" it read
but it was the limbs of little children, which tightened as with bolts & screws from bone & flesh to little knees & elbows of welded & fire-bent iron:
Until it became peril for nurses, even parents, to take a lung-breath & with pity & compassion walk among their own.

This one has grown a taller taller shadow in the hall
A stork on long aluminium crutches.
Clinical figures in gowns once white, now green as a bud unfurling
The spiral of the soul.
I will never bury my singing.
To unbury song two strong yet gentle hands dig in the backyard
Where the robin pulls his worm.
A baby nearly bashed his head leaving imprint on the north window beside which I do my writing.
This is my last poem at land level: Mystic Lake, psalmic calm. Resolution. Re-solution.
Better than knocking some child into the darkness
As my disease did me:            still recovering, at age eighty
I map the blueprint of climbing a tree:
Climbers, ladders, ledges
One or two horses, ponies, small as the child who died
A vast shadow covering earth as I skated toward my own mortality.

The milky letters in the filmed window
Clouded by ice            radiator heat
snow flying            with Belgian poetry & precision. We are.
We are the smoke when the bees disappear.
The returning
On snow leopard paws of addiction:
I was the child? I was who went down one twelfth summer.
the wheat the rising up at the blade of the scyther
Fearless girl lived near the Paris Museum of Natural history where her father worked:
At age twelve, she saw Nazis occupy Paris & fled with father to the walled citadel
Which Saint Benedikt might have fled to carrying his newborn roses, a bed or petal, scent & thorn:
The child’s uncle lived in a high house by the sea:
Now, in the mining town in Germany a certain orphan, an Ishmael, grew up with his younger brother
Enchanted by the crude radio they found bringing stories
From places they’d never imagined or seen.
The boy became expert at fixing these instrument, enlisting to use his talent to track down the resistance.
From the warring countries each child lost many loved ones
Yet the boy & girl came together against all odds.
Feathery as lace from Belgian, breathing on only one lung
We are the smoke after the bees have disappeared
Two lover fog brings together on Antique Row, Fort Street, breathing as two lungs:
Never to be separated again.

 WHAT FLASHES ON MY EYE is a Clementine’s yellow
Driving back dark                        toward day
Cabin fever:
The weight of pleasure                        the weight of filmy air
Filmic gestures:
Cold December is good for the soul
The kingdom is here
In hand:
Icy air from a crack in the window jam
The price of single glazing:
Constant tension.
Being born with a one-way ticked
We raise our deaths on our shoulders, tiny children, and walk, and talk:
The weight of memory
We cannot move forward like water
And cover earth
Not in the cards.
Lost polar bears
Are in the clouds
The landscapes structure, unlike buildings, always unfinished
Seamless, being molded.
Even the rain has such small hands
Holding landscape stitched together
Like the music of faith
Which overcomes our scars:
There is nothing like this in words, language fails.
It darkens. Then brightens: a brightness which is hail’s
Message to us
White as April in December
Climbing up a steep staircase out of emptiness            every poem a spark            igniting Clementine
Igniting you & me, once again as on horseback two astride, we ride: I am yours, you are mine.

DO YOU ALWAYS take the part of the wounded twelve-year old:
who can thrust out her lower lip
The upper growing a slight peach fuzz.
Seductive Botticelli, waist long, breasts small pears:
You give the silent strong treatment when crossed:
A voice which comes up from the grace, cross the other way.
Then crosses like laces crisscrossing mountain boots
I resist the idea of small camera travelling through your body.
Our house is Tonkin House: fine and not a “dark pot of cold” like the radiant one by the ocean. We left that one. Undersold at great loss.
Of space of gloss of grace.
Culling photos of the south, double spread, eagle-wide, you challenge me
“You've never been in Alabama have you?”
“traveled thru.”
Could be there right now
With adolescent arms akimbo casting a dark shadow while I wear knee stockings Jane Austen silhouettes sewn into them:
            one sneakered foot behind the other
I am running out of fuel in this bout
With a tall gal I adore
Going thru medical tests making me think how Mary Oliver & Mollie got on those last years
When Mollie had lung cancer from smoking, died, passing on the torch to Mary who beat lung cancer only to have metastasis:
For the last breathless miles of the Olympics euphoric Mary who
 came down with lung cancer’s kissing cousin: lymphoma
which left its calling card: many lymph nodes in that radiant runner’s body            swollen, painful:
Sappho’s girl            in her prime who caused Mollie to cast her eyes to the ground & put on dark glasses after one glance: her heart fell to her hiking boots;
Small aircraft pilot on the sands of Rhode Island & Truro’s beaches, photographer
Once & always love of the Pulitzer Prize poet who had eyes bluer than a Dutchman’s breeches, blue-greener than the sea.

NARRATED BY PEOPLE with skewed visions of home
The story
I try to straighten:
It is a translucent body wrench, a pain to align
Wing chairs with long rainy Sunday afternoons:
Obsessed, irrational
An inner logic drives me
Like the pony with daffodils for London
Toward the magical realized
Of language chiseled, unforgettable
To describe home.
It isn’t easy
There are shards of shrapnel in my right eye, haze to green
My left?
Outstanding images are stored within in greatly abbreviated pieces
Uncharacteristically extended pieces that not on surprise but inspire.
But now back home in the darkened bedroom
Against brilliance which pains the eye
I tumble home
Draw the rafter down in dream
Since neither you nor I can attain sleep tonight:
Now the dream-chart
Shifts fresh mown hay from side to side
While thru the skylight
Pour revelations after revelations.

TO YOUR CHILD you spoke the green words of apples
But to your beloved beside you in bed
A bride
A plank of wood
You need become a bride
Already broken
You need no broken in.
My own privately passionately taken will no longer ask to see bank accounts
Financial statements
Fountain pen
Writing table
Finally at the last when all else was lost
Frost over the hummingbird assemblage. O begging bowl. O red fox with the smallest lawn, wild fox’ yowl. O consonants followed by vowels.
      Because by now we are almost toast:
      Our space is almost monk-like: my body tinier even than yours, poet, passion of mine
      Rising each night over our half-moon cottage: I most write something quantum
      Which exceeds all other things. As the door closes. As the last bell of a life time rings.

I’m here & in tune with the season      not far from the sea.
Tell me of your growing up:
How did I?
A basket full of thimbles
Those small miracles at my side.
Harpsichord fugues in maturity.
A bird banged up against the glass outside
My writing window
Her death, his, would have been open to all eyes
Veil & all: Death’s bride: nought
Like the smoke we will turn into when all the bees have died.

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