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  Lynn Strongin
   
     

 

WORLD WARD II

 

(again for Cassandra & Suchoon

in thanks for listening)

 

© December 2006

Lynn Strongin


 

CONTENTS:

PART ONE: Prince Ishamel, Caspar Hauser

Saint Francis on a Disc of Snow

Sometimes, you get really Blessed

Once, I wanted to go home again

Little Bird

Divisible Street

Caspar Hauser I

Caspar Hauser II (“where there is no nerve there is no altar)

Wick

The Patience of Iron     of God

Mullioned Window

When one chopstick is longer than the other

Thin windows in children’s prison

Fold-after-fold

Nerve Pain & Tallow

No Fears Team can Iron

A Scythe in the Bone

 

PART TWO: World Ward II

Stop at the White

Iron till Steam Triangle Cools

Our Breaks, Blunders

Hunger Took me Out

Wick

North & South

“You Can Touch my Wings”

Stained Glass Quilt

World Ward II


 

PART ONE:

Prince Ishamel, Caspar Hauser

  

Saint Francis on a Disc of Snow

 

            A wood drawer slides open in the iced house: Icicles drip from stone:

            snow covers porch ceiling albino like bone: & it is

            still falling, whirling in an updraft, lifting as mother will soon:

 

If anyone from hydro is listening,

our submarine cables

are frozen.

 

(Soldiers do not write often of war

children of ward-

life.)

 

I would not

trade my life

with anyone. Listening to Mahler.

 

When death

solves

the insufferable dilemma of our mother’s life, will she not

 

rise

feather-after-feather                  stayeth off death, pinion

under sing

Pure oxygen working for her in place of lung breath, that sombre minion, mission?


 

 

 

Sometimes you get really Blessed

 

Pewter-light spins a halo-plate:

a closure of desire:                    winter sun’s  bluish a wheel &

a mother is released

a shaft at a time

 

Rub your two hands together like blocks of wood: ignite sparks.

 

Encouraging a sense of forgiveness & healing

she does not know if she’s

ready:

flakes whirl on a stack of snow,

then eddy:

she reaches up for more water  asks will any love her now

(snow owl drifts in on silent pinions):

then her hands let go

stainless

silent

as

bone-marrow.

 


 

Once, I wanted to go home again

 

Before  snow, came frozen rain,

a forty-year magnolia tree

was bent & broken.

Snow-Shut-down

compass-drawn circles of silver

icicling,

measuring the perfect round

eternity to step thru & on

as onto an airstrip:         One war’s done:

A new one comes

millennial:

Airfields spin                  blue cannon

Snow-plants Munitions-plants appear botanical from jets:

            air letters go—

                        The Little Ice Age glows

                        sheer unrefutable Fate: First holds erect on stilt like poles, ccopper-wires leans

            Before the water

            once again seals over, makes it bend in.


 

Little Bird,

root-grubber in planter dig on:

 

dream maps you design.

Radio Head I’m

 

a sombre color

 

While others

tunnel thru ice               this will suffice:

 

I travel 360 degrees on one dot fixed on reverie terrain:

We have always lived on Division Street:

            You going                     out tall, might & mane:

            me staying home in the brandylight, with the potted ferns & the heat

            By force of Fate—if no heavenly plan.


 

 

Divisible Street

 

One of us keeps watch till icy dawn

the rose on the vest I wear        burning

open against gunmetal heaven.

 

My other stands watch  keeps a vigil

early years in Yugoslavia swirling metals on blood sky span:

watching, wearing quilted down

 

When I blink awake watch-

fires in clouds beyond cannon

burn red           exchanged for dawn

not an earthly

but an

otherworldly

scarlet

crimson

dawn    I reach with my finger,   translucent under fingernails burn blood moons.


 

Caspar Hauser I

stabbed to the heart

appearing in Nuremburg’s town gate, bleeding thru his quilted vest of roses

 

could not be more alarming       than hours are now: iron doorknockers on Eternity..

Beyond the trees

 

from bed she see          red sky piercing  eyeball

Weather bomb

over the River Charles.

