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Linda Lerner: Poems

SHE'S BACK | GOING DOWN | SURVIVAL | TENNESSEE'S WOMAN
| WHAT DO I SEE WHEN I SEE | INTO THE CRADLES THEY GO

Linda Lerner was born and educated in New York City. Her work has appeared in hundreds of journals throughout the country. Among them THE NEW YORK QUARTERLY, BOUILLABAISSE, THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, SLIPSTREAM, HOME PLANET NEWS, CHIRON REVIEW, ATOM MIND, THE MAVERICK PRESS. Five collections of her poetry have been published; SHE'S BACK (Ye Olde Font shoppe, 1996); NO-ONE'S-PEOPLE ( New Spirit Press, 1993) and CITY GIRL (Vergin Press, 1990). Linda Lerner's latest 1998 book is NEW & SELECTED POEMS (Ye Olde Font Shoppe, Box 8328, New Haven Ct 06530, paper $12.00, 90 pp.) It was reviewed by Robert Peters in CHIRON REVIEW, issue #54 in an article titled, ORGASMIC CONSCIOUSNESS: Summer, 1998. Peters wrote: "Linda Lerner should be one of the most visible of our poets in this country... With Sharon Dubiago, she is in a special outsider group of powerful and original American poets largely ignored by Poetry Establishment forces. Her amazing energies zap her poems with high voltage...a vivid, sexually alert woman, loose in New York City and environs, a swirling rush of emotions laced with an often rauncy humor, much sensitivity to her own survival struggles and the struggles of urban folk--the sick, the homeless the wanderers... She loves the open form, and works in a tradition of Ginsberg, Charles Plymel, and the Beats, and has quzzled much from Charles Bukowski. She is feisty, declaring that she does not "relate well to authority figures"...In one of her briefer poems, she attends a poetry reading ... featuring three conservative poetry "ladies" each with three names, who "curtsy behind language." Her response? She feels trapped "I yearn for a Bukowski curse/beer can flung across a room/knockdown fight/till I want to puke from/all the smoke and sweat..." Lerner's interview with Hayden Carruth appeared in the 50th issue of THE NEW YORK QUARTERLY; one with Robert Peters is forthcoming in CHIRON REVIEW. For ten years, Linda Lerner conducted an annual reading series at Polytechnic University. She edits an on-line anthology, POETS ON THE LINE a continuing poetry anthology available only on the Net; it is semi-annual. The first issue appeared, Spring, 1995; No. 4, Fall, 1996; No. 5, Spring, 1997; Nos. 6 & 7 (1997/98) VIETNAM VETERANS / POETS was the recipient of a 1997 Puffin Foundation.

SHE'S BACK

She's tasting a boy's first
wet appetite, like the girl
she once was

strutting on
a tenement firescape
in the protection of marital wars;

On a rock blast of Elvis
swings into a blacklisted country.

Busy with bread-in-the mouth arithmetic
parents, depression era refugees
they saw only poverty.

A man old enough to
be that girl's father
now holds my hand past
the pretense of skin
kisses a woman's mind out of lips
in a Greenwich Village bar
smack into another boro/home,
and she,
drum pulse in every cell, she's
giving him a girl's new body.
As though a heavy booted wish
stomped out years...pact
against her womanhood.
She made against her mother's slavery

Before she knew
the price of that murder.

GOING DOWN

It was all sea
crowd of fish hunger,
slurping...wrapped
in your pleasure
dark of new visability
I saw with taste buds of flesh.
Salt/wind licked
sun roared through bedroom night.
Felt like something coming born.

Seemed hours
before you surfaced
centuries older. I hauled
you into my arms: glimpsed the
imprint of a sea's earth
mapped on your face
barred from my
curious woman's eyes.
...now beached ashore,
your hair streaming
barely breath to speak
a man's other need
before I dove in.

SURVIVAL

I've seen him
blast thru all the bullshit
words capsule; over coffee
leave someone stranded on
fissured terrain
when he swung into
a mental bureaucracy of excuse
and staggered off...
Several times a year
cut up naked hands me
his mind on a platter.
We smash the walls
love creates, undress
politeness: perform
love's dangerous work.

TENNESSEE'S WOMAN

she was sue ann wildflower of alabama
in new orleans laughing champagne
wet out of back pool
nobody nerved into yet...

never learned rules i had
but knew were
steered her to me
past the new york poet
guest-of-honor thing;

skin barely covered the glass
she wore white almost billowing crinoline...
using castanets taps anything percussion
played with a couple of guitarists
on the beat
sometimes slipping

nearly homeless....in & out
drugs and

jumped right on! into my poems yes!
heard
what words bandaged
concealed with pretty
flung in mud

i was reading to her now;
wildflower enough to be
allchild

she didn't deserve my cheap shot...
in war: friendly fire
unintentional

death/still

left a glossy 4 by 6
aging woman

WHAT DO I SEE WHEN I SEE

Old man stares into his cup of black coffee,
black even after he drinks it;
see him
in McDonald's window, well dressed
crouching in his trench hole-dark
late afternoons
on Court street
on my way to/ this detour
then
back to old turf: hunting
for job/apartment, life in rougher
90's climate/
whining from bones/joints...
Odd time for love to crocus;
feel
urge to hit the sky-road
ignore the economics of breathing...
see
back-packing angels taking flight,
no planes, miles in the air
smoking cigarettes, having drinks
thumbing their noses at everyone
more frightened of unemployment than death
who
don't see that old man
never will
perfect flying weather, and...

Hey lady, watch where
you're going...

Big Mac/breaks
inches from me...blinding gasoline sun,
angry 5 o'clock stampede; horns jazz
murder improv,
someone's shoe nipping my heel
screams, "bitch, watch were..."

And I don't know where
on Court street
March, 1995

INTO THE CRADLES THEY GO

grandparents middle aged young
irish jewish italian crying
in poems dragged to bars coffee houses

oh father/mother who art in heaven

across america

forgive us
we knew not what we did...

runaways pilgrimaging back:
old williamsberg brooklyn a father's birth-
place left forever holy sanctuary
holy the heavy oak furniture/inherited
coffins a life now holy
every blanket piece of linen
holy parents in their after-death years...

he would have been there

daughter's cry

on that line protesting with me

who never did before...


and i who am not them would never return
journey thru poems to a man
lost good as dead to
every bar-face flushed vodka high to
a lover with a father's
hands woke a woman's body...

the poets are crying in their cradles
bars coffee houses anywhere allowed:
holy all that isn't anymore

Copyright © 1998 by Linda Lerner. All rights reserved.

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