Nancy Shiffrin

Three Poems – Nancy Shiffrin

Keeping Distance

Ricky Friesem writes
Word Sonnets for Corona Times
fourteen line poems one word per line
we both call on the scientific method
she to squeeze herself into the tiniest space
the bunker allows
me to find comfort in the
perpetual return to dailiness
soup on the stove
dust on the mantel

I try to see how many words I can remove
from poems fluid with verbosity
I want to write about this friend
far away hiding in her bunker
perhaps embedded
trying to befriend the stranger

I wonder about the State of Israel
our fighters our pioneers
my friend has not responded to my queries
for her poetry a parenthesis
for me the journey itself



a Hebrew word for purgatory
the space between lives
where sins are purged and the next tasks defined
shame reduced blame disappeared
and all forgiveness possible
what happens there
what book is written

I know how to live there
shrouded unable to pull the trigger
pretending joy at the border
the place where you can’t forgive yourself
and the god’s forgiveness isn’t enough
Limbo I know you
I’ve done that back bend under the wire

old age once a hopeless state of waiting to die
defined by a magazine as fifty
at fifty I received my phd
became a great aunt
experienced menopause

at 76 still birthing new poems


The Mystery of Breathing

The quantum leap
the transition from womb to air
the newborn baby must switch
from the fetal circulation pattern
in which oxygen is taken from mother
and little blood gets to the lungs
to standard air-breathing circulation
right side of the heart pumps to the lungs
back to the heart
left side pumps to the body

How difficult it is to get born
how it has so little to do with
measurements of neural activity
bystanders hoping dreaming
assessing the odds of survival
arms reaching for the tiny one
still struggling to breathe

How much to do with
the smoldering embers
The Hand which
ignites the flame


Nancy Shiffrin is the author of four collections of poetry: The Vast Unknowing (Infinity Publishing, 2012,, Game With Variations, Flight, and This Sacred Earth. She earned her BA at California State College, Northridge, and her MA studying with Anais Nin. She earned her Ph.D. at The Union Institute studying Jewish-American women authors. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, New York Quarterly, Earth’s Daughters, Lummox Journal, The Canadian Jewish Outlook, A Cafe in Space, Religion and Literature, Shofar, and numerous other publications. She has received awards and honorable mentions from The Academy of American Poets, The Poetry Society of America, The Alice Jackson Foundation, The Dora Teitelboim Foundation, and the Lummox Journal. She resides in Santa Monica, California, United States, with her husband, the novelist Thomas Page.


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