ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Sarah White


I chose a nook in the attic
to claim as my hideout, and padded it 
with a ragged blanket.
When I think of  the place
I see a half-shaven guy, Irish,
married to Sadie, our maid. 
They worked for us,  left 
to get jobs in a factory,
and later, when my father 
died, came back 
to help out. She cooked. 
He helped himself
to the booze
in the closet. 

Eager to show off my
hideout, I showed 
it to Willie, Sadie's mate. Sunshine
filtered through the small
attic windows shedding 
a cobwebby light
on him and me, 
side by side 
like loose spoons.
We were friends in a way.
Our first couple of games
were okay, but they changed
and began to alarm me—
a ten-year-old girl with a  man
between twenty and thirty
and married at that.
Luckily, Willie was not a practiced
seducer or, for that matter,
a true abuser (What if  he’d been
the Vicomte de Valmont?)
He soon looked away from me,
fastened his pants, left the attic
and never came back. 

I’ve read quite a bit
about the repression 
of certain kinds
of memory. I’ve sat 
through many a session
thinking about that afternoon
and withholding the narrative—
already secure in my memory
and anyway, 
as nooks go, mine was tiny.


The Sphinx

painting by Sarah White

Ida and Isador Straus, who died together on the Titanic.
Painting by Sarah White

A Sphinx in the museum
wears a woman’s face 
and the body of a marble lion—
She reminds me of you, 
who used to call me “Sphinx” 
when you asked me a question, 
claiming I “knew everything.”  
But I told you the ancient 
Sphinx never answered 
questions. She only asked them.

Like this riddle about
the doomed Titanic 
whose orchestra
kept playing:  “Nearer, 
My God, to Thee” as 
the vessel went down.
Tell me which passenger 
came closest to heaven: 
the girl who, in a frail 
lifeboat, shivered at the last 
sight of the sinking hull, or 
a wife who slid from 
the deck into an endless, 
airless element below, 
knowing the beloved 
arms had let her go.


Author Sarah White's most recent book Is 'Iridescent Guest, ' published this year by Deerbrook Editions.   'Fledgling, a chapbook of sonnets' is forthcoming from Word Tech Communications. She writes and paints in New York City.

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