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  Lynn Strongin
   
     

 

WORLD WARD II

  

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 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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