 

“What is wrong/” I ask

knowing there is no way

we can move the clock hands back on the heavy Gothic Town Clock

 

to the hours

when we played with red wood

toys, dolls, clothespins before a white window.

 

Grotesque, the two clock hands of beaten metal:  forever kiss, a twisted kiss:

conjoined twins

not  lovers, Leonardo Da Vinci airport behind, locked in their glacial bronze.


 

Caspar Hauser II

 

Where there is no nerve        there is no altar

 

Where there is no nerve            there is no altar:

What nearly killed me seventeen years ago

didn’t even graze you

 

compressed

breast

in metal.

 

An Asian man

wants to carry me

around in a velvet room.

 

*

Phoned the butcher for Christmas turkey.

He’d had a flood

over wood sawdust-shined floor. The locker wasn’t well sealed:

 

blood

mixed with water was dripping

into the shop below:

 

A quilt & dollhouse shop.”Nightowls”

I cut our connection.

Blood in a dollhouse.

 

Isolated

in snow-globe, I’m

hearing waves lap, then freeze, thinking of Prince Ishmael.

 

            Theatre? The thrill of getting it right

            or wrong

            in public.

 

Flood. Bone & Gristle: God or Mammon:

Where there is no altar, there is no nerve

There never will be one.


 

Wick

 

You have a past

as lovers do.

Wick.   An ice-light in the sky.

 

Everything I cannot do

I’ve severed, or accomplished

by  muscle, Imagination.

 

In a building

beyond time

in circumstances nobody could understand:

 

Surviving

has its own

pain.

 

Mother?

Her aid “hides” around the corner of

the “L’” shaped room

 

“L” Not for love

but

for lost

 

Her daughter, her golden-girl half a year in a dusky ward:

drawer

to be slid out: all the instruments botanical plants ashen.

 

 

Let’s face it:

She’s flammable, socketed:

She is down to the wick            & has no past as lovers always do

            to look thru proud: ancient oval mirror slightly swinging, candle-lit.


 

The Patience of Iron,             of God

 

She rides the cutting rim of pain

with precision of a Swiss Army Knife:   incisive, frightening

as anything that won’t quit. Exacto.

 

Bearing before me

girlhood

like head of St John on a platter

 

or early childhood years:

like a Chinese

toybox

 

an albino candle

in the pre-

ward    handful of years walking:

 

post-war

time. (Hitler & Himmel hobnobbing across the ocean.)

Hummer’s feeders in our winter porch hung

 

 

liquid ruby, crimson in the crystal cold:

The Glazier rolls past, chains on his wheel hitting rock-crystal ice: Black ice. One cuts with an Exacto knife:

One life will suffice.

 


 

 

 

Mullioned window

 

Plate Glass “Cambridge Antiques” holds a rocking chair spilling with Steif toys:

black sheep, bears, chipmunks with glossy bead eyes blaze.

 

The shopkeeper is a woman

who pads, black stockinged feet on red.

I’m not a woman

 

in wheelchair & mock-fur

but a girl-child

fifty-five years               before here:

            in a children’s ward       stretching

            for white light,  piercing shaft: no toy, but flute’s dark loss to play, gloss to kiss song from agony.


 

 

The original little red wagon has become a classic in continuos production for over 70 years, an American toy industry record. The Classic Red Wagon is the largest steel wagon and features an extra long handle for easy pulling. The durable steel wheels with real rubber tires offer a quiet ride. The no pinch ball joint and the no scratch edges keep finger safe from harm. A no tip turning radius prevents tipping.

 

When one chopstick is longer than the other

it’s hard to grasp rice.

When one leg’s longer than the other

you trip on ice

 

which slips beneath the feet.

For my thirteenth birthday I got new rods.

 

In photographs we tried to disguise my wheels:

I was a girl

 

not porcelain                 but pearl:

 

No steel & wood

“Radio Flyer” ball joint & no-scratch edges       rather

 

crutches

Sister Kenny had designed: my world off-rhymed, slant, harsh.

 

I looked up Hacksilver:

“Medieval scrap silver melted down for recasting.”

