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  • Five Poems, Five PhotographsVol. 78, No. 1, March 2016
  • Lisa Zimmerman


I was asked once in an interview to describe my creative process. I said, "I'm just trying to record my astonishment." Like many writers, I am doing my best to make sense of what it means to be here in this world, this life. As a child, I was astonished, rescued, and saved by the natural world—by sad-faced dogs, horses in knee-deep grass, dark birds careening over a highway. Whether I'm writing a love poem or a poem about the war in Iraq, often there are creatures, branches, starlight that will enter into the poem.

I go on long walks with my German shepherd dog around our small lake and across neighboring fields and have taken dozens of photos of him. These photos are part of a series I have posted on Instagram called "Dog and—." I have paired some of these photographs with my poems.

Years ago, a poetry judge said about my winning manuscript, "She lives in the world as if it is the only one, the things of her life matter—the worth of each blade of grass, each bird, each dream." All I can say to that is, yes, yes, yes. [End Page 355]


for John

On the edgeless map of the reliable worlda man stands on the starthat is his house, his gardenunfurling in open fans—small blue prayerof forget-me-nots, raspberries leapingin the vine's imagination, fists of peonypromising their red abandon.

It is the porous border of summer,mirage of trees, cloudsfloating like years over the mountains.He has traveled far in his heartto come to this full quietto witness weather steppingacross the lake toward himlike an ordinary saint bringing the news:another whole day, loved. [End Page 356]

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Photo 1.

Dog and June Lake

[End Page 357]

Early Morning Poem for My Husband

Across dawn and sifted snowa fox has traveled. Blue lightcollects in the proof of his journey,a path vanishing beyondthe far field's white embrace.

Morning breaks in earnest, too coldto follow. Light creates its own silence.The stars dissolve to nothing, the moona gauzy afterthought.

Loss opens its book inside my ribs.Again this page, I say to no one.Not even you. [End Page 358]

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Photo 2.

Dog and Winter

[End Page 359]

Why I Love Watching My Dog Turn Around Three Times Before Lying Down

Because it's so definite.An act of faith. As ifto say, "Here, right here,"followed by that blessingwe so often long for: sleep. [End Page 360]

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Photo 3.

Dog and Sleeping

[End Page 361]

Perhaps the Truth Depends

on a walk around a lake, said Stevens.Perhaps my dog trotting ahead of me

on the path around the lake will find itfirst. He's got the whole world

in his nostrils. I think he's on a missionfor the truth but then we're both distracted

by a turtle's splash in the green waterinside towering stalks of cattails

and the redwing blackbird's notes slidingdown the ladder of its throat.

Perhaps the truth purrs in the engineof a small plane overhead or the soft

silver ears of mullein leaves that stop mearound the curve. Maybe it depends

on focus—blue needle of a dragonflyabove black-eyed Susans,

the rustling whip of a garter snakethrough waves of orchard grass

or perhaps in the way a blue heronstills above the shadowy water,

the gleaming fish of his desirejust below the surface.

(The Florida Review, 2016) [End Page 362]

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Photo 4.

Dog and Grass

[End Page 363]

At the End of September

The wind's leafy incense movesover the soaked ground, feathersthrough my horse's mane as she standsin the woven dusk on this curve of earth.So much green still reaching up...


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pp. 355-365
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