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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Mom/the middle at the end; Covid Courtship 2020;

By: Lisa Delan

Mom/the middle at the end

I borrowed your pain and

the pills they sent

to subdue the orbit of


until gravity softened,

releasing the mass

of our bodies


When your atoms dispersed

my reflection fled,

the refraction of light

caught in a chasm,

a stylus trapped in a

hollowed groove

the turntable purling,


Now I sing to fill the

negative space,

to find myself

in the absence of form,

my farraginous face

a Rubin’s vase,


seeking countenance.

My nucleonic notes


composed of

incandescent hydrogen,

my hot core the

cadence of fusion,

rising in coruscant


I am Helios

driving my chariot

to horizon’s edge,

my flaming horses


not knowing myself

until across the vast abyss

Aristarchus named me sun.

Covid Courtship 2020


I met him in New York

as he waited backstage

like an eager fan

(or a stalker),

in my globe glow

dressing room

I leaned in too closely,

too confident.

I was swept in

our whirlwind encounter

and did not notice

when the air turned dry.

He wanted my breath

for himself and

wooed my thoughts

away from me to darkness;

if I dared look away

his fist closed my neck

reminding me that

I was kept.

Gaslit and alight

I fled his promise

(and proximity),

sedating my suspicions.

From one coast

to another he tracked me

from a distance,


I muted my trail

but he clung to my scent

as I swallowed the fear

I could no longer taste.

When he dulled of the chase

he tendered my life

mired in promise

but broken.

His stain lingers still

in my chest

bound by rib

our intercostal contract -

my air for his mark,

slipped under my pillow;

the shaded hollow

graying on the scan.

And now I count days,

and at night consume weeks

as the months tighten closed

where I let him come in.


(my marriage & divorce in 26 haiku)

we met at Bumble

where we ate breakfast for lunch

and danced with our eyes

I touched his shoulder

with an ease that felt bashert -

as if we’d moved time…

later in the loo

(after I‘d excused myself)

my panties came off -

in the parking lot

urgently against my car,

his hand raised my hem -

when he reached bare skin

his eyes began to glisten

(as did his fingers)

rapt with wonder and

bemused incredulity,

he purred, who are you -

Madonna or whore?

(the rhetorical question

of duality)

we spent the next night

finding G-d in his bedroom,

and named ourselves love

we wandered in awe,

found home in hotel rooms where

everything was new…

life was wrought with growth,

and with ardent transcendence

requiring expanse -

so we built a house,

and explored its dark corners

to find our shadows

we played with fire then;

clear cut the brush for safety,

but still were consumed

we forgot our names -

even before the chuppah,

we had gone astray

after that it rained,

our dreams laden with water

as we bore the weight

when everything broke

the sky sobbed for forty days

and I built a raft

I breathed buoyancy

covered my arms in feathers

and tried not to drown

I washed onto shore,

my salt eyes lidded and cracked

and collapsed on the sand

I slept forty nights

and woke with wet weeds for hair

and seashells for skin

the weeds dried and fell -

seashells disintegrating

as I walked blindly

I cannot tell you

exactly what happened next -

you won’t understand

but as time drew on

I came to forgive myself

for the fires and flood,

and shed the layers

of my bone-weighted journey

like Salome’s veils

I now stand naked,

shrouded and swathed in the light

of a source unseen -

it speaks of itself,

the wages of survival,

and the hand of G-d…

the force that moves me

undulates and surfaces

in my waking dreams

and my path unfolds

solitary and embraced

by the arms of truth

*Note: 26 is the gematric number, being the sum of the Hebrew characters (Hebrew: יהוה‎) being the name of the G-d of Israel – YHWH (Yehowah). The Greek Strongs number G26 is "Agape", which means "Love".


As a classical soprano, Lisa Delan has focused her career on American Art Song - performing, commissioning and recording musical settings of poems by cummings, Angelou, Bowles, Dickinson, Kinnell, Plath, and other visionary writers. She has recorded extensively for the Pentatone label and can be heard on their SACD releases as well as streaming on Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, and other music platforms.

While using her musical voice to share the words of poets who have moved and shaped her, Lisa has continued to shape her own reflective voice as a poet. Her work explores interior landscapes as seen through the shifting prism of time, and within the connection of self to other. Lisa’s work is featured in the current issue of the Beyond Words Literary Magazine and will appear in the Mill Valley Literary Review and Wingless Dreamer in early 2022.

Interview with the Poet:

Cathexis Northwest Press:

How long have you been writing poetry?

