Lynn Strongin

EACH ATOM molecule of love shines like dust, carpe diem, seize the day
Pinpoints of pain, hips, shoulders, neck fail me slowly. I climb the whorl-stairs slowly.
Anomymous Noel of Avignon
If constancy would fail me,
The leaves would fall from the tree
The birds from the sky
The Holland blue-green of your eye, love
Rich as Delft
Would dim away. This world so painterly, linseed giving gloss like glass and depth of history. I got 
girl wanting one boy. Aproned moved from room to room hope round as a dish. Pewter spoon-moon and 
bowl-sky. Linseed and turp incense burned sweetly. Windmills italicized Antwerp sky pearly gray.
Canals are veins
Like these from an IV in my arm.
The waterwheel of the heart is never grey but greeny-bay
Like the pupils of the little boy.
But he is in the painting so cannot bolt away.
Surgeon that I                       was all those years
Catching like melons, babies
Hull of life’s ship and ribs I was faithful to God and family.
How in age hold you close to me
As I light the candle in the window, my spine curving into an S over the years. A neck collar 
          could not help me.
That mystery disease polio had bitten me early.
Lace whorls like each codicil
With a dancer’s ease
Telling the whole story page-by-page on straw-gold rain-bent vellum left like old love letters 
          out the shed in February.
These knots like the canals, the hills, my own heart, red tiles and breadstone walls
When all else fails
Will not fail me.

There’s a movie being made on our street.
Goes without saying in color. A fellow’s taking a smoke in the corner.
What’s their dole per hour? Sky glowers. Coals redden somewhere.
They’re powering up the generator, you can hear her hum, you can hear this baby hum
I lift a broken pencil
To write with the stub end. In composition mode, a heavy load. Some mother’s son lifts cable bent 
like a toad. I can’t tell you how the rain lights up, a bulb. Whistle-stop Café.
A friend says I flow like the Mississippi river.
My nails just got painted plum-purple by my bather.
Now the unwashed light of the world rolls over us.
While Ben Britten’s courtly dances play.
How this courtship founders while covered wagons troll west
The dying, the dead, the living.
When the paralyzed girl, five, was lifted, strong-armed up toward heaven out of her wheelchair, 
it was a piece of work: she cried, she’d sat on a toy
It was story hour.
Let me tell you a story: cock your ears. Lean in
While Ohio hills start rolling
Bluegrass of Kentucky wave in the wind & the movie-makers go on in filmic light
Neon will glow: the young guy
his black shirt glows, a red dragon speared on it.
Death will spear us all down
Skylights bubble up catching winter glow of sun, it’s spare chance in November.
I can spare you some             if you ask sweetly
But, a hillbilly-kid I shot immies, I hop-scotched
Sweetly, it’s sweet grass sponsoring American Roots & Folk Alley at Fork-Junction.
I never used a bee-bee gun, nor slingshot: but got what I got. I saw a boy get his first hard on 
in jeans. He jammed gum. Twilight over the bayou, my lights went on.
Touched myself. Little sins of the Savannah haunted me with ghostly ice-blue eyes:
Death eyeballed me               I could feel that gaze covering first my mind
Then my body, a radioactive blue veil giving off the radiation that would cause my legs in a sterile 
room above the East river to die
Though a friend says I flow like the Mississippi.

        Winter of our loss is upon us: arise, vacuum out & wholly clean gutters,
        Bag leaves,
        Install showers in warehouses for front line workers,
        Distribute masks to funeral homes.
        These are rural places
        On Wisconsin’s western edge
        Full of snow mobiles & trailers:
        How can it get here?
        We can slow this viral spread.
        In the off chance. . .she dropped off body bags at morgues
        Part of a warehouse is turned into a morgue.

        Five death investigators to cover so many square miles.
        If this is not enough
        Rent a refrigerated truck to store even more bodies.

        Batten down the hatches open up the heart: fasten storm windows & doors:
        What I know is that my village stands outside my door, Dutch-doors & entrances opening:
        One story down. Though we cannot get to the Greek Deli for dolmades & olives. Though we 
        have not hugged a grandmother in so long.
        Bleached brick turn-of-century weathers sun. Cotswold gold almost.
        We are the weather-watchers in lighthouses of hope: the way sun gets into all places
        So must human touch
        Tearing veils 
        Outreach of eyes
        Blue, green, brown
        Cleaning the arteries of hope, clogged, cleansing
        The way new snow surprises, startles, even shellshocks in storm rebirth, one six-sided 
        crystal flakes by one-by-one.

