What is the value of having a soul,
that however-defined sensory intelligence
prompting us to
become a flank of stars or
huddle of trees?
the soul is not a people.
the soul does not do terrible things.
The self? Destroy it.
Top off the hummingbird feeder.
Less time to be terrible.
Less time to judge.
Them, us, yourself.
For one, for honor, for a lark.
When she was ninety-six, with old-country gloom a veil pulled over her face, my grandmother’s fingers were dried twigs. Sister Three, who dropped acid in Morocco, Europe, Laurel Canyon said it was poisons in the Maxwell House. I thought it was age. After Grandma died the house she’d retired to reverted to the Lutherans. Richmond Hill, Rhinebeck, Göteborg, a church gets what a church wants. My doctor in the East Eighties predicted my fingers would twig out from arthritis but lo and behold me, coffee-d up, seventy-one and leafy.
I was seven in the year of the peaches pie, the year my grandmother took me to the movies. I’m thinking it was my birthday, but I’m always thinking it’s my birthday. We saw the Eddie Duchin Story at Rockefeller Center. Tyrone Power as the bandleader. They don’t make that kind of heartthrob any more. Other kinds, just not that. Whether it was or wasn’t black and white, the movie was black and white. No poppies, no glittering shoes of redemption. I didn’t know my grandfather, that he’d been locked up or that my mom had a thought of herself running after a white truck to institutional no return. When she was twelve. She survived polio when she was six. Strong-jawed Tyrone caused Tilly, my grandmother, to sigh into her handkerchief. I felt the lace droop with her tears. My pudgy fingers squeezed popped corn. Our seats were the color of Dorothy’s shoes and we saw the high-kicking Rockettes. I was a shy little girl, absorbent like lace. I guess I didn’t want to ask why everything was sad.
Sarah Sarai’s poems have been published in Barrow Street, The Southampton Review, Okay Donkey, Posit, Boston Review, Hobo Camp Review, Gone Lawn, Pine Hills Review, and many other journals. Her second full-length collection was published in 2019—That Strapless Bra in Heaven. She lives in New York and works as an independent editor.