The Hours I Keep


poems by

Lisa Zimmerman

ISBN: 978-1-59948-592-8, 72 pages, $14

Official Release date: October 4, 2016


LZimmerman_Px_bkstoreLisa Zimmerman’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in many anthologies and magazines including Cave Wall, Florida Review, Poet Lore, Colorado Review, The Sun, Natural Bridge, and Indiana Review, and she was the winner of Redbook Magazine’s Short Story contest. Her books include How the Garden Looks From Here, winner of the 2004 Violet Reed Haas Poetry Award, and The Light at the Edge of Everything (Anhinga Press 2008). Her poems have been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize. She lives with her husband in Fort Collins, Colorado, and teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Northern Colorado.

Testaments to the way Lisa Zimmerman exposes hidden or fleeting truths, these poems ignite our empathy and focus us on usually overlooked things that deserve attention: the underside of a flicker’s wings, mud sliding under horse hooves, a ladybug in the hair, the steady breathing of a husband. The subject of this quietly stunning collection is ultimately “the heart under the heart.” Open to any poem and you will want to read another and another.   –Andrea Hollander, author of Landscape with Female Figure


Lisa Zimmerman’s poems in The Hours I Keep are grounded not primarily in the details of place, but the heart of what it is to love, to worry, to fall and rise again. Lisa Zimmerman’s poems in this, her third full-length book, are more about resilience than joy—they repay the reader’s work not with blues and melancholy, but with hope and the idea that though the world brings us troubles, we can muster the strength and faith to face what’s coming next. These are poems by a poet who knows well what poetry can do.   –Rick Campbell


Zimmerman’s language pops and snaps, surprising at every turn, and sings with a full breath from line to line. Her imagery beautifully renders both nature’s heartbreaking loveliness, it’s redemptive power, and its dangerous, often savage unpredictability. “See how stars are pulled down/ into sunlit river stones…” the narrator of “Gravity” writes, even as she acknowledges that force’s destructive power, how “a rampage,/ disguised as a river, drags earth and rock down.” These are deft, lyrical poems that express the rawest truths with grace and dignity. Zimmerman’s is a universe where horses and dogs are not only faithful companions but vessels of the divine. From escaping the ghost of an alcoholic mother, to finding a rare and passionate love, to the anguish of putting down her favorite mare and her beloved dog, to the self-doubt the narrator experiences, The Hours I Keep resonates with raw honesty, joy, grief, and existential yearning. These are necessary, urgent poems—difficult, wrenching, celebratory and ecstatic by turns.     —Ilyse Kusnetz

Italy and Belgium: A Liturgy


God in the practical black shoes of the nuns
in kindergarten, but not in the ruler cracked
down on the palm, the red welt rising.

God in the village church, its wicker pews,
stained glass windows holding stations of the cross.
God in the red and gold light pooled in the nave.

God in the hushed confessional but not
in the listening priest. God in the teacher
who gave me Herman Hesse.

God in the humming field, in bees dusted
with pollen, in the hawk on a broken fencepost,
in the sway-backed horse, breath on my hair.

God in the bottle my mother raised to her mouth
but not in the anger after.
God in the walk through the hum of the field.


One of the Hours I Keep
      for Avalon


It wasn’t a whole hour, really,
sitting in the junior high school office
waiting for the secretary to return from somewhere
and call my daughter out of class
for a doctor’s appointment.

It wasn’t a vaporous hour either
like the one you lose crossing certain state lines
in a plane or in a car on cruise control.
It felt like a narrow hallway—no doors, no windows,
a dim bulb swinging and the metal chair I sat on
became the chair outside my high school counselor’s office
where at fifteen I sat hoping
for clear words, whole sentences,
to explain to him how I had to escape
from the burning building of my family.
Time was a noose, an expanse, an attempted grammar.

But then a voice brought me back and it was a name
being called over the intercom and I was shocked—
that is my daughter’s name, I have a daughter, she is
alive and on her way to where I am alive
and waiting for her.


There Is No Preparation For Sudden


Before dawn the vet’s truck appears,
headlights a twin glow above
the dirt road. Invisible horses breathe
the steady dark, my bay mare
beside me, an ancient tree I lean against.

The body is not a machine
as science says.
It is years of gallop and graze,
dark gleam of summer
in the liquid eye, going on forever.

Horses are invisible
when there’s no moon, no cold stars.
They don’t whinny or startle
when the truck crosses gravel
and parks by the fence, ticking.

My mare is an old warmth
under my hand, winter fur
and a slow heartbeat sounding
from the giant room in the house
her ribs built for it.

When the vet asks me
if I’ve done this before
I say never and he tells me
how it will go and I tell my mare—
and never was I prepared for

the great tower of her to come down
and land bone heavy on the earth,
for the sun to erupt out of nowhere
and make visible everything
living and dead.

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