Monday, December 26, 2011

Flamingo Watching [Kay Ryan]

Needless to say, I identify and overly identify with the flamingo, here, as I am meant to. She is the odd kid in high school, the arty one in a dull, stale office.  The unnatural elect scorned by the "natural elect" who are less interesting and yet oddly and perennially empowered by their mediocrity.

Ryan's rhymes and twists, slanting and sinuous as the flamingo herself, are a joy. This is a good poem to type out, a fingertip-happy ear-snappy poem. And by the way, since I had to look it up, I might as well share. Furbelow: A ruffle or flounce. [by folk etymology from French dialect farbella; see falbala]

Flamingo Watching

Wherever the flamingo goes,
she brings a city's worth of
furbelows.  She seems
unnatural by nature--
too vivid and peculiar
a structure to be pretty,
and flexible to the point
of oddity.  Perched on
those legs, anything she does
seems like an act.  Descending
on her egg or draping her head
along her back, she's
too exact and sinuous
to convince an audience
she's serious.  The natural elect,
they think, would be less pink,
less able to relax their necks,
less flamboyant in general.
They privately expect that it's some
poorly jointed bland grey animal
with mitts for hands
whom God protects.

Kay Ryan, from, Flamingo Watching, 1994, in The Best of It, New and Selected Poems, Grove Press, 2011.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

She Blasted the Canon to Hell

The older I get, the more I am convinced the canon of "literary" "classics" should be blasted to hell. It's just fine with me if we start over with a perspective not born in the faux democracy of the Greeks, woman-fearing religions of the west and colonialism.

This relates to the latest outrage, Helen Vendler's tasteless critique of the Penguin Anthology of American Poetry, edited by Rita Dove. Dove redefines the canon and bless her for that. Vendler is sour about a redefinition --a-- and --b-- making it clear she is not guided by dictates of democracy, kindness, openmindedness, or a belief in the equalify of all personkind.

I've commented, cross-commented, posted new links including one to a new interview with Dove, already, on Facebook, Twitter and a listserv. All relevant links and opinions are a Google away.

A mere Google away.  I'm not going to replicate the effort here, but in case I'm the only poet left standing after China and Pakistan destroy us,form a pact and destroy us, something I thought about on December 6, Pearl Harbor Day, I want to let the record show that Vendler attacked Dove, and that I was aware of it.

And pro-Dove. I am a dove! Now give me the money to buy the anthology which is long and tasty and not cheap but doable and enjoy a new concept of American verse.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Democracy of the Open Mic

What I like about Open Mics is the democracy, given limits of time and space.

Why write this? I recently heard a poet say, No one goes to open mics if they they write good poetry (or--are connected). That's not a direct quote, but it conveys the gist.

Okay. What's different between open mics and poetry readings with featured readers. In New York, the latter are generally staged by the under forty-set. The under-forty set who have graduated from a local MFA program and have friends their age, with their interests.

The poetry readings with featured readers do not, in fact, necessarily offer a finer quality poetry than open mics do, not overall. I recently attended a reading of three featured readers. Each had an MFA. One was a wonderful poet--or a poet I consider wonderful, as does a publisher and critics and the friend I went with. The other two were not wonderful. Much self-absorption. No wit, no wisdom, no lyricism, no ear.

That said, I may only hear one or two poets whose poems make me yearn for more when I go to an open mic of, say twenty poets. And unless I get lucky, I don't hear a Frank O'Hara or Rita Dove or Marilyn Nelson or Doug Anderson in the making.

(Of course, God knows what the other poets think of me. Usually they avoid me. We all make our judgments.)

Unless I attend a reading at Cave Canem, the organization for Black poets, it's unlikely I'll see a Black poet at a featured-reader event. Sad and most often true.  Open mics are often mixed, maybe not fully representative of all New York, but lively, of more than one social set--or more than one esthetic. I remember a young woman--this was years ago in Seattle--improvise a poem about being made love to by her supremely attentive boyfriend. It wasn't a great poem but the event of it, the lighting, her voice, the remarkably quiet (for a bar) room, not to be forgotten. And not to be missed.

 Yes. Sometimes I want to hear high level art honed by years of work. Sometimes I want to hear a famous poet.  But sometimes I just want a chance to test out my own poems. Sometimes I want to be around people who love poetry. How wonderful is that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Blame It on Family" > Andromeda, her boastful mother, gods doing what gods do

*see below
You want troubled families, I suggest Greek mythology. You want a boastful mother, zero in on Cassiopeia. A precursor to Sleeping Beauty's stepmother, Cassiopeia needed that thing that women think we need or that thing which the men who write about women think we need--to be considered gorgeous. And not just gorgeous, but best-in-show fabulous lovely.

What Cassiopeia made known was that she was prettier than the Nereids, Poseidon's female posse. Why this story isn't about the death wish or self-destructive vanity, I don't know. Well, maybe I do, because I don't know what happened to Cassiopeia but I do know that Poseidon, who was Zeus' brother, had some angry Nereids to deal with, which he did by having Cassiopeia's daughter, Andromeda, picked up by the too-pretty police.

A monster was rented from Monsters-R-Us, the most profitable business going in mythology, and dispatched to Cassiopeia's own Ethiopia.

Word was that that only when Andromeda was slain would everyone mythical and powerful be happy (for happy, read, triumphant). And since anticipation is half the joy in killing a beautiful woman or any woman (what's wrong with this story? lots!), Andromeda was chained to a rock.  Rocks and chains--ancient Greek holding cells. Women in distress--the stuff of every other t.v. show or movie.

The rest of the story, which varies, is in my poem, "Blame It on Family," kindly presented in the Fall 2011 issue of Redheaded Stepchild. Please read it!  Thanks.

*By the way, I couldn't bear to post one of those classical images of half-naked Andromeda twisting on her chains, her breasts  a twitter. She is a rose. All women are roses. In the picture above, the rose in encased, courtesy of the Rosicrucian order.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

As the Police Move in, so Does Poetry

The poet Sparrow, who ran for President
as a revolutionary communist
within the Republican Party
When I met with Stephen (see previous post), he streamed a video of the eviction from Zucotti Park. Yes, there were  policemen and women, there were batons at rest before the cops started moving in. There was the gloomy, cold night, odd city lights, confusion, taunts. And there was poetry.

Whatever was happening as part of the melee, Stephen J. Boyer was reading from the Poetry Anthology. The cops were standing at attention and Stephen was reading from the Poetry Anthology. The cops were rousting and Stephen was reading from the Poetry Anthology.

Among the poems he read, Stephen told me, were some by Sparrow, who, as I recall, stormed The New Yorker years ago, no small feat. So of course Stephen said "Sparrow" more than once. Later--the next day--I'm not sure, the police were calling him Sparrow. Not mocking. Identifying the poetry purveyor and acknowledging the flame of art burns a hell of a lot brighter than the quick, bitter triumph of violence.

