National Poetry Month – Lisa Zerkle

Lisa is another founding co-editor of Kakalak, a Journal of Poetry and Art, and I met her when I first submitted. I was then fortunate enough to belong to the same poetry critique group with her for a few years.

Lisa is one of the most down-to-earth, relaxed women I’ve ever met. In all the years I’ve known her, I’ve rarely seen her without this beautiful smile.

Her poetry is just as genuine, conveying much in so few words. She often brings the world of science into her poems, noticing the beauty of the natural world around her. She shows us the tiny details that we might otherwise miss, making her lines and poems richer. And we, too, for having read them.

From Heart of the Light, published by Finishing Line Press, posted with the poet’s permission.

The Night the Moon Landed

I see it now, flung up in the night

the size of a quarter, maybe a nickel.


Those summer evenings we played late

until street lights hummed on,

until constellations of fireflies lit our lawns,

live stars caught in our hands. My friend

Mindy, thin as a twig, the best

runner. We ran in utter yes. Without

a pebble of doubt, we ran

towards that glow at the end of the road.

Not the familiar man’s face

full of dull surprise, but craters

close enough to touch. We knew

it was possible for mankind

to walk on the moon. One small

step at a time. Our flip-flops flapped

and someone laughed – a man, some dad.

You can’t, he said, you couldn’t, you shouldn’t

even try.


We ran one block, maybe two,

our shoes soon heavy as lead-lined boots.

Last I remember, we were breathless

in the dark, the moon bright before us. Fools

for the celestial illusion.


Making Time

Is it soup, the slow

meld of flavor into flavor?

Melt butter you churn

from a cow you milk.

Dice onion you grow

from seed. Simmer.


Or a recipe from Julie Child

longer than her 22 pages

devoted to French bread.

Measure flour by sundial, butter

by tree rings, and salt by the jeweled

gears of an antique Swiss watch.


Patient handcraft might be closer,

a life-size cross stitch of Times Square.

Knitting lace. Inking illuminated

texts. The chink of copper chisel

on Giza’s capstone in the quarry.


Ask the Hittites, the Mayans, Olduvai man

creeping out from the Gorge. Ask the spiders

for centuries of silvered silk. Ask the whales

after they lose their legs. Or the snakes

before they gain them.


Find the steps in stilled liquid.

Arctic ice cores. Ambered pine

sap. In the curve of a river-carved canyon.

Carbon aged into diamond. Or

stalagmites stacked by the steady

drip of minerals.


If I could whip up a batch of lumpy

moments, I’d share this sweet

present with you. Trace

together the singular plunge

of comet through cosmos.


Like a Ship in a Bottle

A ship in a bottle

is a real ship although not

one fit for life at sea.

Unmoored from any harbor,

it sits unmoved

by currents, removed

from news of life outside.


No trades

fresh from foreign shores

or drunken compatriots

to help weather the storms.

No gulls plead

overhead, their cries

dulled by glass walls.


There is only this dust

obscured horizon,

this airless enclosure.

There is only

the bottle, the bottle,


the bottle collecting,

as one might coins

from travels, dust that falls

like parched rain.


And somehow Lisa and I didn’t connect on her answers to my questions! I’ll post them  later.



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