Lisa Holstein



At the rock and roll show 
we hold up our cell phones.

I thought we were taking pictures 
but the phones are our candles

our flames with camera eyes. 
Our eyes are made of lenses

that adjust to seeing under 
a wide range of conditions.

Though we’ve taken already 
more than it has left to give

we love our world. It wearies us 
and sometimes for days

all we want to do is sleep
or listen to loud things crashing

until after the show 
there is nothing left to hear.



Zombie Problems (II)

Because my heart could not 
contain you, it refused 
sympathy, succor, 
news from anywhere.
Now it’s as if a machine 
records the feelings 
I might have had. 
Flashes like alarms 
alert me, they’re on file 
should I wish to review them. 
I don’t. One was many 
and became one again. 
It was you I meant to belong to. 
These bowing rituals never end.  
All through me, seasons 
passing. The late season 
grasses. Lately, the grasses.



I’m Writing You a Telegraph and the Pony and the Pony Express Man Are Waiting by the Door

Silked and tassled, the cornfield glows 
a rose halo meadowlarks stitch 
to the steaming ground. I come to you 
in need. We both accept this.
We make fewer and fewer distinctions 
between what is said and unsaid, 
what we meant by what we said before. 
Something like a breeze is billowing 
our figurative skirts, our figurative sails,
unnamed things are leaving us, 
we feel it in the ankles, at the shoulders, 
as soon as we leave the shore. 
We mark each passing with nothing, 
we regret arrivals and departures 
by equal score. A firefly lands, ghost 
messages in green. Campfire body, burn.


Silver Whips of Trees

When the hail hits
the horses stand 
close together. 
We step outside. 
We can’t always tell 
good fortune from bad. 
When the air cracks
the leaves sign 
a language surely 
someone somewhere 
can read. Not here.
A whiny stiffens 
the wind. The horses 
flare their nostrils, 
pivot their feathered ears. 
They call without moving. 
They are next to one another 
already, already right there.



Lisa Olstein is the author of Radio Crackling, Radio Gone (Copper Canyon Press, 2006), winner of the Hayden Carruth Award, and Lost Alphabet (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), named one of the nine best poetry books of 2009 by Library Journal. Her third collection, Little Stranger, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon in 2013. Cold Satellite, an album of songs based on her poems and lyrics, was released by singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault in fall 2010 and was ranked #1 on Greil Marcus’ Real Life Rock Top Ten list in The Believer (February 2011). She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Centrum. Her poems have appeared in many literary journals including The Iowa ReviewAmerican Letters & CommentaryDenver QuarterlyFairy Tale ReviewIndiana Reviewnotnostrums, and Glitterpony. She is a contributing editor of jubilat. With Dara Wier and Noy Holland she co-founded the Juniper Initiative for Literary Arts & Action at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she is Associate Director of MFA Program for Poets and Writers.