Eleanor Lerman

Little Girl, Little Boy

What you will find, little girl, little boy
is that after the storm there is only
one path, and it leads to the mill
at the end of the winding river
that grinds out the fate of the world
You can hear its groaning gears
all your life without reading, anywhere,
about a wounded machine that is
swallowing the stars. But doesn’t
the sky look darker every night?
Isn’t there a small bear missing from
the heavens? A bull ? A great bird?
No one knows where the river begins
or why the mill is tireless, insatiable
You will be sent there anyway, with
many instructions, and though none of
them will be helpful, don’t give up yet
People have been thinking about this
problem since they first opened their
eyes, which may have been yesterday
Or maybe, tomorrow

Handsome Stranger

Come, friend and foundling; come orphan of the storm:
we can go together into the dark woods
Not everything is just your dream, you know
Terrible things will happen, but you can
hack your way out of them if you have made
a study of how to—and guess who has
So come: we need a handsome stranger
We need all the perfect weapons that you built
from stars and shadows when you couldn’t sleep
Come as the age you think you are,
the being you always imagined time would
make you, one who wouldn’t even know how to die
Because what’s going to happen has already been
happening to us: just listen for the sound
of the worm turning, the extra wheels being
slammed onto the powerful intentions with which
this time, we will be rolling into town

Leonard Cohen’s Guitar

Yes, comrades, the future is upon us
Your tickets will soon be in the mail
for the kind of concert where you are
nailed to your seat, and then the aliens
arrive to announce the end of the world
But you seem like the kind of overlooked attraction
who might be able to make it out the back
When you slip into the cosmos, save one of
the little dogs and Leonard Cohen’s guitar,
which, having composed the hallelujah,
and undergone the transformation from tree
to plank to instrument, is changing still
Now it makes the kind of music that walks the roads
with a handsome mongrel, charming its way into
the record books and vowing never to give in


Think. Is it because it seemed so easy for the beauties
            who got here first
and now their journey from our wrecked and desperate coast
is a story that’s been scripted for the movies?
Because they write each other’s names upon
golden pages
and stay inside all afternoon, resting
“in languid repose”?
True, the wind from the dry hills stirs the curtains
but it’s still a hot day because the sun feels like
it has to serve these people
It thinks bitterly about their swimming pools

Is it because you once believed it would be possible
to live here without work or money?
That old-fashioned queers would buy you drinks
in the holy name of how you used to be good looking
and share their medications because your grief has a
            name and size and number?
Because it can be seen from so far away?
That means nothing. Everyone suffers in this movie:
Civilizations rise and fall. It’s all on tape

So think. Think hard. There must be something
that you wanted, badly
because you flew here in a plane, crossed each
            indivisible mile
with that creature of yours locked up in the hold

Or is it that you’ll travel anywhere these days
just for the chance to set it free?


The Classics

What can be made out of a gray sky?

Messages, perhaps: things will clear up
or, all is doomed. Probably the choice depends
on how a gesture of unrest passes from mood
to consciousness, because in the classical sense,
a collection of gestures can become the mood
of history, as in the things we did because
we felt like it, and for a time, all we felt
like doing was the directive for everything
we did. Which is why we left the place that
we called home, packing up our pieces,
summoning the movers and departing

as if we could reassemble any time: return
to the rooms in which we told our stories,
read our books. As if we could find our way
again along the avenues we walked with
real knowledge of the city and its fate—
at least, its fateful, heated love for us, and
how it listened to us until the interlopers came

but love remembers when at last, the
long-lost traveler calls its name (and we can
name it; don’t be fooled). And it can arm itself
again, slip back into the streets. Which is how
we will signal to our friends, the ones who are
still in disguise, still thinking, planning,
sharing the classical sense that all skies are gray
before a reckoning. All days are numbered
All is forgiven—until we say that it is not

Eleanor Lerman

<em>Edit Poetry</em> Eleanor Lerman

Eleanor Lerman is the author of five books of poetry, Armed Love (Wesleyan University Press, 1973), Come the Sweet By and By (University of Massachusetts Press, 1975);The Mystery of Meteors, Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds, and The Sensual World Re-Emerges (Sarabande Books, 2001, 2005, 2010) along with The Blonde on the Train and Other Stories and the novel Janet Planet (Mayapple Press, 2009 and 2011). She is a National Book Award nominee, the recipient of the 2006 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship and a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship.