Friday, November 28, 2008

Poetry Friday -

Today I'm offering up Starfish by Eleanor Lerman. The line breaks are strange - more like a prose poem, deserving of a good solid paragraph. Still, I like it so much. Seems like the perfect poem for the day after Thanksgiving.


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.

From Our Post Soviet History Unfolds
published by Sarabande Books
The Poetry Friday round-up this week
is over at Lisa Chellman's Under the Covers.


  1. Loved the poem, Julie. One of my favorite lines is, "So life lets you have a sandwich." It's a kind of miracle, right?

  2. Oh, I really like this one. I have a friend who looks for messages in everything, and she needs to read this!

  3. This is wonderful! Thanks for posting it!

  4. It won’t give you smart or brave,
    so you’ll have to settle for lucky.

    Indeed. I'll take the serendipity of luck over brave any day, and just attribute smarts for luck when I'm not feeling honest.

    Thanks for this, Julie.

  5. Mmm, gorgeous! I don't generally like conversational/prose-poem type of poems. But this one is magical and mundane, and I love it! Thanks for sharing.

  6. This poem really comes home for me in the next-to-last stanza. I feel like I have so much, and not because I am more deserving than anyone else... "lucky" says it. Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Wisdom and grace. These are my favorite lines:
    "Because you were able
    to listen when people spoke to you. Because you
    stopped when you should have and started again."

    Maybe not so much luck after all?

  8. Thanks for comments - glad you all liked it. I like much of it - it's the second stanza that grabs me - the processes "boiling beneath the mud," and turning to say that maybe nothing is happening, though we know it is. Something is happening, "there is movement beneath the water," which really embodies to me what poetry is about. Both the question (Nothing?) and the answer (Something!) Trying to put a finger on what is happening (a starfish moving? or something life?) is what I love. This large question that then turns into "Life lets you have a sandwich" - that's a great turn.

    I don't usually like talky poems either - but this is better than that. I really wonder about the format, but I got it off of the page, and they must know how the author broke the lines.

  9. Thanks for posting this - I particularly loved the unexpected ending - "the starfish drift through the channel,with smiles on their starry faces"... made me smile too!