ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Sarah White

Concierto de Aranjuez

I wish I remembered some number
besides this Concierto
by Joaquin Rodrigo.

Why do I, over and over,
hum a passage for solo guitar
and oboes.

I don't give a euro
if Aranjuez heroes
abhorred or adored
the vile Generalissimo,

or whether an auto-da-fé
occurred in the shadow
of some Aranjuez castello,
or if the place was the site
of an ancient bordello.

I will cease to intone
the Aranjuez Concierto.
An Italian song such as "O Sole Mio"
would do, and so
would a Renaissance lyric like "Follow
Thy Fair Sun, Unhappy Shadow."

Better still, let Molly Malone
come clomping along the Dublin cobbles.
Let Cockles, Mussels, and Eels—
Alive! Alive! O!—change wine
of Aranjuez  to sweet Irish brine!

The Game of Patience

You say I'm insane
to play so many times
but I'm exploring
life's many ways
of going wrong:

A Five of Hearts
that hopes in vain
 to kiss a swarthy four.
A jet King aching
for his crimson queen.
Families, towns, and armies
are undone—as at the Battle
of Eylau where Colonel Chabert
(played by Gérard Depardieu)
lies wounded under
putrefying Generals, Captains,
and draftees in their common grave
(a Balzac tale).

God may not "play Dice
with the Universe," but surely
He or She plays Solitaire.

Patient soldiers
find their places
under four commanding aces,
and Great Napoleon, in prison,
waits and deals
tableau after tableau.

On Departures

I believe in painting from the heart, except with me
there's nothing there. No color, no shape. It's empty—
unless I fake it and make a handkerchief to signify
the times I've waved goodbye—a white square
without trim (any lace might cost the lace-maker
her sight if she tatted in too dim a light.) It's fine for
the hem to be plain as long as the handkerchief
might have taken part in a woman's farewell to
her mate. Mind you, I didn't find this symbol in   
my heart but in some lines by a symbolist poet.
(Like most forgetful people, I remember stuff I
studied as a French Major in a college whose name                                                 
escapes me.) The hanky and goodbyes derive from
Mallarmé, a poet so well-named he proved ill-
armed    against the sorrow in his heart as he began
a poem of farewell to his one and only son.
Until then, he had made poetry from "supreme
adieux" in harbors, steamers vanishing at the horizon,
sailors singing alexandrines as a tempest cracked
their masts and overwhelmed their craft. Composing 
A Tomb for Anatole. he completed mere fragments.
I, whose sons are safe and sound, have finished
my handkerchief. I like it:  exactly the size of
the canvas, rendered with wide strokes of flake
white, with no edges or creases— a cloth never
folded, never tucked away, always ready to hand.


Though Sarah White's love of the  Romance Languages did not desert her when she retired from college French teaching, the practice of poetry in her native tongue has given her ever more pleasure.  Her most recent publication is "to one who bends her time" (Deerbrook  Editions, 2017)

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