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p o e m s, v o i c e s a r a h   a r v i o

Ten Poems from SONO

Click the titles to hear the poems.



I was moving from crisis to crisis

all through my life, with a few calm days

between them like a caress or a charm

descending unexpected from above.

Up there, god’s hand was pointing toward Adam

when it could be turning toward the Sybil.

Who cared for love when there was wisdom?

All that stuff in my satchel full of scrolls—

a chrysanthemum or a chrysalid,

for crying out loud, wasn’t that enough.

Crystallizing the future as an eye,

lifting up the future as an eyelid,

always gazing with a critical eye.

But how sad not to have loved the Sun God

when he might have given me all I wished.

What was so bad about a night of sex?

Here I was, hanging shriveled in my cage,

saying I want to die—want to be dead.

Oh cry sister—or else just suck it up—

or spend some time with Savonarola.

Maybe it was just those sulfuric fumes

rising from deep in the Stygian swamp

that caused my sad moment of misjudgment.

When all the while a mere stanza or two

might have saved the day, saying I love you

—eternities ago—or maybe not.

Or was there still time for some kiss-and-tell,

or some scissoring schism of the heart.

Come down to Cumae and open my cage.

Sad! I had forever but not a kiss.


I said I couldn’t love and it was true,

not a ploy, or coy. I couldn’t love or

sing. Not canti or canzoni or chants

or airs—not—I could do sex but not

without love, and I couldn’t love so I

couldn’t do sex. Oy, oy, as the Jews say,

no love and no song, that means no joy.

Happiness, you once said, is not a goal,

it’s a happenstance. It happens to some

and not to others. It may have happened

sometime to Mina Loy, or to Myrna,

or to Terry Malloy, but not to me.

Life without love is life without love, as

dry as a stick; it’s sick, though saying so,

my love, is cloying. It’s not worth a stick.

La, la, I sometimes almost broke into

song—a broken song, could you call it that?

We were drinking rob roys! Those were the nights.

I had inner singing and inner love

but not for me, not for you, I had love

for a boy I once knew but not for you,

never a loyal and unalloyed joy.

This was my stance, and maybe my stanza,

and this was the substance of my romance.

I never could love, now I was oily,

ogling their pants, their hearts, and their hairlines.

Oh how annoying, a blonde with no beau,

an old girl with no toy and no ally.

Oh boy, boy, I know I broke your heart

with my broken song. I know I was wrong.

The Poems:

Traveling / Shadows
Thesaurus / Grace
Grief / Hope
Veronica (Vera Icon) / Trauma
Sistine / Song


Excerpted from SONO by SarahArvio. Copyright: © 2006 by Sarah Arvio
Published in arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf,a division of Random House, Inc.
Sarah Arvio read these poems at Chapters Bookshop,  Washington, D. C., April 1, 2006

Podcast of the reading:

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