White crow's secret life book cover

Two Poems from
White Crow's Secret Life

Published by Pudding House Publications, 2009

From Day to Day

This year we had May in March,
March in May.

Somewhere between
slicing the duck breast
spooning on sauce
and serving
each slice developed
a faint green center—
mint julep field note,
guidepost, trail marker.
It was delicious,
no one got sick.

Follow a pantoum’s tracks to a secret
between Sisyphus and Cezanne.

Every Saturday
he took the subway
to his father’s grave
buried a racing sheet
and a cigar.
I miss that guy.

Let’s meet up on the perception deck.

The noon aria of the finch:
my call to prayer.

Today while the blackbird whistled
in the pine, I thought of the cross-hatched
face of an old Greek woman
who barreled into my house on Hydra
riffled through my mail.
I was washing dishes
and though ashamed of myself
held onto a soapy knife.
She was looking for foreign stamps.

Wild rose bushes are little dragons
tearing at my clothes.
I step out of my torn cloud frock
and run away with Matisse.

It is my density
to be hit by an anagram
and die. Henri throws blue and red
kisses, paints a flower raft
for me to float on, odalisqued,
into the next world.

In flower petal litter
I travel, rise out of a buttonhole
into my next life
as a Chagall painting,
my torso, a yellow cello.

In the lake
the deer sips
its reflection.



Originally published in Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders, 2008



An Ordinary Gesture
for Elsie Williams

In a basement corner, by tin tubs, Elsie, plump and
beaming, in her starched white uniform, sprinkles

water droplets over a lump of laundry, untwists,
spreads, refashions it into a damp and wrinkled shirt.

My brother and I sit on the cellar steps and watch
her smooth, brown hands guide the iron over the sleeves

and collar. She steers the hot iron like a boat over waves,
inserting the bow between the buttons, steam rises,

the wrinkles flatten, disappear. She laughs and we do too,
chatters about her husband, the niece she raised, her niece’s sons.

As her boat iron sails over a tablecloth, a pair of pants,
a swerve of river in a dress, words pour out of her

and we travel into the living cotton, silk,
gabardine, all the way into the human fabric.


All content copyright protected. © 2009, Jane Lipman. All rights reserved.