Sarah Sloat – poems
Riding Backwards on the Train
(Read by Thatcher Keats)
It’s not unpleasant: perpetual surprise.
But instead of feeling I’ll arrive, the world
appears to pour towards whatever
I’m getting away from. Cows and foliage
blur by and I try to imagine easing
into couch cushions, or the plunge
back onto the bed, quilt whooshing
up from behind. Still, I can’t shake
the faint dyslexia reverse riding
brings, the suspicion I’m rushing
assbackwards into the future, kick-me
sign tacked to my spine, a breech
birth with no eye for what’s ahead
until it crashes into the past, the inkling
I’m a fool doing the backstroke smack
up against the wall of the pool.
- First appeared in Whiskey Island
It’s not noon that starves me of my shadow.
Just the dull-pronged pressure
of spring coming again.
Under the long sleeves of my shirt,
time has been purpling my arms until
they lie winelike.
Aging goes on inside.
Once on tv I saw a virus,
shown under a microscope.
It appeared playful.
The underbellies of elms fill with oil.
Green wants to drip down and kiss
the top of my head. Stop there,
it says, and leans close.
What is the heart but another
mouth to be fed?
- First appeared in Barn Owl
When I could not get with child
I swallowed the egg of the meadowlark
who eats the daylight,
the mother of untangled grasses.
A long drop, the egg bore its root
in my foot, it stitched me
together with grain.
I am patient now; I am not damaged by waiting.
Languid as a coming rain, stalks
inch alongside my veins to the tips
of my fingers.
A grassland has thirst,
so does a fire,
the color of dough,
so while I sleep the moon creeps
between my poised teeth
to flood me with moonwater.
When I speak, the scent
of lengthening wheat overwhelms me.
Shoots rise straight up
and don’t droop as tears,
don’t fail like questions;
they get on with growing.
I hold a handkerchief
over my mouth to veil the clover
and bees that tickle my throat,
but the angel
who’s due at my tent
won’t catch me laughing.
A kiss would do it.
One sprinkle of milkwhite salt
and I’ll break like bread at your table.
Searching for a word I set off
browsing the dictionary illustrations,
pages flush with fish
and obscure instruments and myriad
breeds of duck, which, colorless,
end up looking much the same.
These artists don’t dawdle
amongst the obvious; they illuminate
the oriel window; they trace
the lobate foot of the grebe.
The reindeer appears tame and boxy
on paper, gigantic antlers bearing
the weight of reincarnation.
On page 1291, drawings disambiguate
the difference between paly
and paly-bendy, two patterns of heraldry:
think roadblock versus barbershop, TV
off-air image versus LSD.
They don’t do verbs in dictionary pictures,
so for zip here’s an inch-wide depiction
of two men intent on fencing.
In one two-page arrangement,
the seahorse floats peacefully beyond
the reach of the scythe. Pen-and-ink
sketches break the columns up
like little windows opening
from one side of the brain
to the other. Tiptoe through, and pay
attention to the shapes of leaves,
which can be hard to describe.
- First appeared in Bateau
The moon bakes its marvelous loaf;
the body half-wakes
to break it.
Slumber has always smelled of vanilla,
yeast and semolina.
Doped up to doze,
the flesh augments; hunger
outsizes the sun
into a spectacle darkness might swallow.
The tongue mongers texture,
hand to mouth –
nutmeats crushed between teeth
or a cool sluice
of cream, smooth
as a stretch of dreamlessness.
From drug to plunder
this swoon is a short
in the circuit of urges –
feasts masquerading as sleep, lunar fuel,
the inner primitive minding the spit
when the hunt’s done.
Duped by fullness, all night the sated
brain wakes and wakes
unrested, to taste weariness
like a wan braid of dough uncoiling
while in another room,
sleep lays the table.
- First appeared in Barrelhouse
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Sarah Sloat grew up in New Jersey, and has lived for many years in Germany, where she works in news. Among her favorite poets are Vasko Popa and Charles Wright. She also likes black olives and Italian cheese. Sarah’s poems have appeared in Court Green, Juked, and DMQ Review. She has two chapbooks published by Dancing Girl Press – “Excuse While I Wring This Long Swim out of My Hair” and “Inksuite” – and another, “Homebodies,” from Hyacinth Girl Press. Sarah keeps a blog at The Rain in My Purse.