Poems by Linda Zisquit

Everything’s Falling into Place

I was listening

to the rhythm in my head,

fitting loss

like any duty

into the day
till horrified

at the truth

of what I said

(as though I’d put them

in their place

now they are dead)

I saw their fresh-dug

graves, the final

and begged forgiveness

of every bone

or sinew jolted

by the upheaval

and the stones.


Ghazal: Passage

There are different meanings to the word, passage. When God
passed over the houses of the Israelites it was a time when God

could be imagined as moving in this world. When Moses was
told to speak to the rock he hit it instead. Though God

had given him other chores which he performed, like pulling
the stiff-necked people across the desert, or begging God

to forgive their molten hungers and complacency, still He knew
in His heart that no matter what ensued He remained the God

who would not allow His beloved’s passage into the place
he sought. Lips dry and body reaching, still his God

remained stubborn and equally stiff. No. That’s it. One chance.
You will not go there. But listen, as the wind begins his God

is saying something else about the word, passage. A man can hear
in his sentence a death knell, the very thing he wants denied, a God’s

iron clad refusal. Or he can hear in the language of the gods coming
up from the deep another sound that invokes his own, his God’s

understanding that the journey goes on inside where the voice
is found. His tongue his weary arms his silences that want no God

to come again with promises begin their movement towards
another source. If he can find in himself the gift of God

to speak to the ones receiving the gift he seeks, then Stern can take
this passage outward and speak to her estranged friend, or God.


Ghazal: Me

This room provides. Sunlight. A chair. An old table for me.
If I come here without a book I am left to grapple with me.

When I left for that long summer without my supply
of pills, it was the same, I took nothing with me.

We climbed a mountain. I confessed with each step
that I was dying and there was to be an end to me.

But you sang with cheer and pushed me on
so I could find a way to go on with me.

Afraid I’d wiped out any living cell for generation
slowly I labored upward with your belief in me.

Was that the climb of my lifetime? The reconstruction
after damage? Now the knees falter, time to rebuild me

from the inside, like in this room where nothing waits
till I come here with my persistent need to erase me.


Ghazal: Your Visit

Nervous as always before your visit
I adjust my face, sweep the corners for your visit.

One dark morning in preparation I stepped outside
and crushed a snail. It dried before your visit.

I remember years after the cut and rupture,
the blood soaked, the wound no longer visible, a visit

loomed – it was to be the first time I would meet
her, the one you love. I cooked for your visit

too many orange vegetables (I didn’t know of your
aversion) and under pressure from your visit

coffee overflowed the pot as I pressed it down
and that’s what’s left, the grounds of your visit.

Today again I cannot concentrate, no longer
the perfect form or mind that your visit

used to create of me – or anticipate –
since we rise to the expectation of a visit

when certain of the space to move within
which is the force that emanates from a visit

of one who regards us well. When that dissolved
nothing was assured. I became another address to visit

or even a figure on the street unseen
or like a snail in the morning rain before your visit.


Line of Defense

I don’t let the news in at dawn.
I have rules for morning hours,
my ear strained to the warble
and whistle of returning birds.
If only I knew their names
or could decipher, on first
encounter, a plane circling
from a formation veering home,
wings flapping as if the sky’s
performance deserved applause.
It’s mad here, to maneuver
a day around explosions,
or to hold my pen as if
words could keep danger
at bay, my son’s safety
locked in this little plan.

A woman who paints the desert
mixes rosebuds and ashes
to harness gods that dwell
in hearths, to bring her daughter
health, protect her son.
And in the resin and sand
and pigment spilling around
I feel the force of matter
moving in perfect rhythm
with her love. I want
a poem like her painting,
a sensation of having
something in my control.



Ten measures of beauty came down into the world;

Nine were taken by Jerusalem, one by the rest of the world.”

Tractate Kiddushin


“Ten parts of suffering came down into the world; nine

were taken by Jerusalem, one by the rest of the world.”

Avot d’Rabbi Natan


Had Rachel not looked up

Jacob would not have seen her.

There would have been no water,

no winding dream,
no tribe or unrelenting

portion of sadness

dispersed on his land, his Jerusalem,

and I would not have promised
to gather then home. But Rachel

saw him and he loved her.

She was barren and she suffered

and she followed him.
So I have this heaviness

to bear. Her life before him

had also the dailiness of lives,

an hour at which she would rise and go
to the well. Then out of the blue

her future came crashing against her lids

when she looked up, those hours changed,

and I was moved to his, another well.


“Posit” was first published in Ritual Bath (Broken Moon Press, Seattle, WA, 1993) and again in Unopened Letters (Sheep Meadow Press, NY, 1996). The poems, “Ghazal: Your Visit”, “Ghazal: Me”, “Ghazal: Passage”, “Everything’s Falling into Place” and “Line of Defense”, appeared in Ghazal-Mazal (Finishing Line Press, KY, 2011).  “Everything’s Falling into Place” was originally published in Zeek.

Click here to read an interview with Linda Zisquit. 




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