Sarah Green: Four Poems

A selection of poems from the author's new book, The Deletions.
William H. Mumler, [Female "spirit" standing next to a table with a photograph propped against a vase with flowers], 1862-1875.Courtesy of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

The following is an excerpt from Sarah Green's upcoming book of poetry, The Deletions.


Today I touched lilacs
as if I was saying wait with my fingers,
tugging a shirt so the person inhabiting it
would turn to me. I don’t know who I was
pulling back from the other world. Maybe
my friend who died, the one I dreamed

walked past the line of torches on the beach
marking that property from this, past a sign
he did not care about. It was only for me.
Maybe I touched him— but I don’t believe
we become everything. He’s not the same
as the flower. He is somewhere

and I’m grateful that I don’t understand
because it means I’m still alive: stupid, partial,
desiring specific ways of feeling good,
crying on the couch because it’s light so late
and the birds won’t stop singing. It’s light,
and it doesn’t matter what I want.


Thanks for carrying the air conditioner and thanks
for taking off my dress.

Thanks for the afternoon light on your chest
when you said I don’t think what we want is that different.

The week before you proposed, you said I’m a man with a plan
and all I could think of was Panama.

Thanks for getting me pregnant so many times
in dreams. Thanks for considering

waiting in line at the Met
for Michelangelo’s drawings. It was raining that day.

Somebody said—maybe you, maybe the New York Times,
that the crowd was so big and the pictures so small, it was

hard to get a good look. So we left without trying.
We went to the farmer’s market, and you bought a blue knit hat.

Do you remember? There was a time when we were certain
of our love. We stood looking over Canadaway Creek

and it wasn’t a shadow—that steelhead twisting in the water,
trying but failing to disguise itself against the shale.


We used up everything in that hotel
where we were first lovers,
then borrowed extra from the afterlife.

Workers will excavate
the ottoman to which we fed
all our pillows. We preferred to

stretch out against the riverbed,
faces to silt. Sleeping like
hoof-prints after deer

before the water rushes back. Now
I know what was being built.
What we saw partially and remarked on

that cold morning. The high-rise
scaffold going up. Breezy Tyvek.
Sharp planks symmetrical as

ribs, sun hurtling
through them, only seemed—
by some trick of ice and dawn—to be

making a ramp for us. And just beyond:
the golden ship we would leave on.


So often, I’ve shouted hello from a dock.
Water bouncing like light. Sound coming back
in the shape of a heron rising and leaving.

I’ve driven around calling a man’s name—
my voice like hail hitting the windshield—though
he was states away. Scraping my vocal cords

as if one of us was lost in a forest. I’ve missed
the turn for my own street. And at the end of it,
I know now, if I drive long enough,

yearning opens onto a smooth lake in the dark
where I can set down my lanterns like questions.
From this distance, they could be anyone’s.

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