Lynn Strongin

I Hold the Pen of Akhmatova in My Hand

Every day I wake to receive the world, as a little child.

One’s fragile inner life drawn taut by emotional conflict

Snapped on occasion.

The open secret of androgyny cast its luminous light its glow over all objects in the room.

My girl in mahogany

Lips pressed to another on a beach this side of heaven

I am drawn forward

Like burgundy thread from a spool.

How keep it cool?

My girl in oversize jacket, wing collar up around ears

Lighting a cigarette she appears, smaller than the jacket.

The memory, the grief, the wars

The dot of fire

Sparks my own memories:

Anna Akhmatova seems to hold my pen:

You will be a great Jewish poet, my great uncle from Romania said.

His words ring in my ear

Like a cymbal

As the grief

Like grayish Ukrainian rain comes down:

Her arms circle my waist:

Time stops while our kiss clocks in.

Lynn Strongin, born in 1939 in New York City into a middle-class Jewish family, contracted polio at age 12. She attended the Manhattan School of Music, Hunter College, and Stanford University, where she earned a Master of Arts in literature. In the 1960s, she lived in politically active Berkeley, collaborating with Denise Levertov, who described her as a “true poet.” Stongin has published more than a dozen books and her work appears in 30 anthologies. She has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, American Association of University Women, and PEN American Center. Countrywoman/Surgeon was nominated for the Elliston Award in 1979 and Spectral Freedom for a Pulitzer Prize in 2009. Headmistress Press has published two of her poetry collections: The Burn Poems and A Bracelet of Honeybees.