Three Poems by Eleanor Lerman

by Eleanor Lerman


It’s not as if we didn’t travel;
pack lightly, sleep lightly, in order
to pray in monkey temples and starve
with the best of our generation as we
brushed the speechless dust of the ashram
from our feet. The bloody sun
plunged into the rice field at the
end of the world, and it seemed
to mean something about the nature
and attributes of God. Maybe it did











And it’s not as if we didn’t confer
with the famous book of phrases,
even allow the words to marry and
unmarry us as long as incense was involved
and the interpretation of dreams,
and velvet dresses. After all, that was
the world: accessible and cheaply purchased
If you said you were on The Trail of the Spirits,
soldiers would give you postcards
Dragons would let you pass

Now all that is left is just a room in
a town and a small boat that cannot sail
in bad weather. But on bright days,
it is still able to carry a passenger,
which means that until the last minute
it is still possible to be grateful
The sun descends in glory;
the kindest words contain you

and on the postcards, there were only kisses
It doesn’t matter that no one knows why



She wakes up at dusk
in a house that does not know her
Not a chair will befriend her,
not a door will open or close
in response to her desires
So this is what it is like, she thinks
meaning, to be alone in a land of
flat fields, flat horizons
that are waiting to express
whatever is indicated by their
creator, who at the moment,
appears to have gone silent
Perhaps He is away

Sitting on a bed, looking out a
window, in a pose that references
a previously undetected Order of Things,
she reviews the little information that
she has: her name, her age,
which she will eventually be required
to provide, but only after
the rivers run, the wheels turn,
the seasons form and fade, automatically
If the planets have any influence
on these matters, they are
keeping it to themselves

So with nothing else to do
(which is where the theory of
random choice begins to give her
some ideas), she wanders through the rooms
and finds a bureau full of stars,
leftovers, probably, that can be
used to fill in empty spaces
It’s infuriating, really, she thinks,
how little they tell us about these things

Soon, the night puts up its dark glass walls,
as it has done before, as it will do again
Downstairs, the Pillars of Creation
are gathering the energy they need—
the scarves of light and gases—
to burp out universes, launch enigmas,
bend and sweep and scatter celestial matter
all the way back to the beginning of time,
and forwards,

towards the shore of some infinite dawning,
which is where she was headed, anyway,
our girl of the lonely horizons,
who thinks that she has been underestimated,
who has come prepared with a few tricks of her own
So it is no surprise
when she raises the narrow viewing tube of the future

and sees a laborer in a sun-god suit
hauling a golden cart across the equinox
It will take him ages, eons, to get where he is going
but she is ready to bet
that just the right quirk of human nature
will be enough
to stop this whole circus in its tracks



When you wake up alone and go downstairs
and the house is full of wind
and all the gates are open
it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

You may not even remember moving here,
to this house on something called the
Jubilee Parade Route, which may pass by
on a summer day, though that’s a long time
to wait. Meanwhile, the grass is growing
The sun looks at you, then looks away

The chairs seem familiar, but whose
are they? The glass table, the ashtrays,
the ceramic figures—they are reminiscent,
which is as close as you can come to a word
that should be on the tip of your tongue
The air moves around you, ticking like a time bomb

That’s right—look at the time!
A feeling arrives and closes in, suggesting that
you should be in the city, where you must belong,
on your way to see a client. So you put yourself
into that picture: up you go, in the elevator,
to the offices where men and women with
illuminated eyes are discussing things that
it appears they don’t want you to hear
Go home, they tell you. Wherever that is

And suddenly, it occurs to you that all this
cannot be dismissed as the plot of a television
show you saw last night when you were drunk,
but it is also not like anything that you believe
you would have agreed to. About that, you are
absolutely correct. So pull up one of those chairs
Now, let us tell you more


Eleanor Lerman has received numerous awards including a National Book Award nomination, an NEA grant, the 2006 Lenore Marshall Poetry Award from the Academy of American Poets and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the author of five collections of poetry, two collections of short stories and a novel, Janet Planet.

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