Sainted / Lisa Zimmerman



poems by

Lisa Zimmerman

ISBN: 978-1-59948-894-3, ~40 pages, $12 (+ shipping)

Projected Release Date: October 12, 2021

The Advance Sale Discount for this title has expired. For those who prefer to pay by check, the price is $16.50/book (which includes shipping) and should be sent to: Main Street Rag, PO BOX 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227-7001. 

PLEASE NOTE: Ordering in advance of the release date does not mean the book will ship before the date posted above.

Lisa Zimmerman has published three poetry chapbooks and three full-length collections: How the Garden Looks from Here (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Poetry Award), The Light at the Edge of Everything (Anhinga Press) and The Hours I Keep (Main Street Rag). Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Redbook, The Sun, Poet Lore, Cave Wall, Amethyst Review, Florida Review, SWWIM Every Day and other journals. Her poems have been nominated for Best of the Net, five times for the Pushcart Prize, and included in the 2020 Best Small Fictions anthology. She lives with her husband in Fort Collins, Colorado and is a Professor of English and creative writing at the University of Northern Colorado.

Lisa Zimmerman’s, Sainted is a wondrous book, a composite of vignettes tendered to fashion a contemporary perspective on ancient figures. A feminist bravado, awakens voices to reclaim agency and power over one’s own body and soul— “What did God know about the uterus?” —These poems are timely, lyrical, meditative, and inventive. The poet excavates holy terrain, fleshes out Saint Veronica, Saint Clare, and Saint Bernadette, to remind us of the ache and splendor of living. The poet skillfully casts a wide net on the morality of the ages, invoking the many incarnations of greed, lust, loss and despair. Each poem marvels with luminous details of small moments, leading to the complex filaments of life: “No man would ever own me.” These fiercely evocative and revelatory poems, allow us savory glimpses under the seams, “the midwives came and went like weather.” A crucible, hot to the touch, Sainted could not be timelier in pathos, tone and tenacity. “I saw tears drop onto his tunic small moons of grief.” A stunning book that holds its heart out, Sainted is profoundly radiant and indelible for how poems can astonish, inform and shape our lives. ~Cynthia Atkins, author of Still-Life with God


How is it that Lisa Zimmerman brings these ancient saints, the subjects of her radiant poems, as close to us as our own breath? Their presences, illuminated by the steady flame of Zimmerman’s mind and heart, shimmer across time and distance, coming to rest within her words and silences as if this is where they have always lived. Weaving together past and present, shorn hair and winter light, Zimmerman invites us, again and again, into “the great unmanageable mystery.” In the company of this book, we are less alone. ~Kasey Jueds


As you might expect, the saints in Lisa Zimmerman’s remarkable new collection, Sainted, are assailed at every turn: “drawn and quartered…/ drowned in the swallowing sea or martyred/by burning, beheading, by boiling oil, or the simple sword.” But just telling these “sweet terrible” stories isn’t really Zimmerman’s project. Instead, this is a questioning, lyric book about filling the void of which a paradoxical God is both cause and cure. “God roots around inside of me/ like hunger,” says Saint Clare. And it is Clare and her mentor Saint Francis—saints of compassion and denial—that the poet uses to bracket both the lives of other saints and her own. The voices in these monologues and meditations are pitch-perfect. We are in the hands of a poet who juggles both the mystical and the everyday with consummate skill. ~Keith Ratzlaff

Kitchen Meditation


The study in blue and white is the kitchen window
with its winter history, bottles on the sill holding

a steady cordial of January’s thin light—
clean, cold, undrinkable. Whereas summer

remains unthinkable, so future I could build a church
around it, be saved again by the virgin’s blue gown,

its cascade down to her bare feet, stained
glass windows a brilliant fracture of gold, black,

red for blood, and other passions.



Travels with Saint Francis and Saint Clare


How can I not be only myself with their dream
of God, from moment to moment? The sorrow
of their hope and suffering follows me
and the feel of the stones beneath my feet—
so many emerald prayers. I know what people think.
I had doubt once too. But now, in my body of evidence,
how strange to imagine I stand in the sunlight alone.

Deep in the valley San Damiano is shrouded in trees.
I close my black notebook. Swallows circle the spires.
There is nothing to fear. I take off my winter garments.
The bells ring as they do in our deepest bones.
I hold my breath and look—the lake in my body is full.
It is clear as I leave Assisi the saints are gathering
their tears and complaints and traveling with me.



Poem for Saint John of the Cross

In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God

~Saint John of the Cross


Your father married for love
an orphan below his noble station.
Discarded by his wealthy kindred
they say your parents nurtured you in poverty—
and the bread was as sweet as any bread

and the days offered their shiny hands
and their little streams of water
singing in the glades.

I see you wandering happily as a boy,
the sun a crown on your small head,
your bare feet scuffing the dust.
God chirped like a wood lark
in the throat of afternoon
and the lonely months in prison
were far ahead beneath the great shadow
of the future.

I try to follow you there, O mystic,
to watch you defy your greedy brethren
monks who will reject your reforms, your love
of less, of days returned to prayer and fasting.

Fat and threatened, they silenced you
in a narrow stone cell, one tiny window
like the one in the soul where day after day
the voice of God pierced your suffering.

Out of emptiness, a full heart—
out of abandonment, a poem of seeking—
out of utter darkness, a gleam of pure light—
love’s last trembling boat waiting for you
to get in, and row.

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