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Liane Strauss
Liane Strauss

Liane Strauss was born in Queens, New York, and grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey. She is the author of Leaving Eden (Salt, 2010) and Frankie, Alfredo, (Donut Press, 2009). Her poems have appeared in a variety of journals in the US and the UK, including The Hudson Review, The Georgia Review, Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Magma and Poetry, and her work is represented in a number of anthologies, including The Art of Wiring, Drifting Down the Lane, The Poet's Quest for God and A Poetic Primer for Love and Seduction: Naso Was My Tutor. She teaches literature and creative writing at Birkbeck College, The Poetry School and The City Literary Institute and lives in North London with her two sons.

Photo: Derek Adams

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Liane Strauss Poetry


We’re All Fine


You’re fine. I’m fine.
The children are fine.
Caroline, across the street, who’s forever
peering through the curtains, is fine, as is Miles,
whose father gave his inheritance to his ex-wife.
He wasn’t happy, but he’s fine.
The coalition is fine, for now.
The Taliban are fine.
Osama bin Laden, according to all reports, is somewhere,
and fine. Iraq and Afghanistan are fine.
Not ideal, perhaps. But still fine.
The murderers sitting side by side
on a long bench down a dim and narrow corridor
like school children waiting to see the principal,
are fine.
There’s nothing wrong with the universe.
It’s fine.
The couple next door who fight so hard
our dishes rattle in the cupboards are fine.
We wave to each other as we get into our cars in the morning
to show that we haven’t heard, so that’s fine.
Their cat, who was nearly run over, is fine.
Their other cat, who did get run over, is also fine.
Everybody in every unhappy marriage is fine,
and all their children and pets are equally fine.
My sister is absolutely fine. Her nine year old daughter
who is about to become a child star is also fine.
She will be fine.
The children in my grammar school who were molested by their father
all have good jobs and houses and spouses and children of their own.
They are all fine.
Obama is fine. We complain about him, but he’s fine.
Complaining is fine. Not complaining is either noble or martyrdom,
and that’s fine.
The weather is fine. Even when it’s terrible, it’s fine.
It could be worse.
And in another sense altogether, sometimes the rain is fine,
the way my hair is fine, and I have so much of it.
My distinctions are fine. Sometimes, indeed, they are too fine.
Hillary and Bill and Britney and Eminem and Rhianna and Paris are all fine.
The regulars at the pub on each corner are fine.
Everyone who goes to Soho on a Monday night is fine.
Everyone we know who’s on tryptophan is fine, even the ones
we don’t know are on it, even the ones we’re not supposed to know
are on it, are fine.
But most of all, you, you are fine, and, don’t worry about me,

I’m absolutely fine. And the children, of course the children
are fine.
Everybody’s fine.

Le Mot Juste


The dresses lit up in the window at Bonwits
the winter I turned eighteen are still there.
Like a burr in my hair the grip of them sticks.
The pattern and fall of the skirts still hold fast,
not like leaves, or a kiss, or the green in the thread
of medieval tapestries, which don’t last.


And here the word lodged like a blank in my head,
the one no thesaurus will ever repair,
like the plane tree the council slated for chips,
an immovable stump I keep stumbling against,
or one of those bold idées fixes, or a drunk
on a bench fulminating at himself.


When I remember it’s not just a myth,
le mot juste, like that fabulous creature
preserved in the Fifth in a pen and blue leaves,
or the life I spent half my life dreaming I lived,
I catch on a longing I used to resist,
the winter, that window, and how it was lit.

Variations on a Theme by Lady Suw?


Pillowed on your arm
only for the dream of a spring night,
I have become the subject of gossip,
although nothing happened.


Pillowed on your dream,
I come and go all spring,
taking pleasure in gossip
as though nothing happened.


Pillowed on my arm,
I confide only in myself
the dream of your arm,
my endless dream of your arm.


Pillowed on my dream,
I no longer drift out into a spring night
but make plans before sunset,
as if something happened.


Pilloried by love
I sip the dram of gods
from the spring of night –
Where’s the harm in that?


Pillowed on the dream of your arm,
a mute owl on a bare bough
in a starless barn
shrouded in snow.


Disarmed by a spring night,
powerless against dreams,
assailed by gossip,
I throw the windows open.


Pillowed on the spring night
of your arm –
I can’t sleep!


Pillowed on the gossip of your arm
I have become an object of ridicule
in my own eyes.

 

Pillowed on your nothing,
only for the dream of a spring nothing,
I have become the subject of nothing,
although nothing.


Pillowed on his arm
all night, all spring,
that the gossip may reach even to your dreams.


In my dream I am pillowed on your arm
and the clouds of a spring day
keep changing faster than gossip
or an emu running backwards.


Although nothing happened,
nothing happened
that hasn’t already happened again.


Also noting happenstance.
Alto notes sing half steps.
Altered knots have ends.
All through knowing happiness.


Like the subject of gossip
as it begins to spread,
I keep your pillow
between my legs.


If nothing happened,
why has my pillow become
harder than your arm?


You
and your pillow
and your arm
and your dream
and your spring night
and your gossip.
As if.


L’oreiller de ton nez
que pour une belle nuit d’été
je suis devenue sujet
de ce rien qui n’est passé.


A Pillow, a Dream and an Arm
walk into a bar…

 

It wasn’t your arm.
It wasn’t spring.
It wasn’t night.
It wasn’t a dream.
It isn’t gossip.
Nothing never happens.


night, spring, dream
of gossip
for on
the arm
a Pillowed
happened
your only I
become
the have nothing subject of
although…


Although nothing happened,
I have become the subject of gossip,
only for the dream of a spring night
pillowed on your arm.

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