Twigs and Knucklebones has not arrived yet. I was supposed to pick up Sarah’s poetry book after my reading at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, but I forgot, so they are sending it. I want to offer a couple of Sarah Lindsay’s wonderful poems and promote her yet-unread book because I love the writing. She is a very modest individual. When I asked what she did to celebrate winning the Lannan Poetry Award in 2009 (which came with a sizable honorarium) and she told me she and her husband went out for Chinese food and she took one work day off a week. We met at my Barnes and Noble book reading in Greensboro the beginning of November. She sat in the audience and smiled at me. I didn’t know who this woman was, but my friend, Fred Chappell had brought her to the reading to meet me. We had tea afterward. Here is a poem.
She was in Mexico for some paper chain of reasons,
same way she landed anywhere in her days of plenty—
so many languages to pick up, countries to travel through,
mouths to consider kissing, and she could
walk all day, eat anything, add hot sauce,
wake at noon and stretch without pain.
Then after one ridiculously cold night—
“It’s never like this,” the guide said—
she stood knee-deep in monarch butterflies
and shivered, once. Not from cold; maybe
from acres of crepe wings stiff in a low breeze,
antennae against her shins.
Little boys in drifts of dulling orange were trying
to pack balls of wings to throw at each other;
she thought perhaps she wouldn’t have children.
Or guides, like this one who soothingly repeated,
“The monarchs are sleeping.”
Sarah talks about her writing time in an audio “From the Fishhouse.” “I write on weekend afternoons. Before I write, I wash dishes… something regulated and low key that… keeps my body busy so that the mind can settle into hearing only the poem. I get all of the notes together that I’ve accumulated over a week or two, then I start washing dishes, going over what I’ve got in my head and more lines start coming. …I have to dry my hands and make slightly damp notes on the paper and by the time all of the dishes are done I go to the desk and there is no question of confronting a blank piece of paper…”
She’s slicing ripe white peaches
into the Tony the Tiger bowl
and dropping slivers for the dog
poised vibrating by her foot to stop their fall
when she spots it, camouflaged,
a glimmer and then full on—
happiness, plashing blunt soft wings
inside her as if it wants
to escape again.
Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1958, the poet Sarah Lindsay works as a copy editor and proofreader in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is the author of Primate Behavior (Grove Press Poetry Series, 1997) which was a finalist for the National Book Award; Mount Clutter (Grove Press Poetry Series, 2002); and Twigs and Knucklebones (Copper Canyon Press, 2008). She plays the cello with friends in a quartet that is sometimes a trio or quintet, and lives with her husband and small dog among toppling piles of books. <>