This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?
Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.
And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.
Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.)
Because you were born at a good time.
Because you were able to listen when people spoke to you.
Because you stopped when you should have started again.
So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.
Eleanor Lerman, from Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds
With thanks to thesensualstarfish.
Posts tagged poetry.
The first day it feels like fall
I want to tell my secrets
recklessly until there is nothing
you don’t know that would make
your heart change years from now.
How foolish we are to believe
we might outlive this distance.
I don’t know names for things
in the prairie, where the expanse
of light and the hissing of tall stalks
make me move slowly,
like in another country before
I must share it with anyone.
In what do you believe?
In September’s slight motion
of particulars, in the weight of birds,
in lust, propulsion, maps
that lie. You should not have loved
me. Now: goldenrod, prairie-clover,
the ovate-leafed bluebell with its open
throat saying how did you expect
to feel? Colonies of prairie-smoke
and pods turning golden and papery,
the grassy plains iterating patience,
and things I cannot name.
Begin with apples reddening.
Begin with a woman touching
the cities in your feet. Hartford,
Anchorage, the Bronx. Did you ever
see yourself as more
than yourself? I walk into a part
of afternoon that deepens
inventing an endpoint
for sadness. Everyone is gone.
On the subject of deception,
where do you stand? There’s a chill
in the air and the flowers know,
the goddamned flowers, their loosed
color. Sometimes we are cruel
and we mean it. We author the house
with its threadbare linens, the false
miniatures of people saying look at me.
Will the landscape forgive you?
Is it yours to describe? What
is the sound inside your mouth?
I’m surrounded by grasslands
in every direction. The sound
is a clamoring, because desire
is never singular and we want it
this way. We want it easy.
I have already let go
of summer. Here, the wind—
dispersal of seeds and story. Love,
there are things I cannot name.
I am a brilliant animal
but when the world unfurls
the black hallway
of its appetite, I shut myself
this self, a shock
of Russian Dolls shellacked and shelved
among the men who wear the winning suits.
were so warm it took time
to feel them find my throat.
I have all these halves
to look after. They give people ideas.
My eyes, carved sharp and wide,
have had to multiply;
it’s wild how much they see.
Dear Monsters, keep your Old Brain
games far from me.
I edge fire with heed.
Not for ash, nor smoke
but truth, a better way to breathe,
Inside me, something found has its beat.
I drive myselves to sea.
I drive myselves to sea.
i don’t want to fall in love with him,
i tell my therapist
fist against my mouth;
thinking back then that
there was a choice.
- she saw a man in a tiled hallway,
narrowed her eyes.
‘expand your social network’
she wrote in blue ink.
i might miss out
on the softness of his belly;
- rivulets of veins
rivulet - i decide to look this up - is also a type of european moth,
brownish & white;
those soft suicides on summer nights -
positively phototactic they are charmed by porch lights -
head first into flame they
molt into dust
i am encouraged to address and overcome
my hot thought
my hot thought is the tangle of your beard
your stern eyes
when i dream
i feel myself rising
through rough grassland
i am ready to be burnt by you
Some mornings are like this,
the stupor of longing or pure light,
stillness in a rifled grouse,
the black woods legible to a woman
whose heart is made of false starts,
the ruddy life of a hill gone blank
or what the face in the window
wants to believe of her past,
architecture of a white house,
this draft of rooms, paramour planets,
children with gentle hands, kindling
piled near the moon’s pillar, this draft
of despotic love, then distance, vacancy,
then forgiven words accumulating
like snow, just when the world
is finished with us, we build a wall
with rocks and the work is the whole
body inside the idea of belonging
somewhere, even if not for long,
mineral world of slate and flint,
numinous like these days and others
wintering, we test what will hold,
attenuated voices that lean
and fall, the argent sky, the worry
we don’t need anyone.
A not admitting of the wound
Until it grew so wide
That all my Life had entered it…
Without you, will there be no more folded cranes?
no more dog-eared corners?
no more traces of hands these words have passed through?
I have loved you
when I shouldn’t have
fallen trees, mill towns
old growth clear-cut hillsides
I’ve loved you in secret
in sin, the taste
still in my mouth
the shame, sulfur sweet
you and me
beautiful in the right light
for Erik Lemke (1979-2012)1. A hummingbird flies into a window
that looks like the sky. Everything around here
looks like the sky. The sky looks tiger striped.
