Lynn Strongin

                            CLEARANCE BOUQUET

ice in a glass at the height of a heat wave 
Mary Jo Bang “The Last Two Seconds”

IT WOULD BE clearance flowers since I set you out on a mission, so down:
There is much to clear in our lives.
Dust leaving speed trackers. Who was the blonde bomb shell between us? The social butterfly?
Rain speckled metal hoods of the center
And it would be left over flowers
Since you are so Scotch. What tugs at the heart strings?
Passing transparency from child to child, cotted, on ward A:
Like a fever
A blood transfusion, but these are really flowers
          Tapers that light: something amazing hits like “Ice in a glass. . .heat wave”
          A wave of rubella is passing thru our ward like wheat falling silent at a glass annihilating sword.
The quail eggs would have been baby quails
roses fading against quilted sky, stitches unravelling. Unwashed clouds.
You beam. I am at the place where all is derelict.
It is Sunday
I cannot move about in the bed. My voice, my concern urgent, ongoing.
A balcony with no rails
I want to kiss you before the sun goes down.
After life, before death
          Give me Harlem, the Bowery
          A last breath sounding in lungs of flower dust on Sunday pavement: our old age pensions sail in,  
                    twinned, sails clipped, bronzed.

NO POWER ON EARTH can push this back
This tide
The breath of flowers
Our family from the Russian Pale
not far from Pinsk
records destroyed by fire, birthdates loss, erased, made invisible, washed out
yet we emerged: what are we clearing but beds tables for our death?
unexplored presences haunt us:
          Passegiato: My seven nail polish, caps of generals. My two remotes.
          Is this passage or arrival? Bedlife. Survival. The sea is nothing to be trifled with.

THE SEA is nothing to be trifled with
There’s no door wider open than hope.
Yet miniaturism is the next big thing.
River is the deepest breath we will ever take.
That ambulance cannot save her
She has gone under the silver wave.
It stopped here. Check!
Go to window.
But you are a country girl
          The city in my veins turns blood purple,
          In the hospital gain, I turn back a page: vellum, yellowed, a portal.
LEATHERN, clayen, our love has become.
Veins of purple, blue.
Because at eight- eight you stand upon the soap box of the sixties
Railing against capitalism. Banks. All too late.
No cash.
Poor stash.
You’d think love would carry us thru
          But this is the birthday of the bull: yours is coming
          With your eloquence, is verbiage. You will not let down 
                    across the thin moat the drawbridge.

POSTCARD from the sky
Those are not jingle bells.
Are hell’s
Sounds. Soft soap and hard scrubbing won’t take away this pain.
I lost something so easily,
Tap the wrong remote
But elevation comes:
As though I’d joined the wedding too late but
          Ruffian, as you know, I know
          Death is not a halo.

ICE FRONTIER Dusty blue, in lug boots
You are irresistible
Waking to my pain cry, ice-wolf, aged, past midnight, near what’s called morning.
This is because you are tall & come carrying the hot water bottle 
as though it were your child.
Unwrapping the child from yowel is calyx
Bud stands shivering in the cold of the afterlife
Or like it
Air so bluely light, cold.
          We are not freaks in a sideshow
          We are children in a wards scabbed by a soap so rough heart becomes translucent.

BECOMING more fluent in Flemish,
Longing to get to Bruges
Our humanity our fluency
A Rembrandt light flooding me since childhood, that bluish hood ash hur
I’d ride, my harp in its big wooden trunk.
I would like to have had the first name “Dante.”
A sapling one.
I could have been a girl or boy, it’s hard to train horror stories out of people:
Could have done things, worn a swish velvet beret. But if I’d been born poor
          Becoming fluent in street language would have been my crown
          Of thorns: poverty, ear the blood-pale purple-white thorn.

IF YOU WASH ME be kind. The skies are blind.
Strong lungs, the cloth of suffering rolled into a ball.
I recall childhood nurse immersing us in Hubbard Tanks with a Hoyer hoist.
No way am I uplifted
A raptor on updraft
Maybe a falcon hawk talons old butter yellow.
A small one.
But then I have had an overdraft of the whole thing. Pad & gown. White hung    on metal nail.
Shafted the only way to be saved:
          Giving in
          The only way to be loved.

THE ONLY THING I HAVE from daddy is broken:
The letter opener set with envelope.
I am doing too many things at once. A despair-dance..
You oversee my physical life:
That rooftop view
A hawks’eye glance
But my flight arc is my own.
You help me turn, bathe
But I glide into home base on my own:
          Will I find you there
          The last two seconds of a life lived on the third rail, the only gift still functional 
                    but blitzed, broken.

I AM LUGGING a log of paraffin up a hill
Laying a trail of paraffin round a building
Of bossy boots & the whole building is in flame.
One part sherry & shenanigans.
Not quite the thing to turn up without a hat.
You bathe & lathe me, Ultimately, I carry you, you carry me.
A plague of wasps in the jam
This life of iron! Puppetry for all.
The next thing I touch will be what I need.
          O Lord you have used me to seed
          Earth turned over, over: rabbits’ coats for Russian allies. I see the sun set at moonrise.

OUR LOVE is a windmill
Threshing wheat thin,
I see you
Doing, foxing some magical thing
Lifting out eggs at dawn
As I did during wartime,
Highstrung, threshing hope
          Driven, thin, house backing onto the tracks
          The. Door to the divine.