Once policeman told Stephen he'd liked hearing the poetry read.  I'll try to get Stephen to post the video. I'm writing now so I don't forget. A major aim of Occupy Language is use poetry to disseminate ideas and also to disseminate poetry.  This here seems like a good enough example.

Maybe you'll come up with another way to disseminate.

Here's a terrific profile of Sparrow by Chris Dodge. In Utne

Poetry Anthology 1.0 (Occupy Wall Street) available for download.

Anna Akhmatova
I spent some time with Stephen J. Boyer this afternoon. He'd slept maybe three hours since his--all of Occupy Wall Street's--eviction from Zucotti Park, but being young and glowing with fires of sane righteousness, was still working on the Poetry Anthology.

The Anthology was stored in organizing white binders, by week and month. Poets from around New York, the country, the world contributed. That the Anthology would be digitized seemed a lazy inevitability last Sunday night when Occupy Language held its weekly meeting. When Bloomberg and Kelly ordered their henchmen and henchladies to pepper-spray and sometimes beat, to, at the very least, evict, without warning, protesters at Zucotti, when the Occupy Wall Street Library was nearly destroyed and cartons of books thrown in Dumpsters, the digitization became a necessity. Like, now.

And Stephen, who I caught up with at a friend's apartment, wouldn't sleep until he'd put it online. My hungry ego wants you to know that I cut and pasted the poems into a document (yes, I did a Control-A, Control-C, Control-P--I'm fairly amazing), and suggested a way to create a pdf. I didn't live at Zucotti, didn't night and day build a library like Sean, Stephen, others.The Poetry Anthology was not my idea.

Here's the first version of the Poetry Anthology. Consider this Anthology 1.0. There are many more poems waiting, and many more will be sent in. In the meantime here it is. If the great library of Alexandria had been digitized,well, there'd be less mystery, less a sense of loss. The Poetry Anthology from the Occupy Wall Street Library is being digitized.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Marathon Reading of Bartleby the Scrivener. So far, no reaction from Police Commissioner Ray Kelly

I wonder what Mayor Bloomberg would have to say to Bartleby the Scriviner when up against his "flute-like" tone of voice and his "I prefer not to."

Bloomberg: "Well, he has the right to his opinion, I am a strong proponent of freedom of speech, but there's a point where you just have to get moving. And Bartleby has passed that point."

As for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly who I once admired for his intelligence and education, I don't know how he'd handle Bartleby. I hope even combat veteran Kelly would balk at throwing a net over the ginger-nuts eating scriviner.  Kelly, by the way, continues to have an intelligence of sorts and his accomplishments are many. His heart, alas, is shrinking.

Yesterday's marathon reading of Bartleby the Scrivener, by Melville, sparks these questions. Just a few blocks from Zucotti Park, at 55 Wall Street, an indoors public space which generously doesn't throw nets over anyone, so far, when used for committee meetings.The event fresh in my mind, it is easy enough to imagine Kelly and/or Bloomberg confronting the text. Hmmm.

Far better to imagine was the group of well more than fifty who gathered. And efficiently, as everything connected with Occupy Wall Street is organized and mannered. The reading took around two hours.

Thanks to Occupy Language, Melville House Publishers, Housing Works Bookstore and whoever else for sponsoring the event and for my portion which offered an insight into the narrator--alternately boastful but, in the light of morning, honest at his ineffectual efforts to move Bartleby.  "He was more a man of preferences than assumptions."

You and a whole bunch of others, Bartleby.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Need To Become Myself (being Sarah Gancher Sarai)

How do I legally become myself?

I was born Sarah Gancher. No doctor was present but there was a midwife and I have a certificate stating what seems obvious to me. I'm here. My parents would serve as good witnesses but they have chosen to view the whole thing of life from the perspective of the passed.

Sometime in the early nineties I started using my pen name and when I told my bank and the social security office (the bank was in Seattle and the social security office was in Oakland), no one objected. Suddenly I became Sarah Sarai, no questions asked. I might write, "suffice it to say this couldn't happen now," but who knows. When I go through airport security the big guards look at me with contempt, as if I were an insult to their strength and canny, so obviously am I nonthreatening. No one asks me anything. When I start talking, things sometimes change, but my point is, I could smuggle things if I were so inclined. Of course I'm not (really and truly) so maybe I have earned the contempt the airport screeners have for me. I skate through some things that hold up other people.

It is more than likely there would have been more hoops to jump through if I approached my bank or a social security office with a name change, or the same hoops would be proffered but they'd be flaming. I have social security cards in both names.

I have college transcripts from three colleges. All three have the same social security number, but my graduate school knows me as Sarah Sarai. It didn't question the difference in names. Hmmmm. That may be a key to getting help. So that I can seamlessly (relatively) skate through the systems ahead of me, those being social security and various other state and federal agencies. I could probably enter the penal system without so much as a howdy do, but like Bartleby, I'd prefer not.

To repeat, I do not have a piece of paper which states that Sarah Sarai is Sarah Gancher. See? Think like someone who works for the government and has a job to do. In L.A. my nieces and nephews could stand up for me. But could they? They didn't meet me until I was a teenager, and then they were more involved with getting their poo cleaned off and being burped. I have a few high school friends in L.A. who could stand up for me, as well as a sister. And one cousin.

In my most recent published short story, An Archive of Paranormal Inquiry Into Coping (in The Writing Disorder), I decided to sign the story as Sarah Gancher Sarai. It feels like who I am. It stands out more than Sarah Sarai and the numerology was more positive.

The really cool result of this was that two days later a friend from high school emailed me. She'd just found me. She must have set a Google alert on Sarah Gancher. Anyway, family curse on "Gancher" aside, it is a good thing to be fully me. All Sarah fiction hereon is written by Sarah Gancher Sarai.

Now the job is to convince the government. All good and sane ideas welcome.

Fiction: The Wild Night I Was Born

by Sarai Sarai
from Tampa Review 23: 2003
I, Adin Pearlman, am a tailor and salesman. My haberdashery establishment is on Wilshire Boulevard, the Miracle Mile of Los Angeles. I don’t mean to press a point as flat as I would an inseam, but I think about miracles as I alter and sell suits. Suits are my living, although I had other plans when I was younger.

It’s a Friday; I’m in the store, thinking, Why? Why? Am I a failure? Must my thoughts always fray into useless scraps? I’m agonizing; the buzzer rings, and I look up to see a lawyer, I can tell right away from his arrogant and stagy, yet lumbering, stride. He takes one step back, investigates, his eyes half-closed, and coughs, nervously.

