Eleanor Lerman

Hello, By the Way

It’s true that this story could easily start out
pretending to take place somewhere suitable
for the dawning of those long-awaited revelations
about the meaning of your life that were
anticipated but actually, were never really
going to bubble up, and so we find you—

hello, by the way—sitting in your trailer
by the side of the highway, doing nothing much,
or maybe in an apartment in the kind of neighborhood
where you have to walk ten blocks just to buy
a light bulb, and by the time you get back,
the city is already charging you more for electricity
More and more and more. (And here’s an
important note: the following information isn’t
going to help a bit if you expected the costs that are
extracted from you were ever likely to go down)

So, girl, this is what we suggest: take off those damn boots
that everybody is clunking around in now because they
think they’re so tough and put on a pair of comfortable shoes
Pack a lunch and a small weapon and go get that
big dog of yours, the one the landlord keeps telling you
all the neighbors are afraid of—yes, that dog,
who sleeps at the foot of your bed and barks
at ghosts—and both of you, go stand by the window

Now do you see what’s coming? Maybe it’s still too dark
and you’re probably mesmerized by all those falling stars,
but don’t believe anything they say because we all look alike
to them and they don’t know you, they don’t know
what you’ve been through or where you should be heading
Besides, in a moment, they’ll all be gone and a
certain sort of light will begin slipping through the cracks
in the world; not too insistent but still bright enough
to illuminate the kind of story this really is:

one in which there is a car parked outside, so that
when the moment comes—or more likely, is wrestled
to the ground by you, armed and ready to extract a
confession—you will be the first of those who get away

Eleanor Lerman is the author of six books of poetry, Armed Love, Wesleyan University Press, 1973; Come the Sweet By and By, University of Massachusetts Press, 1975; The Mystery of Meteors; Sarabande Books 2001; Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds, Sarabande Books 2005, The Sensual World Re-emerges, Sarabande Books 2010, and Strange Life, Mayapple Press, 2014. She has also authored two collections of short stories, Observers and Other Stories, Artemis Press 2002, and The Blonde on the Train, Mayapple Press, 2009. Her first novel, Janet Planet, was published by Mayapple in 2011. She has been nominated for a National Book Award, received grants from the Puffin Foundation, The New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts and won the 2006 Lenore Marshall Prize for the year’s best book for poetry for Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds. In 2011, she was named a Guggenheim Fellow. Her second novel, Radiomen, will be published by The Permanent Press in 2015.