She took the long way home.
As she crested a hill she saw it:
The cloud-murked moon, color of the setting city sun,
seated on the horizon like a broken bowl.

She doubted her eyes and drove on,
winding through streets of darkened houses,
peering down driveways, crawling past the bars and jewelers downtown.

It caught her around the corner of a bakery.
The sight of it squeezed her heart and took fistfuls
of her lungs,
and she drove on, eyes wide, mind still.


The Annunciation

He came at midday and spoke with the voice
of old lovers I would never have.

He said my name. As he turned to go
a feather grazed my cheek.
I watched the floor.

The sun crawled toward its empty bed
and as the chill of desert evening drew near
I did not move.

Gold went purple;
with the first star I was lit.
I rose to bake the next day's bread,
the scent of lilies in my hair.

Art: The Annunciation by James C. Christensen


Breath of Life

after Saint Amun

The night we were married I said,
"Not tonight, darling--actually,
not ever, is that all right?"

Our namesakes, carved in the limestone walls
of the pyramids, groaned. The three-ton blocks shuddered
as they rubbed the grit from their divine eyes,
and outside the night sky opened to blackness.

"Fine," said my beloved. "Fine with me."
The dunes rippled like bedsheets
shaken by our strong-armed maid.
The villages at the edges of the Sahara rocked
in a clap of thunder,
then all was still.

Eighteen years and I packed a bag for Nitria.
Desert winds rose great monsters out of the sand,
and my beloved filled our house with women.
I turned at the door. A beetle lit on the gate.
"God is with us," I said in farewell.
"God's with us."


Feast Day

Feast Day
Today, so many years ago.
I awoke in his mind. I told him,
That hill. There. I said there would be flowers
and he found piles
of Spanish roses on the snow.
I said, show the Bishop. He turned out his apron,
and the world saw what was to come.

They say now I am a symbol, no woman at all.
They say the old goddesses hide beneath my gown,
they say you can see the stars in my girdle.
They say you can see children in my eyes.
They made me a flag and I led them through blood,
and they bombed my home with flowers.

Today I am blue-green, standing on the blackest moon.
Today I smile in my sleep,
and the war goes on in the night.

"One may no longer consider himself a Christian, but you cannot truly be considered a Mexican unless you believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe." -Carlos Fuentes

"The Mexican people, after more than two centuries of experiments, have faith only in the Virgin of Guadalupe and the National Lottery." -Octavio Paz


Metaphors melted. She wanted to use real words, to grab whatever this was by the hair and slam it against the wall until it stopped twitching. Instead she remembered how, as a child, she had been convinced her mother was an angel, a shining immortal. It was a mistake she'd make again and again as she got older. There were always angels, and not a single one was immortal.

Separation Anxiety

She was twenty-eight when her twin was born.
They brought the baby in and she could not speak,
could not form thoughts,
only wanted to cry.

Twenty-four years later, the baby
cannot breathe.
Across the country her twin sees the x-rays.
The phone rings.
"I'm fine," she says.
"We're fine."


Son Decembre (Fin)

It is a false finale; the buildings collapsing
will spring up again tomorrow, the dead sun
will roll over, dust itself off and rise.
This sincere death is but a molting,
this body just a layer of skin.
Deep beneath the frozen ground, ticking life makes a liar
of her perceived tragedy.
She said, it has never been this dark before.
He said, look, already the sky grows lighter.


The Holiday Spirit

Every year she forgot; every year she looked forward
to decorating the cookies, the tree, the windows.
She imagined gingerbread men with pink bow ties,
a porcelain creche softly lit by colored lights,
popcorn and cranberries in neat, full strands.
This year the tree went up. She stood around, waiting for someone
to fill her hands with glass ornaments,
cranberries hard from the refrigerator, a bowl of frosting.
This year as the day went dark the family dispersed,
and she lay on the couch watching White Christmas alone.
As a gray sleep overtook her
she wished for new snow.


Poetry by Eleanor Lerman

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 and 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

When I have something to say for myself I will say it.
Until then, another poet, a cellist, a saint--
their words will do nicely.


From Wikipedia: The cello player is local musician Vedran Smailovic, who often came to play for free at different funerals during the siege despite the fact that funerals were often targetted by Serb forces.



The shadows of the deer flew
across the Post Road
just beyond the reach of my headlights,
hunched like fugitives.
There is a darkness, they told me
as they wandered into the trailer park,
that you cannot control, a drumbeat
you can neither silence
nor ignore.

December 2

She woke in the silence, knowing the sound of snow.
Outside the kitchen window a stag, new antlers,
stood on hind legs to reach the frozen berries of the tree near the road.
She washed the coffee pot, her eyes locked on his hooves,
the trail of tiny prints he left on the lawn.

Her heard her watching and turned from the tree,
caught her dead in the eye through the glass and the snow.

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