Sunday, October 31, 2010

When I was a bit of glittering dust I was preparing for Robert Louis Stevenson

Evidence is mounting. The tide as if first page of a new chapter, as if the enamored sensing enamoree's presence, as if ingrained impulse permitting movements of restructure is turning. In selecting poems I read in my twenties for postings—twenty years before I ventured to write poetry—I realize I have always loved poetry.

When I was a bit of glittering dust in the wide beyond I liked poetry. A little bit of the glittering dust glittered in me and glitters still. It's a good feeling, knowing I am who I am, that decisions which seemed so foolish weren't. Okay, could have been handled in a differently but curvatures of space and time emphasize illusions of hindsight.

I had three different copies of A Child Garden's of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) as a kid. Each book had different illustrators, different illustrators. RLS inspires.

I look forward to the day he inspires illustrators and publishers of all nationalities or at least all nationalities impacted by colonialism and all nationalities whose children read RLS.

My Kingdom

Down by a shining water well
I found a very little dell,
No higher than my head.
The heather and the gorse about
In summer bloom were coming out,
Some yellow and some red.

I called the little pool a sea;
The little hills were big to me;
For I am very small.
I made a boat, I made a town,
I searched the caverns up and down,
And named them one and all.

And all about was mine, I said,
The little sparrows overhead,
The little minnows too.
This was the world and I was king;
For me the bees came by to sing,
For me the swallows flew.

I played there were no deeper seas,
Nor any wider plains than these,
Nor other kings than me.
At last I heard my mother call
Out from the house at evenfall,
To call me home to tea.

And I must rise and leave my dell,
And leave my dimpled water well,
And leave my heather blooms.
Alas! and as my home I neared,
How very big my nurse appeared.
How great and cool the rooms!

Robert Louis Stevenson, A Child's Garden of Verses

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Poem: I Asked Jet Li {oh belly in the shower}

what a team. alice b. toklas & gertrude stein.
All kinds of crushes. All kinds of lust. Read aloud. If you're reading this you already know to like who you like. I suggest you also like what you like. 

I Asked Jet Li

I asked Jet Li
to lift my belly
with snapped
violin string
perfect black hair

my blubber
in the shower
a handful of me


Tommy Lee
Tommy Lee
Tommy Lee Jones

with a rifle
a duster
Jeff Bridges hair

lifting belly
in the shower
with Gertrude Stein

oh, Alice
in the shower
with me

Woody Allen?
Woody Allen?
Tommy Lee Jones.
Sarah Sarai, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Foodstuff Friday: Ice (we perish more than twice)

The carbon footprint of a New Yorker is dainty. City dwellers in general have small carbon footprints, a result of a good rapid transit system serving the many; my carbon footprint is, like, five narrow. Kids' sized.

Having thus appeased my conscience I state my one consumer fantasy: A refrigerator with an ice maker--cubes and crushed. Hey, chill.
As an L.A. kid I performed the usual experiments, pouring lemonade and soda into ice cube trays (the plastic kind wrung like wash cloths and the more complicated two-piece metal trays that look like distant cousins of a male and female triffid). There were also ice cubes shaped, like jello, by the container. 
It might be ice's transient resilience that is so attractive. Ice is a role model. It's so much itself, being cold, until it's not. Ice is transparent and lacking guile until it makes your teeth chatter as if trained by the Gestapo or Three Stooges. It's cloudy and Mata Hara-like, yet comforts with its little plop into the glass, a plop promising refreshment, not dissolution of stomach acid. And there's that, I am slush, I am not water hauteur.  In all states it's bitable, crunchable, a punching bag for the psyche to use.

I am an ice whisperer. Hear me, ice tongues, ice caps, icebergs.

My refrigerator is old enough to grow its own ice. Defrosting is needed monthly; performed at least (the very least) twice a year. Rather than tax the aged compartment I buy ice by the bag, every cube, like every snowflake, similar to others and yet distinct. 

Of course there's Fire and Ice by Robert Frost. I didn't know it in high school, but we perish daily and regenerate as often.  And as we spring to life, the sweet icy rattle of cubes is, well, music to our ears.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Larry Levis: the graceful surprise

fractal of order and chaos (
Surprise is a tool of a poet and great joy of a reader. Larry Levis surprises. "I've loved you / as a man loves an old wound / picked up in a razor fight // on a street nobody remembers. / Look at him: / even in the dark he touches it gently." ("Wound")

He taught at Cal-State, L.A., where I ended up in my last two years of college. I didn't take poetry classes from him or anyone. I'm not sure I knew such things existed, even though I was an English major. I do remember one of his readings, though, and being lifted without knowing why, as if I'd had sex in my sleep. And I remember buying Wrecking Crew, still on my shelves. On the subject of surprise, insight, observation:

Earl the Chicken Farmer

That summer the prices fell,
you broke the back of a stray dog
with a two-by-four.

And when your wife
was a sack full of torn wings beating
to get out,
you dragged her behind your heels
into the weeds.

Nights when girls turned in their sleep,
with nothing on,
you knew even the moon listened—
as you drew blood, and
the chickens plucked each other to death.

Larry Levis, Wrecking Crew, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

On My Bedside Table: you asked, Randy

Prom dress in Chelsea.
Not relevant to this posting but I was
thinking about it this weekend. 
Randy Cauthen, Poet-in-Residence and Professor at Cal-State Dominguez Hills, and friend, challenged me and others to list ten books on our nightstands.

