Lynn Strongin – Three Poems

Strongin LE P&W May 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing May 2023

Three poems by Lynn Strongin

Till I cup a spark in my hand

Till I cup a spark in my hand, cradled in ash
Till it flows like a rose.
The air is pencil-colored;
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
Till I cup a spark in my hand
Till it flows like a rose.

Unfolding as it should

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 bending like wax’
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 the windows wavy like wax
or water: a pine siskin gazed on the sad carnival, the puppets’ passion
Which has in our seventies become
A baby with blue fingernails rocked in the cradle in the corner.
Although a good girl-child
There is something wrong, askew, something one is afraid to mention
Like leukaemia which runs in the family,
like the ivy digging its ugly tiny fists
into the wood protecting our garden as it should
And like the dry rot one dare not mention.

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.

© Lynn Strongin

Lynn Strongin is a Pulitzer Prize nominee in poetry. A recipient of a National Endowment Creative Writing Grant, nominated twice for Pushcart Prizes, Lynn Born in NYC at the end of the dirty thirties, she grew up in an artistic Jewish home in New York during the war. Earliest studies were in musical composition as a child and at The Manhattan School of Music. Took a BA at Hunter college, MA at Stanford University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. Lived in Berkeley during the vibrant sixties where she worked for Denise Levertov and took part in many peace demonstrations. Poems in forty anthologies, fifty journals; Poetry, New York Quarterly. Forthcoming work in Poetry Flash and Otoliths.

Canada is her second home. The late Hugh Fox said Strongin is the “most exciting poet writing today.’ Danielle Ofri wrote to her, “you tear the veil off that mysterious disease polio.” Strongin’s work has been translated into French and Italian. Her forthcoming book is THE SWEETNESS OF EDNA. She recently received a ten-thousand dollar George Woodcock Grant for Writers from The National Endowment for the Arts. This grant has  greatly facilitated her work at the present time.

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