This lawyer is cautious and a little broken. I zoom in. A look of fatigue crossed his face years ago and lingered—I’ve seen it before. He’s a big man, big shoulders, thick hands, broad belly, and a head you want to grasp for the pleasure of feeling its heft. The lawyer tells me his name, Simon Zimmerman, and we get to work.

“So, Simon” I remove an ill-placed pin from a light wool hound’s tooth check jacket. “You’re a lawyer, an attorney.” His eyebrows rise. “This suit proclaims your dignity which an attorney needs.”

“Everyone needs dignity” As if they were a balanced scale of justice, Simon holds out his hands palm up. Your honor, his pose suggests, let us be fair.

I lower his arms. Motion denied. I explain that for all the heartache in my life, I’ve always dressed so as to advertise my worth and additionally, my education and scholarship. “My suit for example. A nice blue, very good lines, right?” I pound my stomach which has no give—not bad for a 50 year-old. “I wasn’t always a haberdasher, you know. I was going to become a professor of literature at U.C.L.A.”

Simon buttons and unbuttons the vest with ease; smiles. “From academic to haberdasher? You left school?”

As if I were an opera singer—Jan Pearce or Placido belting out an aria, I fling my arms wide. Silver pins silently plip on the carpet. “It wasn’t a lack of publications, nor lack of tributes that caused my career transition, Simon.” I’m pleased his vest doesn’t gap, is quite flattering. “It wasn’t even doubting the possibility of tragedy and classical sentiment in this shoddy world.”

“Was it a woman?”

I slap my forehead. This Simon’s an astute man, a seer, so I offer him a low price, over which we dicker and I offer to buy him a beer in the bargain. “What about Canter’s?” I notice he’s not wearing a wedding band; neither am I. “Like me you’re a bachelor.” I bend down to pick up a pin, a maneuver requiring delicacy and persistence.

“Adin, you’re making assumptions.”

“You’re divorced?” I glance up as I slide the entrapped pin from the carpet.

“I’m widowed, but there’s more.”

I shake out the crease to my trousers. “You’re dark with a furrowed brow, you’re a sufferer. Is that right?” I’m not convinced this Simon Zimmerman is a human of overwhelming dimension, but as usual, I need to talk to someone—anyone.

“A sufferer?” They say that Sarah laughed and now, apparently, it’s Simon’s turn.

I’m veering towards sensitive at Simon’s guffaw, but continue. “Where was your family from?”

Simon shrugs. “Russia, the Caucasus.”

Ah! “Georgian, that explains ferocity.”

“Like Stalin?”

“Russian accounts for the sadness.”

“What’s all this genealogy? I’m Jewish.”

“Right, landsman, Jewish accounts for the suffering. But...” I victoriously plunge the retrieved pin into a cushion around my wrist, “...Russians suffer better than anyone, so it follows that Russian Jews suffer better than other Jews.” Suffering: a topic of consequence. Don’t we all suffer? Greatly?

“You should have been a lawyer.” Growls from Simon’s stomach.

Separately we drive to the twenty-four-hour deli on Fairfax, and soon are seated at a round booth roomy enough for a party of five. Before sliding in, I wipe the maroon vinyl with a paper napkin. Even a little grease is no good for the gander, as I tell my customers.

A gray-haired waitress saunters over. She leans on her left leg, making her left hip a table for her crooked arm. I don’t like it when they lean.

“Do you want to bring us a couple of beers, dear?” I scan the menu.


She has a name; good for her. “You want to bring us two Heinekens?” I consult, first the menu, second, Simon. “That okay with you, Si?”

Maybe Simon prefers Bud Lite or Corona; he doesn’t say. “Certainly. And I’ll order.” He smiles at this Ellen.

“Let the girl get our drinks.”

She, Ellen, taps the order pad with her pencil. The dark gleam in her eyes is no cipher: two post middle aged farts; bad tippers; can’t get it up. The woman does not have my gift of perception.

I order roast chicken. Simon, the special, brisket, gravy, latkes, a vegetable, a dinner salad. He struggles with himself before requesting a bowl of chicken soup with two matzo balls. “I shouldn’t push my luck.”

Feh. “Now, Simon, my life’s an open book.” As is my face, which, like my almost kinky hair, is red, not florid, but bright, a pimento. My forehead is lined. My eyes faded blue as if they had been left in a sunny window and forgotten. “I’ve told volumes of it to different people.”

I left my jacket at the shop and now I roll up my shirt sleeves. “I was born in Palmdale—a few Jews lived there, and this is my story.”

From the moment of my grand entrance in the universe, I reveal, there were signs I could have been a Jonah. For on the night I was born, desert winds blustered, dust swirled and stars shivered. This night, wild enough for a prophet’s birth, the midwife coddled me in the fullness of her encircling arms, then offered me to my mother who sighed. What a sigh! I remember it with perfect clarity—and I am born anew, alas, each time I remember). “No thanks.” Mother was resolute. Ten months later she sped off, leaving me and Pop with one another.

“You could be more sensitive than some of us.” Simon drums his round fingers on the marbleized table top. “Your mother said 'No thanks’?”

I calm myself, admirable considering the lava flows erupting from my volcanic heart. Ellen bangs our dinner salads before us. Her manicured nails are crimson; her fingers are short, round and strong.

“Dear, I’ll tell you what I would really like.” A woman such as this does not get my goat. “Ranch dressing. Think you can find a side of Ranch for me?”

“One Ranch, coming up.” Ellen is a train conductor, announcing. Away she plods to return with a bowl of flecked white stuff, it’s quite tasty, which I spoon over iceberg lettuce, two cherry tomatoes, four cucumber slices and carrot. Grated.

“So, Simon.” I shake on the pepper. “As a man of integrity and intelligence, what do you think?”

“If your story’s accurate, and of course it is,” he adds hastily, “it’s remarkable. From prophet to academic to tailor. And many stops in between, I’m sure.”

I think, how true.

“I, as I mentioned, am not entirely what I appear to be.”


Simon pauses to swipe at his forehead with his embossed paper napkin. Does he want a Jewish deus ex machina, a device of an argumentative Yahweh to descend and outtalk us both? Simon, Simon, only to a few did God speak. Only in the Bible or a few dark shtetl tales are human events influenced by anything but time and a theoretically natural course of events.

“So be it. My wife died recently.”

“I’m sorry!”

“And now I can be open.”

I note Simon’s uneaten tomato. Sometimes food draws my keen attention.
“I didn’t want to get married, but my father forced me.” Ellen arrives to clear our salad plates. “I realized very young that I was,” he pronounces all syllables, “homosexual.” Ellen’s head juts forward. I shoo her away.

“We shouldn’t tip the waitress.” In the abstract I have no trouble with Simon’s revelation.