My nightstand is small.  There's a lamp, a pair of earrings, ten exotic postcards sent by my post card-sending poet-friend (they will join the three-inch stack on my storage book case), an adaptor for my portable DVD player (so I can plug it into a car cigarette lighter?), violet post-its, a fork and spoon (clean), three pens (some with ink), a pencil with a broken tip, my favorite necklace, a lavender-scented eye pillow, my checkbook, one multi-vitamin, a pomegranate Stila Lip Gloss, two straight pins (I finally hemmed a pair of jeans), fluff, and something from AARP for my damn neighbor (the one who's peed in front of the building) who still hasn't sent them his correct apartment number.

Two books have been living there for several months: The Pocket Rumi (Shambhala) and my black leather-bound journal in which I track poetry and fiction submissions (a gift from my niece).

The stack on the floor, by the bed, is more what Cauthen is interested in. Here goes.

The Perfect Man by Naeem Murr. When I read his essay My Poet: Why do poets spend more time waiting than writing, on the Poetry Foundation site, I fell into a state of awe 'n love. So far I am not disappointed with his fiction.

LAbryinth: A detective investigates the murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., the implications of Death Row Records' Suge Knight, and the origins of the Los Angeles Police Scandal. By Randall Sullivan, who is a reporter for Rolling Stone. a) I'm interested. L.A., my homeland & people I love are affected by the L.A.P.D. b) Sullivan wrote The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions, a book I recommend over and over. Miracle Detective begins with an investigation of apparitions of Mary in Oregon, and how the Church handles same, moves to Medjugorje where there's a famous apparition, the telling of which necessitates a detailed history of the wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It's quite a book.

Underworld. Don DeLillo. Do I need to explain?

Versed by Rae Armantrout. Ditto.

John Donne: The Reformed Soul. A biography by John Stubbs. It's really well written; interesting—unsuual for a biography—but the book itself is so heavy, I am going to see if it's in paper. (My copy is from the library.)

The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell. Mankell's Kurt Wallender mysteries were dark and great. Some of his freestanding book were darker. We'll see.

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen.  I haven't read anything by her yet.

Henry James. A few weeks ago a playwright friend made a joke about Daisy Miller. I laughed but couldn't remember if I'd read it or not; most likely it's the latter as I haven't forgotten reading other stories (Washington Square, Turn of the Screw . . . ) in the paperback Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction by Henry James.

Selected Poems by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. I discovered her a few weeks ago when I came across the stunning poem The Second Voyage.

The Patron Saint of Plagues by Barth Anderson. I need suspense novels and mysteries. The blurbs on front and back cover are great.

That's it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sarah Sarai's Second Coming: tale of a penitent swift and willful

If it weren't for a quick catch by Dan Coffey, Associate Professor & Subject Librarian, Social Sciences & Humanities, Iowa State University, I'd be skulking in the blogosphere as we speak.

A simple typo isn't typically cause for recrimination, of course, and even a complex typo is forgivable now and then. Alas, yestereday I was writing about "idiocy," at least in part, and confused a poet born in London in 1757 with one born in Dublin in 1865. (See below for link.)

As I wrote I remembered slamming shut T.S. Eliot's The Sacred Wood some years ago on reading his comparison of Blake  ("only a poet of genius") with Dante ("a classic"). How could Eliot consider the alleged author of "The Second Coming" mere genius?  And why was a little voice crying "Yeats! Sarah, Yeats!"?

"Wake up, Sarah," the little voice urged, gripping my hand even as it slipped from the railing; and so I pressed Publish Post for "Blake's The Second Coming: the submorons haven't won." My saving grace and/or stunt cushion is having smart friends who stem rebellions of my wayward fingers, swift and willful; and since I admit of and correct same, and since this is my blog, I maintain (and hereby certify) I am not a submoron. Just a bad wizard who minutes later disappeared her mistake.

By the way, even years ago, I knew Eliot might not be wrong, but then again, who can ever be sure of such things. In high school I memorized Blake on my own. I've always felt that affection.

To read Eliot's essay on Blake, on Bartleby, click on this sentence.

To read yesterday's posting, now titled Yeats' The Second Coming: the submorons haven't won, click this sentence.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yeats' The Second Coming: the submorons haven't won

At least ten times in the past twenty-four hours I've seen this poem referenced. By old and young. Hip and merely groovy. Overly educated and educated. (Regardless of your diploma or degree, if a line from Yeats "The Second Coming" is something you've held, you're educated.)

And this collective confidence in our knowledge means that for all the idiotic shouts and misquotes spewing from right-wing media mouths, the submorons haven't won. And we can't believe they have.

Because Yeats is part of the canon, I don't mean to imply the submorons are synonymous with pop culture. Pop is as much a part of who I am as classics, the canon, the old and that's true of many I admire and I believe it's fine and adds to cultural richness. I'm saying the submorons, in their Clarence Thomas-like lack of curiosity or interest in learning more of our world, do not know what is true and authentic. (My post on Diane Wakowski offers a little more on the topic of submorons.) (My post on this post, Sarah Sarai's Second Coming: tale of a penitant swift and willful, reveals an embarrassing erratum, now fixed.)

The fabulous news is not everyone's lost their instinct for the authentic.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight; somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.
William Butler Yeats, 1865-1931
His Nobel link.

Illustraton:  William Blake, 1757-1827
An interesting link from the Tate.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Poem: Security Issues

Transcript. Dreamed and written two or three years ago. Neat to be in California, any way I can be.

Security Issues

I’m headed to a church event with Kathy Schwartz,
except I’ve forgotten something, like a blouse.
You know I’m going to be mocked, so I steal
her coat and somehow tear a lapel as if someone’s
died. And then I lose her in a department store
but first steal her hat. I’m broke. We meet up
in a hilly neighborhood, south-of-the-boulevard-like,
the boulevard being Ventura, which flies across
the San Fernando Valley like a spear. Jangling keys
wake me. My neighbor has trouble locking her door.

