You smoke before a window which lets out onto dark sea-sky marbly
by Lynn Strongin
I dreamed of Belgium where lace began threads made art by a nail.
Lace itself began working its way into my noons, a Jewish girl with European background.
The lump in the throat lamp in hall, kitchen.
To get to the other side
(with wit for file) knowing I’d not be missed
I piled parchment noons into a volume, ring-bound like the old wedding ring
on the dresser.
Driven thru years like a tunnel-borer::
To the light at the end pale as Irish linen.
Lynn Strongin is an American poet living in Canada. She has nine published books,
and her work has appeared in many anthologies and literary journals. A chapter of
her memoir, Indigo, was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her anthology,
The Sorrow Psalms: A Book of Twentieth-Century Elegy, will be published in June
2006 by the University of Iowa Press.
On “European Sailing”: I have always felt connected to the people of Belgium and
Holland as if I lived another life as a girl or boy of the lowlands years ago in the
Renaissance. The Dutch 17th Century paintings haunt me as they do many people.
Vermeer is a favorite. I was inspired visually to write this poem by Vermeer's “lace
maker,” and struck by the humble way in which elegant delicate lace is made: by the
bare hands, sometimes a shuttle, and a nail driven into wood. Growing up in New
York, I was “a Jewish girl with European background.” Poetry begins as a lump in the
throat; Robert Frost said that. I like the rhyme of lump and lamp and saw them as
balancing golden scales. Always the poet’s drive is “to get to the other side.” Of what?
Of vision, of life. To do this I wrote, piling “parchment noons into a volume,” which
led to the comparison with another bond, an old wedding ring lain on the dresser as it
might be in a Dutch painting. At the end, I drive thru years—an analogy to the
“European Sailing”—like a “tunnel-borer.” Why? in order to get to the light (at the end
of the tunnel). Here the country changes from Belgium to Ireland but it is the same
thing: the driving urge toward simplicity and art, a kind of inhuman perfection which
is lace and linen wrought, ironically, only thru life lived with the “lamp in the hall,
kitchen.” With the lump in the throat half the time.
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|Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary Literature
Volume 1, Number 1 (Spring 2006)
Copyright © 2006
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material published in the Apple Valley Review
are retained by the individual authors and artists.
by Lynn Strongin
You never want to have a baby. Didn’t we both say we were boys?
Once when you commuted New York to Philly
you thought you might be having a baby.
Your performances become meditations on the long reach of suffering
yet the audience was eating out of your hand.
You are holding an umbrella before a window in Prague
It is my favorite photo.
Rarely ill on trains, on horse & cart rides thru Paraguay when the cart collided with a taxi.
But you were sick on the ferry from Estonia to a small Estonian island
to perform for children in an asylum.
You had put weight on. You did not bow as low as when young.
Mother is ninety-one, is lingering eating up the inheritance.
I imagine you, girl-slender, opposite your husband bending over a bowl of rice, lines of chopsticks dissecting your wrist
years ago in Japan.
Often having seen earth from heights,
light is different the lack of shadows changes the color of things.
Human suffering up close could lose its impact on you but never did.
When our great uncle whose eye was de-socketed by war
died in a Catholic hospital in Paris you cried among all that yellow tile.
In Italy you gave coins to an old woman boiling a lobster in a terrifically big pot
Tokyo haunts: dim, then not.
I’ve scissored and framed it in the album. In its milks & sepia browns.
The album rests heavy as a dead bird in my lap.