Eleanor Lerman, “The Sensual World Re-emerges”

In the upcoming month we’ll be featuring poems from this year’s Lambda Literary Award finalists for Gay & Lesbian Poetry. Today, we’re kicking things off with the title poem from Eleanor Lerman’s nominated title, The Sensual World Re-emerges (Sarabande Books).


You are on the subway, going uptown
This is the same train that your father rode,
the same city where your grandfather
made wigs in a windowless basement,
in a year so far gone it has faded into nothing
All day, you have been annoyed by
incidental problems and you are still
solving them in your mind as you drowse

In other words, you have gone over
You are not drowsing. You are asleep
But I don’t blame you. So am I

When you reach your stop, you change
for another train that takes you out
to the dark suburbs, where you must
walk along a dark road. Just before
you reach the lighted street that leads
to home, from within a stand of trees

the sensual world reemerges, in all its
naked, jackal-headed beauty, holding
the moon in its outstretched hand
But you aren’t afraid: the sensual world
is an old friend. Or is it? Lately,
you have been forgetting things,
so you aren’t really sure

And so it stalks away, angry not
to have been embraced, leaving you
on your own, with one foot
on the shining path and
one foot closer to the pit

Call me. I have left my number
everywhere. I want to know
how this story turns out


ELEANOR LERMAN is a writer who lives in New York.  Her first book of poetry, Armed Love, published when she was twenty-one, was nominated for a National Book Award. She has since published four other award-winning collections of poetry—Come the Sweet By and By, The Mystery of Meteors, Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds, and The Sensual World Re-Emerges, along with The Blonde on the Train, a collection of short stories. She was awarded the 2006 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and The Nation magazine for the year’s most outstanding book of poetry for Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds and received a 2007 Poetry Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2011 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her first novel, Janet Planet, will be released by Mayapple Press in September 2011.

“The Sensual World Re-emerges” from THE SENSUAL WORLD RE-EMERGES by Eleanor Lerman. Copyright © 2010 by Eleanor Lerman. Used by permission of Sarabande Books, Inc. All rights reserved.