 

Hammerstone:

“Bolt, button, clasp, cloak fastener.

The first wheelchair was wood it had scant grasp”

 

One Dark Sabbath slip of the lip           cost the cloth, the life    failure of hasp.


 

Thin windows in the children’s prison

lit one amazing save:

brown-yellow as old nicotine Russian grandfather’s lung-love

 

thin as isinglass slices

of Slavic black pumpernickel bread.

 

We kids--our prize came in

ribbons of steel

 

Hard to wrap our minds around:

We went to sleep

 

in one cell

woke in another one

 

going on radar, illness a blip on the screen

Such our transport        our transportation:

 


 

Fold-after-fold

of linen

 

wrapped me as girl-child.

Wild nights.

 

Feral, foxfire

noons lit my tongue

 

Failed-after-failed virgin:

 

love

wrapped me as woman.

 

I learned to roll my narrow cell

keep rolling:

 

Indigo child

 

into a ball

to pummel world, now flat, now rounding.

 


 

Nerve Pain & Tallow (polonium 210)

 

The radiation people.

 

Depend-a’dor” rolls past. . .as I wait at the bus shelter

J’s wife has undiagnosable nerve pain.

 

 

This nerve pain--It comes from another world

it seems

just when she thought she had found God.

 

The poisoning has left a cloud floating above Anglo-Russian relations.

The bone marrow is dissolving

no more white cells

all hair is gone

trembling ensues.

Brother Donkey is half done.

 

At the bus-shelter a woman chatters about the “Royal Wippineg Ballet”

“Emory” the blue heron cranks over.

American textbook letters         loom in cumulous clouds & mare’s tails.

 

Up the hill & down the hill:

North side covered with ice shell--hell

the great unwashed

 

floating in a cloud:

South side whistle-clean

blue ice.

 

            Tallow for Saint Tom.              

            (The last Chinese Take-in we got was done in wax.)

            the sides of the candle contain globules

            maps of deformed lands:           the flame spits:

            the nerve-man comes, arrows to target whom?

Nerve-pain & Tallow-Candle-Hill slid white against the night are melting.

 


No fears Steam Faith can Iron

 

We live only in this box of bones

drawn by a string of air:

jaw to footbone:

A wrinkle which cannot be ironed out comes..

 

You tell me of the “vestibule”  in your childhood: I tell you of mine

a delicious collection of little things:

roots in jars, rusty nails, antique buttons;

hungry for intensity

driving the tongue into the socket:

 

These many eroded things, small, charm:           stone porches with glass

rubber gloves, old iron rakes, rusted, Radio flyers.

Delicious

cream in the cold coffee

December first.

The radiation people are flying under Leonardo Da Vinci

clouds

Moscow to London.

 

Eggshell-springbells wind round & round

the great unwashed rising in albino towers in my dream:

Still

another wrinkle develops

 

            The very difficult final years return

            an eggsheen gloss covering them:

            Natural & supernatural fears

            cannot be steam-ironed

 

            Faith, we have none:

            That cloud from the iron’s another disease rolling in.


 

A Scythe in the bone

to feel the marriage slip away

sand

quicksilver

When you came to me my rehab was still locked in place

from childhood.

Now slipping its lock & bolt,

geographies in sandgrains.

But oak, polished lectern

the books:        and above all,

the two sons endure-- are carved in stone.

 


 

PART TWO

World Ward II


 

 

Stop at the White Light,

A sale of ancestors’ relics are  piled

in orange crates.

 

at a wayside

where are burned

tires to keep blood warm:

 

Carbine

flare:

Old Joanie doll from our knotty-pine first-floor landing.

 

“I want white toys for my mice for Christmas” said the child.

 

In a forest of felled oak branches tables are piled with old snow

as for a feast

outside a restaurant       a site diners have abandoned.

 

Stop at the black

stair: Go at the green.

Stop at the white

 

            the string plucked

            the goods stacked

            the song sung.

 

In Medieval cold

wearing colors of the Middle Ages

I look up again stop on a dime:

 

A cloud wrapped the feathers

I don’t find God.

