The Light at the Edge of Everything by Lisa Zimmerman


Time and again Lisa Zimmerman gives us exquisite lyrics, of a girl child growing, of a mother watching, of the violation that brushes against us, of the love that disturbs even as we survive this enterprise of living. This is a brave and lovely book of poems. --Meena Alexander

Lisa Zimmerman's poems are deeply humane meditations on joy, loss, love, suffering, but never defeat. The Light at the Edge of Everything is precisely that -- a reservoir of endurance and courage from which we can draw to make a world of luminous presence, through the daily practice of attention, amidst the complexity of living our lives. This is one of those rare big books, in that it offers the reader a chance to "love the story inside the body, / the strange and dangerous narrative." It gives you the courage to "walk out in your bare feet / across the reassuring grass / that will rise up again behind your footprints." -- George Kalamaras

Against a rural American background of horses, hay bales, scratchy junipers, and the refrain of coyotes, Lisa Zimmerman does her best to figure out the mysterious ties that bind us together -- parent, child, lover, spouse. And she fails, beautifully. -- Billy Collins


I Wish I Could Write a Poem Forgiving My Father


I don't know if you have forgiven him, brother,
for keeping our house tight as a military barracks
our beds pulled at the corners so snug a dime would bounce
though we were not allowed to.
Outside in the dry heat of Albuquerque summer
you pushed the mower over grass
already standing at attention.

In the laundry room I opened the noisy dryer,
pulled out the dozen bleached handkerchiefs
with his three embroidered initials on the edge 
and I starched them flat and folded them
and pressed the iron down again on each cotton square.

While our mother slept in a room with curtains 
drawn closed against the day our father took 
the sharpened clippers to the garage
and ran them over your head until you looked like him. 
Afterwards I swept up your soft fair hair
and did not look at your sad boy's face or the dust 
glittering in the air of the outside world.


Dog from the Original Fire

I have a German shepherd 
the sheriff's department would love 
for his giant chest, his hundred and twenty 
pound frame, his desire for honest work.

He helps me feed the horses
rummaging for mice behind the grain bin.
When the mares get pushy his bark 
booms across the frozen lake
and foxes slink away in their thin red sleep.

The growl from his throat
is prehistoric, a rumble from a black cave
where firelight breaks the rock in tattered shadows.
He knows there is danger in the world, and fear
is neither influence nor abstract.

When the doorbell sings its one chime
he looms quiet on the other side.
Being ready is a solemn job. He could do it forever.
In the cave of his ribs his heart is an ember.


The Slow Courage that Carries Us

For days in my head I kept hearing
the word burden but I wake again 
and again not carrying anything 
except a little emptiness the swallows in the barn 
fly in and out of.

Looking out across the lake I know
my parents were gone long before 
I felt the slow courage that carries us 
weightless to the next year.

Yesterday my husband pointed to a blur 
in the field and said fox 
but dusk had taken all the colors
into its dark mouth and I had to conjure red
from my own heart.

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