Sarah Sarai

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cape of Worry: Where fries incite abduction fear and Marisol Valles Garcia is praised

Female matador
I have a magic cape. Sometimes I hurl its glittery spandex satin across America so my nieces and nephews in L.A. are kept safe from life in general and the L.A.P.D. in particular who can harass citizens guilty of being Black while driving.

As rotten an aunt as I am (I'm a virtual aunt sending love and not much else), my (albeit) rotten auntness is active 24/7. In other words, I worry. I cannot imagine--or I can and am unable to understand--what mothers (and fathers) suffer daily, even in the best of circumstances. 

One time, for instance, my niece, with my greatniece and greatnephew in tow, generously dropped me off at LAX .

All three came inside to wave good-bye (or good riddance), and knowing the energy needed to sustain the motion of an arm from its at-rest position we got fries. Jets need fuel so they may fly; arms and hands need fries so they may wave.

My niece found us a little nook in which we could partake, which we did vigorously until more ketchup was needed. Arms and hands need fries with ketchup. My 10-year old (at the time) greatniece self-dispatched in search of.  She disappeared from sight! 

I went into shock, seriously, flashed on every heartbreaking headline not to mention every television show and movie and suspense novel  scene on child abduction.  I looked to my niece, only thirteen years younger than I am, for support in organizing an amber alert.

She shrugged. Repeat: My niece shrugged!  "She'll come back."  She'll come back?  But of course she did return shortly with ketchup. Which worked for me because I'd expended untold ergs by worrying and needed fuel.

This is true and may be lighthearted; and is remembered this morning as I read a news story about Marisol Valles Garcia, a criminology student in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Garcia is police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero, near Juarez, where 26,000 people have been killed in drug wars or as collateral damage in drugs wars since 2006.

And where hundreds (some sources say "400," some "thousands") of women have been killed or disappeared.

Garcia is establishing patrols of the town staffed by women. The thought terrifies me. She's brave and foolish and young. And she might possibly mark the turning point.

I extend my protective glittery spandex and/or satin velour cape from N.Y.C. to L.A. to Praxedis G. Guerrero where women are trying to end the war.

From the article:

It might seem that a tough-fisted police chief is required for such a violent town. But Valles Garcia says she will take a reverse tactic, using a mostly female, unarmed force to patrol the streets and focus on social programs in schools and community-building. "The weapons we have are principles and values, which are the best weapons for prevention," she said. "Our work will be pure prevention. We are not going to be doing anything else other than prevention."

While she continues to garner praise for her courage, closer to home not all are thrilled with their new police chief. As CNN noted yesterday, one posting on the Periodista Digital site asked plainly: "Are there no men in Chihuahua?"

Friday, October 22, 2010

Foodstuff Friday: The Lemon. Plus a luftpoem.

The subject for this, our third Foodstuff Friday, is lemons.

While not a foodstuff like genoise (Foodstuff Friday #1) or chocolate pudding (Foodstuff Friday #2), both of which are end products of bounty, the latter being sugar, eggs, milk, flour, cocoa & co., lemons are more an essence. A promise and possibility.

The last house my family lived in (for a total of four—that's not so bad) had a bright and shiny lemon tree in the tiny backyard.

I know you've smelled a lemon but have you smelled a lemon tree? Imagine jasmine as a citrus. Imagine hot Los Angeles summer air as carrier.

The lemon tree enables lemon meringue pie. Lemon meringue pie enables civilization; invention is the mother of whipping egg whites. (Gently spoon them over the lemon custard and salute.) (Please refer to the index in The Joy of Cooking for recipes; that book was my mom's other Bible.)

The tree grew and bloomed outside my bedroom window, and though this was the room that knew the smoke of Marlboros and Shermans, of marijuana and incense (punk is what my father called it) it was first the room of lemon blossom. (By the way, my mom crashed in once or twice waving a magazine and complaining about the aroma, but I'm the youngest of four and nothing was specified. It was smoke from my fifty cent a pack Marlboros or sweet Shermans.)

Every so often my non-sports-loving dad would set down his vodka and snap a lemon off a branch. While blue jays dive-bombed the cat, he and I would toss a lemon back and forth until we didn't.

One afternoon, while in the library at grad. school on the other side of the country, I opened a book of poetry--I have no idea which poet--and the following poem flew out. I saw it, a luftpoem, lift off from a page and land in my spiral. I told this to a poetry "craft" teacher who was made nervous. Certainly no journal's wanted it. Who cares. I like it, so there.

This Flew From a Book

I’m in a room, looking out a screen,
dense netted sagging,
and I wonder how far can I go
seated in a room and looking out?

Was gonna write of the smell of lemons,
the white blossom smell, citrus citrus
floating on in from outside,
zest of thick-skinned lemons,
tugging a shiny green branch
so I admire plenty, and me pressing
my finger against the old screen
(like pressing a finger on anything
gets me more than a row of zeroes or

Once I rotated my finger clockwise
against my third eye
to stimulate
sight and flight
and wouldn’t you know it,
became a sleek missile,
caramba! in space,
in mystic majestic inky black
space, a jet in the sky,
in the dark and sparkly,
and then a blaze to behold
to amaze. As if all I ever wanted
were this: to be a light, to fly
with a lemon branch in my hand.
by Sarah Sarai (c. 1996)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gone Fishing (wherein Sarah Sarai stares down our appetite for entertainment)

Aren't jellyfish amazing?
This blog has gone fishing for the day. It's allowed.

I WAS going to post a poem I wrote, no, started, last night and fortunately aha!-ed to the fact I was about to give into the great American appetite for entertainment.

I was ready to sacrifice something (poem, artifact, bit of myself) I believe in--before its time--to please you-all or more likely to please all of ME.

To please.

