The poems in Returning Light, Lisa Sornberger’s remarkable second book, will leave you a different person when they have entered your blood and bones. In their “stone of sadness and lightness of flight,” they dare to enter “the chamber where suffering dwells” and dare to leave that chamber behind, reminding us that “our birthright / is to delight, to shine, / to be unafraid of being flesh.” Nor are despair and joy the only opposites coexisting here. These poems allow the light of another world to shine through, suggesting mysteries lying just beyond our reach, but they also paint the lush colors of this world in all their permutations. Here, we find the spectral white horses with whom the poet flies at night, but also the wildcat that roars in her belly, the bird that flies out of her throat. And Sornberger’s verse celebrates both the adventure of lighting out for the territory and the luxury of returning to the hearth. Nor does the seriousness of her themes prevent a playful smile from breaking through. So many contraries (not the poet’s alone but also our own) revel in this bountiful book that in the end it is, like the gentian sky evoked by the author, “a hand / palm up, fingers opening, / giving us everything.”  Advance readers of the book have been enthusiastic. Pit Pinegar says this: “Lisa Sornberger’s poems are filled with what Carl Jung calls the tension of opposites—light and dark, body and spirit, grief and joy, stones and feathers, the gifts of memory and the gifts of here-and-now. Returning Light is a meditative collection that circles back on its themes, not in repetitions, but variations. It is the work of a poet who is not content to write only of what is or was, but who also contemplates significance. Sometimes the poem poses the contemplation; sometimes it follows the contemplation; often the poem is the contemplation. Lisa Sornberger is a poet whose work is clear evidence of a life examined.” The spirit of Returning Light is beautifully suggested by the artwork on its cover, a painting entitled "Moongirl" by Sandy Mastroni.

Lisa Sornberger decided to be a writer at the age of nine and weathered adolescence with the aid of the Muse. In her early twenties she met her future husband, John, also a writer, with whom she continues to share joy, much fun, and many adventures, which include house-building and restoration, far-flung traveling, snorkeling, gardening and beach-roaming. She has had an abiding interest in animal protection, its most apparent manifestation being the family of five cats with whom she and John co-habit in Willimantic, CT. For many years and in many capacities, she has helped the disabled; she has also been a licensed massage therapist. Through all of her activities, poetry has been a constant. She is a member of the Thread City Poets and has received several honors for her writing, among them a fellowship to the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets, a scholarship to the Wesleyan Writers Conference, and selection to tour with the Connecticut Poetry Circuit’s student contingent. Lisa Sornberger’s work has appeared in literary journals such as the New York Quarterly, the New Virginia Review, Fairfield Review, Embers, and Common Ground Review. In 2004 her chapbook Stone and Feather was published.

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ISBN: 978-0-9817883-1-9
76 pages, 6" x 9" perfect bound



I hear them calling:
I leave my home and people,
wander deep into night forest.

I burn sage,
stare into fire, wait.
They come to me.

Wildcat roars in my belly,
dark horse bucks and whinnies,
bird flies out of my throat.

Each brings her wisdom,
guides me through dark.
I belong here now.

The wildcat gives me fierceness,
the dark horse, freedom,
the bird, bittersweet song.

All tell me the path to home
runs through my belly, heart, and head.
I am willing at last to be led.


Forget Italy.
Pisa’s leaning,
Venice is sinking.
Come to me!
The weather is better here.
We’ll romp on the beach,
swim naked,
drink pink champagne,
eat jackfruit and kumquat.
Forget the Sistine Chapel stars.
We’ll make the fiery midnight sky ours.
We’ll sleep beneath the Southern Cross,
make love a prayer that guides the lost.
Forget Italy.
Come to me!


Pain is part of the landscape here,
to be neither avoided nor feared
but navigated and negotiated with.

Living in the body
is like riding in a nameless boat
on a starless night, on a dark river.

If you ask the wind to guide you,
trust the water to hold you
and are willing to talk to trees,

understand animal cries and songs,
and answer them with your own,
you are halfway home.


There is nothing to say.
Nothing to take away
the ache of the empty place.

The full moon floats,
her ghost body hovers
above the roses of sunset.

The old oaks watch and wait:
wise women who point
thin fingers at the sky.

I wait here, caught between
sky and earth and water,
listen to the sounds

of Canada Geese,
one mourning dove,
and a kingfisher

high in a willow tree
who sings his lonesome song
for someone not me.

Hummingbirds and flycatchers
rustle the rushes, cattails, and reeds
reversed on the surface of this circle

of pond. It mirrors the moon,
moves it below me.
Water striders break the surface,

send its stillness
reverberating into circles,
circles whose paths cross

and overlap, until who knows
where which motion started.
Remembering what’s lost,

useless or gone,
now I lose everything,
come into now,

this image of trees
grown deep
and upside down.

I enter this vision,
dive in,
gliding past surfaces
through ice water,
straight into
and clear through
the bottom of grief.

I fly to the highest branches.

Nothing stops me.


Every day we sit with intent
to still the monkey mind
to open the heart,
that ear,
that flower.

We have come here
to listen to God
to lose the illusion of ourselves.

Who will dare to stare straight into the sun
until they go blind, or mad,
until they catch fire?

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