Saturday, November 24, 2012

"Claudia" (for Claudia Rankine)

by artist Carrie Mae Weems*
I wrote this in 2011 in response to Claudia Rankine's calling out of Tony Hoagland.  The debate can be Googled. Easily.

Writing poetry is not easy and creating characters or presenting a persona is not easy. I appreciate that. We make mistakes and sometimes create crappy art. If we were to offend, say, the KKK, we would be proud. They are bad people.

But if we reveal our own racism (everyone's got it), well, we say we're sorry. It's embarrassing, I can see that, but all God's creatures are idiots at one point or another. Hoagland, to my understanding, couldn't admit participation in the great idiocy of mankind and wouldn't apologize or recognize the issue.

I can't imagine it's easy being a man, and I know it's not easy being white, but we stumble through this one lifetime and hope for some grace now and then.

Rankine offered to post relevant poems on her blog. I wrote the following back then but never shipped it over and now I can't find her blog. I feel a little shaky about the poem's value. It's not even easy being me, but I stumble along.


      legislate paper
draft a bill

      name it
The Inscrutable East
Dialogs of Plato

      Socrates as Chinook
The Symposium a potlatch

the eidos of flesh the
perfect form of each of us

      a woman

The perfect form is
a woman but hush on that
Tough enough a trek

      out of Africa made
more beautiful
for ultimate
inaccessibility of return by

      likes of me

Do we rescue
(a ship is burning)
the captain or smirk as an arrow
feathers his bone

      Glad's another word for
the elephant felt up by
blind men and thus

      elephants grieve
an impossible perfecting
of the heart
the impossible accepting
of the self

      nine hundred hatreds
Each orchid in a bell jar
each girl in an orchid
each boy in an orchid each

      movement of only gratitude
If Jesus dies for sins
of the west, his suffering
is just begun.
Sarah Sarai, 2011

*Carrie Mae Weems online:

Friday, November 23, 2012

In Which the Poet Pushes to Remain Conscious

Vengeful Sprites.  "Cain" by Sophie Blackall*
I finally input the draft of the poem I scribbled early this month at the Met.  Like "St. Sarah Sarai Carrying the Infant Christ Child"--first published in the Mississippi Review (R.I.P.), the poem overtook me.

It's too soon to know if the new poem, written in full draft while I sat on a bench facing a great from the catalog of Euro art.

My point is, however--and I'm using this space as a Memo to Sarah, Hello! Already. Probably the most consistent story in my life that isn't the story of MY LIFE can inspire a poem. It won't necessarily do so.  No sure thing. 

But my intuition says, and pretty loudly given I'm bidden to make it public and relatively, in the way of blog postings, public, keep at it.  Go back to the source. I also note "Remorse"--which was published in Terrain (a thriving online journal) (scroll down--it's the 2nd poem there). It was inspired (I'm using "inspired" as a placeholder--there is a more accurate description unavailable to me) by a story in Genesis.

What I'm saying to myself is Why not push harder to write poems on this theme, aligned to this mythology, belief, religion, wildly active participant in the collective mind?

Huh, Sarah? Don't let yourself bury the impulse in mystery novels and searches for the perfect purse.

*For more on Sophie Blackall, wonderful artist, visit her Facebook page, Sophie Blackall.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The U.S. Has Reached a Tipping Point Toward the Good (Obama) (Huzzah)

You know that feeling before the news is in, that suspended state of false knowledge and ugly anticipation when the suspension fluid is fear, and it sinks into your pores, doesn't permeate, maybe, probably doesn't permeate but still, it reaches organs and blood cells, tumbles through your body until every inch of your personal geography has some reminder the worst could be on the way, and every shred of your variable consciousness negotiating good and bad alike, hope and fear, the known, unknown, and the imagined, informs your life that this--all this--could soon end? THAT feeling?

And the tension builds, internalizes and externalizes, sneaks in and out, up and down, sideways, elliptically, in a parabolic curve, and straight-ahead like a dive-bombing bee headed for that Looney Tunes buzzard or Bugs Bunny. And you who prides yourself on flexibility and imagination, on coping mechanism and device, cannot imagine yourself coping if the worst that could be materializes?

