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LERMAN, Eleanor

The Mystery of Meteors

I am out before dawn, marching a small dog through a meager park

Boulevards angle away, newspapers fly around like blind white birds

Two days in a row I have not seen the meteors

though the radio news says they are overhead

Leonid's brimstones are barred by clouds; I cannot read

the signs in heaven, I cannot see night rendered into fire

And yet I do believe a net of glitter is above me

You would not think I still knew these things:

I get on the train, I buy the food, I sweep, discuss,

consider gloves or boots, and in the summer,

open windows, find beads to string with pearls

You would not think that I had survived

anything but the life you see me living now

In the darkness, the dog stops and sniffs the air

She has been alone, she has known danger,

and so now she watches for it always

and I agree, with the conviction of my mistakes.

But in the second part of my life, slowly, slowly
I begin to feel the planets turning, and I am turning

toward the crackling shower of their sparks

These are the mysteries I could not approach when I was younger:

the boulevards, the meteors, the deep desires that split the sky

Walking down the paths of the cold park

I remember myself, the one who can wait out anything

So I caution the dog to go silently, to bear with me

the burden of knowing what spins on and on above our heads

For this is our reward:Come Armageddon, come fire or flood,

come love, not love, millennia of portents--

there is a future in which the dog and I are laughing

Born into it, the mystery, I know we will be saved


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.