Lynn Strongin

Wood chips pile up
Squirrels’ cheeks bulge.
Paper I hold is the color of tea.
I will tell you what it’s like to run out of breath as you run away:
Toward the coalman’s bin,
Toward the child hospital crematorium;
I feel the touch of small fire
Small myself
I move closer, higher
Till I cup a spark in my hand
Till it flows like a rose.
The color rouge is let on my hands      for life, I suppose
As I run back to the big white clapboard house which is our home
After the war
When I learned we are the smoke when the bees disappear.
I knew I’d found the womb-like enclosure where I’d stay
For the nonce
The time being
Or forever
Until I found my soul-mate
Whom I’d hold in arms
Making us both feel loved
Forever & ever.


      And whether or not it is clear to you,
      no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
                   Max Ehrmann: Desiderata                                      

So I plant a kiss on your lips
It grows
Thru day
In passion
As I pour water for the carrots,
Give the garden attention
Our garden      such as it is      two ladies’
Growing a storey above the library
A maple tree, Yuko, with little Buddha under it
Bigger Buddha, still small, in the corner
Water flowing
All around its shape.
I wish I could catch that water
Like a hoop
Like clay, and reshape it
For the universe is not unfolding as it should: so lie with me on pillows of steel & ice:
The nails are rusting
The windows wavy like wax            or water: a pine siskin gazed on the sad carnival, the puppets we are moving
Blinks from his branch:            The moss is soft on Gary oaks, a bluegreen fungus:
Single-glazed letting cold in            a throwback to the war, Warner Pathé news showing all the carnage.
You do not, furthermore, want me to stew the pears with small cloves, sticks of cinnamon
Making it grow
Our passion
Which has in our seventies become
A baby with blue finger nails rocked in the cradle in the corner. Although a good girl-child
There is something wrong, askew, something one is afraid to mention
Like leukemia which runs in the family, like he ivy digging its ugly tiny fists into the wood protecting our garden as it should
      And like the dry rot one dare not mention in parental & marital relations.

I FOLLOWED the math teacher home
Because she was the handsomest
In seventh grade.
Strong stride
Hair cropped      not with the delicacy of neck to wear an Italian boy bob
Like the later teacher I fell in love with.
But Miss Icabacci carried the strong syllables of her Italian name like carrying charred green boards with roman numerals home
To light them
Like an oil lamp
Perhaps lacking a cover
The beauty of numbers was her cover
She crawled under at night
Never knowing the girl who shadowed her
The child of twelve who was shortly to lose both her legs
Followed her
All the way to the poorer part of town
Tasting nearly the caramel & toffee of brown:
Brown houses leaning together
Exiles from the land without even a lame
Excuse for taking in the bruised, the tattered, the poor:
It shat upon them.
When she turned into one of these brown
Town houses
I reversed my direction
Taking the first bus home, right or wrong, it landed me where I could bear the lamp of my own heart longing
A girl of scarred porcelain
Up the stairs of the house I would not much longer own:
But it was Home. Home.

MY TALENT spikes me, hoists me & spins me round & round beneath:
The dusk-darkening ground.
My talent is consigned to an attic where all the dead dolls are
From another century. Maybe she too is from another century.
Whisked off to the cellar to huddle by boiler pipes naughty child.
O the wild
Wonder of it all:
I wake to reach out, hold her hand
Breathing is as delicate as a feather
Of a bird the size of a hickory nut:
Her lungs must hurt by the way she draws her breath until she turns around
To the other side
Where in hours dawn
Will blue up the East window
Night slough off
A cape she has flown all night
Or huddled
Like Corrie Ten Boom
She too is worn: I gaze into her eyes, now old eyes
But kind
Closest of kin
Never wholly held
Nor understood
Except the way
When all turns wrong
I turn toward God to speak to Her
Or Him
About it. My Hymn.


I was a child with visionary intensity:
The fountain of youth in Saint Augustine Florida is where I did pray
For the suturing of my mother & father.
What did Freud write about Leonardo’s little wax animals, so light that the wind would carry them away?
What would he
No matter to me.
It’s all good            the young say today.
Buddha holds eminent silence.
In overalls      in a little boy’s haircut
I grew into a lanky girl
God’s pearl
My mother’s golden girl
Everything came from something else
Fitting in as Lao Tzu says, more or less.
But I
Had found my way
To the attic            the back way up the stars tall as a giraffe’s neck, a giraffe named Gillian who saw it all go on            then tall-necked sailed on:
The guitar of oblivion
In her silence playing requiem.


                                             All the apple-cheeked dollies are lined up in a row.
                                             Nothing shines in place of the divine
                                             Its locus ubiquitous
                                             My right shoulder
               Your boythin wristbone.

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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