Epilogue: The Improbables


Opals, not apples, grow in the orchard.
A tooth appears in the mouth of an orchid.
Ocean salt becomes sugar and sweetens
the fish. The rivers return to the mountains.

Dollars flop out of change machines—
the change, too painful, the slots, too narrow.
Arrows cling to their taut bowstrings.
Ammo remains in snug magazines.

A ram shaves his wool and tattooes
the name of a ewe on his skin. A duck
uses one of her plumes as a pen.

I swore I’d forget you when all
these things came to pass. And none has.

Your memory greens in me like the grass.



Letter from Philadelphia, Winter, 1765


It seems a sort of holow day…

She signs it yr divoted wyf.
She can’t spell.
Few people can.
She writes faithfully and well
to her husband in England
who enjoys the gossip and endearments,
local apples and hand-
made stockings she sends
from the town he’s seen just once
in fifteen years.

When the packet boat arrives,
Philadelphia occurs to him
but not for long.
Home is London now.

She’s alone.
An ox is a-rosting on the River
and Peple take their plesure
on this winter afternoon.
Light fades from the seasons
and she will not see Benjamin again.
That’s what she doesn’t say.

Rather, she writes:
It seems a sort of holow day.


* * *


Sarah White lives, writes and paints in Manhattan. She is the author of Alice Ages and Ages (BlazeVox, 2010), a book of variations; Cleopatra Haunts the Hudson (Spuyten Duyvil, 2007), a poetry collection; “Mrs. Bliss and the Paper Spouses,” (Pudding House, 2007), a chapbook; and the book-length lyric essay, The Poem Has Reasons: a Story of Far Love online at www. proempress.com. She taught for 23 years in the French Dept. of Franklin and Marshall College.

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4 Responses to Two poems by Sarah White

  1. Ron Kolm says:

    Two terrific poems! That second one, ‘Letter From Philadelphia,’ is heart-breaking. I am a Benjamin Franklin fan (quick aside: I have worked in bookstores for years, and I Have seen, obviously, a number of one hundred dollar bills — check out the old Franklin and the newer one. The old one looks almost grandmotherly; the newer one is a tired Ben who seems to have the sadness of the world etched on his face). I never considered the other side of the story; who he left behind. God, after reading this poem I will be for the rest of my life. Fine piece of writing!

  2. sarah white says:

    Dear Ron, Thanks so much for appreciating the voice of Deborah Franklin. I admire Benjamin too, very much. And it was largely her choice not to go with him to London, but he didn’t seem to realize that if he stayed away too long, she might be gone when he got back, and she was. Sarah

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  4. Tom Hersh says:

    I appreciate these poems, but that is not the reason I have for writing. I would like to contact Sarah White and ask for guidance on a project on which I have been working on metaphors in psychological speech. I read an article she wrote called “Dreamwork as Etymology,” and I have been confused about the value of using the etymology in the OED for my study. I hope, Sarah, that either you still follow these comments or that the site monitor will forward this to you. Thanks.

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