back toJacket2

This piece is about 7 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Ben Lerner and Jacket magazine 2009. See our [»»] Copyright notice.
The Internet address of this page is

Ben Lerner

Doppler Elegies


I want to give you, however
          brief, a sense of
period, a major advancement in
I slept through. I want to understand
I want to return to our earlier
I keep a notebook for
          that purpose by
their motion lights, I didn’t want
          to wake you, I

sell windows in
          civilian life, I can sleep
anything, the way some people
here, in the terminal
Even as a child, I could sell
look at me, as if to say, what is he
          sleeping, what is Ben
sleeping now. It is as good a word
          as any

war between the forces of
          I wrote this
quickly, over many years
You may have seen me writing it
In photographs, I never know
what they want me to do
          with my hands, I just
smile, but it doesn’t mean


jumpsuits, they have changed
          painting, I
behind the concertina wire
can’t look at it anymore, that wall
across which shadows play
Sorry to be vague
          at such an hour. Were you
When I called, I heard
          my voice

anywhere near waking
          in the background
Strange, reversible lines, I thought
he was dead. He is
better of it, pushing the glass
away. How many songs
          can it hold, that thing
I’ve seen in windows, has it changed
          singing, or

hooded figures
          I didn’t know
it had a camera, some features are
The blue of links, obscure
beneath the face, the green
We still don’t have a word for
          Simulated drowning in
embedded streams
          a perfect world


warming, we can enter
          our address, they rotate
slowly overhead, the satellites
I imply their passing when
you’re reading, do you think
I wanted it to end
          in complicated paths
like minor planets, flowering trees
          or villages

aflame, please find
          your seat, pretend
to be asleep, then am, head against
the shade, or writing in
a minute hand, yellow masks, unless
Small children traveling alone
          there is a screen
or soldiers, so many dots per inch
          The uniform

becomes you
          Seen from space
it hasn’t happened yet, the states
I’m quoting from at night
are red. If they assign storms
proper names, why can’t I
          Describe the structure of
feel anything, I mean without


built to sway, the saying goes
          Those stars are where
I made some cuts
The last time I saw him was
more or less at random, long
stretches of implied
          flatness, I can’t read my own
innumerable tiny marks
          A rustling of tenses

like distant traffic
          overhead, green
zones. On Election Day, make sure
you think of him here
Between commercials, little
glitches occur, so we know it’s live
          around the edges, I
organized, distributed fliers like
          This one

goes out to all
          My people were
possible worlds, encouraging
signs, estimated crowds along
the vanishing coast, tonight
is brought to you
          was brought to me
Unfinished, popular songs
          I gathered


quickly, over many years
          Forces are withdrawn
bundled and resold, the words
I distanced myself from
conventional forms, but now
Who am I to say
          at the midpoint of dissolve
I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening
          in prose

the weather broke
          When they called
Against the glass, it writes itself
Illuminated prompts
make ordering easy, the way
It’s supposed to be a picture of
          flying east, we lost a day
Blank verse returned
          in his later work

To untrained eyes
          it looks like me
Dispersed across regimes, the costs
expressed in human terms
Your machine picked up
the little delays, my intention was
music from a passing car
          for Ari


I’d begin again, this time with
          best practices
Inside the ear, small white buds
At odds with all ideas
of scale, last light glinting off
the wing seen from the ground
          A delicate passage
in a so-so film, from dark to darks
          The real

issue here, in the terminal
          I’ve come to understand
April can be made into
a thing. I guess that’s obvious now
When every surface is
a counter, it’s hard to eat
          Among my friends
those paintings double as
          the end

of painting, so this might be
For a while, I thought it was
tentatively titled, a reference to
how waves return
In a cluster of eight poems
          until you let go of the keys
damage is sustained


at each mention of his name
          In the long dream
I left it out, that way
We can have the theater to ourselves
across which shadows play
The voice, because it is recorded
          reminds me of
a slow remorse I sampled from

they were acting strange
          Now they’re almost gone
or symbols, which is worse
After the last hive has collapsed
flowers will be poems
Composed entirely of stills
          it doesn’t star
anyone you’d know, believe me
          When I say

love, I mean
          and that’s rare
enough, low beams exposed
Our permanent achievement
Unbeknownst to us, obscure
forces are at work
          like a radio left on
On the outskirts of
          identical cities


the new construction going up
          is elegy, no
money down or interest through
The twilight of the medium
We’re heavily indebted to
interior scenes, now destroyed
          It says so here
On the computer, you can watch
          The seas

are rising, but
          But nothing
anywhere near waking
In the crawlspace, we prepared
brief, discontinuous remarks
designed to fall apart
          When read aloud
it reminds me of that time we saw
          silent films

accompanied by
          Her breathing was
a rustling of tenses, underground
Movements have become
citable in all their moments
With my non-dominant hand
          I want to give
in a minor key
          the broadest sense

Ben Lerner

Ben Lerner

Ben Lerner’s books are The Lichtenberg Figures (Copper Canyon, 2004) reviewed in Jacket 28, Angle of Yaw (Copper Canyon, 2006) reviewed in Jacket 37, and the forthcoming Mean Free Path (Copper Canyon, 2010), in which these poems appear. Ben is interviewed by Kent Johnson in Jacket 26.

Copyright Notice: Please respect the fact that all material in Jacket magazine is copyright © Jacket magazine and the individual authors and copyright owners 1997–2010; it is made available here without charge for personal use only, and it may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced, or used for any other purpose.