And if I do that, everything I've ever written or will write could become nothing more than soup of the day on My 3,000 Loving Arms, a five-or-six-or-seven-day-a-week concession to some belief that the space must be filled. This blog is not a daily letter about my life.  It's a daily expression of who I am.

And all of my 3,000 loving arms are, for the rest of the day, twiddling 3,000 thumbs, staring at 3,000 clouds, reading 3,000 books, weeping 3,000 tears, dreaming 3,000 sheep, talking w/3,000 friends, being all the 3,000 me-s, loving 3,000 you-s (and more).

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Diane Wakoski Poem (a refuge from the submorons)

PREFACE: I long for the days when morons were part of the landscape. Alas it's submorons these days, like Christine O'Donnell who has not a clue about our country's founding documents AND doesn't mind public demonstrations of ignorance. Or Clarence Thomas' wife, lobbying AGAINST the administration's healthcare proposals; demanding Anita Hill apologize. What???

Posting a poem here in times of dangerous stupidity is neither effete nor is it a sign of hiding in denial.  I am not going to make an argument for the efficacy of art in bettering the citizenry or at least not right now.  Let's agree poetry is a a temporary refuge, a rose to smell before returning to battle.  And so:

I'm always amazed to remember I read poetry long before I wrote it. What a good citizen of the literate world I was! I've managed to hold onto about (guess) half my poetry books, despite nomadic tendencies, and so can track at least some early interests, one of which was Diane Wakoski.

She wrote one poem in which nuns' mouths form o's, like notes. If anyone knows the title, please tell me. In the meantime, here's a poem dipping and streaming back into itself with sonic repetition (blue, dew, demure).

To The Young Man Who Left The Flowers
On My Desk One April Afternoon

 I accepted them.
       It was the graceful
thing to do, even though I knew
they weren't meant for me:
Far, far too lovely they were—
half blue, wild tolling blue
as lucent and yielding as new
melon flesh and dew, dew on their lips
half demure, demure and elegant
white rose, sleeping beauties quiet
and masked against any beast.

I cannot say what they meant
to us all, coming at the time
when they did. It was love,
and we opened our hearts,
so much evil having recently skulked about.

Diane Wakowski, from Virtuoso Literature for Two and Four Hands (Doubleday)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Poem: Everywhere Woman Is Born Free (I remember the invasive procedures of love.)

You're probably familiar with Joe Brainard and I Remember (if not, you have the joy of discovery ahead). NYC locals still speak of time spent with him. Four or so years ago I heard a few of Brainard's I Remembers read aloud and instantly wrote the first section below.

"I remember" turned out to be the right container for specific memories: of geography, the west coast, a visitation; of intimacy; of 9/11--its impact on my neighborhood (not Ground Zero but nonetheless swamped with media and the bereaved for weeks). My mother died a month before and became part of my mythologizing and memory.

Everywhere Woman Is Born Free

Early On
I remember being an effervescent bubble;
the serendipity of air.
I remember past midnight when my spirit guides
left by the front door and a new set waited in
the living room. I lay on a double-bed mattress
on the tan carpet as my boyfriend mumbled;
palm trees pressed against windows to witness
the coronation.
I remember knowing all s’s I heard were angels
studying my name.
I remember California before it was razed,
and Pop telling God at a turnoff, You done good.
When Grandma died I remember Mom saying,
Aunt Alma’s in the white tunnel to meet her.
I remember the fairy book at the Annie Besant Center
and Arthur Conan Doyle’s charmed defense.
I remember knowing Mom accelerated her passage
to the other side so she could guide rattled souls
back here in New York. She helped passengers and
clerical workers to the white tunnel; served coffee
and cake until everyone saw they were not really hungry.
I remember begging Pop’s spirit to please leave already,
twelve years after his death. It was Goya’s drawings
at the Met.

I remember my purgatory years which I now know
were a beta test for a new way of salvation
for all mankind.

The Strangeness of Component Parts

I remember penises pressing into me. The strangeness
of component parts.
I remember my own breasts, which are pillowy and
a little uneven and how I envy any who rest on them.
I remember holding a mirror up to my nethers
and thinking, Huh.

Invasive Procedures of Love
I remember the piano player stroking my cheeks
over and over; putting fingers to my lips over
and over. I remember asking, What was that?
I remember he said, That was me falling in love
with you. I remember his canny squint.
There used to be a whore house here.
I remember I asked, Did you go? I remember
his chest moving quick as smoke exhaled when
two people are talking late into the night.
I remember feeling more narrow
than I’d like to admit, but not straight;
twisty, like the ends of a tightly packed joint.
I remember the invasive procedures of love.
I remember some invasions are good.

Carr Futures/Tower 1/WTC
I remember working one Wednesday
on the 92nd floor. The people were pleasant,
like they’d all make great neighbors.
I remember pangs in my stomach. An ulcer?
and asking a friend if I should see a doctor.
I’m going out on a limb here, Sarah,
but you gotta have some fun.
I remember my mom died a month earlier.
I remember Martha called to say she was
in Jersey and did I want to visit.
I remember being asked back to Carr Futures
after Martha and I made plans. I called
my friend on a limb. Should I turn down
work right now? I remember I went to Jersey.
It was a Thursday. I remember rolling down
grassy slopes with Martha’s grandkids.
I never went back to Carr Futures.
By 11 a.m. on Tuesday everyone was gone.
Everyone. Every employee of Carr Futures
who was there that day was gone.
Where were they? I remember the floor plan:
the oblong lobby, the maple reception area.
The offices beyond. I remember wondering
if any of the exits were contemplated.
I remember praying it all went fast.
I remember thinking, No one?

I remember thinking, So many in such a short time?
I remember thinking, They are shades. They are gone.
I remember thinking, Not one person made it out.
Poof. I remember, No one?

