Yvette Neisser – Four Poems


Learning To Love Morning

Night always lured me
the stars, the mystery,
the fading of colors
the hush and deep

Now night calls for sleep
and the sky darkens through curtains
It is dawn that calls
and rouses me to the woods

Morning has its own mysteries
sometimes the stars are still out
before their flight across hemispheres
grass is covered in dew or mist
Houses are dark
the air is crisp
the trees are still
sometimes it begins with a luscious rain

Poplar and maple leaves
have not quite stretched out their edges
their trunks still hold the secrets of night
whatever arbolean dreams they stored

all is pale and soft
there is the sharp call of the morning birds
one day I’ll learn their names
there is the rustle of squirrels
and the morning deer still munching
in the shadows
all this is cushioning and then
you can be the first
to see the light


Yoshino Cherry, Early April

You’d think nothing could penetrate
that silvery bark, solid as a wall—

yet flowers burst
straight out of the trunk:

first a tiny shoot,
a spray of buds,

then bouquets of blossoms
decorate each branch.

These petals, translucent to the touch,
veined and edged in pink.

Cherry tree, show me
how to draw beauty
from the rough spots,
how surfaces can shift—
iron into flower,
stasis into flux.



This name I have carried all my life.
This name, from a river dividing
two countries, a line
that led from the Polish border
to the great house in Frankfurt,
and then to America.
How a surname carries the substance
of lineage. How it embodies
my grandfather, Gerhardt, Jerry,
man of cello and lingua.

This name, stifled for years
between Yvette and Moreno.
How I want to put it in stars,
bolded letters, all caps.

I bring this name back from the ashes,
bring it back to the fore.
I take Neisser to be my beloved name,
in love and anger, sickness and health,
solitude or romance.
I stamp this name on my back
and bind it to my doorposts.
I take this name to be my core,
my rock and my redeemer.

Plunge me in the river,
cleanse me of marriage.

I am baptized, bathed, renewed,
purified, virginized.

I shed the letters of marriage
and watch them float away.


For A Marriage

Sometimes you have to wait a while.
Sometimes you have to forge river bottoms
            and tunnel beneath mountains
before love is ready to come.
You may have to dig
into the contours of your soul,
go to the other side of the world and back.

Love comes when it will.
It may catch you from behind
or seep into your life
like water into soil.

Sometimes love opens like a blossom in your hands.

Let it be the fire that starts you in the morning
and the breeze that cools you at night.
Let it be a tower that nourishes you,
the earthstone that cushions your steps.

May love mingle with prayer
and propel you toward kindness.

Take this love, twine it as a rope
between your hands.
May it sanctify you.
May it be a ballast to your days.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Beauty is in all elements of nature, from the tiniest petal to a majestic sunset. And in words themselves, and metaphors. Difficult experiences can be made beautiful in poetry, in the combination of words, and this makes them more palatable.

Beauty also emerges from the details of any image or emotion. Often what interests me in poetry are the nuances, the description of something that is not easily expressed in words but that you can recognize and feel in your gut. Poetry articulates the inexpressible.


Yvette Neisser is the author of Grip, winner of the 2011 Gival Press Poetry Award. Her translations from Spanish include South Pole/Polo Sur by María Teresa Ogliastri and Difficult Beauty: Selected Poems by Luis Alberto Ambroggio. Her poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in such publications as Foreign Policy in Focus, Virginia Quarterly Review, and the Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. She is a founding Board Member of the DC-Area Literary Translators Network (DC-ALT) and has taught writing at George Washington University and The Writer’s Center. More at: www.yvetteneisser.net.