Merrill Leffler



If there is nothing
before you, take hold
of it. You may be fortunate
or not. Place it deep
in your pocket regardless.
It is a possession
as no other.

When you are to leave and
have made all your
preparations; when you
are ordered to declare all
your possessions, reach in,
to the dark pocket.

This is a symbol
traveler, a parable
perhaps. Nothing
is as whole as the space
in the air
you pass through.
And it is yours. If
you will take hold of it.




Has been so long hidden it is dead
it thinks. The hidden life wants desperately
to reveal itself, wants to speak candidly,
wants to shout without thinking, wants to meet you
unexpectedly coming around a corner
on the East Side maybe or along a country road
in West Virginia, anywhere, startled
as a child with its first taste of the sea.
And the hidden life cries out, yes, it is you
of course, where were we that we had not met
before and cries out, again, it is you
I was just now desiring so.
..........................................The hidden life
is up now, is taking two steps at a time
chasing you, is running to keep up,
is dancing on a crowded street with you
is growing wings lifting you
from the ground, is soaring with you
in astonishment and looking down
upon the earth's slumbers.
..........................................And the souls
of the dead stand up in applause--
even the minor gods look on
unable to contain their joy.
And you return once more, together
naked in the light, having buried
the hidden life, having risen once more
from the land of the dead.



Sheila Rotner
Elements of Place - Interstices of Time,
#26,25,16,20,19,,9,27,28,1; selected from
28 pieces paper, acrylic, sand on canvas,
dimensions approx. 11" x 10" each

See more of Sheila Rotner's work




"Be willing to dismantle for purpose of rebuilding on more
solid structure." Horoscope

First you must life the idea
(be careful it may be heavy)
and haul it out to the dumpster.
Next locate the meaning--it may not
come easily, though if you have
the right tools and they are of good quality
you should have no difficulty. Now
it is the sentences' turn: take each one
strip it of grammar (you may need
abrasives here) and hang them all
on a line. When thoroughly dried,
lay each one down on the grass or
if you live in the city, concrete will do.
The point is, make sure you put them
in harm's way, wherever you are.
Don't try to protect them. It may be
they will go to war, or live in the desert
or walk the streets like beggars
or run from the police or suffer
loneliness and despair. Remember:
they must make their own way. The best
you can do is to stay out of theirs
and take them in if they return.


Wake early and you will hear
the first tentative risings,
the single notes lifting one by one
out of their dark moorings
as if once more they have given in
either to their unsurety or amazement,
like yours, at the darkness again
loosening itself and giving way
as though drapes were opening
to the slow rising overture
of light.

Don't expect that I believe
these voices come in praise
as heralds to the new light
or that their sweet single sounds
lift light out of its somber home
or that there is any more here
than my need, and perhaps yours, for gratitude.

They are here, simply. Like
the dark underground rivers
moving slowly, deliberately beneath
your feet or the involuntary rush of blood
sounding noiselessly through your body
or the snows that drift down under
inevitable law, or the tide flooding
and ebbing twice each day.

I know, and you as you must,
that they have their voice and we ours.
But if you listen closely, as through their calls were
an ancient memory, you will remember
the language of return, how dark turns to light,
light to dark, how the sea and the sky
must inevitably meet--all those beginning and ends
returning once more to themselves.


Merrill Leffler is with the University of Maryland Sea Grant College and writes about research and environmental issues related to the Chesapeake Bay. He is the publisher, with Neil Lehrman, of Dryad Press, and was a founding member of the Writers Center. Leffler has published two collections of poems, Partly Pandemonium, Partly Love, and Take Hold, and has edited The Changing Orders: Poetry from Israel. He is currently translating poems by Eytan Eytan from the Hebrew with Moshe Dor, to be published as A Guest In Your Own Body.

Published in Volume 1, Number 1, Winter 2000.

To read more by this author:
Merrill Leffler's Introduction to Vol. 1, No. 4 (Fall 2000)
Leffler's Tribute to O.B. Hardison, Jr.: The Memorial Issue
Three DC Editors: Profiles of Caresse Crosby, William F. Clare, and Merrill Leffler, by Richard Peabody (The Profiles Issue)

Leffler on Gabrielle Edgcomb: Profiles Issue
Merrill Leffler: Tenth Anniversary Issue
Merrill Leffler on Ernest Kroll: Poetic Ancestors Issue