Elizabeth Kirschner

Just another WordPress.com weblog

MY LIFE AS A DOLL by Elizabeth Kirschner October 13, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — swalzer @ 2:28 am


by Elizabeth Kirschner

from I. Cuckoo

Why do I love the winter garden so?

Is it because I hear the dirge

of dirt, elegy of vanquished blossoms?

Whatever emerges at season’s end

comes from a harrowing heaven: yesterday,

I believed I was a wooden woman

with a wooden heart the wolves

would tear apart. I jerked

about like a marionette with

tangled strings—slash of claws, teeth

sinking in to rip the flesh off

my wooden bones. When I was four

years old, my mother pummeled

the back of my head with a baseball bat.

I remember the pain. I remember

hitting the floor like a scarecrow

that was a heap of broken straw.

This is why I love the winter garden so:

energy of enigma. Icy blossoms.


from II. An Itty Bitty Ditty

Pretty, said Mom

on the night of the prom,

but she meant my shadow

of bone, of shroud,

a net with hooks.

What did I catch?

boy after boy

who were out to enjoy

sweets for the sweet,

but I was dog meat,

and my body knew the pain

of hammers and saws.

I was a wishbone

utterly broken by boys

who poked and prodded

until my mind boggled

with mish-mash dreams

snagged in my bug-a-boo soul.

I was a voodoo doll

my mother stuck pins in.

Pretty, she said as though

I were a ditty, an itty bitty

ditty not even God would pity.

Ditty gone silent. Ditty

gone numb as a thumb,

ho-hum, ho-hum.


from III. Tra-la-la

In the psych ward, I remained

a dust-baby. One breath

would blow me into the four corners

of the wind. I clutched

my baby picture and my son’s

favorite teddy bear. Lions

walked out of walls. Howler monkeys

screamed their cries of grief.

It was all wave and wavering.

I watched the river from my window—

it was the color of mother-of-pearl

and the snow died in it.

I fell to my knees while remembering

how much my mother loved

the dogwood blossoms:

each was a pink velvet boat.

I was ready to be castaway,

but in what dark harbor

would I be utterly human

which is to say, hardly begun?


from IV. O Healing go Deep

My demons came inside the house

to attack with their black and red

scaled reptilian wings, a nightmare

of chimera. They flew low, screeching,

and I screamed so loud my husband

could hear me on the street.

He found me in a ball, fed me

meds, but still demons lit upon me

full throttle. They pushed me into a shell

and I tumbled, head down in death’s canal.

Wordless, hell was wordless and I

was in it. Eyes closed tight, I was a great

ocean falling apart. My bones snared in

sticky webs, my flesh as well. Winter’s ghost

flew into me and my soul loosened

like an eye from its socket. Elizabeth,

Elizabeth, came my husband’s voice.

Was that my name? Elizabeth, Elizabeth.

Wing and wavelength, breath surrounding

a star tree. Elizabeth, Elizabeth.

A foster self slowly came round, woke

to the world and cried, bye-bye, bye-bye.


August 11, 2009


Someone once said that writing a poem meant riding upon the pulse. It is a cataclysmic happening with all the synapses firing at once. In order to achieve the lyric poem, one must build a sky bridge, be connected to deep red earth and moody, bluesy stars. Create a cosmos and step into it. Get in, get out, get your pain over with, was Raymond Carver’s advice and it has stayed with me for decades.

With the lyric poem, there’s no stretching out on the backbone of narrative. The poet must fall up, not down, way up, let each line be a tree limb veined with bronze honey. Some limbs snap under the freight and weight of too many blossoms. Likewise the line—if it’s too ornate it will break. The violence of the mind, its maelstrom, can also destroy it. We are our own best enemies of the poet.

And in all that bronze honey, a flow of music, vast, celestial or a dirge, lament, elegy. The lyric poet must make music out of rough tools, be it a tin drum or the lyre in the sky amid winged migrations. Each word a bird in formation. It is this music that rules the form of formal formation in lyrical verse most of all.

I think: storm surge and purge. I think: poem as a tiny trauma. There’s some sort of act of survival involved. A drama, then, an inward explosion that sets off sparks that light up the lit lyric. Media res at the beginning, then leap, leap, leap line by line wherein language is always under the pressure of time and space. Perhaps creation is always in crisis. A risky business at best, a willingness to be flailed by failure. At least for me.

Always and evermore, the tension between first breath, last breath. Endings do come, sometimes swiftly like the lash of a whip. Other times, it’s more like a swan song in a destitute denouement. I’m often done in by getting it done. At the other extreme—ecstatic revelations. Or, the final end stop as a stab in the heart caused by a stab in the dark. I want to be beautifully demolished by the poems I write, to be impoverished by the riches I must bear. I end with this—the end of the poem is a crucifixion of the poet by which the reader is resurrected. A paradigm of paradox in a paradise lost, but finally, hopefully regained.

~~Elizabeth Kirschner


Roots And Wings: On Mentoring Poets June 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — swalzer @ 3:28 pm

Roots And Wings: On Mentoring Poets

Shared via AddThis