The Armory
I remember the Armory across the street became the
first DNA collection center.
I remember my neighborhood a media event.
I remember streets blocked for two weeks.
Everything darker than a nightmare.
Candles, vigils, wax on sidewalks, shattered flames.
Flyers on every wall. Photographs of smiling people
with their hair well-groomed, missing.
I remember being interviewed: Do you want revenge?
I remember telling the people of France I wouldn’t
put anyone through this.
I remember hoping someone understood.
I remember there was no getting away from it.
The doors of my building opened to the funeral train.
I remember the line down the block and around
the corner. Loved ones waiting to register.
I remember trying to give blood.
I remember being asked to hand out fliers.
I remember crying because I wanted everyone
to understand I cared as much as Jennifer Lopez.

I remember picking up the phone on a Sunday to a
whisky southern voice. Hel-looo, are you aware that
Hillary Clinton supports the Palestiiiineans?
Palestiiiineans? You learn your pronunciation from
Bush? Neu-ooo, do yeu-ooo? I remember explicatives.
I remember Hillary votes to keep the war going.

I remember being in the mud and very unhappy and
that I always remember that sorry four-year old me.

I remember making the same romantic mistake over
and over. I remember the surprise of repetition.

I remember a winter solstice on a Northwest beach,
with a group of women getting Shakespearean and
my only thought: This cold will never leave my feet.

Sarah Sarai. Published in The Future Is Happy. (See the "The Future Is Happy" tab above for more information.)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

R. S. Thomas: "I have heard the still, small voice and it is that of bacteria demolishing my cosmos."

If the devil offers a few lectures on Keats I'll probably go to Hell. As it was, I went to a Monday-night series at a church.

A few years ago, a British Anglican priest in the Village had proposed a four-week series on R. S. Thomas and George Herbert, two Anglican priests, both Welch, both poets. I was walking by the church, saw the glowing "poets" and jotted the schedule.  That was the first I'd heard of R. S. Thomas, who died in 2000. Herbert in 1633 [click to read 11/18/10 posting on Herbert].

As I did yesterday with Stevie Smith, I resist detailing my interest but simply present a poem. Thomas can surprise with a sometimes corrosive voice, though not here. Of course thresholds are enormously exciting, being containers for hope, fear, speculation; for safety, expectant waiting; for change, passage.

Thomas was my "find." I offer you one of his poems.


I emerge from the mind’s
cave into the worse darkness
outside, where things pass and
the Lord is in none of them.

I have heard the still, small voice
and it was that of the bacteria
demolishing my cosmos. I
have lingered too long on

this threshold, but where can I go?
To look back is to lose the soul
I was leading upwards towards
the light. To look forward? Ah,

what balance is needed at
the edges of such an abyss.
I am alone on the surface
of a turning planet. What

to do but, like Michelangelo’s
Adam, put my hand
out into unknown space,
hoping for the reciprocating touch?

R. S. Thomas

For a biography and more poems I direct you to the Poetry Foundation page on R. S. Thomas. I copy/pasted this poem from their Web site to avoid the occasion of a typo.

Stevie Smith: Longing for Death Because of Feebleness

The drawing is
Stevie Smith's
I find myself unable to locate words. My affection for Stevie Smith's (1902-1971) work, and life, is great; my oldest sister sent me a collection in the seventies, and later I read a biography. And there's always Stevie, with Glenda Jackson as Stevie Smith and Mona Washbourne as her dear, so-English aunt. As the NYTimes reviewer writes, "Stevie has only four characters in it, but it is a very big, beautiful film about a restlessly rambunctious soul. It deserves to stay around indefinitely." And there are her poems, her drawings, her fiction, and back to her poems.

Longing for Death Because of Feebleness

Oh would that I were a reliable spirit careering around
Congenially employed and no longer by feebleness bound
Oh who would not leave the flesh to become a reliable spirit
Possibly travelling far and acquiring merit.

Stevie Smith, Selected Poems, New Directions Press. 1962.
(The above is not the illustration for this poem in Selected Poems. Couldn't find that.)
Here is a Stevie Smith trove assembled by Anne Bryan (

Friday, October 15, 2010

Foodstuff Friday: Chocolate pudding, Ginsberg, the Den

The Last Supper. The Village Den.
There's a trick to ordering chocolate pudding at the Village Den as you're overseen by the mural. You must have your wits about you.

The mural in this Greenwich Village coffee shop uses the Last Supper as a conceit—various notables and eccentrics gathered around three sides of that groaning board.

For a few years I'd eat at the Den once a week with a group of motleys. Less so now simply because things always change. Some of the motleys left the city, some left for a different coffee shop.

Let's cut to the chocolate pudding. It's not a dense pricey mousse. There are no curls of dark Belgian on top. Unlike my mom's this pudding has no skin. Remember trying to scoop from under the skin to avoid pudding theft detection? That pudding had a voice and the voice said, "I am a homemade desert." Added, "(Made from the mix in that little box.)"

Pudding is a meal, though the Village Den is pretty much the only eating establishment where I order chocolate pudding. When I'm low on funds I can still enjoy friends and get nourishment. Chocolate pudding has protein. It has chocolate.

The trick, however, concerns the whipped cream, and over time, V. and I perfected our nonverbal hints to the waiter--he's not to ask us. If our pudding arrives with whipped cream, V. and I look at each other and sigh.

What's a pudding eater to do? Nobly, resolutely, we dip on spoons into the soft, dark, sweet sludge of creamy bliss with a white flag of whipped submission.

Allen Ginsberg is on the mural. He must have had a thing for chocolate pudding. Maybe he bought some at that supermarket in California. Allen had a thing for a lot of things. He was a poet, by the way. Under the watchful eye of a poet who sometimes graced the Den, I hear the lyric song of the pudding. With a reminder of the Last Supper I allow to slip from spoon to tongue to metamorphic innards the blood and body of chocolate.