“Adin, I realized it when I was 12, but what could I do about it? I couldn’t say a word to my father—and my mother? My Jewish mother, if you’ll indulge me, converted to Christian Science. My father was domineering, hateful to her, the woman needed escape. After she gave birth to my youngest sister she was ill; one of our neighbors introduced her to Mary Baker Eddy and the concepts of Christian Science.”

It’s hard to imagine Simon, so weighted by his body, connected to Christian Science, a woman’s religion, an hysteric’s religion, advocating avoidance of medical attention.
But he was. “My daughter tells me that Mary Baker Eddy was a victim of internalized misogyny. We’re all victims of the internal. I was in the closet until my wife died.”
My hand speeds to my Vesuvius heart.

“My mother didn’t have much use for most things in the perceivable world, i.e., the human body. I don’t know how much of that came from dealings with my father.” We both gulp.

“I learned about Matter, Mortal Mind, and how to disregard the body and its wants. I learned Puritanism. Jews can be Puritans, you know that.”

We have that strain, certainly there is the possibility of being a little tight in Judaism, although: “I would like to say no other religion understands life’s joy like Judaism.”

“Joy, celebration, the holidays, shabbat, right. But, if you’ll allow me, Adin, being Jewish is no Sunday picnic. I stay away from religion. I eat Jewish, that’s how I’m Jewish.”

Ellen arrives with the entrees. “One chickie, one beefie.” She winks at Simon as she plops down his full plate.

“Have you considered the stage, dear?” I ask.

At me, Ellen sneers, and shifts her half-century of weight, left to right leg. Far better to suit up men than women, I reflect.

“Terrible person, I’m sorry I came here.”

“I think she’s funny.” Simon fumbles for his fork.

I remonstrate myself for my facile dismissal, earlier in the day, of this humane and oh-so-suffering soul.

“What’s to say?” Simon continues. “My father terrified me. My mother taught me to disregard my body. They set the stage; I was the actor. Until recently I’d never been to a gay bar and to tell you the truth, at this point in my life, I have a mix of feelings, of which relief is only part.”

I spear slippery chicken skin and pile it on the plate’s ledge.

“And my wife would have been happy with an arranged marriage. I gave her two daughters. Maybe she suspected. Life isn’t perfect, life can be disappointing. We all know it.”

He chews and talks; the roast beef adds robustness to his words. “I wish things could have been different. I wish I could have been brave enough to come out, but I raised two children, I’m respected in my field—this is all legitimate. I’ve done what I’ve done and I’ve lost what I lost. And now, at least, I’m honest.”

In the rubble of Simon’s middle-aged life I see an inner-Phoenix taking wing. I reach over for some brisket from his plate. A little beef is good. You’ll notice even the Chinese, whose arteries run free, eat just a little beef with many vegetables. “You don’t mind, do you?”

Simon’s eyes are lapel wide.

“Look at me.” My fork is in my hand; its tines pointing to my chest. “I thought I was a scholar and a husband.” I steal a bit of Simon’s latke, plunk applesauce on top.

“While I was teaching I married Sansi. I was in love before we spoke. You should have seen her! I took her to the desert on our first date, hoping the stars would inspire her heart.”

I slump. “We married, we divorced. It took years before I ceased awaiting her return, during which time she slept with every man in West L. A., and then married an English professor at U.S.C. I became a tailor, suiting up others so they could attract and conquer.

“And irony reigns supreme. I hear she’s faithful to her new husband.” I sigh. “I’m a good haberdasher.”

“What good, you’re great. Adin, listen, you’re right, we all need to come out. You need to come out as a sufferer.” He considers. “No, as an ascetic. You’ve lived without a wife, without the career of your dreams. There’s a reason.”

“I hope so.” I reflect. I’ve hoped that for years. I’ve hoped for something, someone. Trust me, I’ve hoped. “You know, I sometimes wonder about women.” Simon snickers. I’m entertaining! “Like your wife, didn’t she have her own story to tell—how she kept her inner flame burning, fanned by a goose feather of hope. Was she happy? Was happiness a possibility?”

“I didn’t say this is a happy story or that I’m always a righteous man.” Simon’s phoenix becomes a falcon with talons. “I gave her a home. It was a marriage. At least in the beginning. If I’ve turned her into cardboard when I talk about our marriage, it’s because she wasn’t a complainer.” He lowers a hood over the falcon. “I know there are always two sides to an issue.”

“That isn’t true in my life!” I snort. “In my life there’s one story, it’s mine, and the women can all go to hell.”

“You boys done?” Ellen taps her pencil against her thumbnail. Tapping, tapping. So this one is a raven. I glare. “Excuse me.” As if she cares. “But I’m doing my job.”

“Why don’t you give us the check?” Simon reaches towards his back pocket.

“We’re not done.” I’m adamant. “Leave the plates. There’s more to eat here.” I refer to the bits and pieces of meat and vegetables, scraps. Ellen heaves a sigh and marches, heavily, I might add, to another table. I touch Simon’s arm. “Here you’ve told me a phenomenal story and I go on about my troubles.”

“What do you want, Adin? Your wife left you. What if you’d left your wife! Think of the guilt you’d be feeling. At least you didn’t cause anyone pain.”

I consider. “If you mean you caused your wife pain, well, we all cause pain.”

“So what’s left?”

“Maybe I’m gay.”

“By now, you’d know.”

I rest my head on my hands folded before me on the tabletop. “How can I trust anyone when I was betrayed?”

“How long ago was that?”

“Twenty years.” I giggle.

Simon purses his lips. He lifts two twenties from his wallet. “I insist.” I don’t protest. He calls out. “Ellen!” He says to me, “You need someone who is honest, will speak her mind. A person, you need a person.”

“You called?”

Simon hands Ellen the money and check and asks, “Are you married?”

“What do you care?” This is not a woman well-versed in the civil reply.

“It’s a question, you’re a woman,” he pauses to make sure judge and jury are attentive, “of depth, and I want to know if you’re married.”
She rubs the pencil eraser on the tip of her nose.

“My friend here, Adin, is divorced.”

“Surprise, surprise.”

“Simon, please.” His line of thought hangs between us, its dirty laundry flapping in the breeze.

“Pay at the cash register.” Ellen tosses the bills on the table.

“Good, I’ll do that. But first add on two deserts and two coffees. I want you and Adin to have desert. Isn’t it time you took a break?”

“This is ridiculous, no offense, Ellen, you’re a fine person, I’m sure.” What is happening here?

“You’re not sure, and I certainly don’t have much good to say about you.”
Simon rummages in his wallet and spreads five more twenties on the table. “The tip.”

She laughs. “I feel like Julia Roberts. And at my age!” She scrutinizes the money; me. “I like cheesecake. My break’s coming up and I do like cheesecake.” She pushes next to me in the booth. There’s no escape. My life passes before my eyes.

“Good, then it’s settled.” Simon waits as Ellen adds in the deserts, then takes the check to the register and leaves the twenties. “Adin, I’ll pick up the suit in a week.”
I squirm.

