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Poetry by Linda Lerner

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; the most recent, NEW & SELECTED POEMS
( Ye olde Font Shoppe), 1998; SHE'S BACK  ( Ye Olde Font shoppe, 1996);  NO-ONE'S- PEOPLE   ( New Spirit Press, 1993; and CITY GIRL  (Vergin Press, 1990).  Her interview with Hayden Carruth appeared in the 50th issue of THE NEW YORK QUARTERLY;   one with Robert Peters is in the 51st issue of CHIRON REVIEW, SUMMER, 1997.   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 semiannual.  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 Grant & Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation Grant.

She does NOT Relate well to authority figures.


flying on broomsticks with technology speed
                                        By Linda Lerner

they come banging thru Greenwich St. dawns
to rip out old pipes every cobble stone of
a horse galloping age in lower Manhattan
my adopted home,
trees put in wooden cages to protect them;
no way to shut out the percussion-sound
of jackhammers   drills
the promises to put back the cobble stones
hammering in my head
in the false evening quiet
the lie:  nothing has changed
we've lost nothing....
nothing has

Puritan ghosts off the Mayflower
still holding up the BOOK the only BOOK
the threat of hell-fire damnation
same as in Salem,
as in McCarthy's America
in Cyber space now:
we give them permission to kidnap our minds
give up passwords to our lusts our privacy
what keeps us human-alive
beg Net Nanny & Cyber Patrol
to save our children from the devil
free us of sin

&  brag about  progress
& living in the 21st century....

a lie like the cobble stone cover-up
outside my window
like my lover's return after five years
swearing  sobriety with old words
& familiar excuses / same love:
bodies don't  lie;
found again on a virtual road
waiting for us
like the first time   nearly 10 years ago
an accident    not accidental
but doesn't bring him back
cannot return us to us

only thing certain:
nothing is the same
everything is



(For Jack Micheline)
don't much like this age
hankering after puritan taboos
holy/holier than thou
about everything
hail & brimstone Cotton Mathers
running my city, country
anything alive, x-rated
holy art not exempt either...

walk down any street & see
people huddled in doorways sneaking
a drag, scared criminal by
new morality:  in the name of health, family
someone killed, a  building blown up;
doesn't matter what we call it now...

nabbed for jay walking
refusing to keep within the lines
overstepping like a child who
doesn't see a line
crayoned red over a coloring book picture
& called into the principal's office
to explain what i couldn't
can't still...breathe between lines
i don't see:   do not step
on the grass   dance on the grass
like a child doesn't know
how to put herself in
a prison, child with young
or old skin who knows in
the scheme of things/no scheme:

refusing today to join the huffing pack
chasing down the POET'S death
with their writing tools,
i've taken this crazy detour,
will not even write his name
             in defiance
             in deference
i bump into the POET
seated in a crummy luncheonette
in my poem, coffee & a bagel
with a smear of cream cheese
out of his Bronx boyhood,
that old floppy hat he wore in
San Francisco, day i met him
and we spent together;

bumming a cigarette, he winks at me
smiling flowers & children
all over my poem
wherever he sees gray,
making a toast:
       to life
       to life
(someone is doing a broadside of this)


my business is words
but i've another language
my poems only approximate
a sound picked up
like my lover's scent
that spoke to me hours
after he left...
voice is what this language
                          is about
and touch and smell/that
lives in alphabet
and has none


down St. Marks heading east
to clear my head of a week
no worse than usual/no better
streets jumping with crazy people
stalls of silver jewelry, scarves, bags
books outlawed by scared minds
radios jamming with each other
disordering every-day-sanity
i can think again, stop pretending
for a paycheck, an apartment outside
the city's war zone/  every cities:
CRIME DOWN, screams headlines;

a sniper's soul hides 
in the safe neighborhoods/playgrounds
targeting  free spirits:  unreported
another sheep added to the herd...

down 3rd & 2nd avenues, Russian shops
fat cheeked ladies wearing babushkas
carrying long loafs, weighed down
by shopping bags, tired husbands
in whose faces, etched forever
my father's disillusion with this country,
better than one he left,
not the country he waited
three years in Amsterdam
for entrance, the daily struggle
for a paycheck  every week,
fearing the worst:  never came/
maybe  worst of all...

down to first, not needing
to go any further head back
stopping into cafe della pace
for coffee, yes
and  a scrap of paper
to recall who & why
in what country
this poet breathes free


something wrong with uprooting when
the roots were
yanked up with that plant
flung across the room
this is wrong   words mixing
with earth   pieces of clay pot:
drunk as he was my lover knew
what was pulled up that night

wrong when there's nothing but
that great fleshy elm outside my door
this quiet back view   the garden   to miss;

returning to a front view apartment
out of control horns
sanitation basemen ultimating the
bottom line:  cheaper rent...
returning to that urban jazz
i grew up hearing
in flatbush brooklyn accompanying me
when i left home & another home & another
is  impossible...

i was born in this curtained room
behind the garden   small candles burning
afternoons out   my lover delived me
bore witness, my body proof
i never lived anywhere else...

but there's a plant
i'm taking with me
sprung from the seeds of
the one murdered
real as those jazzmen,
just as insistant


"It's the truth even if
it didn't happen."
--Ken Kesey

He came with twenty Karat promises
to a woman whose poverty stirred him
like an old infant's cry...

He knew, this other woman's husband,
who learned to con fears in
the dark of abused youth

from pages of a woman's "don't
give a damn," held wisecrack,
how much she did;

in the undress of an artist's scorn
she vamped her body of work
before horny minds for
those lies; stillborn truth.

Driven by a man's Adam need
he voyeured to that place
she feared to look;
she saw a woman, like a costumed child,
laboring in the ring of
his wife's bondage

and couldn't refuse
what she didn't know to desire.
Loved her that much.

She knew too.
Even after learning
the counterfeit truth...
with her gut-mind knew.

But a woman no one could help
felt a rape force
tear hells deep: the
second time she
lost her virginity.

from NO-ONE'S-PEOPLE, New Spirit Press, 1992.


A door gunner in Vietnam
was flying toward a
woman he never met

brought up to fear
men who spoke with
their bodies; above all, flying.

...To California,
the lie of discharge papers.
Shooting up was shooting to kill.
Nobody gets out of war
that easily.

Grew up in range of marital fire
surprise ambush attack,
she knew about war,
friendly fire;

for just being there, being you,
what they feared to be... just being.

Closer now. Still flying.
He escaped the enemy again.
Thought she did too

protesting war, shoplifting
in wild-talk cafes,
gypsy artist winged high
into third world country,
someone beside her
she thought was him.

Men's eyes slipped into her skin
across a room, kept them
by keeping distance.

In the tight bandanna of freedom
lived the life she wasn't ready for,
returned with stories.
Happened but didn't.

Once knew girls like her,
had all the answers. Taught him
the breathing of did.
Noise of death made him forget.

Took cover in geographyless routines:
business ascent, the business
of marriage. Wake sleep skies
couldn't see where he was going
kept flying...level disturbance.

To find her
he had to become
her perception of him.

She dreamed of him who
would find her
where others failed;
slept off the solitude.

On a flight he couldn't afford,
knapsack of tales to prove it,
crash landed.

Mistress of lies still;
what did it matter.

In his vision of her
what she pretended to be.

Created each other,
made love like it was
the beginning of the world.

So it is.

SHE'S BACK, Ye Olde Font Shoppe Press, 1996

the poems on this page of Lies People Tell are printed with the permission of Linda Lerner and are copyright Linda Learner.  For information on how you can buy copies of Linda's books send her mail at: