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The Woman in White

who escaped from a London asylum
is seen wondering alone down a London road —
entangled in disguises, she’s been taunting us
for over a century. Another woman,
a poet, began to wear white
coming out only in poems afterwards;
people began following her down a maze
of paths between lines to catch a glimpse
others have disputed, where, when
for over 150 years. The woman in white
whose face has now morphed into others
stares out at us from paintings, is ultimately
neither Wilkie Collins’ woman*, nor the poet,
but our own image: in the white heat of summer’s close
facing the inevitability of winter, we defiantly
hold parties dressed in baptismal white

*Reference to Wilkie Collins’ titled novel

  Linda Lerner __

             © CTvM: Straatspeeldag 2004 at OudeZijdsVoorburgwal 160, Amsterdam

I want out loud

to hear a voice so I can feel its words
breathing down on me, not
bloodless text conversations
so, when your voice escaped
through the copper cable wires of
last century’s hospital phone
I lit up: yours lost in the accident,
you complained, and about
the nurses, cardboard tasting food
uncomfortable bed, each complaint
leading me deeper into the word
back to the Caribbean Island
you visited as a young man
with your first ex, to the
golf course where you last
played with your late buddy
to a job you loved for over
20 years and without ever deviating
from that list of complaints,
your voice led me to the
edge of mortality’s precipice

  Linda Lerner__

On Hearing Your Friend Say, You’ve Gone to a Better Place
     For Lowell

When you heard someone said I should
give my sick cat “the gift of oblivion” anger sparked
at this clichéd attempt to be poetic about death

and when my cat against all odds revived
I could see it in your face,
you didn’t have to say it, and when
you were in the hospital trying to decide
whether to have that life-saving operation
and the nurse said, “you don’t look like
you’re ready to die,” and asked, “do you still
have things you want to do,” you shook your head
yes and yes again, YES roared in my ears

and when after two days you hadn’t woken up,
organs failing, and according to your wishes
not be kept breathing by artificial means,
machines about to be unplugged, I saw
your surgeon, in scrubs for another procedure,
quietly come in, her eyes searching
your chart for anything, “an interesting intelligent man”
she said of someone whose hard work to save you
super bugs sabotaged, found a 1% chance
you could…and so could we wait just
till this evening, yes, yes, YES I wanted to shout
only knew you wouldn’t have approved of us fighting

but I know with absolute certainty, and
knowing it probably wouldn’t have
made a difference, if it was your friend or me,
you would have waited

  Linda Lerner__