Archive for the Linda Lerner Category

Stand Down By Linda Lerner

Posted in Linda Lerner with tags on June 28, 2013 by Scot

I’m tearing up lettuce  cutting up cucumbers  tomatoes
not thinking about the upcoming week’s problems
turn the TV volume down on  some sports event till  60 minutes
begins: its news story  Stand Down  shoots the volume  up

out of my control into another tense
a truce between the past and present is broken

I watch vets crowd around tents  asking for help: treatment  jobs
and it’s 1993 again…we are at the first stand down
a vet salutes him and he salutes back  salutes a future intuited

I do not travel beyond that day  an outsider
I am taking it all in happy just to be together

the news commentator focuses on some homeless vets
he was never homeless  not physically  but was
mentally  he told me years later  trying to make me understand
what it’s like to become voiceless:
“can hear the tune   can  t sing”*

I couldn’t stop    and he didn’t want me to
but there it was   impassible

stand down: at ease  a temporary ceasefire
a Walt Disney survival fantasy:
word like a rock someone on a cliff throws off
hitting a person in a passing car

sniper word no one is ever prepared for…not I
not then  not now  not
that  Sunday  October 10th  2009


From “ the boys in the band” by Andrew Gettler

Two Poems by Linda Lerner

Posted in Linda Lerner with tags , , on December 12, 2011 by Scot

The System

 I walk down hallways between sentences
navigate my way carefully around thick paragraph walls
one of the ‘and others’ in memos
the ones out of the system we are in:
the part time  temporary  easily expendable ones
who do the same work for less pay

we are the ones who jumped without parachutes
into the workplace of America
see the skies past rules  break the infinitive
and leap into the unpermitted
those who follow their gut:  for that
there’s no forgiveness

I think of weeds, the ground cover
providing food and nourishment for the soil
when one flowers like the real thing it is
just weeds they say without looking

I’ve walked naked thru decades–
look, here in my book   in this magazine
show them what I’ve done

someone reminds me of a  due date
penalties to be paid


A day like any other in downtown Brooklyn–

Nov. 17, 2011

the usual lunch hour crowds  searching for what
to put between two pieces of bread,
make it thru the rest of this cold, rainy Thursday
another week without being laid off,
look for a sale to wrap around  frustrations
of never having enough, foreclosed
lives caught in  some invisible mud slide who may or
may not have heard rumors of an angry crowd
convening  on Wall street, major traffic
disruptions they’ll cause, and if while
heading to the gym, school, their usual appointments
think about it all, it’s to  get home without any  trouble
caused by those  building levees to halt the slide


An Of the Wall Protest By Linda Lerner

Posted in Linda Lerner with tags on March 30, 2011 by Scot

(Feb. 2003)

Decades ago, returning vet
you flung your medals at the White House,
I fling words on a page now   another war
you’d be protesting with me
if I wasn’t protesting your death.

Learned in Vietnam
to know the real enemy  the dead:
marching into jungle swamp deserts
reciting  the lord is my shepherd
the dead:  we surrender our souls to every day.

You saw with your own mind
heart’s eye   didn’t need
a politician doctor bossman
telling you how to live
breathe compromise   or  when
death had you in its chokehold…

having known Long Bînh Jail’s torture*
you wouldn’t accept a medicine man’s for
some zero quality time.

Your penis  computer animated
my coffee mornings
those last months…
see how big  alive–
and growing even bigger  and
“wanting is the hottest sweetest thing you know”**
outlasting every kind of war
all the broken promised moments we had
and couldn’t keep….

so when your daughter wrote ,
he passed away
wasn’t you, my love…a dead goodsoldierman  I saw

or ever see…
not you at all

*largest Military Stockade in Vietnam

**”love at first sound” by  Andrew Gettler

This poem was published in my collection A koan For Samsara published by Ibbetson Street Press, 2003 and has references to someone who was in Viet Nam.

Two Poems by Linda Lerner

Posted in Linda Lerner with tags on January 23, 2011 by Scot

It’s Because

long before someone filled the word with explosives
and sound reached vocabulary
to echo out of voices across America
I heard it in a mother’s because I said so
seen it  a boss’s eyes, a doctor’s set expression
when I asked, are you sure it’s necessary
picked it up in the unspoken way things are done
in my mother’s nursing home
when someone who changed tables at lunch was
ordered back, as if she’d illegally crossed a border
that line that divides order from anarchy
line craved in stone….what stone  has anyone ever seen it?
when a seven year old  in a Sharon Olds’ poem
says to another boy his age,
“we could easily kill a two-year old” at a birthday party
I heard it in an ex president’s  because I can
settled in one word and was laundered thru our lives
why to stop black markets from financing it
companies tightened restriction on
cigarette marketing in underdeveloped countries
why the PO refused my check without an address
why I must give my ss number to use a xerox machine
the college bought for that purpose, why
I asked a professor and got the same response as
from the clerk at the PO, from the druggiest
who needed to see ID to purchase cold meds
from the bank who said my ID was insufficient
to cash a $25.00 out of state check

and though I didn’t hear it after the Dec. 26th blizzard
as streets went unplowed, people left stranded
at airports, in stalled trains, cars and in ems trucks
waiting to be rescued, why a sanitation truck was
parked outside a pizza store, I am still waiting
to hear the mayor  explain why weather reports
went ignored, what caused the distraction
it’s because of terrorism

Ex Wives Caught in the Jam

it felt as if he had thrown the jam right at her
when he returned to their table
where they usually sat
saw the measly amount in the cup
heard her say she noticed it immediately
and didn’t say anything to the waiter, he roared
heads turning their way saw him
fling his two ex wives at her who
would have spoken up for him
telling her exactly when both had
…she didn’t remember what else was said
as they left the restaurant and he became nice again
but knew that no matter how hard she tried
she’d never entirely wash off all the jam from her face

Two Poems by Linda Lerner

Posted in Linda Lerner with tags on May 2, 2010 by Scot

Like Any Drunkard

It’s the way my cat lifts a paw and
bangs on his bowl  as I pick it up
If I don’t fill it fast enough
see in his urgency that same
need I once saw in a man
I thought I knew
seated on a stool beside me,
clenching an empty bottle
hitting the bar with it repeatedly
like the bars of a cage
and the waiter busy serving others
maybe didn’t hear that
wounded animal whine rise up
each time for if he did would
have done anything to sooth it


mid east sand blows thru  Katz deli New Years day, 2010

hotter than the mustard on my
pastrami & rye hot as
it was burning cold outside
how hot  I asked,
“you have no idea….”
a waiter just  back from Afghanistan said,

snatching a quick break from a celebration
watched thick salami & roast beef sandwiches
plates piled with potato salad
thick sour pickles, huge knishes
rapidly vanishing from
New York’s taste bud memories,
pass across the counter, crossing generations
line  barely moving
and thirsting for Dr. Brown’s cream soda
to wash down what  hadn’t yet been eaten

inched my way closer to what the man ahead of me
was telling the waiter, who nodded,
explosives going off between  his roast beef
and sour kraut    orders  for him and a friend
yes it’s to go…  three more days,
words drawing lines in  sand
around them…sand I now stood in
could taste  sand hotter than I ever imagined–

the one who’d just come back
and the other on route to Iraq
the one so nervous, jittery, the other
so calm….

“I have a job to do,” he said
without looking at me,
“then I’ll come home,” spoken with
such surety, I didn’t know what to say
and forcing my way in where
I didn’t belong

said, “my late partner was in Vietnam”
flinging a grenade into the silence
I didn’t hear go off till
too late….