Nafanya by Yvonne Zipter


Because the magnitude of war is too much
for an 11-year-old brain to absorb, because

the possibility of her parents dying is beyond reckoning,
she calls from the city where she has been sent

to safety, asking, How is Nafanya? Her guinea pig
has stayed with her parents near where the bombs

fall and fall and fall. How is Nafanya? she asks,
calling again and again. And as long as her mother

answers, she can continue to tell herself that a small
ball of fluff is the only thing that worries her.

by Yvonne Zipter

Instagram: @yvonnezipter
Twitter: @YvonneZipter

Editor’s Note: The magnitude of war is too much for all of us.

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Day by Yvonne Zipter

The Day

Everything delights me today—
the sun’s extravagant light,
the frost spreading across
the window like branches

on a tree, the dog’s tongue
lolling out from the side
of her mouth like a pink
curtain blowing out an open

window, the bass line
in that Lucinda Williams’
cover, the smoke tumbling
from chimneys like troops

of acrobats, my hair’s
independent spirit.
It was a year ago today
that a murderous mob tried

to drive a stake through
the heart of our democracy.
Faith has never been
my strong suit, but

I hang on to a belief
in goodness, as if
to the string of a kite.
And the kite were my heart.

by Yvonne Zipter

Instagram: @yvonnezipter
Twitter: @YvonneZipter

Editor’s Note
: This poem’s emphasis on joy (and hope) is beautifully supported by the similes and metaphors sprinkled throughout. The last line is brilliant. 

Oh, Tannenbaum by Yvonne Zipter

Oh, Tannenbaum

It was about some notion of elegance,
yes, but mostly about control,
every curl of metal on the rigid
wire limbs of my grandmother’s
aluminum tree exactly the same,
every branch spaced evenly,
satin balls—red or green only—
at uniform intervals. All the years
of my childhood, that lifeless
facsimile occupied the corner
at Christmas, its sparkle displayed
to all of Brentwood Avenue,
a quartet of picture windows
framing it like art. What a nightmare
it must’ve been for her, Christmases past,
with those delicate glass ornaments,
bell shaped and ball shaped and some
shaped like pinecones—how ever
do you arrange them on boughs
so supple and untidy? Better
the aluminum tree, spare and clean
in the barren space beside the outsized
panes, telling lies about the rest
of the house, the tangled lives within,
and every silvery sliver of fake foliage
reflecting her face, soft with powder.

by Yvonne Zipter

Instagram: @yvonnezipter
Twitter: @YvonneZipter

Editor’s Note
: This poem’s tragic last line invites the reader to wonder what drove the speaker’s grandmother to such desperate control, and why. 

This Is Not My Story by Yvonne Zipter

This Is Not My Story

I am weeping in the kitchen, cutting tomatoes for dinner.
My wife comes into the room and asks what’s made me cry.
They showed a boy, I sob, and then must stop because I am weeping
again. I am weeping for a boy on the news. He is ten and walking
along a caliche road. Alone. He is walking along a gravel road
in La Grulla, Texas, ten and walking in a desert, not another soul
in sight until a border patrol guard sees him. The boy is ten,
and though he wears a Batman t-shirt and hooded jacket
like any ordinary boy, he is not ordinary. Four hours alone
in the desert, a Nicaraguan boy abandoned in the night
by the migrants he was traveling with, and he is sobbing so hard,
his chest heaves beneath the face of a cartoon character. And I
am sobbing with him, crying because he is ten and alone,
and I know that fear, the fear of solitude, the fear of never
being found, though I was never abandoned, let alone in a desert.
And then the pain of knowing his fear asks all of my other pain
to join it, and I am crying for my dead mother, for my cancer,
for the way the world tries to divide me and the boy, me
and his parents in Nicaragua, because of the color of our skins.
But this is not my story. I am not lost. I am in my kitchen,
safe, with someone to hold me while I weep, someone
to kiss away my tears. This is a story of desperation,
of a boy, looking for safety and a kitchen full of light and food
and love, looking for someone to hold him while he weeps.

by Yvonne Zipter

Instagram: @yvonnezipter
Twitter: @YvonneZipter

Editor’s Note
: This poem’s conversational tone emphasizes the empathy of the speaker, bringing the trauma of understanding up from the darkness and into the light.

Sacred Space by Yvonne Zipter

Sacred Space

In the church I am making
of Creticos Cancer Center,
I am in my purple pew,
my face, as I recline
my solitary bench, lifting
toward heaven, wood-slatted
and perfectly pleasant,
my hands at my side, upturned
and open as eager collection baskets.

Like any late-night reveler compelled
to an early service, I may doze
now and again, though I haven’t
been a reveler now for nearly
the number of years as Christ
roamed our mortal marble.

Between unextraordinary slumbers,
I watch a man find salvation, on my small screen,
from a Zen octopus in a forest of quivering kelp.
The miracle of wonder has tentacles everywhere.

Embedded in my chest, a port—a portal,
smaller than a communion wafer—
accepts the sacrament of chemo
from the altar of science. Much as Jesus
was changed to a bit of brittle bread,
my own known body is transforming
into some kind of mystic other.

All around me, a choir of the faithful
confess their fears, their flaws, their habits
to their guardian nurses, those shepherds
of survival, and though each of us
are in our own boxes, the voices mingle,
and there’s a kind of congregation in that.

Despite the hovering specter of malady,
peace wafts over us like the tired smoke
from a swaying, sacred smudge pot.

Throughout the hours of my devotion
to this baptism by Paclitaxel, the nurses
flow, murmuring riverlike, from patient
to patient, task to task, flow sweet
and blessed as Holy Water.

by Yvonne Zipter

Twitter: @YvonneZipter
Instagram: YvonneZipter

Editor’s Note: Sometimes the most unexpected places can become sacred, as this poem demonstrates. The different sections allow for easy reading, mirroring formal prayer with images and thoughtful reflection.

Salt by Yvonne Zipter


You’ve seen the pictures:
rows of beds or reclining chairs,
men and women covered in blankets,
some wearing hats, pillows like snow drifts
cushioning their heads, the fresh air
believed to cure lungs
squeezed by disease.

Lying at present in my own lounge chair
in my own yard, I feel a kinship with those invalids,
soaking in the mountain or desert or sea air,
a blanket wrapped around me, feet to chin.
It’s 79 degrees out, but I’m in the shade,
and there’s a breeze, and the incision
under the white pillow of gauze adrift
on my chest is aching, whatever quietive juice
they pumped into my arm floating away.

I have a port now, and imagine weary sailors,
too many days afloat on an ocean,
readying to dock at the jetty jutting
from my rib cage. I smile, warming
to the sense of welcoming I feel,
as if I am someone’s homecoming,
a safe harbor, a whiff of soil, pine,
and home cooking, a chance to wash away
the salt from so long at sea.

by Yvonne Zipter

Twitter: @YvonneZipter
Instagram: YvonneZipter

Editor’s Note: The repetition of images and words in this beautifully constructed poem creates a cohesive emotional landscape for the reader.