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Elizabeth Zelvin


Liz is the author of two books of poetry, I Am the Daughter (1981) and Gifts & Secrets: Poems of the Therapeutic Relationship (1999). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and she received a CAPS award in poetry from the New York State Council on the Arts. Like her work as a therapist, her poetry is concerned with connections, relationships, and what it means to be human: family, friendship, growth, love, loss, abuse, addiction, recovery, healing, aging, and death, as well as the link between human beings and the natural world. More recently, her fiction and music have explored similar themes. Liz's fiction can be found on her author website at elizabethzelvin.com and on her Amazon page at Amazon's Elizabeth Zelvin Page. Her music can be found on her music website at lizzelvin.com. Some of Liz's poems appear below.



then there was the day I took them to the zoo
riding the subway up to the Bronx
fat Bobby with his single earring
James who used to keep his pee in bottles
and never took a bath until this year
Lewis in an assortment of striped vests and sweaters
(he had a tendency to take them off
though, thank God, not that day)
we looked as normal as anyone in the car
watch caps stuffed down to the eyebrows
knitted scarves wrapped tight
against the whipping wind of spring

it must have felt good to be outside the bars
staring at the unselfconscious bears
(they knew they could bite you to death
in a minute if you came too close
and one of the polar bears did
though not that spring)
the gorilla eating a banana with sad dignity
the tiger pacing with measured tread, slowly
back and forth along the rim of its ditch
three of the paranoid schizophrenics took a ride
on the aerial tram, but I was too scared
of heights to go along
they snapped my picture smiling
against a bush of lemony forsythia
with a giraffe behind me stretching its long neck
toward the freedom of the April sky

that was the best time I had with them
until the day I left, when they had kept
the secret of their plans so well I didn't guess
even when Rick who heard voices got mad at me
and started muttering to his hallucinations
that they weren't even giving me a party
with nothing to do but mope at my empty desk
I finally wandered into the dayroom
there they all were yelling Surprise!
and presenting me with a rose-colored T-shirt
that said We're all crazy about you!

© Elizabeth Zelvin. This poem first appeared in Home Planet News.


I am the daughter of the son of the daughter
of a woman whose name no one remembers
though all the oldest still alive and sane
were there last time I asked

I am the daughter of the son of the son
of a woman whose name no one remembers
not even her grandchildren
with whom she lived for years

I am the daughter of the daughter of the daughter
of a woman whose name I did not know
until past my thirtieth year
when I found she was Elisabeth
for whom I was named

I am the daughter of the daughter of the son
of a woman whose name was Sarah
the family tree runs off the page at this point
so I can feel proud my matrilineage is secure
forgetting that Sarah was the daughter
of a woman whose name no one remembers

© Elizabeth Zelvin. This poem appeared in Zelvin,
I Am The Daughter (New Rivers, 1981).




the men sit perched on rocks
their faces grimed
furrowed with runnels of sweat
their sandals crusted in Red Sea salt
stunned by their change of fortune
the power in Moses’ staff
the thunder of the sea overrunning Pharaoh
the scream of terrified horses
the crack of chariots breaking up
the wall of water at their heels
they stare outward into the desert
will not meet one another’s eyes

Miriam moves among the women
offering one the water skin
another a cloth to wipe her dusty feet
a quiet word here
there a hand pressed gently on a shoulder
crouched where they dropped when Moses called a halt
they have instinctively formed a circle

Miriam completes her round
pours the last few drops of water
on a corner of her shawl
passes it across her face
shaking off weariness like a scratchy cloak
she gathers them with her eyes
her slow smile blossoms
“Ladies,” she says, “we’re free!”
“Who wants to dance?”

© 2007 Elizabeth Zelvin. This poem first appeared in Poetica.



while sixty cars were slewing wildly
on the Long Island Expressway
spinning on slick obsidian
spitting shards like splintered chandeliers
my mother was embarking on her final journey
lying on her bed as lightly
as if she floated in some turquoise pool
or in the jade Atlantic that she loved so well
as if she knew the ice and winds were coming
and had her ticket tucked away for just this moment
lying as if basking on a chaise longue
sailing through chuckling seas in the embracing sun

still indomitable, still a voyager
skeptical of spirit but ready, always, for new marvels
how astounded she must be, but on consideration
how curious, even eager, to find behind the last door
not the darkness she expected
but the beckoning tunnel of light

© Elizabeth Zelvin. This poem appeared in Zelvin, Gifts and Secrets:
Poems of the Therapeutic Relationship
(New Rivers, 1999).



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