Tuesday, April 30, 2013


"During National Poetry Month, Living Above the Frost Line celebrates Debra Kaufman, a poet with a keen eye and a sharp focus on humanity." 
--Nancy Simpson

THREE POEMS by Debra Kaufman
French I

Où est la bibliothèque? Voila la bibliothèque.
Quel temps fait-il? Il fait froid aujourd’jui.
I chanted French phrases in bed like prayers,

pleased with the way the language shaped
my mouth, ma bouche: lips puckered for tu
as if playing the flute, then softened like a kiss for je.

English words sounded like hammering on wood,
but translated en français they lilted and fell
like music or small birds.

Fermez la porte means shut the door.
petit dejeuner is breakfast,
de tout mon coeur, with all my heart.

Et alors… Jean-Pierre lifted my hair,
murmured into my neck, “You’re too good.”
And for the rest of that year I didn’t know where

the library was or whether the temperature
was froid ou chaud. As the class recited
je vais, tu vas, il va…, I could see myself

in a silk slip on a picnic, tipsy with champagne,
kissing, we’d be kissing the way the French do.
What I longed for then was beyond

language as I knew it, it was pure image,
or impure, mon Dieu! and my future?
My future was present, present perfect.

from A Certrain Light, first published
in The Idependent

Summer Solstice

The steamy morning 
teems with promise.

Today is the longest day.
Today I am opening.

It’s small changes 
and the cycle of days

I mark as holy
that sustain me now.

To crave solitude like a new lover
you can never get enough of—

is this good?
Love can die and even if born again

is weakened by the wounding
and the resurrection.

But sometimes—surprise!—
joy flies in like a jay.

It squawks, tilts its defiant head
as the cat slinks near.

What is eternal but the circling?
And now the katydids begin to sing,

kiss me, kiss me.

From The Next Moment, first
published in Pembroke Literary Magazine


SUNNIES
The sun had not risen
when I slipped into the kitchen
and saw my father at the sink,
where he never stood.
He did not order me back to bed,
but turned and gently
showed me the gold
he’d reeled in himself.
Their scales glittered like fairy wings.
He called them sunnies,
his voice a low rumble
like the night train that slowed
as it passed through town.
He too was always leaving.
He smelled of the lake and coffee,
happy and sad together.
The dome light shone on the cold linoleum
and a sifting sort of lavender
air made me shiver. A wren
chittered in the weeping cherry.
I stepped my bare feet onto his huge brown shoe
and balanced there.
Previously published in Wild Goose Poetry Review


Check out Debra Kaufman/s 
latest poetry collection, The Next Moment, from 


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