“You’re a tailor?” Ellen zeroes in. “Where are you from, do I hear a little New York accent?”

“My parents were New Yorkers,” I explain with reluctance, noting, however, she knows place-of-birth is important. “I come from a long line of tailors.”

“You were born in L.A.?”

“I was born in Palmdale, a few Jews lived there.”

“Just a sec.” She leaps up with more speed than I’ve yet seen her exhibit. “Let me get our dessert.” She prances off—a girl.

I press my fingertips against each other. I consider. Perhaps my guru Simon has provided me with an object lesson. Then again, perhaps I should leave now. Ellen’s back. Oh well. She takes Simon’s seat. I grab my fork, slice a corner of her cheesecake. I tell her, “On the night I was born, winds blustered, dust swirled and stars shivered.”
As for Simon Zimmerman, maybe after he starts his car he turns onto Rosewood, then waits at the light on Fairfax. When the light is green maybe he turns left to Sunset or Santa Monica and an assortment of clubs and bars; maybe right to Wilshire and his apartment.

Meanwhile, back at the House of Ranch Dressing, I tell Ellen the story of my life, the joy, the not-so-joyous. She listens. I’ll give Ellen that much credit.

With her consent, I’m no weirdo, I follow her to her apartment in Hollywood proper, to the small, tidy living room with its long, beige couch upon which a weary waitress has flopped many a night and thumbed through a magazine. I sit at one end, instruct myself to disregard fraying on the arm rest, kick off my shoes and continue talking. I know Ellen has a life of her own, problems, I’m not unaware that such empathy as Ellen displays is wrought from having lived through not a few ordeals.

“Your mother had her story,” Ellen suggests, taking a seat not quite at the couch’s opposite end. “Maybe your father was cold?”

“My father said he was never good enough for her.”

“And you weren’t good enough for your wife.”

“And she left.”

“You’ve been hoisting some heavy luggage, doll.” She runs her hand under the couch cushion. This is no time to clean. There I go again, judging.

“I’ve been living with hopes that an archaic god will talk to me.” Just what kind of a person am I? Has this been a life?

“You need fire, or a wheel turning in the sky. I’ve read prophets, I know.”

“What do I need with a wheel?” What’s this?

Ellen is rubbing her stockinged feet, which are not dainty. She’s been on them most of her life.

“You need a sign, you need something Biblical.”

I cannot believe I mocked this woman just hours before. I need a sign? Of course I need a sign. That’s exactly what I need. That’s what I was hoping for today.

“Myself, I’ve been looking for something for a long time, buster, I don’t know if you’d call it a sign, but a way out of this.” Ellen points to her feet, which as I have mentioned, have borne a burden.

“Retirement, a new job?”

Ellen stares. A possible rude assessment is being made. “My first husband left me, my second husband died. And that was all within five years.”

Two husbands; I need to think.

“I killed my second husband.” Now she is brushing her hands together. Lady Macbeth. I killed him. It hangs there in the air between us, not her husband’s corpse, but the challenge she is posing to me, because I realize she did not kill her husband. She is taunting me.

“He had leukemia, was in bad shape, it all came so quickly, we only had two years together. He was very near the end and asked me to help him. I did it.”

So I was wrong. She killed her husband. I think about it for a while, what it would be like to know that for the rest of your life. This was not a crime of passion, although it was a crime of love, to be sure. Premeditated murder, although I don’t know if murder is the correct term. Assisted suicide, that’s what they say, isn’t it, and hers went unchallenged. I think about Simon Zimmerman, what he would say to Ellen. I summon the spirit of the great man I have known less than one day, but whose being lingers. Simon would not judge Ellen. Hers would be one more story. He deceived his wife, she “helped” her husband. My wife deceived me. My mother didn’t want me. My father did what he could. And God has not lived up to His promise. Those winds, the stars. What right does He have to set me up for disappointment?—I’m sensitive. Maybe winds and stars herald every birth. If that’s so, everyone is unique, and life is more of a cruel joke than I believe.

Ellen’s words intrude on my reverie. “Are you judging me?” She’s picked up a ball point pen from the heavy, dark coffee table next to the solid couch and now is rapping it against her palm. A waitress and her pen. Bonded for life.

“What, what’s so wrong about what you did?” I lift one foot to the table, far from hers. “It has something to commend it.”

She’s interested.

“You had a life going with your husband. I haven’t had a life going for quite a while. I didn’t have a chance, my wife left, and I don’t understand why I’ve been deprived of that opportunity.”

Ellen scans the room as if she’s left a book lying about that contains the answers. “So everything happens for a reason?”

“That’s what I’m wondering about, that’s it, I don’t know.”
“You feel deprived.”

That’s a fair assessment. I have been cheated, yes, of the chance to help someone end their life, of the chance to deceive someone, all that.

“You loved your wife.”

I respond that I was hoisted with the petard of my affection.

“But you interacted. You got killed in a way. My husband was in pain, you know.” I wonder if she’s going to cry; she doesn’t look happy.

“Prophets don’t even get to marry. When do you ever hear of a husband and wife prophet? You don’t.” All my pain and suffering would be redemptive if I had a truth to tell the world. Of course if I were to feel happy about my life—I try that on for size, it’s an emperor’s new suit. Fits the emperor well, nicely tailored, but he’s exposed, no grumbling to hide him. This won’t do. “I do have something to tell the world.”

Ellen leans and hands me a pen and a torn envelope she’s been using as a bookmark. “So say it. Write it, start, here, here’s an envelope, be like Lincoln, write on an envelope.”

Be like Lincoln, thoughtful, if not anguished. “But I don’t have it formulated.”

She grabs back pen, and the envelope. “Dictate,” she commands, “What do you want to say?”
“I don’t want to say anything. I want to be told.”

“But you’ve already been told. A windy birth, an unloving mother—someone was trying to get something across. What, what, we’re just brainstorming here.”

Well, even Jonah had a boyhood; it had to make a difference. “I grew up waiting for a sign. This reflected in my choice of a wife who I wished would recognize nature’s innuendo.”

“What kind of a prophet waits for signs?” Ellen’s head juts forward. I shoo her away.

“You are the sign.”

No, Simon Zimmerman was the sign. I’m not the sign. Ellen’s asking me to justify my life. I put my other foot on the coffee table. Both of my feet; both of hers. Ellen is smiling.

“Why such a big smile?”

“I think you made a prediction.” She squints at my socks. Not a hole to be seen. I’m a clothier, after all. But it’s not the socks which this transparent and, thank goodness, decent-enough, woman is assessing. It’s the whole move. Two feet, two feet. This woman, Ellen, communicates with a mere, crushing, glance.

“What, because I rest both feet on your card table?”

