If It We

Author: Lisa Zaran
Genre: Poetry, Trade Paper, 6X9
Publisher: Lummox Press (PO Box 5301 San Pedro, CA 90733-5301) www.lummoxpress.com
ISBN: 978-1-929878-82-6

Publishing Date: April 2012

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Lisa Zaran was born in 1969 in Los Angeles, California. She is an American poet, essayist and the author of six collections including The Blondes Lay Content and the sometimes girl, the latter of which was the focus of a year-long translation course in Germany. Subsequently published to German in 2006 under the title: das manchmal mädchen. Selections from her other books have been translated to Bangla, Hindi, Arabic, Chinese, German, Dutch, Persian and Serbian. Her poems have appeared in hundreds of literary journals, magazines, broadsides, anthologies and e-zines including: Juked, Ramshackle Review, Apparatus Magazine, Hudson Review, Black Dirt, Other Voices, Kritya, The Dande Review, Soul to Soul, Nomad's Choir Poetry Journal, Not a Muse Anthology, Best of the Web 2010, Literature: an intro to Reading and Writing by Pearson as well as being performed in Glasgow's Radio Theater Group and displayed in SONS, a museum in Kruishoutem, Belgium. Lisa is founder and editor of Contemporary American Voices, an online collection of poetry by American poets. She is also the author of Dear Bob Dylan, a collection of letters to her muse. She lives and writes in Arizona.



Heroin is one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs in the world. Not only for its users but for those close to them. Take Lisa Zaran, mother of two, who’s forced to witness her oldest child, a son, fall prey to the opiate’s magical pull.

In If It We, Zaran provides through poetry, her son’s addiction. Beginning with her shut-eyed approach and disbelief to any problem into riddled imbalance and eventually leading toward acceptance.

Throughout, Zaran attempts to white-wash his problem, tries to “fix” him or catch him off guard. She dives into her own sense of motherhood, humbly blaming herself for not being good enough and questions whether she is the culprit or is he just a bad seed.

A Few Comments on This Book

As the publisher of If It WE, I'd like to express my thanks to Lisa for her patience in bringing this important book into the literary world. I'm proud to be a part of its creation and hope that it will be a success, not only financially, but in helping the "invisible" victims of Heroin...the family members and friends of the user come to an understanding that A) they are not alone in their suffering; and B) that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

--RD Armstrong, Lummox Press, publisher of IF IT WE

If It We is a brave book, a tough book, a deeply-felt and moving book, written by a poet whose graceful and lyrical sentences can break your heart, stir your dormant emotions, and still have you in thrall to her soaring gift for language. This is a book of poems about a mother’s love for her wayward and self-destructive son. “Find the nothing that is. The no more. The voice/without noise. Spare nothing. Not even the soul,” she writes. Zaran’s gaze is clear and unsparing, stripped and painful, yet the voice still manages to sing. Later she says, “and maybe a bird cry/now and then,/to steal me from my panic.” This kind of honest, resilient self-knowledge and soul-baring is rare in poetry. Lisa Zaran writes with a pen dipped in agony. She writes through eradicating tears. I am somewhat in awe of this. It’s a goddamn beautiful book.”

--Corey Mesler, author of Before the Great Troubling

"If It We by Lisa Zaran is a book of accessible, autobiographical poems, concerning the deep painful, emotions and both mental and physical actions of a mother whose child is a heroin addict. Zaran is a mother who becomes a “storm-worn dove” as she watches a teen-age Zedekiah become more and more “not the same”—“bungee jumping in to nightmare.” Zaran is a mother whose only happiness comes “when [she’s] sleeping.” “Birds still clock the hours,” she writes, as her heart continuously breaks.

--Helen Losse, author of Better With Friends and Seriously Dangerous

Lisa Zaran’s wounded love songs are the cry of a mother’s heart for an addicted son. Taut, lyrical, and elegiac, her poems take us down deep into layers of parental loss. This is not poetry for the sake of art. This is art, of a very high order, for the sake of salvation.

--Norbert Krapf, Indiana Poet Laureate 2008-10




All day the small boy I love enters manhood. Grows muscles. Outlives the burdens of drugs and heartbreak. Soon he will outlive the birds, outlive the limbs supporting the birds, outlive me, his mother, a storm-worn dove. The small boy I love, wrung from silence, finds his own voice. Sings from his own self the transparencies of others with the candor of a child beyond the miseries of adulthood. The small boy I love arches the hours, speaks in rivulets sparkling gold and silver. Every ordinary morning, the small boy I love leaves like a train departing a station. The poem I write reads like a mother, frantic and theatrical, white scarf waving in the open air.


What do I call him?
This man who is my son.
Eighteen now and joyless.
Heroin, his contract with death.

To be reduced, as I have been,
by anguish. A conscious despair
that sits in my chest like a stone,
the weight of the universe

upon me. It's inconceivable
to reflect on his future demise.
Son, I say to him, look at me.
He turns his head the other way.


If It We

Memories. Inside the box
a gift is waiting. Outside
we stare, empty handed, songs
exploding against our skulls.

Heaven's groan terrifies us
in our sleep. The house of breath,
said the Lord, turning all serious.
Let not our labors be in vain.

Here comes the alarm clock.
Here comes your arm, heavy and warm,
across my back. Here comes
your morning kiss equipped with morning breath.

At dawn I see the world
with a compound eye. I do not know
who bruised the lawn, who kicked the sky
into muggy contemplation. I'm only human.

I remember things from a lower point.
A place of lanterns dimly lit.
Though bells keep ringing in my head.
And people seem like long farewells

blanching with the distance.