Saturday, February 25, 2012

No limits in a Dorothea Tanning poem

I'm still thinking about Dorothea Tanning--and her dates--1910 to 2012.  She wasn't one of the cigarette-smoking, National Geographic women of the Caucasus Mountains, blowing smoke across the Black Sea while outliving most Americans. 

She was an American woman with an incredible story, its narrative being one of art and writing, geography and romance.   

All homes are homes; mirages / everywhere. 

Here is another* of her poems, exemplar of a spirit too expansive for limitation of land or death.   

*The other posted here on February 1.

The sunflower is by Richard Gilkey, who, as far as I know, has no connection with Tanning. He was one of the Northwest School artists.

Are You?

If an expatriate is, as I believe, someone
who never forgets for an instant
being one,
then, no.

But, if knowing that you always
tote your country around
with you, your roots,
a lump

like a soul that will never leave you
stranded in alien subsets of
yourself, or your wild

that being elsewhere packs a vertigo,
a tightrope side you cannot
pass up, another way
to show

how not to break your pretty neck
falling on skylights:

then, yes. All homes are home; mirages
everywhere. Aside from
gravity, there are no

never were, nor will there ever be,
no here and there to foil
your lotus-dreaming

Stay on the planet, if you can. It isn't
all that chilly and what's more,
grows warmer by the
Dorothea Tanning, from A Table of Content, Graywolf Press, 2004. (GREAT title). 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Banal and the Profane

Quick mention of an article-ish by me on the Lambda Literary site.  What I want to mention is, IT'S THERE.

The Banal and the Profane: Sarah Sarai

It's all about me; me detailing a week in my life.  The best part is I was able to include a description of the Poetry Assembly we ran at the Bowery Poetry Club in January. The first such event since Zuccotti Park was de-peopled. (We = Occupy Poetry, a working group of OWS.)

I am fortunate to have been asked to transcribe an approximation of my life, and so I don't let Lambda down, if you want to read the article and then "Like" it, at the end, well, I wouldn't talk you out of it. (Browser-wise, liking is easier, I am told on Mozilla Firefox.)

And while you are there, explore the reviews and fabulous array of articles and events and insights.  subscribe to the Lambda mailing list, too. Send money, send love, send blessings. And more money and more love.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Those People with Missing Chunks in their Infrastructure. p.s. The medium [of a blog] is authentication

Missing Chunk . com
Dear Blog,

I don't quite understand why posting on you can ratchet up my sense of self or self-esteem but it can. A few years ago, two friends insisted I post here every day. I didn't, not every day, but I did try to do so most days, and it worked. No longer a slug who had to fight lethargy, avoidance, the droopsies or Factor X, I was getting up, drinking my coffee and communicating.

The content might not be important so much as the product--a shiny graphic, a new poem of mine or a fabulous poem by a master, an observation on the world.  You write a little, you slap on a graphic, and you've got yourself a visible sign you exist and function, maybe cleverly or not, maybe wisely or not, with or without impact.  But here you are.

The medium of a blog posting is not the message, the medium is authentication.  It is, Hey, Ma, Look what I've done.  It is a friend discovering My 3,000 Loving Arms last Sunday and telling me it looks good, even if she doesn't (to her way of thinking) understand poetry.

Today I submit a specific, though perhaps random, observation. I can't offer details or background as I'm not running an expose machine and don't want to hurt anyone (unless it's Romney, Santorum, Barbara Bush or her sons, any of the 1 percent who refuse to see the global untenability of their lifestyle).

I'd begun noticing in this professional, shall we say, I was seeing for a time, that he had huge chunks missing. I'd seen it before, and never moved my insight ahead. But as I began to catch on to his inability to assist me beyond our first meetings, when I was directed to some local agencies, I realized he didn't have the capacity to do so, boyish good looks notwithstanding.

And though I'd begun wondering if those missing chunks (of emotional infrastructure) signalled something menacing, as if he might be one of those functional sociopaths who are in the news these days (in press conferences relating to their votes in Congress), I finally caught myself.  I was overthinking.

My aha! came when he explained away a huge glitch in his information sharing (he was the one who glitched, if you will) with a petulant, "My bad."  My bad?  That's it? You've wasted a month and a half of my time and your full expression of regret or shame or even concern for me is, My bad?

The chunks that were missing? They are missing chunks.  That's all.  He's probably not a sociopath or psychopath, just a slightly hollow person, one I don't have much interest in.

And writing this makes me feel better. 

Sarah Sarai (aka Sarah Gancher Sarai)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Leaving the Familiar: Clouds abounded but there was no rain; the air rang sweet and dank.

I have no memory the equivalent of the Cascade Mountains, but a thing being equal to itself, I do have that memory, of backpacking, when I lived in the Pacific Northwest. I drew on the spans of green beauty to write this story about a kid who skips out on her family to find something new.

Thanks to the publication Whistling Fire for publishing "Leaving the Familiar."

C.G. went to the forest. She lied about going on a sleepover―at Eleanor’s, Ma, and found her parents’ trusting, Okay, Cee, maliciously benign. She slammed the front door, shouted an apology and left, to pedal furiously along the road winding like a concrete shoreline by the river. At its end she hid her bike under bushes.

A farmer she recognized from the Saturday market allowed her on the back of his pickup along with his cants, toms, corn and berries. She ate one ear of fresh, raw corn while she was in the back of that truck, threw the husk to the floorbed and let the silk glide in the air to the road. . . .

