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The Essence of Flimsy
(From a line by Kay Ryan)

What holds up the plane
is not thin air or engine fuel
maybe physics or faith
just words, not loft.
What holds up the pain
is my mind with its fierce cling
to the not-again, not-ever,
Good-bye, good-bye—

and if words seem to keep
the plane balanced thousands of feet
above my broken world
then I can rename pain
and call it hope or wish
or any other flimsy thing.

Sonnet for the Stolen Hour

Birds spiral down to the feeder
plucking tiny seeds from the tray
while you and I find sweeter
moments in the bedroom, the day
flinging open its shiny windows, all
its hidden doors. We sing
the body’s appetite, each small
sigh of hunger giving wings
to our unfastened breathing.
Years of happy practice has made
this a game, our lucky stealing
from time’s tight hold on the day—
our kisses undress the hour,
the birds flow down for more.

How It Adds Up

The pasture is lavish
on account of the rain,
frothy seed tops of grass
wave into the mouths of horses.

The garden is ruined
on account of the hail,
tomato plants peeled down to spines
with skinny arms, arms without hands.

The woman is empty
on account of his death,
her young husband telling his friend
Stop the truck so I can look at the moon.

How he got out and gazed up.
But the heart is stopped, his heart
in the sturdy frame of his chest,
right there beneath the necessary moon.

Her face is tearless
on account of the shock.
But others who loved him
broke under the sudden

weight of his departure,
in spite of how his leaving
involved a moon-decked sky
lavish with stars.


Copyright © 2011 Lisa Zimmerman

I earned my MFA at Washington University in St. Louis. My poetry and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in River Styx, Colorado Review, Redbook, Poet Lore, Many Mountains Moving, Atlanta Review, and Cave Wall, among other magazines. My poetry has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. My collection How the Garden Looks from Here won the 2004 Violet Reed Haas Poetry Award. My most recent poetry collection is The Light at the Edge of Everything (Anhinga Press, 2008). I am an assistant professor of English at the University of Northern Colorado.