Eleanor Lerman / Poetry 4.1 / Spring, 2016





Observe the Age of Comings and Goings

Where are you traveling? Supposedly, wherever
your ticket says, though all you can remember
of your movements in years gone by is that
there was some vague appointment to be kept
in a distant city. Perhaps, if it was a sunny day,
there was a place where you would have stopped
to eat lunch

But where are you going now? There was a plan,
once, to seek out Ilion—do you remember?
To ingest whatever was being sold in the markets
and slap the faces of those flat-faced, marble beauties,
the ancients who would not answer us. Who conceived
their revenge in the shape of beasts and whirlpools
Who pretended that they knew things that we
did not

So why are you packing? Who told you
that you have to go? Instead, you should ask
who enslaved you, who tied you to the years
and broke them like rocks into hours and
days and abandoned them on your doorstep
Who made these rules? Who threw stars at you
but lied about their power to beat inside you
like a heart?

Remember the promise of resistance
Remember that for every train that leaves
the station, the power of the observer diminishes
as he or she (your choice) watches it depart
Besides, he or she will soon forget you,
just in time to ply their trade with others who
are more—well, let’s say, desirable. Expect that:
your only job now is to loosen your grip on the
observer. Observe: the age of comings and goings
is almost past

All that is left is to fight your way into the
great hall of invisible forces and tear up
the timetables. Time tables. Then the marble hands
will pretend to applaud you and all the seasons
will send you messages from the future,
which you are entitled to read where and when
you want to. If you want to. If you haven’t already
acquired a war dog and a generation of allies
whose ruthless dreams are finally scheduled
to come true

To Live in This World Requires

To live in this world requires
that you leave your house every morning
and step into the wind
Every morning: with all your memories
on file and the future pinned to some wall
you will have to build and tear down and
build again. If you get there. If. If.

Into the wind: first you walk the dog whose
blessed face belies the beast it is built upon
Millennia behind you, that beast enters a cave
and decides whether or not to kill a child sleeping
by a fire. It does not kill the child
because its heart has been surprised by love
Both softened and sharpened by it, inexplicably
Inexplicably, to this day

And on this day, the wind relents
The morning star lifts itself into a changeable sky
and you, carrying extra weight, wearing
last year’s clothes, start walking towards the train
Seeds that grew from ancient science digest in your stomach;
your bones begin to separate because science did not plan
this length of life; your heart slows down and you feel
the pressure of dragging a million, billion years
behind you. A million, billion lie ahead that you
will know nothing about

Thus, harnessed to time, facing the inevitable,
constructed by science and fed on inexplicable events
taking place somewhere in the middle of history,
your day goes by. Miles away, the ocean
murmurs to its own beloved creatures, a mountain
applies pressure to the weaving of a golden seam
And in your house, the dog wonders
if you will make it home again. And each day,
despite or because the performance of this feat
is both a mystery and a triumph, somehow
you will. You do


limelightHiresEleanor Lerman, who lives in New York, is the author of six award-winning books of poetry, two collections of short stories, and two novels, most recently, Radiomen, released by The Permanent Press (2015). For over forty years, her short fiction and poetry has been widely published in numerous print and online publications. She is a National Book Award finalist, the recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize (2006) from the Academy of American Poets and a Poetry Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2011 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.


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