Beautiful Denizens of the Deep, Dark Night - Eleanor Lerman

When we were alive and well in the long ago,

beautiful denizens of the deep, dark night,

love was in charge. Love ran the power stations,

dealt the drugs, bought the incense from Delhi,

which it paid for in turquoise coins

It ate chocolate at midnight

Its footprints started fires


And love named comets in the morning,

sailed down the River of Paradise

in the afternoon. Love promoted a belief

in fortune tellers and ballerinas

It lived on waterlily soup and white lies


Which is how girls meet, twirling in the street

with blazing haircuts. With jobs to go to

and insurance to sell. Dressed in iron skirts

and disguised in kitten heels, we typed the

capitalist manifestos while the clerks

were crying in the closet. We couldn’t

cry yet. We were still too young


But worry crept in. Would the imposters

be driven from the recital halls so we

could learn to play guitars? Would the

war end, would peace begin, would

justice ever be served? That’s how we

occupied the long middle years, with love


still claiming to be the cause and effect

But even when it paid the rent

I grew suspicious. It wouldn’t drink

coffee with us anymore and always

pretended to have forgotten

to buy cigarettes


But what I learned in secretary school

is that everyone gets tired

Everything slows down

Women take old poets in their arms

and try to pirouette, while in the

busy city of our dreams

women foretell love’s resurrection

They turn on the lights and wait

So last night,

when I woke up in your arms and said

Call me Elishka, you thought that I was someone else

But you and I have married in every impossible decade

that howled outside our door. Love comes and goes

like a ballerina, that’s what I say

Kiss me again and I’ll show you how

Eleanor Lerman is the author of numerous award-winning collections of poetry, short stories and novels. She is a National Book Award finalist, recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her novel, Radiomen (The Permanent Press), was awarded the 2016 John W. Campbell Prize for the Best Book of Science Fiction. Her most recent novel, Satellite Street (The Permanent Press, 2019) was a finalist for both the Montaigne Medal and the Eric Hoffer Award. Her next novel, Watkins Glen, will be published by Mayapple Press in the spring of 2021. www.eleanorlerman.com

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