Why is she doing that—inching down the couch so her feet are closer to mine? Next she’ll be removing my socks. And God knows what. And then—I realize—I’ve done it! I’ve made a prediction. No shoes, no socks, nature’s course.

And I wonder, as I accept Ellen’s massaging touch on my tight instep, if I’m about to save the world, or merely my life.

Sarah Sarai, Tampa Review: 23, 2002

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

White People Are on my Mind These Days {a poem}

From the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Mary, A Literary Quarterly {Publisher and Editor, William Johnson}. Thanks again to Wm. for inviting me participate, earlier this year, in a benefit reading at the Montauk House in Brooklyn. THAT was an evening.

{Note that when I read this poem to an audience, I preface it thusly: I know a mixed/interracial couple, both parties are named Robert.

Plus, the poem was conceived on a street corner in Soho, where my great-nephew and I discussed the demise of the Caucasian peoples.} I'm already exhausted. Poems shouldn't be introduced, right?

White People Are on my Mind These Days

We are going to disappear.
I say good riddance though
I'll miss myself.
Robert said Well what culture do they have.
The next day my answer.
Uh, the novels of Thomas Hardy,
farmers bent by winds off the Channel?

Do the dying move on with grace,
knowing there's new life and they're part of it
no matter?
Some hit the dirt oblivious to
lights strung up in the tunnel.
This is personal but what isn't.

Explorers were curious gold.
Conquistadors filed teeth for blood.
I can't figure out history.

I said we were on the way out and Robert's
Robert said Don't worry, we'll cause more damage
before we're gone.

My great-nephew promised to be kind,
as he looked into my eyes and
spotted the loving goddess, clawing to get out.

Sarah Sarai, Spring/Summer 2011 Mary, A Literary Quarterly {Publisher and Editor, William Johnson}

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Occupation of Poetry Occupies the Occupation

A poet's rendering of the atrium.
Sunday I was a co-facilitator (in the realm of poetry) of Occupy Wall Street, and volunteered to be secretary for the meeting. Some of my notes are sketchy but main points have been honored.  I want to slap this down now before I forget everything.
 I hope I captured the spirit of the first meeting, held in the spacious atrium at 55 Wall Street amidst the indoor palm trees of capitalism. If capitalism were only about palm trees, I wouldn't mind.

Before the formal meeting began there was general talk about dissemination—such as creating a “handout” with Occupation-related text to be distributed anywhere, a sort of hand-distributed graffiti (graffiti being a positive). In fact, dissemination became the most common theme of the evening. Also discussed was the Anthology, in its present state. As I understand it, there are 3-ring binders in the Occupation library. They are added to weekly, and contributions are sought on an ongoing basis.

Call for Work: We are encouraged to distribute a call for work, along the lines of: "Poems wanted for the Occupation at Zucatti Park poetry anthology. Send, as an attachment, to stephenjboyer   @" I'm not posting anything anywhere else until I'm sure I have the facts down, but anyone can post a notice for poems--on listservs, Facebook and elsewhere. I suggest that each submission be limited to three poems.

There was talk of an online anthology, expanding it and making use of it to draw people to the park.

Per Occupation procedure a "stack" was created, a sort of instant agenda, with a caretaker, who made the list by asking people (present) to briefly identify ideas or issues they wanted to share on. Then facilitator then worked through the list, as would a traditional Chair. (O. was co-facilitator)
  • R. suggested creating something to hand out publically (dissemination). An object, such as folded paper with text and using this to create a bigger space for poetry at the park
  • Silent readings (headphones) Inviting poets to give readings and talks.
  • Thought piece: How does poetry influence. Infiltrating Manhattan.
  • Poetry Assembly (discussions of this were scattered throughout our meeting. Friday nights. New facilitator each time. Hope to make it function like General Assembly.
  • Any day, there's a mic at the park. Anyone can use it, state, “mic check,” and read a poem (or whatever).
  • There was talk of changing the time at the Poetry Assembly for each poet, but general agreement was to keep it at 3 minutes (given that 3 is fungible at open mics, sufficient for each reader, given wiggle room.
  • A public clock would be useful  and/or audible signals – when the 3 minutes is up, the co-facilitator could hit wind chimes or something similarly gentle but specific
  • The topic continually revisited was dissemination, verbally or by objet. The MTA was discussed as a soft target, with problems of choreography being addressed. Where, what text, how to perform so the result was beneficial. Performers referenced included Sharon Hays & Mark F. who reenacted speeches of national and international Civil Rights Leaders.
  • Considerations of poetry/politics, intersections thereof.
  • Emulating or using as a springboard, sixties aphorisms.
  • (I suggest Free Money instead of Free Huey. Tune In, Wake Up, Stay Alert instead of Tune in, turn on, drop out. 
  • While there are obvious obstacles to reading on a subway (noise and riders' expectation of some level of public isolation), the advantages are many, including interaction with people beyond downtown, a more diverse group, or differently diverse and the serendipity of right place, right time, right person—finding riders who become intrigued with the message, and with poetry itself (poetry widely defined).
  • Public Poetics may include incantations, repetitions; sitting (alone or with a friend) near passengers and reading out loud so only a few hear but have a chance to become intrigued. Poetry as overheard. The message as whispered.
  • Binlingual readings or disseminations. Posting the poem (electronically or othrwise) in both languages.
  • Specific venues suggested were the Highline and the Staten Island Ferry. There was a brief philosophic interlude during which the poet as shaman was discussed, how these gestures (of poetry in public venues) could serve to eviscerate a static mindset. At the end of the first scheduled meeting, a subgroup met for further discussion of dissemination. The Verso Book of {{{political text}}} (donated generously by Verso Press) was suggested, and some copies handed out so we could cull them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2 EOAGH poems & a little Long Island serendipity

"I boiled the eggs until they confessed their sins."
poem: Inquisition
So I was at a party Friday night, sitting with a small group of poets clustered around a giant bowl of potato chips. It was so sixties, with the onion dip and all.

Anyway, I was pleased to meet one of the quietly iconic poets, and his wife who really truly was charming, and knew from hard experience to follow the conversation and not butt in, much, anyway.

Out of the blue the one person I didn't know started talking to me. What's up with that? So family history outs, mine including a move from Long Island to Los Angeles when I was eight. And he asks, Where on Long Island, and I tell him, and it turns out he lives in my hometown. His daughter attends the high school (at which) my oldest sister was valedictorian.

So what? Well, I'll tell you so what. I sent him the link to the two just published poem. Ground zero for the first poem is that little town on Long Island's north shore.

I was born at home.

Thanks now and always to the twins, Tim and Trace Peterson, who everything EOAGH. The poemses is "One Day a Year You Can Take Something Home from the Met" and "Inquisition."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

No Harem Pants for Me! Unmarriage Defended.