            Instead, Sabbath Snow aisles of emotion constricted, narrow:

instead              drained emotion of        Low Bone-marrow.


 

Iron till  steam-triangle cools

 

Affection may

flourish at the sweep of a pen

then be flattened.

 

School wax & wane. Strike till you’ve had things

out

harsh & bright

 

with God: Then

strike till the light is white

the songs get brighter as the dark crystallized:

 

My twelfth summer glazed to

stone urn:

filled, not with grains of sand,

 

but afterburn     ashes

of the best girl

I’d ever held in my arms.


 

            (for Cassandra, on reading about your childhood)

Our breaks, blunders 

 

The cracked teeth         blown out of my mouth from a fall on marble

when a crutch slipped at age thirteen

Dante, a sapling, fur on the upper lip. Beauty is in the breakage of porcelain.

 

Mirrors cannot lie.

We can roll them away

backswing them

 

give me back the story

of long legs

taking hills

 

the way the army

took

the girl, like taking back the soul, on judgement day.

 

Cannot

you

see

 

when they rolled me into the ward

I scrolled

down the list of wrongdoing, my tongue began:

 

“I am a child.

I

don’t belong in a grownup ward”

 

It was then, dazzled, & dazzling them:

like a tumor

fear was growing alongside ecstasy?

 

No

I never found God

but how prove

 

he didn’t’ find me?

I found

a tree                from fork to topmost branch rocked oceanleaves, observed

 

the way

a suburban road

dropped away

 

a ribbon

from a bonnet

no longer necessary, like knees & hands & a pew, to pray.

 

The girl

learns to sway:

the boy’s stalk grows stronger every day.

 

What dropped

was hope

with the mercury

 

sealing

silver

garrets & all I had to say. I was becoming odd.

 

Attic

& orchard

turn into a mystic’s sanctuary.

 

You ran with your dogs

I ran with my

gray

 

companion,

melancholy.

Later, impatient with orthopedic device & my infirmity.

 

Up north

an exile

a refugee—voluntary—I see:

 

After snow

man & woman

tremble forth

 

fragilely

like man & woman

from the Swiss clock house: the sundial says Hour Zero “Mystery.”

 

Downeast beauty is in Mother’s old robe, iron-blue

which she wiped her hands on

after doing dinner dishes

 

till the hips were worn

with holes. Now she has an ache in hip socket & palpitations. She bore two boys.

Homely beauty’s is in the box for Salvation Army.

 

I take my

genius

to the garret & try

 

pen

& paper

dotted Swiss organdy, frayed, throwing shadows on the mirror’s other side.

 

Roughclad saints find bliss in The 40 MPH sign

turned upside-down by snowstorm

beauty in the swan as in the wren’s eye. My disfigured teeth.

            And when you die

& when I die

we will enter the Iron Hour: Eternity.

 

Lynn Strongin

December 2, 2006


 

Hunger took me out

 

Hunger took me out:

drove me home

Thirst keeps me soldiering.

 

You climb into a tall four-poster bed.

You are a child.

A moon full as a bowl of candle oil

 

A small person  surrounded by large persons with huge shadows

 

your blond

tool-kit

your wit:           feet knit path to school & home from it.

 

Lutheran Swede

drawn between harsh

& tender God, shaded by church-going.

 

Phrases that must never leave one:

You write an extraordinary poem

to push the wagon.

 

Hunger

is

a cart of children.

 

Cold

is driver

of the pure.

*

How dare         write of final hours?

This earth’s scary: this

is no home.

 

I’d run

catch the lash

of pain.

 

(Everybody has a shape

& current

a depth & shallows.)

 

When the ultimate hour comes,

Will you be walking one of the dogs?

a smooth & one a feathered one? Bred to run & shine.

 

It is amazingly small town

the world:

born into.

 

Three White hens,

shepherds, &

the lullaby-person.

 

Woods reflecting fireplace flames,

face reflecting emotions

oval mirror framed reflecting emotive face, the four-team of feelings:

 

It goes

in smoke

in snow

 

tall

to the reality you know

vulnerable.

 

Artists live in history

which

none can touch.

