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Shine on, victory moon

Lynn Strongin

poems

Slow Dark Film

please click on the pointing hand to read  the poems

Lynn Strongin writes out of pain and with persistence, like no other contemporary poet, and with a formal sophistication that takes us back to the modernists driven to invention by the transformations around them. It's no wonder that poets like Akhamatova, like Mandelstam, speak to her, speak through her.

–Jordan Smith, Author of Little Black Train

 

a
right hand pointing
chapbook

Copyright 2021 by Lynn Strongin.

All rights reserved.

Published in 2021 as a print
edition of 25 copies.

Cover image by Richard Fox

 

For Gail Owens


 

 

LUMINOUS, in my grasp

A glorious banister with gloss

So clearly held that I breathed easy

 

Moving through air green as water: then

When it slipped it was breathless: a lung-hit:

That quick-

 

ly taken. Eye-blink.

Like a mother’s hand from a child:

            I looked at it: etched in dark slow film: like the beloved hit by a semi:

            Asylum, forever mine

AFTER SLOW DARK FILM those hospital nights

In the vat of an auditorium

Re-purposed from the war

 

Breathlessly

Children twelve & under

Wheeled in

 

To our asylum:

We held it in our hearts

Close under our gowns, acolytes, athletes, amputees:

            Before Thalidomide                  eerie previews shot:

            Like Agent Orange deforming days are turned into this one sculpture of an evening:

slow dark painterly-grained film.

 

THE PROJECTOR wheezing like iron lungs

Left behind

In the ward

 

We caught our breath at the light

In which a thousand dust diamonds danced.

Copper disasters, minor crucifixions kept us awake nights.

 

The lamp was not bomb-proof

But lion-hearted children

Reinforced glass with vertical speed

 

            Our young bodies

            Which projected miracle on loss to blind our need.

 

OLD SHAFT keep away

Copper flowed here.

There’s a ripping film on things; this is scavenging. A timed burn. For women, timelessness wheeled on.

 

Suddenly, a brassy mineral shine.

On the hill

A small cottage.

 

Nails, strings

this is lacemaker’s asylum

Savior of mining, the blast; there was a door to heaven one could enter in; a hope-infusion

            But the last cottage industries

            independent living for women.

 
 

IT INTERRUPTS my sleep,

Asylum the dream of asylum:

Intermittent as deer on Snow Mountain.

 

Wide, mystical as the blue sky.

Spartan

This slim wonder of a book: a contemporary breviary

 

Stamen & pistil, flowering,

The earth is procreation:

Creation. In a cradle the bee cups honey

            The longed four, the filmed over, a deep caress

            The last word is always loneliness.

 

I ENVY YOUR browsing the small bay

Its little lace-like

Ins & outs, kiosks

 

Holes

Dives

Bookstores still going after half a century: up a step: Smell of vellum & coffee. The lid will blow.

 

In a sudden crescendo of violence

(Writes the newspaper)

One faith attacks another: not all is lost; gladiolas magical stateliness

            In the streets a rising glass-told fever:

            Then drops the thermometer. Heartbeats still Mercy. Whispers the little bird in the sternum “Asylum, forever.”

 

YOUR WORDS though brief have many mysteries

I trace wild horses in the clouds

Cloud-dust is stirred up

 

No stirrup

I lap the sights 

Lock them in my vision: I am going thru a life-change that has ladders of grieving.

 

A prism

Many colors swirling

Purged of anger, doubt

            How do purged & purgatory come together?

            There was hell in waking, now the calm of near-evening:
            juncos in their monk hoods mysteriously pecking for seeds near blossom.

 

TRACING Camargue, little wild horses in the clouds

Day is shadowed by tumors

When you worked in a nail parlor

 

Was after you were a line-cook,

A chamber maid

& made dozens of motel beds. In each day, there was a moment you became physically elevated.

 

A roll in the hay,

A dalliance with a dancer:

Born poor, sister to Harry born in Scotland

            You travelled back to that birthland

            your mother’s where you traced the little wild horse in the sky, where the pain let

up, the fever died down in the glass to settle for the time.

 

YOU ARE MY classic castle

Ice pins you down.

Five-foot drifts

 

Wind with polishing cloth,

I have settled all accounts

Must gloss with all but God.

 

A cigarette glow lights the gloom.

I find my way toward whom?

Written from Stone Gappe, a letter “Genius in Obscurity”

 

Charlotte Brontë to sister Lavinia.

I am an old hat at this

But cannot shake it off as a cat shakes drops of water from her fur.