In truth, I would do pretty much anything
for this outfit. Really. It's beautiful.
Talk about the Lonely Crowd of lonely Americans. Apparently it's now a crowd of golden and single women, golden and single and, according to Kate Bolick's too easily named, “All the Single Ladies,” really very lonely in lonely rooms in lonely beds in which self-actualization has its many meanings. (Thanks to poet Elisa Gabbert and her blog to alerting me to this Atlantic article, link below.)

Because no matter how Bolick phrased the lament, no matter how many sociologists and culture analysts she visited (note the consistent style of the article—short bio of the sociologist type, then Kate's visit), the choice to be alone, or the circumstances of aloneness—for a woman—suck, according to her. Only women are unhappy, I gather. All men are trippin' with their, er, female friends.

It is Bolick's mother's fault. You know the saying, If it's not one thing it's your mother. Mom was feminist. Influenced daughter. That arc is one I've read over and over though I never knew of a writer so influenced by the slogan, “A Woman Without a Man Is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle.” I don't mean to go ninja intellectual on Bollick, but I was more influenced by Ai. Or George Eliot. Or Audre Lourde. Or the Brontes. Or Rita Dove. Or Virginia Woolf. Or Mary Shelley (or her mom). Or Loorie Moore. Or Elizabeth Bishop. Or Zora Neale Hurston. Or Adrienne Rich.

Women have been struggling with being women forever. And men have had their correlative struggles. As with perfectly straight, long blonde hair, marriage (hetero or homosexual) does not have to be top of the social chain. It is because we agree it is ("we" being loosely and inexactly defined). But no one should second guess their choices, as Bolick does her choice to go solo. What's that Zen koan, maybe in an Alan Watts' book, where the farmer says his son broke his leg, which is bad, but then he doesn't have to join the army, so that's good, but then the crows ate the corn, which is bad, but then they don't have the bother of harvesting, which is good (huge paraphrase).

Who the heck knows what the right choice is or should have been. We are defined more by our reactions and reshapings of events than the initial impulse. I have a friend who was caught passing a joint in a high school classroom and from that one stupid incident, which spiraled, was no longer invited to attend Julliard. Pretty awful. But she is such an amazing person and used her talents and energies to help many (I can't get too specific). Maybe at Julliard she would have been run over by a bus her first time off campus. You just don't know.

If Bolick's mom could have given her a Stand by Your Man t-shirt, Bolic might have heeded the sage advice and ended in a shelter with her kids hiding from a brutal, incesting husband. I've seen that one happen, too. I've seen more happen than I lived, and that's fine with me. There is something perversely conservative about the article, subtly reactionary, as if someone from the old moral majority wrote it and gave it to Bolick, as if the Koch Brothers arranged for it to be published. Satisfaction generates from how we navigate circumstances. Not the circumstances. And marriage is neither bad nor good, though I am not neutral on community, which is good, warm, complicated, how we get through. The Atlantic article.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Quiet Softness (of a penis sighing). New poem in Gargoyle

See below for credit.
The Aeneid has been one of my occasional purse books over the past few years. That means I toss the Allen Mandelbaum-translated paperback in my purse and read on the bus or subway; when I'm in a waiting room or waiting for room. Easy breezy. I've read it before so if I skip around or stop reading altogether (temporarily--there is always tomorrow's or next year's purse book), no problem.

Truthfully, no problem even if I hadn't previously read the book. Beginning to middle to end is not one of the Ten Commandments.  Anyway, this latest run got me about a third of the way through, and also a new poem, "The Quiet Softness."

Richard Peabody graciously selected the poem for inclusion in the just released Gargoyle 57. There are many many other writers in there, wonderful and more wonderful, and I'm not going to name one of them. 

I include these lines as a teaser (not spoiler).  Excerpted from "The Quiet Softness" (oh, by the way, "she" is Queen Dido, who built Carthage, a plus, but made some bad life choices).

                         Forgetting rapture in
the arms of an accomplished heart  
or the quiet softness of a penis  
sighing, Aeneas sailed his cock  
to Rome, leaving her in Carthage,  
the city of her breasts stomach  
hips, configurations of the universe.

The photo is from and is titled, Dido, Don't Think of Me.

( poem from, again, "The Quiet Softness," my contribution to Gargoyle 57)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tribal Warfare at the Dinner Table...When Scholars Debate

A few years ago I read a book review in the New York Times about the invention of Hinduism***. The spiritual practice/religion was millennia old, yes, but didn't exist as Westerners know it, until it was existed.

In other words, it took the British Empire, the colonialists, to codify, encyclopedia-ize and, most of all, explain Hinduism so the west could get it. We are a simple peoples, we westerners, simple. But cruel.

A review ("The Most Versatile of Mystics") in the esteemable Los Angeles Review of Books brings this home, er, reinforces the fact that on the one hand, in temples, churches, mosques, mountaintops, people worship and get our comfort, we do; on the other hand, in research libraries and Ivy League archives, scholars dissect. The Library of Alexandria had its archives. Disassociated and disembodied research--not all of it bad, of course, but all of it worthy of challenge--is eons old.

That the Los Angeles Review of Books reviews the book which critiques a psycho-sexual critique of a religious hero (I'm okay with hero) is all for the good. Since the debate is ongoing the debaters, especially those who have both have heart and brain in the arena, must be heard. So more thanks-- for Swami Tyagananda and Pravrajika Vrajaprana's Interpreting Ramakrishna, and again to Los Angeles Review of Books for the review.

***If anyone can locate that NYT review... I remember discussing it with a friend, we were Tompkins Square, he doubted me, I sent on the review, he no longer doubted. Four or five years ago. I can't locate it now. However, here is an essay on the same topic, written earlier than the review in question ... NS Essay: How the British Invented Hinduism.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

New Story Published!%***%! in THE WRITING DISORDER

With no fanfare but much personal satisfaction I would like to announce publication of my short story, "An Archive of Paranormal Inquiry Into Coping" in The Writing Disorder, a new(er) and very hip online journal.

The Writing Disorder's editor, publisher, designer, Christian Lukather, is also designer for POOL, which published a few of my poems last month.  He didn't realize the crossover, however, until he'd accepted my story (so I got no favors).  When you visit his journal you'll realize his humungo talent.

As for this story, it is a sort of answer to the rejection letter I posted not long ago  (see, I Am Rejected: Because I Write Stories Like This).  Some years ago I wrote "An Archive of Paranormal Inquiry Into Coping" in hopes of being less weird. My records (submissions/rejections) are home so I can't be exact but I can be inexact. It took a mere six or so years to get this non-weird story published, if indeed it's non-weird. I like it lots. That's what counts, for me. I like this story lots.

Weird. Not weird. Husband/wife (American loves husbands and wives, right?). It is pure fiction in my life.  Here's the opener (you're in New York City, the apartment of a traditional boy-girl married, middle-class couple).

