I picked up a copy of The First Flag at the Strand in Manhattan, actually, and had been exploring its strangeness--as object, as word--periodically since. Not one full plunge, that would come later. This night was really about giving Meryl and myself a chance for a poetry-date; a practice I vowed we'd do once a month now, to keep ourselves from looking at one another and saying has it really been that long?. We had Thai. We came to Honey at Ginger Hop. She had bourbon. I took photographs.
(Above: Chris Fischbach, editor at Coffee House Press, introduces Sarah.)
In fact, the placenta of the pharaoh was placed on a pole and carried into battle. This is history's first flag.
- Llyod DeMause, "The Fetal Origins of History"The book and the event line up: phantasmagoric. Is this a word used on the promotion for the event? Fortune telling, musicians, a lit-up deer plugged into the stage nodding and unnodding along. A stream-of-consciousness band. Recordings, visitations from Sao Paolo, photographs, charts. A book trailer. An accordion, a tie-dyed flag, choral readers.
I was a bird brothel. (2)
My hands work / better than a trowel to feel for the root / tails, snapping them up like a hem seam (9)
[my daughter] / whose residence inside me was my favorite of all / the epochs of being an animal body (58)
All the bones yarn up. (69)
To have an abortion (subtraction) / in Michigan, you must hurl the word VAGINA back and forth / without breaking it (117)
It was strange and wonderful to read these poems, some of which I'd read in early draft form in our thesis seminar. And there it is, this book that become more of a book as time progressed. The photographs of the dead deer she found in Wisconsin and I saw on her Facebook page for a time, fascinated. Thinking of my own deer and the poem I wrote about her.
There's a kinship in the subjects Sarah possesses: the woman's body, the spiritual (though I've been shy about this, and growing rapidly less shy), the horrors of a body in trauma, the pleasures of baby-having and fascination at what the body can do (her object of interest is the placenta, whereas mine seems to be that ridiculous production of milkmilkmilk). Also the roots of the world and the fungus and the woody stems and finding ourselves feral.
Her launch had a kind of ... oh, what's the right word? There was chaos and many people involved, sometimes not knowing who does what, not that perfect rehearsal but ritual still, and mostly, a way of thanking so many people who helped this book become a book. (She did a shout-out to the sons of mothers in the room, and the list read like a haphazard version of what was on my name-list when I was pregnant; Finn was the last name read and I blushed.) And the book itself is that way too: Sarah doesn't shy from saying thank you to those who influenced her. There are footnotes abound and after so-and-so and for so-and-so and I think about how much goes into the making of a book, how meager that thank you list can feel. I think too of E's book and how her dedication page is a sequence of initials--those who are among the initialed know and that's enough too.
Once we reached a certain point in the evening, and it went on as we were leaving, my milk began to let down, maybe when the slide of the woman nursing a wolf (dog?) came up, maybe the images of placenta at birth, maybe a note during the songs, but probably nothing, just a thought of him maybe.
It was a bewildering pleasure to witness. I appreciate the exuberance and the presence. The book and the event--have I mentioned this? yes, I know--they fit together so well.