And so after months and weeks and days you go to bed not knowing, because if this is your last night of hope, you are going to let yourself have it.

So you wake, like it is the Day the Bomb is dropped in your lifetime. 

And you are safe.  Your loved ones are safe.  Yes, safe is relative, but the great ignorance and hating both belonging to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have been vanquished.  The world has changed, not like it did in 2008 when we elected a black president and the country showed it was trying to do the right thing. This time around, there the victory is more telling. This time around, the disaffection for poor people, basically for any but the wealthy, was exposed. And voted down by the majority of voters.

And every so often I feel the relief. I'll be walking down the street and my body will remember it can be happy.  I realize yet again just how scared I was.  A little more tension evaporates. And my joy is monumental. The U.S. has reached a tipping point toward the good.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Few Reviews (by me) Lately Published, Plus I'm Unicornless No More

This unicorn has no relationship to anything
but my blog was hitherto without a unicorn,
an omission now rectified.

Howdy, all.

Recently-ish I reviewed two poetry collections and a novel for Lambda.

‘Buddha in My Belly’ by Brittany K. Fonte

Posted on October 29, 2012 by
If Roseanne Barr wrote prose poems, they wouldn’t be so very different from those in Buddha in My Belly, Brittany K. Fonte’s debut collection (Hopewell Publications, 2012).  Like Barr’s routines, these pieces are sardonic, honest—and about women. Sometimes it’s hard to be one. Okay, that was Tammy. Anyway.   (more…)

Lady Business: A Celebration of Lesbian Poetry’ edited by Bryan Borland

Posted on August 22, 2012 by
A dozen long-stemmed red roses? Ho hum. How 50s heterosexual can you get?  It’s not that I’m disenchanted with roses, their heady fragrance and dizzying blend of fragility and toughness. It’s just, well, I love me some variety. (more…)

AND . . . a novel by an Australian writer . . .

‘My Sister Chaos’ by Lara Fergus

Posted on June 17, 2012 by in Fiction, Reviews
The world of My Sister Chaos (Triangle Publishing’s  Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction winner and a finalist for this year’s Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Debut Fiction) is disconcerting.  Always near the surface of this quiet and speculative methodical tale is the fact that we are in a time of crisis. (more…)


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oh Shoot! (Poem written n / o / w)

Stephanie Holttum*
Oh Shoot!

It's so long 

since I posted here
I'm just going to
chance it
and write a few thoughts
which means
I am translating 
as I type 
strike that
typing my translation
of the sensory volume
in my stomach.

Two days I edited

advertising for AIDS
meds and that was
good as long 
I thought about Good
and not Death
or Profits. 
Late afternoon
the office was 
hot enough
to bake gingerbread.
Why gingerbread
They're fragile but
cheery and sweet.

Today I put in
more time with a
new story
the third about
Berthe whose parents
were killed in jail.
She's large
and a dyke who
teaches lit.
This one began
in L.A. then flew to
("one" = story)
 San Francisco.

"Lillia" is a 24/7
Seattle story
published in
Devil's Lake.  
The devil does have
lakes as I recall.
We've all taken
the tour. 
Berthe's deal ia
she figures out
(never stated)
she is always 
working out her
parents' insanity.
Like I'm always
working out my mom's.
The Christian Scientist
who fostered cancer
for twenty years and
then things got worse.
Your body doesn't forget
but it is busy with
circulation of the blood
through the heart and
lungs and elimination
of toxins.  
The body has a to-do
list the length of
its intestines and is
busy night and day.

It was nice to have
a feeling
and know the lurch
was something old
and no longer
impossibly painful
but kept alive just like
I am by the flow.

Is this a poem?
I don't know.
Sometimes I want 
to tell poets
they can't just lineate
thoughts and 
events and call it
a poem.  
I'm not calling this
a poem I'm calling it
a blog posting
written in a free 
moment between
jobs and as a
marker to the fact
that today 
I felt something old
and it was okay.
Sarah Sarai, November 14, 2012

*For more information on artist Stephanie Holttum, please visit