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Starfish by Eleanor Lerman

Embark on the day with gratitude and cherish each tiny thing that life lets you do. Even the mundane is a gift, because it’s yours.

Poem featured courtesy of Academy of American Poets.

 

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Eventually

I dream different things as I grow older.

Gone are the rosy visions of a
white tulle gown and a grinning groom.
A fat pink baby wrapped in a quilt
I sewed in an effort to stem the tides of
my impatience through an endless, sticky
summer.

And a sunny, grassy yard
lined with berries and bird feeders.

These days I dream less of love, that
fickle thing.

More the clatter of passersby in
Venetian canals. The ache and throb of my legs
as I round the top of a postcard mountain.
Crisp reds and yellows and greens of a
farmer’s market in the equally crisp
morning air.

Still that sunny, grassy yard, though.
Lined with berries and bird feeders.

And seeing and hearing and tasting things
that make my heart feel as if it will burst.
Things that make my fingers reach for a pen.

And maybe love. Maybe still. A different kind.

Steady. Patient. Arrived. An envelope.

Or a symphony. Not the rush of youth’s tides.
A building of things, a minutely increasing
everything that becomes a masterpiece.

And the isn’t-this-world-beautiful kind of
love. Awe. At the masterpieces that are
already here.

And the final, beautiful discovery that
giving is more satisfying than receiving.

Giving, giving, giving every piece of me.
Sending life out into the world in
notebooks and hearty laughs and weeping
willows. And eventually this very soil.

Eventually another, different dream will
come true.

Eventually the right one. The right love.

 

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water man

A gray hair in his whiskers,
a sudden sign of fallibility in my Herculean
hero of a man

A man who doesn’t fall or recede

who only
pushes forth, pushes forth

like time, like water through the rocks

Will he age?
Will he pull back like the tides
telling me that nightfall is arriving soon,
that the sun will no longer be
upon my shoulder?

Will he become just a man?

No. He will push forth, push forth
until there are no more rocks to
break through

until he floods into the plains
and valleys, washing the world in
the spirit of things
that can’t quite be harnessed

Come with me, he will say.
Come with me and defy these ideas
of walls and gravity and
alarm-clock hearts.

Come with me and push forth into
the impossible.

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Seeing the Monets

We like the Monets.
He prefers Rouen Cathedral and I prefer the ships in La Havre.

Each is a palette of blues and grays, and a bit of orange.

Each evokes some sense of fate forthcoming, the sun running
over the waters and elegant spires reaching into the sky.
Grand things.
Things that command silence, or awe, or gratitude.

Image: Sunrise (Marine) by Claude Monet, courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program

Image: Sunrise (Marine) by Claude Monet, courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

We move through the museum at a medium pace,
stopping in front of walls next to other
congregations of worshippers, heads lifted

not because we need to do so to see – we could step back -
but because it feels right to only look up at miracles,
it feels right to place ourselves at their feet.

Image: Courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program

Image: The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light by Claude Monet, courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

Someday we will hang prints of the Monets on our walls,
remember tumbling out of the museum into a black courtyard
dotted with tiny white lights, a copy of the sky above us.

I took a picture of him that night, another copy
of something more beautiful.

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Atlas

I picture him in the middle of that glass house,
feet planted firmly on a stone pedestal

holding up the earth

stretching, stretching as tall as he can

he has no other choice

he hasn’t considered
being
any other way

he hasn’t considered
just
being

He will stretch, heft
his earth up through that crisp, white ceiling
into the sky

more, more
still more

until he has stretched himself so far, so thin,
that he disappears from sight

until there is just a pedestal left standing empty
in the middle of a glass house

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Date Nights

When I was very small, I used to watch her get ready for dates.
She would lean into the mirror and dab on lipstick. My favorite
was a berry burgundy. It made her look exotic, more like
the women on television, less like my mother.

I used to try on her brown boots while she
brushed and fluffed and sprayed and powdered.
They came clear up to my thighs and made a fun clunk-clunk
as I marched up and down our short hallway, my arms held
at my sides like a runner’s, my hands in determined fists.
When she had taken a last satisfied look in the mirror,
she would hold out her hand in request. My fun clunk-clunk
was done. I would shimmy out of the boots and watch her
pull them over her calves, become a tall willow of a woman.

A few minutes later, the doorbell, a kiss on my forehead,
a breeze of our front door opening and shutting, the smell
of her citrus perfume filling our toy-strewn living room.
I read books while I waited for her, wearing the shape of her
berry burgundy lips on my forehead like a badge of honor.

