"Toward the end of Mann’s 'Tonio Kroeger,' the artist declares that for him nothing is “sweeter and more worth knowing than longing after the bliss of the commonplace.” Laurie Zimmerman’s poems are grounded in that same sense. She has a great eye for detail (a bird has “tiny noduled feet,” mussels have “blue doors, thin wings opening and closing”) and a great heart for the larger events of human life: “Celebration Fragments” is one of a group of poems about coming through breast cancer that are heart-breaking, celebratory and true. The tone is always modest, but poem after surprising poem is the work of a wise and humane new writer." —ED OCHESTER, Editor, Pitt Poetry Series & author of Sugar Run Road
"Laurie Zimmerman’s collection Bright Exit is a study in loss—loss of names, loss of identity, loss of relationships, loss of footing in the world: “Someone is saying goodbye. Someone/is saying I’m dying and hello.” But these losses do not drown the poet or the reader. Instead Zimmerman’s poetry provides a tender and sure kind of lift out of what could be despair. Her words move the reader toward an understanding that even such a collection of losses can lead us toward a new sense of self and the world around us all, and even as the last poem in this wonderful collection ends, and “the poem folds its wings/but another happiness/flies up,” readers get to fly with it, buoyed by all of these fine poems." —GILLIAN WEGENER, author of The Opposite of Clairvoyance
It's like when you see a child in an
standing at a light, sucking her lip,
waiting for the traffic
to pass and in one glance
you know her—
she's forgotten oranges at the store,
found a coin
in the bottom of her torn pocket and she's
from the coat lining, looking as if she's
just waiting for the light.
It's when you know for sure, the night's
having already claimed
you long enough and there was no dawn
with its bright rain
that grandeur beads your days’ frame, even
wishes for love. Sometimes it’s about grief marrying
sadness, the whole world gleaming and still
it has nothing
to do with the shiny currencies
In the dark you can begin
to feel yourself lean in like a hand might
tack toward what is there
even if what's there is all that you don't want.
around you then like a wind's sudden arrival
releasing the trees
for a moment reveals the opening
you can walk through.
(Cider Press Review, Vol. 17-4)
Stillness: My Reply
And when, in the city in which I love you,
even my most excellent song goes unanswered. . . .
Here in this village, where I’m learning
to forget you,
the worst of all we’ve ever said
replies to me.
I descend into the low meadow
along the Blackwater,
cross the deer-tunneled hayfields,
broad exposures of sun.
I’m lost here to a gentle clarity,
as wet seeds
muffled by earth.
I become a girl again, afloat on her back
in the water,
sculling through dazzles of current.
I drop my histories, move from you
through gold tassels, past crumbling tractors,
the stony graffiti
of glaciers, birds in their churches of leaf
along the licked paths of river,
its edges of chicory and pickerelweed,
into the layered
quiet countryside where I am safe.
You are an old wound. You lift off of me.
Just as the body
eventually rises from its pallet of pain
one way or another,
I lose all memory
of you, your face shapeless, skin
every hour of your hard wingless grain
a dome of ice, unreflective
My lips forget your bruised scent, ache
at the back of my mouth
when you kissed me, it rests.
See how the light
off the tops of my shoulders is gold,
how the field shimmers
through each curl of my hair?
Rejected by rain, known only by finches now
aloft over yellow walls of fieldstone,
my anonymity simplified by stillness,
by forgiveness of myself,
in the quietude this close to silence,
despite bird-hymn and bee-hum,
if you listened
you could hear me closing my mouth.
(Oberon Magazine, 2015)
I'm not waiting, I'm leaving
fast, going outside, leaving
with my one bag unzipped,
a piece of a blouse hanging
from the outer compartment,
leaving and knowing
there won't be goodbye,
clutch or slow tug
on my lips, my hips
pressed into your
hips. I'm heading out
under the sun's angry brilliance,
the sky green with leaf-glare.
I'm packing my car like a pistol,
I'm under the gun, the hot air's
aggravation of larch fronds.
I'm crushing my bare feet against
your new grass, hearing the
water's reports from the fountain next door
I'm already missing, next door
I'll miss, windows that watched us,
watching now, I'll miss, water,
leaves, grass, rock-trigger path.
I’m loaded and locked into
the barrel of my car, far from
the porch where you stand, arms folded
over your Kevlar heart,
guarding the house of your missing.
(Poet Lore, 2013)
After the Marriage
Here I am in the yard
standing at the edge of the garden—
this used to be yarrow
tangling the stalks of black-eyed Susan
and the purple fizzed Joe-Pye weed,
and this, pink-cupped mallow,
over there a profusion of wild geranium
I would pull to relocate all summer.
Here I am before the shrubbery
of ragged forsythia, roots
crusted into a muck of fall leaves,
rake loose in my hand—
this used to be grass under my feet
and this, a marigold bed,
over there a yellow dog, two white chairs
turned toward the road.
(New Letters Award, 2008)
Laurie Zimmerman is the author of the poetry collection Bright Exit (Quercus Review Press) and the chapbook Hidden Branches (Carmarthen Oak Press). Her work has been featured in New Letters, Poet Lore, Paterson Literary Review, Cider Press Review, River Styx, Crab Orchard Review, Orion Magazine, Rattle, 5 AM, Oberon, Christian Century, Mid-American Review, Image, and elsewhere, and online at Verse Daily and the Academy of American Poets website, among others. She is the recipient of the New Letters Award in Poetry and the River Styx International Poetry Contest prize. Bright Exit, her first full-length collection, was a finalist for the May Swenson Poetry Award, the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, and the Washington Prize, among others, and won the Quercus Review Poetry Award. Five of her poems were nominated for the Pushcart prize. Her poetry has been featured on New Hampshire Public Radio and she was the recipient of a writing fellowship from the Univ. of New Orleans. She earned her MFA in literature and creative writing from the Bennington Writing Seminars.