      “I’m just the psychic." Ms. Marie shrugged as she peered at her cigarette ashes as if they were professional equipage.
      Ludlow brushed them off the table and into her palm. Her mother would have been appalled by the medium’s wanton disregard for waxed furniture.
      “Take it for what it’s worth, but they say you’re everything and everyone in your dreams. It’s a theory, although I’m sure you’ve—”
      “—Heard it.”
      A month ago, Ludlow woke with a mountain—thundering skies, moss turning into ice at the peak, a Sisyphean lug up, a nameless female saint dressed by Hindu devotees—wall-to-wall in her brain. The mountain was old although Ludlow doubted there were young mountains. Younger-er, maybe,than other mountains, she conceded, but young?
      “So maybe you could be the mountain.”
      “Why not, I was the walrus.”
      “Weren’t we all.”
 Read the rest here:  The rest of the story . . .

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Kickstart the love, my friends. A soulful, funkalicious project

Send your love now! To

Fanny Franklin Soul-Oo Record!

Okay, I'll back up.  First.  That's Mark Cross on keyboards.  He "wailed all through the first year of his life." A natural-born musician.

The line is from my poem "The Rebirth Live" -- my contribution to the anthology, Say It Outloud: Poems About James Brown.

What's happening? Mark is collaborating with soulful, funky temptress Fanny Franklin on getting a CD out there, there!, so you can download the love.

Love costs, my friends, sadly, these days. The project is on Kickstarter, however, so, really, all the love will cost you is a minimum of, say, $1.  Say, $5.  Say, $30.  More if you have more. 

But really love doesn't cost so much as work. Love works. It does. So if you don't have money, send love. Here's a thought, you could send both.  Okay, I'll shut up. I'll end this with another line from the poem.

"God is in the funk the beat the blues."

Believe. Believe it.

Fanny Franklin Soul-Oo Record!

For more info about Say It Outloud, go to James Brown.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Alas we live in the Age of Cupcakes . . . (2 poems in Scythe poetry journal)

A quick howdy to tell you I have two poems in Scythe, a poetry journal created by Joseph and Chenelle Milford, which, as the two explain on the journal's landing page, originated in the spirit and mission of The Joe Milford Poetry Show.
The Milfords are one of poetry's energy fields. They produce an online interview show, archive same and edit a literary journal. And raise kids. And write.  

So thanks to them and I hope you enjoy "No Need for a Door" ("The lotus was a premise, floating / and so what") and "Look Now" ("Alas we live in the Age of Cupcakes. / Those who know the past are likely as those / who don't to forget to bake at 350° 'til /springy to touch. . .").

In case I haven't been self-serving enough, let me guide you to the archive of the The Joe Milford Poetry Show, wherein you will find, what?, yes!, my name!, Sarah Sarai, yes, an interview with Sarah Sarai. Oh joy!

Scythe, Issue IV: includes work by J.P. Dancing Bear, Oliver de la Paz, Arielle LaBrea-Lancaster, Jee Leong Koh, Lyn Lifshin, Laura Carter and many others.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Your Daily Prayer, Courtesy of Rumi

*caption below
My Peeps.  I just saw this on the Parabola website.  This poem is enough beautiful and enough true it must be shared with as many as possible.

All bodies are temples.  We forget all bodies are homes.  I don't know what liberties Coleman Barks took with the title or the translation in general, but I do know we are all guests to poetry.

And, "Every morning a new arrival."

The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


From The Essential Rumi, versions by Coleman Barks

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I am rejected. Because I write "stories like this."

The editor thinks I'm weird.
I'll give him weird.
Here's a new rejection letter for two short stories.  I found it painful and useless.  While I understand the editor was being generous in writing me and that you, My Reader, probably think I'm crazy for being offended, please understand. I have never followed up on a letter like this and had a story accepted.

In other words, while this editor thinks he has his reasons for not selecting this specific submission, he simply doesn't like my writing and doesn't understand that. My experience tells me he is going to keep finding fault. Been there. And there. And there.  No thanks.

His utter lack of specificity left me confused. Kind sir: don't like my writing. Fine. But if you don't (and this relates to fiction), give me at least one sentence or scene you'd make different. 

Weird? I am posting the letter in full (but for redacted titles and names) in hopes of getting rid of some of the ick.

Dear Sarah,

We've decided to pass on ...... But I want to encourage you pretty strongly to submit again. Here's where what should be a fairly standard rejection letter becomes longer and oddly personal, but I think it's worth doing.

See, I myself wrote--and, to some extent, still write--stories like this. And for a number of years, I got rejection letters that said, in essence, "these stories are good, but they're too weird." I didn't want to get more normal. So I was determined to reverse the clauses in that sentence--you know, write until I got a letter that said "this story is weird, but too good to pass up." So it was a question of making the weirdness more accessible, without becoming less weird; to give someone a really compelling reason to keep reading despite the weirdness.

I can tell you now that there is an audience for that sort of thing. Not a very big one, but it's pretty dedicated--and I myself am in it. Of course, you can write however you wish--maybe the direction I've described is not at all interesting to you--but in any case, I'm interested in reading more from you, and I'd like to see where you go next.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reader, if you were a seam, I'd take you out anywhere: 3 new poems

Painting by Megan Hinton
Well, there's not much to be said here except that POOL's latest is online and three of my poems are in it.  POOL publishes once a year, used to be print, has always been chic.

And Californian.  No, not just Californian, but Southern Californian.  It is of my hometown. 

Thank you, editors Judith Taylor and Patty Seyburn.  Thank you fellow contributors, whose names await you here, at POOL, a journey of poetry.

My three poems are "Commerce for the Good of the Peoples," "You Are the Confusing Identity I Write For" and "On the Way to the Gallery."

Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11, an excerpt, "I remember thinking, They are shades. They are gone."

I'm letting myself feel it this year. One moment I was thinking about my mother who'd died in August, the next moment I was in a new kind of numb.

It is strange, or not, but I watched the second tower fall on a television in a bar. I'd called an elderly friend on a routine check-in, she started screaming at me and I had the sense to go outside and pay attention. I don't have a television. During the next days and weeks I was thankful for the absence of repetitious terror, visually, at least.

The bar wasn't usually open so early. I don't think, I didn't track its timings and now it's under new ownership, and shiny and glossy so I don't have the luxury of sentimentality, another plus.  Anyway. Anyway. Anyway.

. . .an excerpt from "Everywhere Woman Is Born Free,"* which I posted here in full, a few years ago.  It's in my collection.

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.

Sarah Sarai...excerpt from *"Everywhere Woman Is Born Free," (click on poem title for full poem), in The Future Is Happy

Carr Futures was a commodities broker/trader. They've merged. Jennifer Lopez had given money or visited the troops.