I awoke to her returning in the blackness, my head having
long ago surrendered to the heavy pull of sleep, a book still in
my hand. I could hear her boots in the hall, water running,
the sound of her boots once more. Then her undecorated lips
kissing my smudged forehead, back to being my mother again.

 

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It’s almost April. You know what that means? National Poetry Month!

Ah, isn’t it great to receive actual mail that you can tear open and hold in your hands?

National Poetry Month 2014

Thanks to the Academy of American Poets for this big piece of actual mail – and for the reminder that my annual poetry marathon is almost here: a poem a day for 30 days.

Last year was my first time participating in National Poetry Month, and it was hard. As much as I like the idea of writing poignant verse each time I put my pen to paper, it just doesn’t happen like that every single day. In fact, most days it doesn’t happen like that. Most days I’m scribbling notes for an upcoming blog or proofing a short story and thinking, “yep, I still overuse commas.”

There is a different sort of depth both felt (and hopefully conveyed) when I write poetry. I can’t pull out poetry the same way I can produce blog content or marketing copy on the fly, even on days when I fill every last margin of my notebook with ideas. Poetry is, simply stated, a truer level of truth – and if I don’t feel connected to those sacred places in my soul while I’m writing, I can’t pull out a poem. Just about anything else might come out of the hat, but a poem? Nope.

I wrote some mediocre poems last April. There, I said it. I had committed to writing one poem each day, and sometimes I couldn’t get past the hurdles of a day job, a personal life, traffic jams, errands and other distractions to dig deep and pull out a little piece of truth in verse form. So as midnight approached and the hourglass began to empty, I admitted defeat and posted what I had managed to eke out. I wasn’t always proud of the finished product, but I was proud of myself for sticking to my commitment, writing and posting (even the mediocre ones) rather than making excuses and hiding behind my perfectionistic tendencies.

And, besides, I wrote some good poems, too. I wrote about my mom for the first time, which I hadn’t done in the five years since she died. That was something. And that poem, though I’m undoubtedly biased, was pretty good.

I’ve written poems more often since then, and sometimes they fall onto the paper with such an ease that I’m amazed. I’ve also read much more poetry; participating in National Poetry Month reawakened my long lost love for reading the likes of Mary Oliver and Hafiz and Brian Andreas.

So I’m diving in again this year. I’ll be working much more than I was last April and I’ll have a heavier homework load for Italian, but I’m committing to 30 poems in 30 days. And, hopefully, shuffled in among the mediocre ones will be some pieces I’ll be proud of.

Because being proud of myself is good. So is challenging myself. So is digging around to see what sorts of words are buried in the little poetic recesses of my soul. So is supporting the arts, even if it’s just with my pen and paper. All these things are good. This poetry stuff is good.

So join me. I hope you’ll read along. Or write along, if you’re feeling that adventurous.

If I’ve sparked your curiosity, here is my favorite poem I’ve written so far: Intermezzo. Enjoy. And see you in April.

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next measure

I will move away

to a place with
a big desk
that I carefully selected
at a secondhand store
and painted bright red

to a place with
chipped shelves
rising up the walls
that I will arrange
     my books
     my life
upon


I will wake up

early,
when the air is
still brisk

wrap myself in
a cashmere scarf
and walk to the
farmer’s market,
fill
a slatted basket
with treasures

crisp, moss-colored apples
and squashes that match
the colors of the sunrise
and sweet yellow peppers


At home I will
tend to my treasures,
     wash and slice
     wash and slice

a harmony
a rhythm

let each bite
linger
on my tongue,
     never hurry
     never hurry


I will measure time
by the paint
that wears off my desk as
I write,
and the way my
nature-treasures change
color and texture
with the seasons

until time becomes
something else entirely

a harmony
a rhythm

until I forget to measure
until I simply
     write and
     read and
     taste and
carry on

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At the Museum

There we were, lit up
by so many
tiny white lights
in the black of night,

and I thought

some kinds of love
should be shown off
on walls
like the ones
around us,

so
everyone could see
the beauty of
selflessness,

so
everyone could see
what sanctuary
looks like.

I think of art as
colors and lines,
bodies moving through
space, the long note of
a violin in my ear,

but also
(also! Don’t forget!)

the overflowing container
of a heart

that loves
and is loved,

that finds
poetry in the being
and the shadows
and the simple idea
of
hope for
something better,

or feels
gratitude for
the answered prayer.

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