Chocolate pudding: "Are you my angel?"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Poem: My 3,000 Loving Arms (+ a typo from the Latin)

St. Ursula was said to have a plus-11,000 virgins martyrdom. Research suggests the number is a misreading of Latin texts mentioning an Ursula who was 11 years old. I guess you had to be there.

In "No End Out of Mind"--posted on this blog previously [click the title]--I wrote "Rose petals loosen from fingers / of the goddess of 30,000 loving arms / and fall into a separation of clouds, / heavens and genitalia." 

My original thought had been 30 loving arms.  Like Godzilla, the phrase was subject to explosions nuclear and grandiose, plus my general numbers confusion. I split the difference in this unpublished poem (late 2008). I like the stand-alone line.

My 3,000 Loving Arms

They asked not to be led into temptation this time,
like they could hoodwink an evil eye by means of
specification [but deliver us from evil].

My 3,000 loving arms are enough
under some circumstances, I hope.

We shed mythology in favor of the largest organ
(anyone, anyone? yes:) flesh, which hides our
skeletal self and is a lot warmer than poor,
dead Dido or the pantheon of Christian martyrs.

(If I were an artist I’d paint them as Hindu gods.)

You love with invention and simple induction.
You are; life is. Could be worse.

Sarah Sarai

Illustraton from

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Poem: St. Igneous (she's pyrotechnically literate)

Sr. Sedimentary still refuses to talk to me, despite notes and holy ablutionary gestures; keeps throwing corpses of family and friends on the burning pile. She's the wittiest person I'll ever meet.  We water bearers are a trickly lot.  Just sayin'.

St. Igneous on a Roll

Grabs her ankles, flames down the hillock to
thud, jarred, a millisecond. Her miracle,
Metamorphic. Once fire, now earth.

A saint’s gimmick inspires awe, medallions,
intercession with fate, that rock-of-ages
defying sensible choice.

Holy Igneous, pyrotechnically literate,
budge your big Sr. Sedimentary
sitting on life’s spark.

Sarah Sarai. Originally published in Asbestos. [Hah! but true!] Included in The Future Is Happy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Poem: I Met My Old Lover

Electrical circuits from brain to our history to uncertain eternity to present whims are activated by, among other elemental energies, love. Apocalypse is in the emotional tornado, fire storm, tsunami, earthquake. At some point your lifetime reach for the Almighty Other kicks in, becomes part of the habitual struggle.

I Met My Old Lover

I met my old lover on the street.
I had to tell him, You are not
subtle enough to be my lover.
I had to tell him, You are not
sensuous enough to be my lover.
I had to confess, Those poems?
Not about you. Admit, Not
about me. The I enchanted
into being? The you lured into
being? Feeble misunderstandings
of the great world we’re invited
to, sampled, merely, in flesh.
Imagine what we might join,
its distance from our scrabbling
lives eking joy, oh, knowing joy
best we can. We old lovers are
portals and even at the threshold
slip and stumble. We old lovers
are allowed, even at the threshold,
to crave love’s futility, though
better to long for what is more
handsome or protective than
the you or I ever could become.

Sarah Sarai. Published in Potomac Review and included in The Future Is Happy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Poem: Pleasure, Not the Goal. My 3,000 Loving Arms are out and loving you.

For national Coming Out Day, a quick word on genitalia.

We all have some. The same clay, molded differently; cool fingers rolling, attaching, shaping.

This poem observes the  "subversive subtle sameness / of genitalic contours." 

O woman!  O man!  O lover!  

The spectrum of sexuality is broad, flexible and begs you to differ; it promises intensity in time and space; passion; betrayal; and an almost narcotic lassitude.

Pleasure, Not the Goal

Pleasure is the goal yet pleasure is not the goal.

Hand squeezing thigh is pleasure. Hand squeezing thigh
is not the goal.
Touch like knitted swaddling is warmy. Pleasure is not
the goal.
Invention can be pleasure yet not the goal.

Slight levitations of sensation humming in dimensions
almost near, always desirable, not wholly attainable
are pleasure, yet pleasure is not the goal.
Conclusions reached regarding subversive subtle sameness
of genitalic contours are grand yet not the goal.
A cry from the shadowy imagined on your body may not
be pleasure; regardless, pleasure is not the goal.
To join the infinite, pleasure? To revive the self, pleasure?

Ah, pleasure is the goal.

Sarah Sarai. First published in The Future Is Happy, BlazeVOX [books], available through Amazon, Small Press Distribution, Bluestockings (Lower East Side), Unnameable Books (Brooklyn), Open Books (Seattle). Please do buy my book. Thanks!

A Poem Found: At Yankee Stadium

I haven't played 20 Questions since 1975. A friend and I were driving around Ruidoso, New Mexico. We were driving just to drive. Remember those days? So I say, for my first clue, blue, and Georgia responds Paul Newman.

And that was that.

I remembered my last go at 20 Questions on Saturday night when Jeter's eyes flashed on screens at Yankee Stadium. Dr. Eckleberg goes neon (and a big contract)?  I'm not saying Derek Jeter holds a candle to Paul Newman. But then again I'm not saying he doesn't. I'm just sayin'.

The salient point being, Saturday night I saw the third game of the three-game sweep (playoffs), the Yankees toppling the Twins, and not mentioning it seems unAmerican, unbloggerly, unNew Yorker. Hey, I saw Yogi Berra throw the first pitch.
Is there anything here on the poem?  Well, when the few Twins fans in our section displayed false bravado during a beer run, the designated leaders who make fans great (and fans, ultimately make the game), pointed at the hapless fools and led us in (and I quote):
Go, team.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

John Lennon: We phoned the N.Y.C. operator on 12.9.80

Original Handwritten Lyrics to Imagine*
When we heard John Lennon was shot, a little of our souls, my boyfriend's and mine, abandoned us. Left, became Messengers, imagined Messengers.

