ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


New Poems by Sarah White


Painting by Sarah White

In a picture of two children, one
leans at an angle toward
the other, and his xfoot rests
on one step of a front porch
in Ann Arbor. A strong
diagonal ties the leaning boy
to his younger brother. The picture
was taken by their father
who was very good at pictures.

He had traveled home that day
from Greece, with gifts—
hand-woven, hand-embroidered
shirts. (He was also good at gifts.)
The kids were pleased to have him home ,
liked the shirts, and wore them
in the picture on the front porch in Ann Arbor.

I have always loved that photo
of the kids, glad to have their Dad home,
to wear their presents, and to be together.

A year or so later, the Dad,
home from somewhere else,
announced that after this
when he came home it would not
be to this house but to another
in Ann Arbor. The kids
would see him but would first
go to the other
place which was at a certain distance,
at a different angle.
There would be presents
but fewer, and they would no longer lean
the way they’re leaning in this picture—
not on one another, not on him.

If he’d wanted more
of that sweet leaning
he would have needed
to think of other angles—
more diagonals.


The Last Thing That Happens

I had a friend I used to  write to every time 
I wrote a poem.  He would always answer
telling me he loved it. Then
I would  decide I loved it too.

Recently, he had an awful fall, got sick,
too ill to pay attention
to any lines of mine.

I rhymed
a final rhyme and sent it off
as I had before.

The poem said I hoped his mind was no longer
occupied by a single face or name. (This
was untrue. I wanted  him to think of me
and of my poems even then).

The poem said (and this was so) I hoped he was enjoying
deep draughts of the air he had  been struggling  for.

It  said I wished the last door he opened
would widen and become a graceful gate.

We used to quarrel, he and I.
This I regretted.
I told him in the poem
that I hoped his final words
would not be contradicted
but embraced, and wrapped
in a warm, thankful shawl.

The poem received no answer
and will not be loved by anyone at all.


Old Snapshot

photo of two little girls who saw a fawn

Your mother or your older sister
took the photo, giving it a title:  
“Joyce and Sally after seeing the Fawn.”
You kept it for decades and,
just now, gave it to me.
(I’m Sally.) We’re on a sunny
dirt road. You’re  in cute shorts.  I
wear an over- dressy coat. 
You are maybe three years old.  I, three
years older, but we’re friends,
happy  to have seen  a fawn—
as if  it were our own animal,

like “Coalie,” your black spaniel, 
named by your big brother
after Nat King Cole,
a one-eyed dog
which always troubled me
(a fussy, dressy child).  
But Coalie  wasn’t with us
that day on the road where
he would have scared
away the fawn.

At my house someone
dressed me in a woolen coat
although the day was warm.
 At your house, a dog
had one eyelid sewn down, and your
mom  was none too fond   
of her life with three kids
and the dog, though she wouldn’t
end the marriage until after your dad
came home from the Army
Air Corps. Your dad and mine
had been gone a long time.
A heavy war was  going on.

But that day someone  
took a picture of two children  
after they had seen a perfect fawn.


The Kindness of Time

                  (to Gaetano Veloso, for “Terra”)

No one knows
what Time it is on the Moon. 
If you are going there 
you must bring  
your own metronome,
plus an alarm clock,
and a pair of feet 
with boots on 

so your footprints will be seen 
in the sands of the Sea 
of Tranquility  
after you’ve come and gone.  

Once you are home   
and find  the air, water,  
and wind again, you’ll recall 
being Moon-bound
at dawn, and seeing 
a distant blue-green 
globe— you knew it was Terra,  
your beautiful home. Luna’s 
lovely too. But wait.  

What can Time’s story 
possibly be?  

It was born
long ago, before 
there was middle C 
or any meteors. 

The elderly complain 
(and not just them)  
that Time 
always seems  inclined  
to some sort of  End.

Yet I say 
it does not intend
to be unkind.

The one trouble is 
that once Time
starts running on,
it cannot change its mind.


Sarah White is just getting accustomed to her retirement community in South Hadley, MA.  Come visit her there. If you can't do that, then order her book, "The Poem Has Reasons," from Dos Madres Press.

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