ADORABLE BADNESS, you are a blessing
I drop off for you a mitzvah, mother’s sapphire ring, one stone missing: 
the best kind of sapphire black-blue
The unchanging landscape is death
The ever-changing landscape of life
Touch thru quarantine
Paralyzed since the age of twelve
Here’s the touchstone;
I see bears in yellow oilskin slickers
This recurring cancer is merely refrain:
The part of the burden you carry
The inside story
Invisible pain
Holding the poster for a horse, reined by a sheet.
Nightboat mine, I grieve, I mourn.
I also compose songs.
O the sky is tangerine over your loss.
My nightbed too.
I need you.
I tire of my daybed
The snow doesn’t depict every one’s bestiary:
But here is mine: the sound, the color of the bees.
Yes, too, there is failure
To stop cancer
To quit fear what kind of future will I have to die in?
But in adorable badness
Little you comes back to shove the adult out of here.
            Bring me back to the jars of honey.

I count hours pebbles thrown.
which dimple our pond.
In my bone body pains switch sides, bow low.
Traffic lights change. Knights & pawns dot the chess board of lame and running.
God the great director
Conducts psalms:
Patchworked like the dales of Britain. O Elizah: Prayer and pain settle down. Dust of 
breathing, smoke rising. Our shadow-child draws knees to chin.
I hear Elizah slips a library book down
In the next room
its binding
            Spine-to-feathers:  another afternoon, lettered savior, sewn Pewter is 
            the first lullaby, ivory the moon.

WALK IN SNOW forgetting, walk beside me holding hands
We can leave pages of our history behind,
glossy clay based and vellum. Inked ones.  We can let oblivion with its 
          skinny waterfalls fade. A fade-out film
Can forget the orange marbled cat, Marmalade
Where the glasses were left—was it by the sink or on the open book we 
          were reading
Each other nearly half a century, sliding from our shoulders like a cape
My moxie, your long lens, your short lens,
Your wolverines which like the white-hot moment, the snow
Won’t come
My occasional crying jags at paralysis
the phone book I sat on when I came home from the hospital and needed raising.
The phone booth in Albuquerque I phoned you from, high on pills for pain
High on buying a paperback, workshirt, frypan all for a fiver
This was the States, my homeland where a fast nickel beat a slow dime.
I rode the countryside like Nancy Drew in her red roadster, solved the mysteries 
          of this life on earth
This strange before the year of the Plague.
Poor we ate well
Laughing over Retsina, plonk.
It is like the pain of a needle forgetting all things. Where the ginger was in 
          the spice rack, its slot;
Not easy. Forget your heart medicine…me my wheelchair; we weren’t born with
the old silver chair that took me thru life from age twelve
until all of a sudden at age eighty,
I lay down
    Tortoise-shell glasses beside me
    Oblivious of everything but the songbird beating at the winter widow, 
    trying to get in.

Miracle of my old age            the sky is green-jade 
My soul is that brown hound in a Brueghel winter yard
Your skate key had icicles
We wore each other’s
on old strings around our necks at age nine.
Your leukemia has blood plateaued:
Renegade blood
winter ocean: steel to walk upon.Lyrical language to landscape 
          of north Holland
windmill arms
After lightning-strikes,
a fuse
can lead to electrical burns.
Are faces of doctors provisionally grave?
Are children what the angels eat?
One minute something is missing, the next found.
We were not the generation who cut school
To flip thru
Poster displays.
You were a Pioneer
Who took your two children
North, close to Latvia. Folded to your breast.
Streetlights pulse
To heartbeats.
Silent steamrolled-out streets.
Do we re-film childhood? Life can an unconscious classic.
Would you let me know if there are burns after radiation?
The sky lowering                   for winter:
All your acts leave me with the
Of silk.
Children with hair
Or milk.
Sky is jade green
A mongrel
Breath frozen barks in the Belgian yard. I whittle my soul.
A hard grip on the thing: your saga, near miracle ‘Icarus Falling’.
   Do you know that painting   & my wish for you for falcon wings?
The miracle will not pool
But will become iced over
Like copper
A statue on the tundra
Who would take the gold life
Off an amulet,
Off your heart?
            I stand back for better perspective,
            Lensing the leniency of sorrow, the prism to the metal nearly 
            lacing the amulet on your breastbone: needed to go on living.

Legs crossed-applesauce
I test my doctor’s will of the right way
Time I released you
But the water
Would be a fire-hydrant drowning a whole street in Morrissey black. I can’t give you back. 
My doctor? She visits:
She puts her hands over her heart, crossed:
To see me cross-legged-on the bed typing
It’s my office. Why should it hurt her heart?
The bull of patience charges at me
The bull-horned beast of tradition
The institution, the hospital gores her.
            If it’s time I got over you, I have the moxie to hold on, on, Josie
            The mojo which allows no transition from workboots to great age, 
            womanly poise: losing the whole diamond, the home run with skinned knees 
            to the boys.

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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