We were on our couch, in Silverlake--L.A. One of us grabbed the phone. One of us dialed Information in New York City. We needed the operator to understand, "We're so sorry."

"I know, I know." Her voice was rich and crushed. She really did know.

We asked if we could be put through to the Dakota, to connect. To comfort to Yoko and Sean. Julian, wherever he was.

The telephone operator said, "Don't worry, I'll tell them." Only New Yorkers offer comfort like that in times of tragedy. I'm sorry, but it's true. "The boards are crazy. Thank you for calling. Everyone's calling. We'll tell them." Wished us peace.

We knew we were dumb grieving schmucks and she couldn't contact Yoko but it was beautiful. A conversation about the loved one, between those who loved him. Many moments of sympathy, comfort, kindness since but nothing quite the equivalent.

In tragedy we have to do; in memoriam we reach out. Hey, John Lennon. I'm back here, in New York. Nothing good came from your death but a bullet is insufficient to kill you. Happy birthday.

*The image, original handwritten lyrics to Imagine, is from

Friday, October 8, 2010

Foodstuff Friday: Génoise, the ladies room, perfectionism in poetry

I was in the ladies room with a can of frosting and a pint of rum. It was a creaky office building on Hollywood Blvd. The doors were scratched dark wood. I titrated rum into the goo. I was in my early twenties; an office manager or secretary.

This happened.

My untamed and grand approach to life had me baking three génoise layers the previous night. Because of the batter's delicacy, flour to egg to butter ratio, there was anarchy among the ingredients. My first run I created a scrambled sort of concoction. Then I got tough, called the ingredients to order (eggs and flour are more noisy than you might think) (sugar is quiet--life is full of surprise). Things worked.

Oh how fragrant the kitchen! How ebullient the light sweet sophisticated layers! But at 2 a.m., the trash can overflowing with egg shells and failed attempts, three gorgeous layers cooling on their trays, I caved. I'd be up all night if I began melting chocolate for whatever extravagant icing I had in mind.

Next day, M. joined me in the ladies room to help determine rum to icing proportions. (I'd picked up canned icing on my way in, and stuffed the Bacardi into my purse before leaving home.)

What does this have to do with poetry? I'm glad you asked and invite your ideas. My friend A. is claiming s/he's produced no publishable poetry for years. B.S.! I respond.

a) Publishable? The good, the bad, the ugly, the superb get into print and online.

b) It's impossible for A., so talented, so bright, so full of heart and shadow, to suck for so long.

c) It all tastes good. Images? Yum! Alliteration? Tasty! Fluidity? Divine! Enjambment? The surprise filling of poesy! Form? Flexible! (Anymore!) Your variations, your voice? Yes!

Three perfect génoise layers with crappy canned frosting semi-successfully flavored with Bacardi. Goes together as well as this posting, questionably, but there it was and here it is. My rule, self-rule if you will, in writing this blog is to never spend more than an hour (and usually a lot less) composing and to grab the first good image I see.

That was a good cake. I no longer bake. I still eat. I write. I make no sense. It's a blog. It's a life.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Poem: Sneaking Around in the Multiplex (its international debut)

See below.
A lie. I was going to introduce this poem by telling you a lie, the falsity being: This poem is insecure. LIE!  It's not the poem that's insecure, it is I, Sarah Sarai. I'm insecure about this poem. 

Now I understand what my mother felt when she asked my sisters if I was intelligent. I was 25.  My sisters said I was, and also the most intellectual of the four of us.  True, not true, utterly moot, lo these thirty-eight years of derelict living later. I'm an oddity, I admit it, and so is "Sneaking Around in the Multiplex" within the scope of my work. And it's fun. And so am I. Dearest Ma, up there in your symbolic afterlife. Love ya!

Sneaking Around in the Multiplex

She wanted to have a baby.
I'm with stupid.
Say you love me.
Promise you don't tell my mother.
The farmer raised me ten dollars.
I was startled by her many breasts.
The national anthem is not an easy song.
If you were Johnny Cash I'd be Juneteenth.
Never edit dharma.
Never f- your career coach.
No such thing as aiming too Fa Fa.
Kiss me, woman.
I was glad she didn't wear a bunker.
Money is the love of all evil.
Roots lead nowhere, really.
Teens tipped the stockbroker.
If you go to heaven bring a nice bottle of wine.
Many men love their wives.
It's good to connect with old friends.
My brain is not working today.
I'm afraid I'll never write again.
Fear is the sand in the clam.
Irritation is death or beauty.
Most days I'd rather not feel.
Angels talk to you at bus stops.
God brought me a Diet Coke.
I asked Her for a few more ice cubes.

***That photo can be found at

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Visitation: I see a poem in an English muffin; revisionist Anglophilia

Somewhere along the line of my life I stopped being an Anglophile. Affection for knights, all the Elizabeths, the Magna Carta, 1066, 1066 and All That, a host of novelists, poets, playwrights, saucy wenches and Masterpiece Theatre . . . an endless list of received information.

That's not a criticism, not really, because my assimilated version of Anglophilia, enlivened by maps of Middle Earth and family crests, was underwritten by plights of Miss Eyre and Pip. The focus was narrow but not elite. Which sounds naive, but I am.

Sometime in the eighties I watched the final episode of The Forsythe Saga on Masterpiece Theatre (I'd read the Saga during one of my insomniac months in the seventies, while spending a regrettable time in the bizarre household my father and stepmother maintained).

