I Died of Loneliness … a poem by Joshua Zuriel Lerman

I met Josh at Cafe Gratitude more than a year ago.  Pretty much everyone at Cafe Gratitude is really nice, but Josh, also known as Zuriel, is really nice!  Smart, warm, friendly, planning a trip to Greece (at that time), and a poet.  Eventually we became FB friends, where he posted this powerful poem (and a great recipe for Root Soup — so now I’m thinking about adding recipes to this blog… you know Poetry and Recipes!  why not!)


I can really relate to the title of this poem.  Sometimes on bad days, I feel I could do what the poem’s title says.  Sorry.  But life is sometimes like that.  Hard to acknowlege, but I’m not here to fool you, and I really appreciate honesty in others.


So, here’s Josh’s poem…


I Died of Loneliness
By Joshua Lerman

I died of loneliness,
slowly evaporated,
molecule by molecule peeling away, soaring to the sky like quiet sparks,
rendered translucent, then gone.

This small lake, once glistening turquoise, nestled in Colorado hills,
got smaller
and smaller
in the dry air.
Who could hold a lake?

All the movement,
all the turning hard in bed
the smells.
Who would stay?

Who here is fully at home in themselves?
I used to be.
Or I thought I was.
Or, looking back, I think now that I was then,
but then I thought I wasn’t.

I shiver.
The cold is broken shards of glass
at my throat.
“Remember the sun?” a voice asks from deep recesses
folded in the hills. “Remember when it spoke to you?”

Forgotten dances rot the roots,
the garden wilts,
soggy stems bend in unnatural angles.
Where are the singers? the minstrels? the Angels
we were promised?
Stand up on your own two feet!

I died, after all this,
of loneliness.
How, now, does one who is wispy as a forgotten ancient secret
find flesh again?
How does one differentiate oneself from air
and make a body of clay,
and who will breathe me into it?



Bike Ride with Poet…. from Jim Ramsay



Bike Ride with Poet
12/29/2011  SF


Around the side of the San Francisco Giants baseball stadium, where summer kayakers and retriever dogs vie for home run balls that land in China Basin, I near two women who are approaching the pier behind the stadium.  It is cool, foggy, December, after Christmas.  I’m on my bike.  The women are pulling suitcases on wheels.  One also carries a sleeping bag.


They walk onto the pier.  I’m confused.  Are they going to camp there like the homeless people?  They look far too cared for, for that.  Each has blond, streaked hair that must cost a lot to maintain.  They take an immediate left off the pier, down a ramp, to the series of block-long floating docks – a marina – where sailboats and motorboats are moored.  Of course.


I wonder which boat they’re on their way to.  Judging from the hair, a big one.  I figure I’ll see them on a boat when I return from the end of the pier.


No one else is on the pier but me. Near the end, I stop, lean my bike against a park bench and sit down.  At the bay end of the first floating dock is parked the biggest motor cruise boat in the marina.  Several girls, nine or ten, climb out onto the front deck and look out at the bay where huge freighters bide their time, with the brontosaur cranes of Oakland looming behind them.


The power cruiser is maybe fifty feet long.  It doesn’t have a helicopter pad but, I am happy to see, it will soon have its complement of cared for women with expensively streaked blond hair.  They pull their suitcases abeam, lift them over the side, and climb aboard.


A lone jogger, middle-aged, receding hairline, wearing ear buds, smiles as he trots past me to the very end of the pier.  He makes a circle and heads back toward the stadium.  As he goes past the second time, I smile, nod, and risk interrupting his jog by saying,


“You know, looking at those people on the boat …”


“What?” he asks, jogging in place, pulling the ear buds out.


“I was looking at those people on the boat,” I say, pointing to the two women who had just boarded The Largest Boat in the Marina, “And I was thinking that I’m really far luckier than they are.”


The jogger breaks into a big grin and says, “That’s great.  That’s a great frame of mind to be in.”  He pops his ear buds back in, and jogs off, still smiling.


On my ride back to Bernal Heights, once I loop over the China Basin draw bridge, and head down the road that borders the ball park parking lot, I look back at the marina, now a quarter of a mile away, where the tightly packed sailboats create, I have to say it, a forest of masts.