Lisa Delan:

I began writing poetry around 4th or 5th grade. My sitter was in a graduate program for creative writing and had me join her at the kitchen table writing poems after school until my mom got home. Later in high school, I took a poetry elective and really got into economy of language – how much I could strip away to get to the core (I still tend to work that way). When it came time for college I decided to go to Oberlin, so I could pursue a double major in vocal performance (at the Conservatory) and creative writing (at the College). Later in San Francisco (I transferred to and graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music) I began connecting with composers who were setting a broad range of poetry, and really found my sweet spot. And this summer, for the first time, I will hear my own poetry as songs! Festival Napa Valley has commissioned three incredible composers (Jake Heggie, Luna Pearl Woolf, and Jack Perla) to each set one of my poems (which will premiered not by me, but by the lovely dramatic soprano Alexandra Armantrading). So that's incredibly exciting for me, very full circle.


Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?


Yes! It was in the [at the time definitive] Johnson edition of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson my uncle gave me:

I’ll tell you how the Sun rose – A Ribbon at a time – The Steeples swam in Amethyst – The news, like Squirrels, ran – The Hills untied their Bonnets – The Bobolinks – begun – Then I said softly to myself – “That must have been the Sun”! But how he set – I know not – There seemed a purple stile That little Yellow boys and girls Were climbing all the while – Till when they reached the other side – A Dominie in Gray – Put gently up the evening Bars – And led the flock away –


Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?


Favorites are hard! But among American poets, I love ee cummings, Emily Dickinson, Galway Kinnell, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Muriel Ruykeyser… a Ruykeyser poem that has haunted me since I first read it is “Then”:

When I am dead, even then, I will still love you, I will wait in these poems, When I am dead, even then I am still listening to you. I will still be making poems for you out of silence; silence will be falling into that silence, it is building music.

For me, two Canadian musicians are also among the great poets - Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. And across the seas I have gotten so much from reading (and singing) Pablo Neruda, Avrom Sutzkever, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Rumi, William Butler Yeats… Yeats’ “When You Are Old” just slays me:

When you are old and grey and full of sleep, And nodding by the fire, take down this book, And slowly read, and dream of the soft look Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace, And loved your beauty with love false or true, But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars, Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled And paced upon the mountains overhead And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.


Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?


Words/concepts sometimes come unbidden, other times I search for them intentionally when there is something I feel the need to give form to; bit and pieces may come, or a broad sweep can enter at once - sometimes these present as cohesive, and other times inchoate. But they all end up in the same place - me sitting in my swivel chair at the kitchen island on my laptop at midnight! When the day is put away and outside distractions dim, that is my time. I may transcribe notes I've written on my phone as a starting point, or return to pieces in progress. I am a late night person by nature, and have a lot of focus in these hours - but I also think that when I start getting tired, my "editorial voice" softens and things can come through that happily surprise me. So I tend to ride the wave until my eyelids get heavy.


How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?


Some poems come out in a specific form and I follow that. But often I only see the form once all of the words are on the page - then it almost feels like a tactile experience, like working with clay, massaging the curves of phrases and sharpening the corners of transitions. Occasionally I like to commit to a structure before I start writing - I like the challenge of the words having to serve the form; that constriction often yields really cool stuff that may not have surfaced otherwise.


Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?


I guess I would say that it's okay - perhaps vital - to reappropriate language. Images are impactful when the use of language and form are not bound by convention. There is also power in concision. Experiment with what it looks like for you to create more impact with fewer words; weed out everything that does not serve the image. Here is the context in which I am referring to images:

we often draw a straight line between a feeling/experience and the language used to describe that feeling/experience, a direct translation of feeling into words. Instead, try conjuring the image this feeling/experience evokes for you - then mine language to bring this image to the page, even if there's no precedent for the way you are utilizing words and sculpting phrases. I think this is where you meet your voice.


What is your editing process like?


I revisit my poems repeatedly as I am writing them. I like to come back again and again with fresh eyes (and fresh ears for the prosody) and fine tune them. This could play out over a few days, a week, a few weeks, or longer. And sometimes I will go back to something years later to make small textual changes - or reformat the whole poem. It's most intense at first, but I consider editing an open ended process!


When do you know that a poem is finished?


I'll confess here that I don't cook much, but I imagine it is like creating a new recipe and reaching the point where you recognize that the dish would not benefit from adding anything - the flavors have blended, and there is nothing superfluous lingering on your tongue - it's just complete within itself - so there is nothing else to do but turn off the stove!


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