Rachel Lehrman

Rachel Lehrman

Nightscape (selections from The Second Self)


I hoist my feet against the wall

My head hangs off the far side of the bed.


I press my cheek against the wall. I lift my nightshirt

to my neck, cool my belly.

A tunnel winds the space between plaster and wood,

continues, deep into the earth.

There are two holes like scooped-out eyes

where bolts had been. I press my forehead above them.

Squint. It's dark. I know you're there.

I never entered.

I tried. No one showed me.

If I were good, I'd have lit candles,

shined them through the holes.

I never entered. I pressed

my skin to the wall. Nothing moved to let me through.


The light outside my window

keeps me awake.

That's how I know it's coming—

I peek through the blinds, through the screen,

squint the image whole.

Moths catch the light and glow.

Their wings beat:      larita      larita

Take me from behind the blinds, Larita

I've waited every night for a year.

The dark circles round my eyes

speak my devotion. I wait

to ride the dark hall of your hair

got up as night, into the night,

the uncombed sky in every direction

unshielded, unmeasured out.


To watch with you I become the sky

where every night you persist.

Because I kneel when others sit

you open your eye for me.

Because I recognize and give you a name.

weight leaves the side of the neck

like a hand it grips the shoulder

From the other side you look at me.

On the other side is light.

Once, I lived on the other side.

Imagine breaking through—  sky

it would tear like a large black napkin.

I can feel the breath I would take.

See your face staring through mine.

You'd ask      what took you so long

You'd say      now you are home

I would be home.


Lying on my bed it hovers a hand's length away

To define it is to put a hand on the groove above an eyebrow

to feel outside of flesh where fingertips greet skin.

press your nails against the wall

If I want in the right place

it's already with me

in my blanket hollowed like a lung.

Knees fill the backs of my knees,

Nipples press my shoulder blades.

your shoulder, where I rest my hand

The sensation of a voice:            sweet pea,            white january

takes me from where my bones ache

from where I cup my hands against the wall and sing

when you sit-up nights, to look out your window

I rest my hand

when you          press your head against the wall

                         cover your ears

                         sit against the wall, counting till morning


Close to morning,

everything's black and moves

like a black crayon on a black mask.

There's an hour nothing speaks

except from behind the mask


Breath lifts my skull, pushing

the full expanse of sky.

I feel what would be, if my head were sky

looking down at me.


Walls break down. I become

myself for a moment, before they start back up.

The first rest on a long flight of stairs

reminds me what will be when I get there,

carries me, curls-up next to me in bed—

becoming my other, my other, lending me eyes

in place of arms, disguised as breath.



Stay with me.

You lived inside me. You changed. I am the difference.

Keep me inside.

I can't keep what no longer exists.

I exist as I am.

As you are, you can't stay

I want to be with you

If you stay, I'm no longer the difference.

If I go, I'll leave you behind.

Without me, you can't go.

I'm not ready.

You will be.



Will it be painful?

It will be painful if you stay.

I want to stay. . .

Leave. You'll take me with you.

Poems for When I See You Again

Again & again I invent it:

winter, the bells

the low edge of the cliff

a white bird

and the moon—

barely visible in day.

The sleeve of your jacket

brushes mine.

A smallness falls out of me.


We set out yesterday.

The city is behind us,

highways & trash barrels

the wind knocked over.

I don't know how long ago yesterday was.


know me here, made small, across the silence of infinity


I am here.

Touch me.

I am afraid.


We are so small.

It owns us

and we are part of it.


I do nothing to create

I have nothing else to give.

There are no names left in me

only the truth.

Cyclic For a Man

for Shahriar

the crowd screams

hum of an electric guitar—

      about to        keeps going. . .

nickel in the bucket

a fallen cigarette. . .

one day will get me out of this

remember?   how it felt?
to be strong?

what arms could
swollen against a miracle?

three hundred foot sequoia
holds back the rain

I keep            waiting for a sign

so lonely
on this ridge

your name called
            calls back to me

I would       I would      but you
against me      turn—

oak in a hail storm

still, the car door opens. . .
slowly, your back driving away. . .

and then. . . and then. . .
yes!   here!
circle exchanged for a loop
this day      this day      this day      I would

fallen cigarette, hair
loose against your legs

a branch for a sword!

every yellow—a minuet!

If. . . If. . . again
this day—

I'd tell you. . .

                       I love you