Ilene Starger

Photo: Lois Greenfield







See, it’s all right:

so much dark blue breaking

and entering

where it has no business being.

Be grateful nonetheless.

A cacophony of clocks,

their poorly kept secrets:

minutes conspire

with eternity, but look,

it’s all right.

A symphony of stars late

for morning prayers,

when just one prayer will do:

‘More love awaits,

of that we are certain.’

One dark blue fragment –

special delivery –

insists on gaining entry.

Clocks, stars, pay

homage to what has gone;

what continues.

Already, dimmed specks

poised in the late sky –

a pointillist’s vision –

unpack instruments

for their concert

this evening.






There was a carpeting

of lawn,

plush and green;

there was a canopy

of moon;

a panoply of stars,

elusive things.


The dream went on.

We were half-asleep,


with the night,

whose silent whisper

spoke of love.


There was a bed

of sky;

there was a raft

of sea,


We were children

in the dark,



with the night.

We trusted

in its vow

to keep us

from truth’s light


as we clung

to love,

elusive thing.









You were certain of things – no peace in this lifetime;

people, unchanging; your need to be alone;

my hair leading your hand on

as it brushed my neck, warm against

your chest of taut beliefs.  Our first May night

masqueraded as August: drunken sky, wet

and stiff, too many clothes, inadequate

intervals of breath.  I hoped you’d stop

talking and kiss me where I wanted

to be kissed.  Spurned by silence,

I pinned myself to your sleeve;

wondered if you were right

about my wanton hair, the state

of the world, your unromantic soul.





Sleep’s black respite; blue, the rising day:

blurred fact of loss, fresh salt, in your eye,

on your tongue.  Flung from the marriage

bed, unmoored, face newly ravaged

by revenge; yet, in cauterizing rage,

strange freedom, dimly lit.  Bereft

by your own hand, you will not bathe

your sons again; never touch dear tendrils

of jet hair, violet-streaked.  Wince

as you inhale desire’s candied scent: once,

blended with Jason’s pungent seed,

it bled you of youth.  Wild orchids,

white beneath chariot wheels; history’s archives

and your heart brim with endings: burnished,

endured.  If men, coarse comrades

in gray wars, wield swords

which split fig-like flesh, and build

cities upon golden greed, or bile,

women too yield violent secrets:

quiet steel in bodily secretions

of water, fire, milk, birth; bitter paradox

for those who feed on them most

often.  You, weary exile, forced to choose

between lover’s blaze and mother’s benign

kiss: recall, as you weep, supine

on crimson sheets, how the down on your arm

rose, sunlit fleece, with his stroke; harm

not yet done.  Children could be soothed;

night’s blade, sheathed; grief’s stain, cleansed.







Under striped awning sky, children fill

tiny pails with sand: cities, built as shovels click

against shells hidden in dirt; new civilizations,

forged in the undertow.  I watch out for these children;

mothers, reclining, can’t keep them afloat.  Absent,

weekday fathers: cries of ‘Daddy, come look at me’


flail about.  Once, swallowed by dreams,

I saw day, buoyant, sink into sundown;

my face and shoulders shone, shame’s

heat, as I waited for Father to find

me beautiful.  I poured sand into pails, stand-ins for

his eyes, and planned new infrastructures of the heart.


Drunk on summer solitude, children slip,

with their castles, into an ocean’s outstretched arms.




Virginia, stones in pockets, laughs

with the river; bends halfway down

to meet its dark, brazen splash.


The family china is lonely: no solace

in spare rooms or morning’s untidy sound.

Virginia, stones in pockets, laughs


at her own daring; wades deeper, past

the river’s door; gently extends her hand

to meet its dark, brazen splash.


Ghosts in water: her children; Leonard’s face,

lined with traces of the writer’s wound.

Virginia, stones in pockets, laughs


at her own selfishness.  She has not kept pace

with others.  She craves river; will descend

to meet its dark, brazen splash.


She might at last be light; might unlace

her life, rich with river, deep and brown.

Virginia, stones in pockets, laughs

to meet its dark, brazen splash.






If, inconsolable, we come weeping;

if, unquiet, we ask for muted sun;

if, spinning, we seek balance,

do not deny these contradictions.

In middle age, our perfect recall

of childhood’s sting astonishes,

and so we wait for doors,

unyielding, to pry themselves

open; for playground bullies

to be kind; for mothers, fathers

to carry our eager faces,

already pressed and faded,

forever in their wallets,

plastic; peeling like the moon.















Ilene Starger is a New York-born poet.  Her work has been published in Bayou, Oyez Review, Georgetown Review, Tributaries, Folio, Oberon, Paper Street, Second Wind, Tar Wolf Review, Erato, Grasslimb, Manzanita, Poesia, Ibbetson Street, Iodine, Phoenix, The New Renaissance, The Same, and online in the Tupelo Press Poetry Project and The Istanbul Literary Review.  She received Honorable Mentions in the 2004 Ann Stanford Prize sponsored by the Southern California Anthology, and in the 2005 New Millennium Writings Competition; she was a finalist in the 2005 Ann Stanford Prize.  She received Honorable Mentions in the 2006 Oliver Browning Poetry Competition sponsored by Poesia/Indian Bay Press, and in the 2007 Poetry Competition sponsored by Writecorner Press.  Finishing Line Press published her chapbook Lethe, Postponed in September 2008.  She is currently putting together her next collection of poems, and is the co-creator of Elusive Things, a classical song cycle composed by Eric Shimelonis based on ten of her poems.  Elusive Things, sung by F. Murray Abraham and played by the musicians of Voice of the City Ensemble, had its premiere at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on January 15, 2010.


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