Poems by Deborah Leipziger 2017

Deborah LeipzigerDEBORAH LEIPZIGER is an author, poet, and professor. Her chapbook, Flower Map, was published by Finishing Line Press (2013).  In 2014, her poem “Written on Skin” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  She is the co-founder of Soul-Lit, an on-line poetry magazine.  Born in Brazil, Ms. Leipziger is the author of several books on human rights and sustainability. Her poems have been published in SalamanderPOESYWilderness House ReviewIbbetson Street, among others. http://flowermap.net/

I say goodbye to the illusion of you.
Goodbye ghosts, goodbye myth
I make room for the real you.
I say goodbye to the illusion of you.
Welcoming imperfect you.
There is room for you.
I say goodbye to the illusion of you.


Your black
and white
in a
verdigris frame.
You are seventeen.
with your hair
swept up.
You gave me
the photo when I was
Now you are gone
and my daughters

Chihuly Flowers

They won’t die.
This is sure.
They may break.
they hold continents.
Inspired by Murano glass,
They come in boats
Orbs of glass
Float like jellyfish
Azure, violet, scarlet, avocado green
To be met with canary yellow
And necks of flamingoes.
Until I am the bee,
hovering over a planet
of towering

We walk in the mist
into the twilight garden
seeking bridges


We open
the padlock
to the church
Santa Maria del Sabato,
a ruin
a gift
with this rusted key.
Soft sunlight
yellow paint peeling,
crosses removed.

After five centuries
there will be a Jewish Temple
here in Palermo.

In 1492
the Jews of Sicily were given a choice: flee
Or convert.
Just as my Italian grandparents were given this choice
by Mussolini.
They fled.

The Archbishop of Palermo
Corrado Lorefice has given
the Jewish community
this church oratory.

For fifteen centuries
We lived here.

Now signs have gone up in Hebrew, Arabic
and Italian marking this place
Once the Jewish ghetto.

The Hebrew is not quite right.

In the ash
there is an ember

Postcard from Brazil

In the city where I was born
there is an alley known as
“Beco do Batman.”

In the Beco,
artists paint the walls
with lush landscapes
from their imagination.

Purple hummingbirds
the size of bicycles
saunter through the space.

A hibiscus opens onto the street.

An amethyst crystal
shares the space with
green northern lights and
angel wings

which may last just a day
until they are painted

Three generations we wander,
through the street paintings
until it is time for a palette of gelato.

Wine Glass

Your rim
the memory
of lips,
of stain,

Your stem
the glass tulip
to be

Putting away the seder plate

Like a palette of color,
my seder plate has a place for every hue.
With tiny ramekins
for salt water (tears)
egg (rebirth)
greens (spring)
horseradish (bitterness)
charosset (apple mixture resembling mortar).
I place each tiny ramekin
in its protective cardboard
until next year.
Painted wisteria drapes over the edges of the plate
cobalt and gold.
It takes me a long time to be able to put it away.
This seder plate has traveled with us
to England, Holland, and back.
As big as my arms spread wide,
it holds my past.
A wedding gift,
the seder plate is part of my legacy.
I can still see my parent’s seder plate before me.
Egyptian task masters
painted across the edge.

What will my children remember?


I tap syllables
on your naked white shoulder
after we make love

Postcard from Concord

The window boxes
are full of purple

The porch
has wrought
iron chairs

The inn
its guest registry.
Its signatures
tell stories.

and Alcott
greet me.

They’re happy
I have come.

The gifts Rio de Janeiro gave me

Each morning we walked to Arpoador beach.
Carnaval had just ended
and masks were strewn on the sidewalk.

My father and I walked,
tracing the steps of my grandfather’s morning walk.

The mountains watching over us,
the beach awakening

we pass the juice bars
with mangoes, bananas, and watermelons.

Flowers grow out of the tree trunks,
a leafy canopy protecting us from the sun.

At Arpoador, we sit
watching the surfers.
Yellow cactus flowers
frame our view
of the silver waves
of the bay.


“…All doors to the house stood open…”
— Jan Zwicky

There is a difference
between the unknown
and the

I want to venture
into the unknown —
albeit slowly.

I want the doors
of my house

open to mystery,
to the wind
that visits.

I want the borders
to be open
to those seeking


Northern lights, purple green silver
Cast over waterfalls your sheen of heaven

Constellate the stars
Gather silence and dust

Twilight ushers you in
Lava fields become rivers

Moonbow — night’s rainbow
Glows until dawn’s song

Story, legend, poem, myth
Vibrate, sing, celebrate

Song made of ions
Curtains of color

Claim the darkness
Claim the night

Four Daughters, Four Questions

My first daughter asks:
“What are the laws that poetry commands?”

