Shine on, victory moon
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
right hand pointing
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:
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
Children twelve & under
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
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.
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.
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
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
I lap the sights
Lock them in my vision: I am going thru a life-change that has ladders of grieving.
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.
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
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
When the sweet hollow cough is no longer in the room,
Frost biting memory
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
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?
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
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.
I make my dark nest,
I lay my bright dress
Lay out the shadow of the body
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.
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
Put out gainst darkness of morning. War accustomed me to rations: I rip out an hour for an outing.
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).