WHEN LAB RESULTS are not what you want
And sky is clasped
hinged with, iron ions.
When the soldier doesn’t come home from war, who will tell his mother
waking from coma
Causes the nuns to cross themselves,
You have missed the last train.
Amulet hung on the nail,
The sail bisects sky with its triangle.
          You know you have gone the distance
          Are the real thing, close eyes while it torques you, fire cut by diamond.
THE LOST BOOK all those volumes of alephs, my Allegany sweetheart
The skipped heartbeat
Jump rope turned iron in the child’s hands.
A shape-shifter that keeps evolving in unpredictable ways.
Dark as the inside of a clock,
One boy whose voice I share
The scare of waking up a girl
You follow a river: furloughed, dreams dashed.
Just say the name Grayshot, Hampshire. Disability not the end of the world but of the road.
          Features pieces Flora Thompson wrote. & I younger would not, could not have lost 
          a book: yet now we cast a subdued, psalmed look.

I WRITE from my eyrie
The iris of an eye:
Looking outward waves of purple,
Waking to an anguished history day by day
I will pray out the time until nightfall
The hand shaking, steady fire, inner choir.
Don’t tell me men are walking on the roof
I have lost faith
          Comes hard as to the sparrow  
          dashed against a window.

SOFTSPOKEN is one of my favorite words
So when you come home early—what a surprise: flowers, sweet treats:
your voice mingles with my helper
Ropes slacken
I rehearse reaching out my arms:
Purple flowers will soon fill them
We will begin to talk about evening; we will never end but continue discussion
how we can overcome
The eighteen months in a bed that lifts up & down with a button
          An escalator from hell to heaven:
          On the way we pass gorse, heather, children let free of hospitals, beckoning.

LIFE WAS GOING SIDEWAYS  body beating up on me
Brain marks on my back.
That soft thumb imprint which lasts awhile.
And I could not smile
Despite having ripped the veil off this mysterious disease.
Today is not the time for songs of the opening rose
Trembling is a sign of strength:
So I tremble, am trembling, am troubling the waters of a childhood
          More wrinkled than words can convey, so I beckon:
          Perhaps on  lips without first down, the child merely whispers 
                    to his shadow, to his deformed reflection in the icy pond.

WE HEAR BEAUTIFUL music & tend to clean up the past
Auschwitz had an orchestra
After playing beautifully
They went back to their cells
In freezing Polish winter the cold biting like a saw.
Unending flatland all they saw
Visiting neither hospital nor funeral
          But now falling on then, one, all
          In striped pyjamas: no experiment can rechoreograph the past nor its dark intent.

                                   THE DARK DIVINE
When I get over my exhilaration,
I shall be in thin gray terrain, gauze air:
Each willow branch weeping, like
To the touch willow are the very soul of slim.
Still fasting
The afternoon:
All my promises cannot be kept
                                                      Home sounds like a subaculear sanitorium:
I cannot get to the end of the beginning: you lift your bow to the violin. 
Abuse is hidden, adagio like the wild-throated bird open.
I FEEL I WALK with those people In, Slovakia, bandanas, head rags are in.
I got into a dark heroin cut?
No! the doctors got me addicted
Then dropped me
Notes came: I played the record till it was paperthin:
Delivered by courier “for personal reasons Dr X. . . is no longer able, he recommends…?
My beloved (my celebrity photographer) said
“I want to burn the factory down!”
Years later we learned of the reversal

                                                       No street kid, I remained bedded:
I love with words & her: the wild fox fur along with the god-touch brought near, 
brought me clear.

PICK UP the stones over which we stumble, build altars:
Political flashpoints dim:
Death is not in the rearview mirror. Not any longer. I am stronger.
Trees bleak green nearly black, brackish
I was a feral child
I couldn’t be contained.
I needed an exit strategy:
A gaming child
A shy but wild one

                                                        I lost more than I won at age twelve. 
But Life had just begun to batten me I felt the trees          
orating survival, survival: in my heart I listened to a little church in Florida, gospel revival.

THE FAULT lines of every century
Rise to the highest
In the moment of the world.
We need. Not be grumpy
We can grope
For forgiveness:

                                                       I want you, spire & soul, sword of St Joan
It is such a morning that every brick is limned 
by crystal light.
A Belavia airline boarding pass from Dubai to Minsk left under a birch tree. 
A child’s overalls abandoned next to the old rail track, linking Belarus with 
Poland. An eye shadow palette hidden among brown, damp leaves. 
(New York times November 18 2021)
AT FIRST the native of the swathe of ancient forest
Could not look the migrant, struggling, I the eyes;
A remaining swathe of primordial forest.
Listening to WWII broadcast
Victory day began with violent rainstorms
A translucent, transcendent number of words.
Tapes. In the high pine forests of the snowy Cascades. Glacial moraines.
The light is shrinking to midget.

                                                       Cold, soaky weather, almost serpentine:
Day is privation & no dark-talk, 
the stark divine.
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.

Strongin’s work has been featured recently in UK’s "Poetry Kit" as well as winning second poetry prize in ART4US, in DC, for "Flowers Swallowing Bees." Mike Maggio said of it: "This poem uses language and imagery in new and fresh ways. Language flows across the page almost like the bees it evokes. . ." She has been featured in Brett Alan Sander’s blog with her cycles "A Wondrous Thing" and "Saturday Afternoon Taffetas." A chapbook, SLOW DARK FILM, was recently published by Right Hand Pointing.
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