            I love my hymn. My her, unsentimental as a blade of saw grass,

            Abides: the presence always leans in memory, now striding age grace, asylum at last in the brown-eyed gaze mine.

Shine, Victory, Shine

 

I KNEW I WAS like shale resting under a cornfield

Grew up partly in flat, swampy, sun-impacted Florida.

I am kept snug in mesh so the skin won’t bruise.

 

It’s lonesome as God crossing the hill

“Twist a squint across an angel’s brow"

The doctor’s tears in her claustrophobic office, another death.     Filmic.

 

I comfort myself

With castles

Teeth-eaten by wind

            Like raggy lace. These ladders, they do not lead out of the flesh.

            A field of shale under a cornfield: grew up in places in chainmail-circumstance, ardor my shining page boy, pale:

in mica-glint of sun on shale.

 

GHOST OF DAWN

By the time you bathe me

Morning’s gone.

 

When the sweet hollow cough is no longer in the room,

Frost biting memory

Away

 

What will be left?

Death interrupts indiscriminately

Silence is a way of knowing

            And we are left

            To sort the weeping ruins.

WHAT IS THIS reflection

On our wall

A block?

 

It is a mirror on a truck:

The oblong on the wall

White as a chalk cave

 

One wants to see the earth

Before the world ends

Not thin child riding horse, in reflection

            Many tiny upheavals in our lives

            Have made them remote: yet, what is this, you coming toward me with an embrace lowered eyes,

            sorrowing El Greco face?

 
 

GETTING used to you again,

Bangs in eyes, tall horse-back riding grace:

The most understated grieving, like Emily nowhere, now here:   mortal.

 

The book is open

There is one dot, in slow-grained film, one person in the whole     universe who is my own:

Hands on reins, leathers rippling satin. I wouldn’t burn the celluloid of          this film.

 

I have drawn you a nesting bird, for when you come home: a loop of twine

On her cup-shaped straw nest:

          Like so much of my memory it could take place in straw-roofed             Belgium.

            Just before opening: house lights dimmed: “You’re on!” audience now shadowed:

            I slip myself back to that split-second moment, held by the cup of nerved, tensile breathing.

 

WHY RUIN life for the dolls?

Mousy-haired

Pipe-stem legs              horrified by police who strode across a limestone courtyard:

 

Wind, guardian of powdered ash

Blows from their eyelashes

The sashes on their dresses.

 

The scissors coming toward me

Locks decorating beauty parlor floor

My gown         no acolyte, I am not a fire eater:

            I would become

            One running from, yet in for ruin.

 

THIS HASN’T been an easy year in our lives

Stars like beads of barley

The meagre coal allocations for the glasshouses

 

A red glow from the coke:

Because of your quirks, your complexities

Your generosities

 

Altogether spiritual genius

While I rise from the ashes of age

Swirling about me: a gull lands on weathered silver.

            You chose your two hours free

            To cross a bridge, photograph a house finch, the last late image crumbling on a fresco upon brick, downtown. I lay my bright dress to rest: prisoner of time.

 

DEFEAT

I make my dark nest,

I lay my bright dress

To rest.

 

Lay out the shadow of the body

Laced bone

Alternate vest.

 

Winters pale alcohols drift in the windows

Smudge like pastels the barn.

 

            The sheep staring blindly do some harm

            High-collared memories keep me warm.

 

THE CONSEQUENCES of my losing battle

Divide me from Edith Piaf

No regrets. Shine on, victory moon.

 

No soldier girl on tiptoes kissing her fellow on a railway platform.

Wind gusting

Blows back salt tears.

 

You are my Mississippi.

Vegs put in muslin bags.

The beloved sends a wee peek of a tiny Scottish island.

            A mixture of flour and dried household milk

            carries over unto evening smooth as silk.

 

IF LIFE is a sadness that unspools, a slow dark grain

My rising up is my bending

Down a dancer’s position

 

Silk flares

Put out gainst darkness of morning. War accustomed me to rations: I rip out an hour for an outing.

 

Night

Autumn

Winter best, my feast of energy, exhilaration. You hear the robin, see the fog. I feast on starvation.

            Snow falling upon the English robin who sings.

            You in raspberry winter, vest embroidered, mobile. breathless, in plan muslin, I wait my cue silent, I in the wings.

Lynn Strongin’s homeland is America. Her adopted country, Canada. She has twelve books out, work in over forty anthologies, has been nominated for a Lambda Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the Pulitzer Prize in literature. Work forthcoming in Otoliths (New Zealand) and Poetry Flash (San Francisco).