Eleanor Lerman

For the Stay-At-Home Wife

While I am dressing, dream. While I collect my papers
and my courage, stay behind the bright tide of the dawn
and watch the stars wash up like shells upon the shore
Be safe. Be fearless in the silence. Protect the space
         where I should be

And then in green fields, golden fields ribboned with
flowers, go through the open gate. There will be no
wind; the warmth alone will heal you. Ribbons of
light, ribbons of clouds: all this is for you. Stay close
to home. Stay within the loving circle. Far away,
I will write your name between the sun and shadow
         on each page I sign

And when the twilight creeps into the house
with its sad eyes, turn on the lamp. Sit in the chair.
The key is in my pocket and I am coming home
with the news that everything you’ve lost
remembers you. In time, messages will turn up
in literature and science; in the way the moon
thinks of you when it lingers in the morning, wanting
to wait just one more hour before it is compelled
         to climb back into the dark

Carrara: The Sculptor Speaks

Even I am surprised by the way the story begins, with a white girl
born in Hong Kong. Blonde, French: how much more romantically
can the tale be told? She grows up rich, at the races, but cannot be
educated. Slumming in the gambling houses she marries twice:
everyone is in despair. So the banking cousins send her to Paris to
work in an uncle’s shop. Picture a cold spring. Picture rain on the stones
by the river, and me, the student with fifty francs, choosing between my
lust for art and chocolate. Which do you think I chose? Who do you think
was behind the counter? Remember, I will never be twenty-four again

Thus does fate exert its stranglehold. So now I see the hand of God
in everything: on windy days he rattles the teacups. On Sundays, he
lets loose the sparrows, like little kites of hope. And I am in the
basement, hammering Christ out of Carrara for him, Christ risen,
Christ robust and beautiful as an Italian afternoon. For her, winged
horses (though sculpted out of lesser stone): green-veined,
fire-eyed, they are avenging angels that no beast for wager can
outrun. And the banking cousins buy them all: yen, lira, HK dollars
pile up all around the world. But have I earned some measure of
mercy for her? Has this unexpected marriage bought me time?
Remember, if we were ever innocent, we will never be again

And I am in the basement, still studying my choices. With fifty francs
I walked into the chocolate shop, then took up my chisel, which still
still rings and rings against the stony milk that is His marble. And each
blow carries the riddle of my salvation: I found her, loved her. I was
faithful. Was there something more that you expected me to do?

Eleanor Lerman is the author of two short story collections and five books of poetry, most recently, The Sensual World Re-Emerges from Sarabande Books. She has been nominated for a National Book Award, received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and won the 2006 Lenore Marshall Prize for the year’s best book of poetry.