Also in this issue, Rika Lesser’s translations of Elisabeth Rynell


Photo credit for Rika Lesser: Photo by Perry Cohen


Contributor Notes

Rika Lesser

Rika Lesser

After Nine Months



Past death

and over the hill  

(my godchild

does not under-

stand “on the level”)

I begin to reclaim

my body, my youth        


is no ghastly exer-

cise of the imag-

ination, no exor-

cism of spirits, nor mere

wordplay   It is again

a discipline   A different

training   An






                                                   I no longer know                                                                      

                                           who died first your

                                                                  father or my mother  

                                           Or whether you and I, Polish

                                           sister gained in Sweden

                                           over three decades

                                           ago, are related

                                           by blood, no




I do not want simply

to find fault  

                      The  lines

are everywhere finer

or longer   Those of my

body strengthen   Mine


             Mine simply dis-

solves while extending

into the anima


              If such a thing

should ex-

ist    If I do still

If ever I did





                                                                                  (John Plant)


                                           Another friend writes of the death                                     

                                           of his mother   He has reworked his

                                           setting, “in the world of zero,”

                                           replaced the words his mother

                                           took to heart:  “we have no parents”

                                           Now they’re sung by a horn, not in

                                           his wife’s mezzo   He asks my

                                           permission, which went without

                                           saying   My poem one translation

                                           His music another   We are

                                           in this together now, Göran

                                           responds, more than ten years

                                           since his own mother’s death


                                                                                          I am

                                           nobody’s muse now that I know

                                           of   Nobody’s daughter either



9 September 2007






Lady, Weep No More




When I leave this world

I will leave this world

like my mother

a corpse on a bed

Attended, perhaps, by

helpers, perhaps

not   Women who


          or don’t any more


(When Mother died

I spoke with one who

put the doctor on . . . )         


                                                          Is that how it went

                                                          fifteen months ago

                                                          home alone I can’t

                                                          quite recall but know

                                                          I wept instantly          



                                        not hired to   any more   not here


allowed  “permitted”  “sanctioned”

so it is said in our

time, by our mores—

to do otherwise, ex-

press themselves, us all

(it would seem) other-



             weird” women,

becoming” women,

were they our sisters

those women who howl

the night through when it

grows still?  Some of them

surely—or merely

dramatis personae—

who can tell


                                   I have seen persons—

                                   stone-cold smiling

                                   marble faces—shed

                                   streaks of mascara

                                   wipe them away, swiftly

                                   recompose   They were

                                   not blood relations—

                                   neither mine nor the

                                   dead’s—they were wives


Back once again to the—

to my beginning, when

I began   (What does “End”

mean?)  Made by people who

made children—why?—to last

Born of woman, born last

of three, not one of us

had children

                       Sometimes the

circle simply closes:

hell, purgatory and

heaven coincide, the

frame dissolves, the mirror’s

surface is clear






Begin Again



Shell-shocked by particles

streaming, small and swift,

I lie on a seed-bed

planted with dragon’s teeth


What can be shed  What

saved  What time is it

Now  On this earth this

orb this planet we

all call home—Do we?


All of us wander                   

wonder more now than

before, even as

I want more and more

simply to dig in

root stay put in just

one place  Wherever

thoughts go

                     Into which

broken land, into

what loam shall I sink           

the tip of my tongue

its spear-blade and turn

the soil over, mull

over bone-shards and

diatoms, culti-

vate monocots

In the Neighboring Room



Late Schubert    Strong reserve

An absent woodchuck

An attractive man

in the neighboring studio, not

too attractive for he’s of an age:

Worried about his fitness, freedom,

position, maintains a distance

apart while conversing, ultra-

smart, thoughts racing, cold to the touch

(laments a decade of less than enough)


I feel--what exactly?--drawn to ex-   

tend myself   Toward him?  His brain?  His

type  The scent of pain   How well I know

how we can hurt each other without

intention (we’re here, cause enough, and

yet there’s no effect) and without

a doubt we do 


                          A cobweb builds in

a low corner that joins the screen

to the window frame, daily grows 

more complex, catching smaller and

darker specks   Draws my attention

to the center it lacks:  The spinner

remains unseen






7 August 2010:  In memory, again



It’s not that I look for death

It’s here with me all the time

A given the day of my birth with Mom’s

mother’s name   Now again with the thought of

your birth, five years before mine

your death, more than seven years back,




            the groundhog who comes to munch grass

afternoons at this time reemerges,

slips back in among riverine grasses,

chews heartily while I take pictures

as our father might have. . .   Suddenly stands--

russet underbelly upright, sunken

Crow caws   I can’t see the bird until two

or three land on lines strung above, crossing

the river   Cries, persistent, raw   Brown  

Gihon, rush softly, till I end my song








                       “We Swedes don’t like to share.”

                                   Ricki Neuman, at the conclusion of an interview for Svenska Dagbladet



That’s it!  The hard core truth

broke open:  an almond  

whose brilliance is diamond

My gaze, long attentive

fixed, staring, blinded

Am I like that?  Neither

gladly nor easily  

Absolutely not we 


Some of us, born elsewhere,

naturally take a neutral

stance, give as soon as get,

at times sooner   Train to

learn when   Are slow to make


                       You asked, too,

what I think of Swedish

poetry—as opposed

to American   I


do not