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The Camperdown Elm


Our children do not mean
Their numbers are up, the fireflies
To kill them when they cup
Around the soft bodies, light
Music softens features
The way a mild solvent
Softens the acrylic, yellowing in time

The old habit of sentience
After a storm, the light
I've come to feel okay ascribing
Features, the Camperdown elm
Because it was celebrated in a poem
They've put a gate around
Cupped it, as a friend

Is cupped, heated glass along
The meridians of her body, slow
Release of energy, she is in
Sustainable agony most of the time
I place a firefly in each cup
I place them in the branches of
And ask it to watch over her

The grafted elm, its weeping habit
Even though the light is cold
The wings damaged, cupped
Flame of it, the toddler says
The surface varnish has dissolved
She wants to know if it makes honey
That glows in the dark, slow

Pulse of it, the intervals
Shorter on warm nights, it won't
Kill you, the pathetic fallacy
My August fallacy, so that fall
So that September has a flaw
In the glass of it, where it catches, is
Damaged lightly and released


Ben Lerner

The Paris Review

Summer 2017


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