 

Gunmetal

bronze

falcon

 

like rooster

on the

weathervane:

 

Organdy

bedroom

curtains luff out & in:

 

one so hard

one

comforting

            Love has long been the leading line

            such

            that you drink it up as from a cup.


 

Wick

            aliveness.

Mystery deep as ever:

I want to wake & shake sister to say     for half a century I have lived in half a body.

 

Translucent Mozart plays.

 

No more gnarled night

than when I realized

I was paralyzed.

 

Slowly, like crystals it dazed:

 

Lustrous events:

flicker the wick wire,

fire higher & higher.

 

            Sweet Jesus & Harsh God

            rock me:

            At the rim of language, I plunge in: Deeper & deeper:

 

Spoon sleep:

air

settings.

 

A change from life into eternity. Then,

 

Our great dignity’s tested by death

I mean our freedom.

To set one’s foot blissfully out of this world                   when the 'parting of ways comes.

 

            (last three lines are a paraphrase of Thomas Merton)

 

 


 

North & South

 

You live

downSouth.

I live upNorth.

 

Dixie’s riddled with superstitions

colander

the bayous:

 

I wear a black dress

as Emily wore white:

She color of dawn

                        Me of night.

                        Both epiphany.

                        An ecstatic child, birthed in melancholy whose horizon was Eternity.

 

 


 

You Can touch my wings”

 

Peacocks in Ice

 

Today first Sunday of advent                 Sabbath  after ice storm

See one bedraggled

peacock one peahen     not behind bars but on a jagged fence

 

in Beacon Hill Park, closed at the height of the storm:

outside the children’s zoo:         beyond bars on wood fence

his cobalt frozen

 

her olive-greens

shimmering.

At close range. Statuary. Sanctuary.

 

I recalled disparate things          Little windows lighting up in  peacock’s eyes:

my late beloved who couldn’t tell a lie. Next

the boys stringing fairylights above meatfreezers at the market

 

then the child playing an angel who said

“if you’re gentle

you can touch my wings.”

 

Last Swedish girls all blonde & Lutheran

in Florida

candles in their hair for Noel.

 

“Take then off. Blow them out!” I warned the girls.

“You could catch fire.”

They smiled, bland angels on Christmas cards.

 

They went out into the wild Southern night

 blackout on horizon.

replaced by ward children         who burn for all time:

Honored past language

we yearn for the fire-born, for what loneliness cannot repair with speech

for things beyond.


 

Stained Glass Quilt

 

Circleville, Ohio:

(Ohio, Japanese for good morning.)

Bet has done a stained glass quilt design:

 

“leading” made hand-dyed

her first attempt

at stained glass

 

My first attempt

at crutch walking

I held handles like glass rails:

 

dark as leading

in Chagall’s Jerusalem windows:

parallel bars, my fist of nails.


 

World Ward II

i.

Iced Peacocks: after the world war

            Black dress.

            remind me of the year in the ward. No homesickness.

 

We were flesh with souls, we were firefox:

Paraffin

with lamps:

 

We were spines

with cut

connections.

 

Telephone poles

with no wires

between.

 

 We slept in cots, clip-boards at the end            spelling likely fate: we could spy on one another. We glowed after the master switch was thrown

we had swallowed radium

 

This children’s military insulation was high on a high near West Point. We were wakened up at five a.m.

icy cold aluminum bedpans slapped on bony buts, the paralyzed wounded, called by last names:

 

blue blocks

of frozen

feet       toes waving, or paralyzed: flag of spirit flung.

 

Mercury dropping

soldiers

rarely talk of war                      of death, ward-children.

 

Yearning to be with other kids

intensified:

consummation.

 

The soil in Europe

was

still smoking.

*

 

Why do I return

& return?

To kiss them on the cheeks, to say goodbye to them.

 

We learned the quick

grab

from the older kids & on stairwells on plinths, smoking. Taking deep lung-drags in Reese jackets.

 

Maps of streets leading to brick primary schools:

schoolrooms smelling of vanilla, butterscotch blond floors, snap-maps of Italy glossy clay-based papers scrolled down            enchanting: maps of Ireland

 

woven, inlaid

brick

in our temples with the blue veins.