By then I was well on my own, had left a five-year relationship, was living in a quaint dump with a view, in Silverlake.  My adulthood had been launched when I went back to school for a secondary credential. Saga was coincident with my being a high school English teacher. Alistair Cooke bid us goodnight. I turned off the t.v.

And I got rid of it.  Now and then I'll own one for a few months, catch up on this or that, but it's a true addiction for me, a disease doing push-ups in the studios of ABC, CBS, Fox, HBO, Showtime. In no time at all I'll be complaining about Regis' latest skank. (I watch the great shows of late, but a year later, on DVD.)

How did I get here?  This posting's working title was "Visitation: I see a poem in an English muffin."  English? Was that the buttery tipping point?  It's no secret there are poems in every object and subject, melting in nooks and crannies, hiding, merely lurking. Glistening. Begging for the jelly.

Late eighties, early nineties, I'd gone world. As the food pyramid has been revised so have appreciations of culture. I was post-Colonial. I know I wrote this sometime or other here, but I realized classical music, pumped into me and my sisters with urgent conviction, was not top of the food chain but just another vegetable, fruit, protein.

There is a poem in the food chain. And in the pyramid and the Pyramids. Go, my friends, find them, and also some orange marmalade. My English muffin grows cold.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

LUNGFULL! magazine: I recommend it; & do read the small print

Issue 16, photo by Tracey McTeague
LUNGFULL!  affiliate John Most recently mailed me an issue, for free and for fun, and I decided I'd mention it here if moved to. I am moved.  Poems, stories and art are, each and all, good reads, as in of individual merit, as in reflecting original perspectives, as in bucking the (alleged) trend of averaged-out workshop poems & co.

There are several art series. I fell in love withTracey McTague's eight black-and-white photographs of neighborhood kids in summer. They're real kids with attitude, expression, conflict, charm, kid-collusion. McTague's unsentimental and grand affection for them is very much in the work.

Many LUNGFULL! poems are presented opposite their drafts. Remember drafts? Edith Wharton, John Keats, Langston Hughes wrote and rewrote, some retyped, their work on pieces of paper in a concerted and effective effort to keep generations of academics analyzing, publishing and therefore not perishing. While I have no particular interest in drafts, even when they're of the very great and exhibited at the Morgan Library, I like knowing they exist. I'm old enough to have started writing on a typewriter, and retyped stories many times; I'd rather not tell you how many. But in reading lit., I'm after the experience, not the process. Still, some readers will pore over them and that's good. I don't know why, but it is.

Alex Galper's draft is in Russian. His absurdly touching "Che Guevera's Diet" contrasts American sweets and our collective and his personal aching to lose pounds with Che. The translation could be lots better, but I was enchanted and didn't mind. As a friend once said, to stop my dramatic editing, "Hey, it's a poem [already]!"

I'm encircled by blueberry cheesecakes,
it is everywhere,
at work, home, guests'
bad capitalist cheesecakes.
Like Guevera was ambushed and captured,
I absolutely, coincidentally entered a bakery,
bold revolutionary hollowed,
"You can't kill me!
I'm the very Che Guevera himself!"

More could be sung of LUNGFULL!, all of it positive, cheerful, encouraging and respectful. I will end with what won me over right off the bat. On page three, with a jump to the inside back cover, is mock Patient Information in wee tiny print just like a P.I. printed on thin white paper folded like an Auto Club map to Hell. If it were FDA-approved info for Xanax (I wish) or Carvedilol (who knows) you'd be warned there was a possibility your eyes could become dice and roll from their sockets onto a craps table in a Polish neighbood in Chicago, your skin turn to store-brand lemon jello without the floating fruit, your heart start courting your spleen and the two run away to honeymoon in a nicer body.

I have proofread Patient Information inserts for ad agencies. If only Big Pharm would pay me to read LUNGFULL! I'd be a happy woman. (And thus: Sarah Sarai will never be a happy woman.)

Editor Brendan Lorber &/staff of LUNGFULL! write(s) in their P.I.  (by way of one tiny example): ". . . The price'll go up over that time so if you don't act now you'll be like those people you hear about who had a big New York apartment that they sold for some sea monkeys and an old shoe in 1979."  If that's not an inducement to read and subscribe to LUNGFULL!, God help you all.

Go to for subscription information and more.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tuna Croquettes and The Poem

Not a tuna croquette.
Today is Friday and so we turn our attention to tuna croquettes. In high school this humble foodstuff made the last day of the week almost livable. These breaded and fried or baked blops of canned tuna and white glue tenderly covered in a warm nubby throw of mushroom soup at least made it possible to keep eyes open until lunchtime.

Soon thereafter we checked out mentally. The hipper kids of course simply walked out the door. Summer Fridays were invented by high school truants.

Of course so much has been written on the subject of tuna croquettes and poetry I doubt this humble poet has even the tiniest crumb or grease spatter. Goethe's surprisingly plain "Ist gut" is Teutonic equivocation: was the poet considering making a deal with a generic soup canner? Mephistopheles? Whitman wrote of "containing diced celery" and as every schoolgirl and boy knows the beloved Belle of Amherst published but six recipes for variations on tuna croquettes (with bees, prairies, Death, Wild Nights! More Death and em dashes) in her lifetime. Most tragically, Sylvia Plath drowned in the heavy batter while her children slept. Elizabeth Alexander brought renewed--and positive--attention to this classic by sharing a portion as America lovingly watched its first tuna croquette loving President inaugurated.

If anything can break a line it is a tuna croquette.  Did Woolworth's counters offer tuna croquettes?  I remember their Cokes, pie slices and grilled cheese sandwiches, each of which inspires versification. And that, my puzzled friends, is enough for me.