They call that kind of cloud
something. I know somebody
who knows about clouds. I could find
out the name. Everything around here
has a name.2.
The hummingbird fell to the deck. My husband picked it up.
—What did it feel like in your hand?
—Nothing. It felt like nothing.
—Where is it now?
—Not dead. It flew away. It disappeared and it disappeared again.3.
I’ll tell you a joke. A hummingbird flew into a window…
I’ll tell you another joke. Treachery,
we were friends once.4.
In dreams the bird
weighs more, so you can feel it
when you pick it up. So when
it dies it seems
like something actually happened.
It’s a word
around your hand and a sign
at the stripped road.
A mylar star on a plastic stick
tied to the sign.
Blacktop. Post. A fat star’s
taut. It’s stuffed.
to be a party around here somewhere.
The bird weighs nothing waits nowhere.
The sky looks like a window and it flies right through.
A locked door is a sign of distrust so the bolt and latch are removed.
how I lie awake imaging a cabal of men assembling at the driveway’s
end, or a flock
of grackles forming overhead to sell me out, come in, come in. There
is nothing to stop you.
Birds and their truth, If there is nothing to fear then why my unease
with the two
deer feeding on the sumac in the side yard, who seem happier than
we? No doubt,
call the grackles, so I shoo them off with a metal spoon and pot. We
smell the smoke
of a cigarette in the woods, which is troublesome because we are
alone, and not smoking.
That will come. So too will knowing the only times we are meant to
is in passing cars or a trip to the grocer. Signs they are there: small
rocks kicked up
from wheels, bushels of blackberries picked by some hand, chalked
letters confirming local.
We are to be wary of anything foreign but not to show it. If a voice
the open door it is that of a friend we have not made yet. If a hand
finds its way
into our life, we are to shake it, wrap it in ours and keep it close. If
it should come
to rest on the tip of my hip in the night, I should say welcome,
welcome. Make yourself at home.
"The Spaces Between"
when love dies.
When love is deep
it hurts deeply
more deeply maybe than you thought
anything would ever hurt
But with time
the spaces between the moments when it hurts
the moments themselves become
till eventually you come to associate them
with a sad sweetness
that has as much in common with love
as it does with grief.
I will not say
Don’t grieve for me—
do I look like Saint Francis?
But I wish you long
and may you carry into them
all of that sweetness
and only enough sadness to attest
the risk that’s being taken
by everyone who loves you.
Every time we love we’re saying,
Let it ride
and what’s on the table
is the rent money.
And every time we stride again
out into the crisp desert night
our fists shoved deep into empty pockets
we know ourselves for losers.
what brave losers we are.
I wish you this too,
for the spaces in between,
mix yourself/with the strange/beauty of someone/else
Every morning I sit at the kitchen table over a tall glass of water swallowing pills.
(So my hands won’t shake.) (So my heart won’t race.) (So my face won’t thaw.)
(So my blood won’t mold.) (So the voices won’t scream.) (So I don’t reach for
knives.) (So I keep out of the oven.) (So I eat every morsel.) (So the wine goes
bitter.) (So I remember the laundry.) (So I remember to call.) (So I remember the
name of each pill.) (So I remember the name of each sickness.) (So I keep my
hands inside my hands.) (So the city won’t rattle.) (So I don’t weep on the bus.) (So
I don’t wander the guardrail.) (So the flashbacks go quiet.) (So the insomnia
sleeps.) (So I don’t jump at car horns.) (So I don’t jump at cat-calls.) (So I don’t
jump a bridge.) (So I don’t twitch.) (So I don’t riot.) (So I don’t slit a strange man’s
It waits. While I am walking through the pine trees
along the river, it is waiting. it has waited a long time.
In southern France, in Belgium, and even Alabama.
Now it waits in New England while I say grace over
almost everything: for a possum dead on someone’s lawn,
the single light on a levee while Northampton sleeps,
and because the lanes between houses in Greek hamlets
are exactly the width of a donkey loaded on each side
with barley. Loneliness is the mother’s milk of America.
The heart is a foreign country whose language none
of us is good at. Winter lingers on in the woods,
but already it looks discarded as the birds return
and sing carelessly; as though there never was the power
or size of December. For nine years in me it has waited.
My life is pleasant, as usual. My body is a blessing
and my spirit clear. But the waiting does not let up.
A book is a book, you said.//I take that for granted sometimes. Perhaps/you were right to press its mouth to the table.