For Me–Desideratum by Amy S. Lerman

For Me–Desideratum | Amy S. Lerman


I carry it like an Epipen, this phrase that’s zippered
into my purse pocket, a graduate class residual
extracted only when no transliteration or alternate 
diction works. What patience these two, gray-blue 
words have evinced, sentenced at times to years 
of dormancy, like the too-heavy-to use crystal 
goblets we keep in their original box, plus
such pedestrian cohabitants—
ChapStick, pennies, tampons, crumpled receipts—
and few travel opportunities. I cannot recall 
their last application, perhaps a library wing dedication 
when the college president wore a hard hat, held
an oversized, gold shovel, or our first meeting 
new neighbors, her French accent, my sycophancy.

How unexpected now—amid potato salad, ankle-
spiraling mosquitoes, the great bend of the Arkansas 
river—to unzip here, release in my in-laws’ backyard. 

I am a mother untucking her child, readying 
words, as my husband’s mother produces
a shoebox housing flashlights, Gatorade, granola bars, 
all the emergency supplies they will keep 
while my father-in-law details the delivery, 
how a huge crane lowered the bunker’s six tons 
next to his linoleum shed. This storm shelter so enthuses
them, they wave us in, demonstrate how they will sit
facing each other, and I understand, can feel

the winds’ momentum merging cold and heat, blowing 
them to take cover, vortexing, my breaths are so quick 
and noisy, I can’t calm them, the words rising
spiraling and burning up my esophagus, and I can’t stop 
them, me, sound the sirens, here they go—

“Beton arme,” I scream, that memorized phrase meaning
“reinforced concrete,” so validating, perspiring my neck,
leaving me winded, and I long for my French teacher,
someone to compliment my accent, but as I turn 
to my relatives, they say nothing, just slightly nod at me
and stay seated, seeking refuge in their new purchase.

About the Author:

Amy S. Lerman was born and raised on Miami Beach, moved to the Midwest for many years, and now lives with her husband and very spoiled cats in the Arizona desert, so all three landscapes figure prominently into her writing. She is residential English Faculty at Mesa Community College, and her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Willawaw Journal, Stonecoast Review, Broad River Review, Radar Poetry, Rattle, Slippery Elm, and other publications. Her poem, “Why Is It?” was the inaugural winner of the Art Young Memorial Award for Poetry.