Permeable Divide poems by Ellen Rachlin

picture of Ellen Rachlin
photo by William Louis-Dreyfus  

Ellen Rachlin’s new book, Permeable Divide, is intriguing, ingenious, and deftly wrought, a delight to the mind and the spirit. About it, Elise Pachen has said, “In her stunning new book, Ellen Rachlin explores, as if from a philosopher’s point of view, the world around her.  Reality, at times, is observed from a distance—a traveler contemplates the landscape and reckons, ‘The natural world is never enough.’ These are gems of poems which seek clarity while catching flashes of light.” Molly Peacock adds, “In her splendid fourth collection, poet Ellen Rachlin explores what she calls the ‘Permeable Divide’—the breach between the living and a loved one lost to death, the gap between confidence and hesitation, the gulf between banking and art, and perhaps most devastatingly, the chasm between freedom and habit.  Rachlin combines her deliciously unique talents and background to speak about the differences between money and value.  She crafts aphoristic and well-aimed poems that explode when we least expect them to—into a tender understanding of the rifts in our world.  I don’t often read a book of poems straight through, but I did that with Permeable Divide.  I was catapulted from line to line, moved and inspired.  And this from Emily Fragos: “ ‘There is no fooling grief,’ Ellen Rachlin wisely writes, in her elegant, clear-eyed book, Permeable Divide.  These are incorruptible poems of life’s inevitable losses that always harbor emotional barter. Bad weather is useless as sorrow, the poet insists; but sorrow, without self-pity, is what Rachlin recognizes—  honestly, calmly, and compassionately —  as part and parcel of our sentient human design. Variety is the spice of Rachlin’s poetry, as Kate Gale notes when she writes, “Math, science and the crunching of numbers show up in Ellen Rachlin’s book next to stars, supernovae, meteor showers and memory, a desire for order.  She collapses the time between memory and implosion.”
  permeable divide cover image
   Painting by Mark Lijftogt

Ellen Rachlin is the author of Until Crazy Catches Me and two chapbooks, Waiting for Here and Captive to Residue. Her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies including American Poetry Review, Granta, Literary Imagination, Confrontation, The Los Angeles Review and Court Green. She received her M.F.A. from Antioch. She serves as Treasurer of The Poetry Society of America and works in finance.

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ISBN 978-1-943826-27-8

First Edition 2017

5.5" x 8.5" paperback, 62 pages

This book can be ordered from all bookstores, including Amazon.



Copyright © 2017 by Ellen Rachlin



The Trouble with Advice


You and I choose illuminations when we travel:
churches where sunlight rubs
putty-colored glass into masterpieces,
bridges where daylight skids off silt-laden waters,
and narrow streets the day still slithers through.

With our love of clarity
we lavish advice on one another.
But how long do we have until we uncover
the risk of losing one another
by not doing as each instructed?



I bear the view in a reflecting glass.
Once I tried a grown up hat,
floppy, so I could hardly see.
Now, when I pause and pose to verify,
the parent of the girl is me.



When I look
right away I adjust my hair
which doesn’t stay still,
acts like wisps of smoke.
My neck too stiff and still
I force side to side.
My eyes, light as sea glass,
are rimmed in red.
(I reach for drops.)
My nose is passable, though
faint wrinkles surround it,
encircling my lips.
My covered arms will do
though not too fashionable.
I cannot see myself
for all these interruptions.



Those slack wire acts that balance
by focusing near, love the sloped wire.
First, there are the shakes of contorting bodies,
then the hold while they juggle troubled kin
in each outstretched hand.

The high wire acts with their rigid backs
place the center of their mass
above their distant, chaotic homes
by holding heavy poles
with weights on both ends.

Each act loves how they balance.
Only guilt can make them wobble.
They build a better tribe,
a better routine, or a better home
by trying not to fall.



It takes time to notice wallflowers
and longer still to know us.
One needs a sense of purpose 
not at first needed to recognize what’s missed,

or to see inside all our movement and chatter
the thought that keeps us so well hidden.

Permeable Divide

We are together in a galaxy called Loss.
Because I know nothing other than time and place
and where to go to speak with you,
I invented one for you.
No light, no atmosphere needed
to be who you once were.

Since there’s no fooling grief,
and remembering is also what I do,
forcing thought to etch you into sight,
there is no time, no nothing—
just spaces collapsed into immortality.