We are a public forum committed to collective reasoning and the imagination of a more just world. Join today to help us keep the discussion of ideas free and open to everyone, and enjoy member benefits like our quarterly books.
In This Version
there’s an impulse for privacy though I realize
that testimony streams from every delightful
opening the body
has to offer.
Or if the narrator is guilty, so be it.
I can tell from your profile
you like hiking, parrots,
and you’re afraid of getting old.
I am too. Who isn’t?
Only the young
who will never
know what pleasure could
As if pleasure isn’t
historical. As if our bodies
or relaxed according to
dictators, bureaucrats, the inventors
of trans fats.
They don’t know
what we go through, and defending
pleasure kills it
before the judge
Farewell, Mississippi, farewell.
If it was a game,
you won, if it wasn’t,
I’m embarrassed to say
you turned me on.
The needless battles, the false posture
of glory, defeat.
There was no terrorist
among us but you
imagined the worst in everything
and took it all down with you.
Nor have I ever watched the contrails of jets
from a palm tree and coral reef resort,
sequestered on a Caribbean island shaped
like a common button mushroom
like Sarah. “It’s never scary for me,” she says.
When the seagulls congregate
around the thin wrapper of a Snickers bar, the mother
squawking at her babies, I imagine there must be something gullible
in the very forms of nature, the way capital flows
in the sky—streamlined,
consistent, if even for the occasional
turbulent interlude. Everything versus how
we behaved on the ground,
(looters, robbers, rapists) which is mostly tragic.
I find the entire plot of land
guarded by land and wire excessively sorrowful. Or am
I mistaken? Is the sky sorrowful and the land
a funerary urn? Ornate, yet childish, like spoiled little rich girls
who hate each other yet deserve each other
so one wonders why they can’t kiss
and make up, jump into
a cab and go to the party where they’ll meet
more of themselves and drink
the world into drained bank accounts.
And at the moment when the poem
becomes most poignant, when the terrifying
premonition has fulfilled
the contours of the wish, when all that mattered
converged on that one hint, when the poet suddenly realizes
she has slowly
and successfully backed away from the cruelty
of the sun, she sweetly brings
the title back into her poem and says in a whisper
“Two Sarahs,” so that everyone
knows she has won.
Sandra Simonds is the author of four published books of poetry: Steal It Back, The Sonnets, Mother Was a Tragic Girl, and Warsaw Bikini. Her fifth book, Further Problems with Pleasure, was the winner of the 2015 Akron Poetry Prize and will be out in February 2017. Her poems have been included in the Best American Poetry 2015 and 2014 and have appeared in many literary journals, including Poetry, American Poetry Review, Chicago Review, Granta, Ploughshares, Fence, Court Green, and Lana Turner. She is an assistant professor of English and Humanities at Thomas University.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
In her new book, Danish poet Olga Ravn writes with open love, pity, and compassion for her strange yet familiar creations.
Draconian individual punishment distracts from systemic change and reinforces the cruelest and most racist system of incarceration on the planet.
Our well-being depends on a better understanding of how the logic of labor has twisted our relationship with pleasure.