Cooks and Counterweights
Eleanor Lerman

Cooks and Counterweights

With small lives do we contemplate
the larger matters: one egg a week,
one pill, one meaningful glance.
One last hospitalization before the
fates clamp down. I would say more,
but in these days of poor roads
and struggle, few words are allotted
for the ghostly lives of girls.

And with small desires do we
investigate our heart of hearts,
but desire is on its own these days:
lonely as a broken rail, it sits
in a café spooning sugar into
an open vein. It is vomiting on
the subway, trying to get hired on
as a clerk. It doesn't even own
an overcoat or remember
the name of its first wife.

Yet one dream still insists that
it has always come in peace, while
a bell rings in the netherworld
to summon the cooks and counterweights,
our single hope that we will meet again.
If only I could sleep in my own
bed again. If only I were not always
so afraid.
Do you see how things
are going here? Why it is time to
send the children out of the room?

So where are the adults who said they
would take over? Who were supposed
to face the future because sacrifices
were made? One last look, one bag
to pack, one egg, one pill, one
hopeless cause and countermeasure.
One love to remember always,
no matter what comes next.

Eleanor Lerman

is the author of numerous award-winning collections of poetry, short stories, and novels. She is a National Book Award finalist, a recipient of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the winner of the Campbell Award for 2016's best book of science fiction, and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts for poetry and the New York Foundation for the Arts for fiction. Her most recent novel, Watkins Glen (Mayapple Press), was published in June 2021.