Even as the metaphor lands, it is getting a disapproving stare from Billy Collins, who has been riding along with me in my mind.  Too hackneyed.  A cliché among boated harbors.  Forests of masts turn Billy off almost as much as cicadas do.  Having listened to an interview with him on PBS last night, I know he has a comic distrust of poems with cicadas.


I don’t hear cicadas, but as I ride, I am listening to the regular hiss/crash/clang/echo of a pile driver slamming steel piles inch by inch into the ground on the other side of the huge ball park parking lot.  The UCSF medical school is adding to the array of buildings that is already tastefully scattered over four square blocks next to the bay.  It’s been going on for weeks.  Hiss/Crash/Clang.  Echo.


Billy might like the pile driver.  Not the forest of masts.  Definitely not cicadas.  But maybe the pile driver.


                                                                 #   #   #


At the Apple store today…. by Gayle

I’m posting this poem today because without the folks at the Apple store, there would be no blog!  Thanks so much Kel and all of you!!!!



On Being at the Apple Store


An hour at the Apple Store        one to one


passes faster than an hour long massage (which I adore)
is better than sex might be (as I recall)


is more uplifting than an inspirational simile
more inter-generational than an American family


Buzzes with more creative and productive energy
in one small space than in the entire rest of the mall


with more kindness and attention
than most patients get from nurses (by far)


In this creative, learning hour, walls come down
desire begets ability, which inspires vision,
then, more capacity,  an upward spiral…..


A kind of sacred space
full of wonder and possibility
full of kind and patient young men and women
leading their elders into a great adventure


This blessed hour — one to one– at the Apple Store
Gayle Markow

The Climb…. from Jim Ramsay

Jim Ramsay
January 2011


The Climb


Think Fuji, Denali, Kilimanjaro – gradual at first, then ever steeper.
Toward the top there are no trees, only snow and rocks,
and a wind that blows from the end of the world.


I watched my mother those last 20 years, eighty to ninety-nine.
I used to say she was declining, but now I know it’s not a
slow slide down. It’s a long, hard climb up.


Watch a child get up from the floor.  She’s down, then she’s up.  Badda boom.
Badda bing. When I try to rise from the floor, it takes a plan, and I grunt
as I man-up, heaving a heavy harpoon at the great white whale of my aging.


You climb higher, get weaker. Knees give out, and hips, backs, hearts.
Your eyes and ears fail to report danger.  As your air thins, you think
you’ll see farther, but the world removes itself, grows distant, dim, confused.


Almost to the summit, it’s
like Norgay and Hillary on Everest:
Very slow, short steps.
Bend into the hill.
Catch your breath.
Another step.
Can’t catch
your breath.
Try to
get warm.


By the time my mother summited, she was talking with her parents
half-a-century dead. Then she was there – at the edge of that
huge, round, mysterious opening to the world’s heat and light.


She teetered,
closed her eyes,
and let go.


Some cast notes on the poem.

My mom, Juanita Ramey Ramsay, was intelligent, well-read, funny, and could be caustically observant, as when she said about an aunt who always said the first thing that came to her mind, “She can’t help it honey.  She’s just stupid.”

Mom’s memory became increasingly confused in her 90s.  When she was around 95, my younger brother Gene was visiting her and said, “Mom, do you remember my son John was here last week?”  Mom said, “Well, now, that rings a bell.  ……  I’m just not sure which bell.”

She didn’t have any major health crises.  She just got older and older, and smaller and smaller.  In the summer of 2008, as she approached her 99th birthday in Evanston, Illinois, my brothers and I decided to visit her at the same time.  Ken came in from Cleveland, I from New York, Gene from Anchorage, Alaska.  We began to arrive early in the week.  We were all there by Tuesday.  Mom died on Thursday.

I live in Nyack, New York, but wrote “The Climb” in San Francisco in 2011 while visiting my bi-coastal partner Anita, who had introduced me to OWL, the Older Writers Laboratory.  The “owls” at OWL, including Anita, constantly surprise me with the freshness, insight and honesty in their poems.  They inspired me to focus on what’s important, to pare down what I wanted to say to what was essential.  It was in that frame of mind and ambience that I wrote “The Climb.”  I finished a final revision in June 2011, just after my 70th birthday.

#   #   #