 

 

Such pride as the Head Matron’s could simply step down

fueling

us. Farmable airplane lighter. Corners, night agony, tucked in sheets.

 

We could have a nightmare sleep

bookmarking dream:

still triumph in day. On shoulder-wheels, Stryker frames.

 

The Brothers Betrayal

Body & Soul

fisticuffing:

 

Sixty years later

body memories

of the ward return:

 

links,

braces, couches, buckles, hosts

aids

 

edges scrolled with these. But illuminated

the sides

of the Medieval manuscript however, one nurse’s love.

 

Renaissance:

Rembrandt.

I am old.   .I am carved with sleep’s geographies

 

eyes still green

but

more opaque after two cataract milkings. A clarity is gone

 

yet more

clearly than ever

these lands return:

 

the buckets

of dawn

the military salute of matron.

 

The Fifties:

soup for lunch

two New York girls

 

from eastern European background

Mittel-Euroepans

 

one on crutches

one with violin bow

home for lunch from P.S. 87

 

A chorus of Holocaustal

voices

came home with you, little sister.

 

ii.

 

How do a sketch for a Botticelli?

Color is necessary.

I was a twelve year old with budding Botticelli

 

Primavera

Pear-shaped breasts

now the issue of desire.

 

The scar-tissue

of fire

rended.

 

Lilacs

in a doorway

ended.

 

The way I sat on the edge of the bathtub

when a girl

walking

 

folded

like the ironing

board

 

you can

touch my wings

if you are careful.

 

In white sequins

dancing

in a porcelain bathroom.

 

Wanting to be riding the rim of a city in a bus:

embracing the

crystal teal        close & far from folk again

 

Which city would I chose?

Montreal?

Plattsburgh

 

those god-forsaken hamlets.

iii.

 

Grosgrain Sunday

followed by

winter Monday:

 

These four walls

this ribbed

sweater.

 

Had you had daughters

instead of sons

you might have dressed them in grosgrain ribbons, ink blue.

 

iv.

Pippi Longstockings

at age 11

 now 21:

 

is off to Germany for winter vacation

the hazel-eyed

& long-limbed

 

from shipboards clean as chalk in

old

Cape Cod

 

Will she land in Munich?

or

Frankfurt, a pool of murky metals.

 

What if earth’s burnt

black

brown & beige?

 

Making

dazzle

out of music.

 

Grosgrain

ink

blue ribbons, bowler hats gone into the Seine, the Hudson.

 

A writer of 67

hands cupped around coffee mug in Schraft’s

I blow smoke-rings

 

round

the age twelve:

to be 12 again, Ballerina, hospital child.

 

When you have two children

there are many ways

they can blow your cover.

 

Aunt in her mock

lambswool

jacket over the typer

 

you never

asked a question of her

what it was to be a child, post-polio, strapped on a tilt-table elongated by atrophy to a Giacometti

 

those years

you were

the cream of the crop

 

winter Monday:

hours long as the torso of a dancer

light short, December An Ember

 

Your waist was

cinctured

as my neck might have been by the loop of the iron lung.

 

v

I too have a flair for gossip

long days

papered with memory

 

violets

in a dormer ceiling

flooding down

 

to my feet

the gown

I never wore.

 

Firebox

Firefox

the girl flies over the land which firebombed our kin.

 

When my longleg braces

were buckled on

did I dream of being a swan?

 

No child to raise,

I scan catalogues

of grosgrain: standard, striped, polkadot

 

then

close

the album.

 

These four walls.

Iced peacocks.

Black dress

 

Caress: flying under Leonardo Da Vinci

skies

Canadian early December afternoon

 

sepia sunlight catching corn like a fork

neatest farmlands

this side of Holland

 

Afternoon pale

brown

as matzo, the burn-folds in it golden:

 

            An iron boat

            stands in a window                   reflecting like my half-smile, Mona Lisa:  Where will an iron boat sail on, what waves command?

            spinnakers reflected in cobalt windowpane?

 

 


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