The Poetry Kit





How-to Books





Who's Who





  Lynn Strongin




(again for Cassandra & Suchoon

in thanks for listening)


© December 2006

Lynn Strongin



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)


The Patience of Iron     of God

Mullioned Window

When one chopstick is longer than the other

Thin windows in children’s prison


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


North & South

“You Can Touch my Wings”

Stained Glass Quilt

World Ward II



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-



I would not

trade my life

with anyone. Listening to Mahler.


When death


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



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


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







Once, I wanted to go home again


Before  snow, came frozen rain,

a forty-year magnolia tree

was bent & broken.


compass-drawn circles of silver


measuring the perfect round

eternity to step thru & on

as onto an airstrip:         One war’s done:

A new one comes


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




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




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:



mixed with water was dripping

into the shop below:


A quilt & dollhouse shop.”Nightowls”

I cut our connection.

Blood in a dollhouse.



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.




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:



has its own




Her aid “hides” around the corner of

the “L’” shaped room


“L” Not for love


for lost


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


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


like head of St John on a platter


or early childhood years:

like a Chinese



an albino candle

in the pre-

ward    handful of years walking:



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



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


I looked up Hacksilver:

“Medieval scrap silver melted down for recasting.”



“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:




of linen


wrapped me as girl-child.

Wild nights.


Feral, foxfire

noons lit my tongue


Failed-after-failed virgin:



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.


cream in the cold coffee

December first.

The radiation people are flying under Leonardo Da Vinci


Moscow to London.


Eggshell-springbells wind round & round

the great unwashed rising in albino towers in my dream:


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



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.




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:




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


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


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






when they rolled me into the ward

I scrolled

down the list of wrongdoing, my tongue began:


“I am a child.


don’t belong in a grownup ward”


It was then, dazzled, & dazzling them:

like a tumor

fear was growing alongside ecstasy?



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




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



& orchard

turn into a mystic’s sanctuary.


You ran with your dogs

I ran with my





Later, impatient with orthopedic device & my infirmity.


Up north

an exile

a refugee—voluntary—I see:


After snow

man & woman

tremble forth



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


to the garret & try



& 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


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.




a cart of children.



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



to the reality you know



Artists live in history


none can touch.






like rooster

on the





curtains luff out & in:


one so hard



            Love has long been the leading line


            that you drink it up as from a cup.




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:




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


I live upNorth.


Dixie’s riddled with superstitions


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


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


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:


with lamps:


We were spines

with cut



Telephone poles

with no wires



 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


rarely talk of war                      of death, ward-children.


Yearning to be with other kids




The soil in Europe


still smoking.



Why do I return

& return?

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


We learned the quick


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


in our temples with the blue veins.



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


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



Sixty years later

body memories

of the ward return:



braces, couches, buckles, hosts



edges scrolled with these. But illuminated

the sides

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




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


eyes still green


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



one on crutches

one with violin bow

home for lunch from P.S. 87


A chorus of Holocaustal


came home with you, little sister.




How do a sketch for a Botticelli?

Color is necessary.

I was a twelve year old with budding Botticelli



Pear-shaped breasts

now the issue of desire.


The scar-tissue

of fire




in a doorway



The way I sat on the edge of the bathtub

when a girl




like the ironing



you can

touch my wings

if you are careful.


In white sequins


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?




those god-forsaken hamlets.



Grosgrain Sunday

followed by

winter Monday:


These four walls

this ribbed



Had you had daughters

instead of sons

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



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


Cape Cod


Will she land in Munich?


Frankfurt, a pool of murky metals.


What if earth’s burnt


brown & beige?




out of music.




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



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


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


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



I too have a flair for gossip

long days

papered with memory



in a dormer ceiling

flooding down


to my feet

the gown

I never wore.




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




the album.


These four walls.

Iced peacocks.

Black dress


Caress: flying under Leonardo Da Vinci


Canadian early December afternoon


sepia sunlight catching corn like a fork

neatest farmlands

this side of Holland


Afternoon pale


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?



Back   Next