Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Starfish, a poem by Eleanor Lerman.

Post 376 - This is a very short week with Thanksgiving just about upon us. I wish you all a very safe and very happy holiday. I'm taking some time off to give thanks with my family and this blog will resume posting on Monday next.

Eleanor Lerman was raised in the Bronx, and has lived in New York City all her life. Her first book of poetry, Armed Love, was published in 1973 when she was twenty-one and was nominated for a National Book Award. Reacting to the backlash against that book, which looked very frankly at sexuality and popular culture, she didn't write another book of poems for 25 years. When she finally published Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds, it was awarded the 2006 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets for the year's most outstanding book of poetry.

Commenting on her own work, Lerman says, "I can't stop writing. But it's a lot less crazy than it was when I was younger. I used to feel that if I didn't write every day, I was falling down on the job. And I never edited anything - I just spewed it out, and there it was. Good or bad, it was finished as soon as it was written. I'm more thoughtful now - I hope! - about what I'm doing, and I've become - again, there's a big element of hope here - a good editor of my own work. I don't think that because I wrote something, it's just fine as is. Now, writing a poem or a story is the beginning of the process; there's usually some work to be done to fine-tune the piece."

Starfish 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 say, 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.

No comments: