“I have to keep looking; try to see more, speak more, turn away less,” says Lisa DeSiro in her fine first book, Labor. And this is what her poems do: they keep their eyes peeled, their ears open, and their hearts receptive. (Boston street bustle comes vividly alive in many of these poems.) But receptivity demands a tolerance for paradox, and DeSiro’s poems—in disarmingly simple, idiomatic language—plumb the secrets of the world’s contradictions. “Go ahead, enjoy this day” begins a poem titled “9/11 Anniversary, Public Garden.” At home with the prose poem as well as the tightly rhymed lyric, DeSiro distills memorable music from the most colloquial moments — “We were all thumbs on our dumb phones” — and offers readers a vibrant panoply of sights and sounds, captured and conveyed in her impressively taut writing. — Steven Cramer, author of Clangings and Goodbye to the Orchard
Excerpts from Labor
The night sky:
a brush stroke.
The half moon:
a rice bowl.
My pen wants
to be Zen.
want to be
to be a
who knows how
and why and
what to do.
wants to be
Observations at the Park
for a friend with an eating disorder
i. Just like ducks
Plunging heads and necks
underwater to feed, swans
stick their butts up too.
ii. Unlike us
Sparrows and squirrels
eat all day long; they never
obsess about weight.
Hawks in Harvard Square
I’ve seen them hover high, glide
above the buildings, citified,
or perch atop St. Paul’s clock
tower. One time I saw a hawk
dive down to the street, pounce,
pluck a sparrow off. And once,
convinced I saw, quite close to me,
some bird-beast swoop into a tree,
I searched — greenish sunlight, twisted
branches, leaves. Nothing nested
there but shadows. Didn’t matter.
Wind went rippling like dry water
through their feathers, through my hair,
through the air throughout the square.
She was writing a book. I was hired to help her prepare the manuscript: formatting files, typing her handwritten notes and corrections, copy editing, indexing. I went to her house and worked on her computer. She played recordings of Gregorian chant and served me tea. The book was about finding balance. Self-help. Geared toward women. I bought a copy but never finished reading it.
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Lisa DeSiro is the author of an e-chapbook, Grief Dreams (White Knuckle Press, 2017) and she is featured in Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse (Lost Horse Press, 2017). Her poem “In Lieu of Flowers” was a winner in the 2017 Sidewalk Poetry Contest and is imprinted on a sidewalk in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Other poems of hers have appeared in various journals such as Cordella Magazine, The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, The Healing Muse, Jam Tarts Magazine, Nixes Mate Review, Ocean State Review, Salamander, Shooter Literary Magazine, and Sixfold. Her poetry can be heard in musical settings on the albums Currents and Living in Light. Along with her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, she has degrees from Binghamton University, Boston Conservatory, and Longy School of Music; she also studied at Emerson College. She is employed as Production & Editorial Assistant for C.P.E. Bach: The Complete Works, and she is an assistant editor for Indolent Books. In her previous career she earned her living as a pianist, teacher, and administrator. Originally from Baldwinsville, NY, she’s been a resident of Boston/Greater Boston since 1993.
Copyright © 2018 Lisa DeSiro
Cover photograph by Lauren Leja
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal.
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