ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Sarah White


Help from the Goddess

The Moon continues to spin away from the Earth
at the rate of 3.78 cm. per year.

"Good girl, Artemis." 
Her trainer, crossing
Central Park, stops
and offers her a lick of his salty fingers.
He's teaching her to be a Helper.
(The badge is pinned to her halter.)

Her wide front paws
lie side by side on the Great Lawn.
She's not full-grown
but she is wise, aloof
from me and other passers-by.

I hope her future owner
can see the luster
of her silver coat, the gleam
of amber in her lake-blue eyes,

not that a Husky minds
whether her invalid is blind,
or deprived by an improvised explosion
of hands, feet, face, mind…

wants to help a human
move more nimbly 
through this wounded place

while the Moon,
the Moon, would rather
spin nameless
into space.


Forests of Sweetness, Gardens of Sorrow

Think of two captive pandas,
unhappy though they don't know why.
To us they look so cozy
in their chocolate and vanilla jackets.

Did you know vanilla is an orchid,
difficult and diffident, in need
of expertise to propagate its tasty bean?

If your vanilla grows in the Antilles,
you must rise early and seize the dawn
when the orchid yawns like a little trumpet
and you can intervene between
the pollen-bearing stamen
and the sticky, feminine anther
before they sink into the flower forever.

One morning, in Guadeloupe,
I met a gardener carrying a Q-tip
and a Creole dictionary.

The natural pollinators of vanilla,
he told me, were stingless bees, the Melipomini,
driven to extinction by stinging European breeds
imported by planters in the days
when shaded forests were becoming
thirsty fields of sugar and despair.

The gardener proceeded to pollinate, by hand, an open orchid,
and, with his lexicon, to show me
that Creole has no simple word for "happy."
(The same, of course, is true of panda language.)

I said: You could invent one! You're a poet.
He said: We want to know how it feels.

Then we'll find a word for it.



Rock, Paper, Broom

A sweeper gathers coins
from the fountain floor.
The ocean god looks on, glad.
He'd rather have more room
for water than the thousands
of wishes thrown onto the marble
and gathered before dawn
to give the poor of Rome.

A broom removes slips of paper
from the Western Wall which
requires no paper as its mortar.
What happens to the prayers
drawn from deep in pilgrims' souls and
tucked between stones? Too holy
for the poor, they will be interred
alongside worn siddurs and scriptures.


Long retired from college French teaching, Sarah White lives in New York City dividing her time between painting and writing. Her most recent collection, to one who bends my time (2017) is available from Deerbrook Editions.

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