“Well… poetry has no laws, but it does have wisdom.
One sage teaches us:”
“Tell the truth but tell it slant.”*

“If there are no laws of poetry,
what then
does poetry ask of you?”

“Poetry asks us to name things
to notice

“What does poetry give you in return?”

“Poetry gives me song and echo
soul dance
solidarity with poets

“What would you do if you couldn’t poet? my youngest asks me.

“Poetry is not a choice.”

* Emily Dickinson

Solitary swan
in the pale peach morning light
long question mark neck


You tell me
that silence
through a mile
of wood
more beautiful
and soft
than any moth
glass beads
on a silken thread

The beating
of his voice

Leonard Cohen: “You tell me that silence”
Robert Pinsky: “whispers through a mile of wood”
Stephen Spender: “more beautiful and soft than any moth”
Kate Bass: “glass beads on a silken thread”
Janice Rebibo: The beating of his voice”

Without the wind

the branch the
has just left
flutters with bird flight

on this
first morning of cherry
pink haze
gray sky

your wound is touching my wound


In Morocco

A village is painted blue
to reflect the dome of sky
recalling the divine one
I come home again.


to me
a white

Cross with me
the Red Sea.
Get into the water, so that the sea may part for us.
This is our story.
In our telling we will emerge
until we become the story.
Tonight we are historians, archaeologists, travelers,
poets, Rabbis, philosophers.
We will take a journey from Egypt to the promised land.
The story is us.
We are storytellers.

From the Red Sea
Newly born to yourself
Never to be enslaved again.

The shadow the piano cast

When you were born

I often heard:

“Look at those long fingers!

She will play piano.”

And so we bought an old piano,

So old it had places to put candles on it.

A tuner would come once a month and tune it.

I can still see the oak wood before me,

Your long fingers on the keys.

But it was one of the things I left behind

when we fled

to our new life

Spring comes to the North End

White chocolate lambs pose in the storefront

with Easter eggs wrapped in foil — magenta, turquoise and gold.

Tiny daffodils and purple pansies share a window box.

Trays of marzipan fruits beckon:

plums, pears, peaches and strawberries.

Thick metal chains in front of Paul Revere’s house



Little girls chase pigeons.

Here is a bouquet

of dried oregano

for the little girl

I was,

playing in the square.

Last night the moon came to visit me

making windows of light
shimmer across my face
bathing me in silver moonscape.

“Wake up, wake up” she cried.
“They are evacuating Aleppo
and I am casting light over the ambulances.”

“Wake up, wake up” she cried.
“They have released chemical weapons.

“I am witness
just as I witnessed your Nonna leave

I watched your grandparents flee
Silesia on the last boat destined
for Brazil.

This is your task, too.

To bear


–My body parchment

Fills with the ink of

Your calligraphy.

Your paintbrush covers me with prayers,

Camouflaging the scars written on skin.

In your hand

Are words I don’t recognize

For they are not words at all

But musical notes.


we walk with moths
my beam of light
illuminating the path
like secrets on paper.
this night unfurls her long dark hair.
the silvery moths evoke
the mariposa flower
like jasmine, ginger
found by riverbanks in the rain,
Cuban women adorned their hair
with butterflies,
hiding messages for insurgents
beneath the lanceolate petals.

Postcard from Cuba 

Give me pink houses
canary and turquoise with
wrought iron balconies,
Bel Airs with two tones
couples dancing in the street.
Give me flan and marimba.
Tell me about the revolution
Recite poems by Jose Marti.
Give me a place that holds
vestiges of its past.


I stand guard over your sleep.

I watch over the first flowers as they emerge

as if my presence is a benediction



I am a participant in spring,

in creation.

As if these forget-me-nots need me as witness

cobalt blue and emerald green

almost invisible

against the dark earth

in the calm before the storm.

Holding open

“The gates made of light swing open.
You see in.”


I want to enter the gates of the beloved.

I want you to wait for me there

Holding open the gates of light.

Your blue eyes beckoning.

Bid me enter your city

Ancient, lovely, petrified.

I enter your gates with offerings

Pomegranates and honey dates

All that I will be is here.


the blue hour

night lowers her fan
revealing horizon.

colors seep
into the sky
golden bands
of light.

a blush emerges along night’s branches.

the birds know.

spring moves
one meridian.