... to read the rest of "Leaving the Familiar" click on the title or here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

It Will Be Revised (poem found in journal)

There are others--poems I've scribbled in journals and forgotten.  You are not forgotten poem.  You are blogged. 


The bed was lofty
his thoughts were dirty
the room drafty
the wind dipsy
the day drifting
the cloud another childhood toy.

Her loft was airy
its mice walled in
the cat nappy
the rug Persian
the taffy toffee
the dish, well, it is always
the dish.

They drank
slept on it
woke stiff
woke the stiff
stiffed the woken
amassed the masses
got smashed at Mass
sleep walked
washed it off.

The repetitive nature of
a tunnel haunts me.

We could extradite the dead
if God'd sign on
the dotted line.

You could wander all Canaan
in search of a three-part
self-carbon form.
You could gnash your teeth
to dust.

All choices are multiple
too many questions an essay
String theory does nothing
for lasagna.

Suicide is always an option.

The faint thought
beside the point
of being love and
obliged to feed the poor
to know the sun in your pores
is not sex but
it will do when you're out
and about.

Me (Sarah Sarai), Feb. 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Some Questions for U.S. Bishops (trying to spare you the task of compassion or original thinking)

Headline from today's Washington Post:  "U.S. bishops blast Obama's contraception compromise."

So: the U.S. Conference on Bishops "has declared total opposition to any compromise on the issue." As I understand the most recent iteration of this debate, President Obama and his advisers worked out a compromise so the churches and religious institutions in general weren't required to foot the bill for women's contraception but, instead, insurance companies would cover the costs. So that women were still covered and church fathers were spared the task of compassion or original thinking.

Assuming the Conference assumes it knows best I have to ask the U.S. bishops about their experience with contraception, and the cycle of life (as in the menstrual cycle) itself. I realize there are some lay bishops who are female, bur we're still talking male domination.  So let me ask you, bishops:

-Have you ever wondered by Tampax aren't tax deductible?
-Have you ever had a miscarriage? 
-Have you ever worried about leakage?
-Have you ever asked a stranger if she had an extra Tampax you could use?
-How many underpants have you tossed away because they had menstrual blood on them?
-How many slacks or pantyhose have you thrown away because they had menstrual blood on them?
-Have you ever been forced to have sex with a man, against your will?
-Have you ever had a miscarriage? 
-Has your life ever been at risk from a dangerous pregnancy?
-Have you ever been raped?
-Have you ever known you just didn't want to have children?
-Have you ever had to support children after their father had abandoned you?
-Have you ever found that raising children, with or without the support of a partner or village was too stressful an experience to repeat?
-Have you ever wanted to have a career, you know, in a field you had gone through apprenticeships or college before you could achieve success?
-Have you ever wanted to have a child but known it just wasn't the right time in your life?
-Have you ever wanted to make decisions about your own body?
-Have you ever felt disgraced or enraged because institutions believed they knew what was best for you when in fact they simply wanted to control you?
-Have you ever realized that an overwhelming majority of Americans are in favor of Planned Parenthood and organizations providing similar care, but that the U.S. Conference of Bishops still thinks it judge and boss women?
-Have you ever had cramps?  PMS?
-Have you ever considered killing the next person you saw if you couldn't get some relief to your pain (from cramps or PMS)?
-Have you ever had a vile workday where all you wanted to do was go on and wrap yourself in blankets? But you still showed up for work and did a good job?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dorothea Tanning: "Dwarves crushing mouse families."

Palaestra. 1947  
Dorothea Tanning lived to the age of 101. She would have been younger than my father and older than my mother if they had hung around. 

A painter, she wanted to meet Surrealists so she sailed to Europe and when war or its threat drove artists back here, she returned.  Married and divorced.  Met Max Ernst who left Peggy Guggenheim for her.

Imagine stealing Peggy Guggenheim's man. Tanning and Ernst moved to Arizona then France where in a joint ceremony with Man Ray and Juliet Browne, married. That must have been a festive day.

After Ernst's death in 1976, Tanning came to New York for another round of lifetimes and adventures, which included gallery exhibits and the writing of poetry and memoir.

The Black Rose
Right now she's going through the adjustment period--death has got to be different from life, right?  And confusing, taking time to get the hang of aerial acts and the like? Maybe she is, as suggested in the poem below, "asleep in my cave," while the scheming mice of our times develop "skills inconceivable / To their forebears."

When  young, Tanning was extraordinarily beautiful, which is such an extreme gift and one so randomly given, but there you have it.

"Cultivation" is stolen or at least copied and pasted, from the pages of Paris Review.


Cultivating people can be arduous,
With results as uncertain as weather.
Try oysters, meerkats, turnips, mice.
My mouse field was a triumph of
Cultivation—pink noses poking
Through quilts of loam, scampering
In the furrows—until the falling
Dwarves (it was that time of year)
Began landing on my field. Fear for
Its harvest had me down on hands
And knees muttering, “Not here,”
My nails clawed at tangles of fat
Dwarves crushing mouse families.
Then, unbelievably, it was over.

By morning every dwarf, maddened
By nibbling mice, had fled the field.
Now, as before, each day, dozens
Of perfect mice leave for the city.
There, they have made many friends
Among computers, and with them
Are developing skills inconceivable
To their forebears. Already, these
Cultivated mice and their computers
Penetrate guilty secrets. Soon they will
Prevail over the turmoil that defines
This darkest of ages. And they will
Find me, asleep in my cave.

Dorothea Tanning