The Sky Turns a Color that Absorbs All Others

by | Nov 16, 2020 | November 2020 Writing | 6 comments

We measure the distance in decibels

We are as far from the sirens as we can get
sonically equidistant from what
counts as horizon

This tree is the new global axis
tall and straight as
a season gnarls around it

When we were growing
we learned to not be greedy
but now there can never be
enough. The deepening green
means not health but
need, redoubling
in worsening

What happens underground
is the god to which we pray
lop off a branch, a root

We take only what we need

A sinkhole gapes in
memoriam, yet its margins
do not advance

The neighboring group
had flour. Now we mourn
the loss of bread

Will there be enough
light to make
sugar in the leaves?

An offering must be made
to the tree. I remain
unchallenged in my role
as priest


  1. John Steines

    Sara, this reads so lyrically. ‘This tree is the new global axis’: I wonder what the sirens have to do with ‘this tree’, then you explain, reveal such depth in suggesting, referencing the damage to the tree, then transition the degradation to ourselves, the planet, sustenance:
    ‘Will there be enough light to make sugar in the leaves?’
    That is my read, then my thoughts go deeper when I ask why the light is dimming or being obstructed. This is a beautifully written mystery, with such loss in sight. Somehow the line structure deludes me from initially going so deeply into the content. I don’t need to know of cause in order to feel the change, and pending loss. WOW!

  2. Rogan

    Sara, I love the heavy lifting in the title. Equidistant is a cool word. I love the turn on the word green. The play on bread and priest — this intertwining of my Catholic upbringing and all the earthly prayer here. It does play like a mystery poem; a little different style than I’m used to seeing from you. It’s beautifully, smartly rendered — which I recognize in all your work.

  3. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Sara, wow, everything turns to dust and yet it’s in these transitions that your work so powerfully comes alive. Such beauty rendered here, your lines are potent, lyrically rich and skillfully placed. I’ve read this several times, and each time notice something uniquely different. So it feels “live,” and organic. That twist at the end, to speaker, the priest. BOOM! Also love the “we” first person POV because it is so effective in where “we” sit currently (the split or halved “we” of America). Also magnificent in employing all of the sensual details: sound, visual, taste, etc. A very sonic poem as well. Love this first draft!

  4. jennifer vanderheyden

    Sara, I agree that this is lovely, lyrical and mysterious. One of my favorite lines is also “Will there be enough
    light to make sugar in the leaves?” because it sums up the uncertainty that we are living at this moment. I also agree about the organic feeling. Thank you!

  5. David O'Connor

    sonically equidistant from what
    counts as horizon–this is a great idea, perfectly stated!

    Will there be enough
    light to make
    sugar in the leaves?—also love this!

    Wondering if the word “unchallenged” is clunky?

    When I think about the “we” in this poem, it reminds me of Mark Ruefle’s essays (“Madness, Rack and Honey”)
    ( Have you read them? I’m finding them spot on.

    Some great work here…

  6. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Sara, this is just stunning, stanza to stanza leads us through the sense of loss, and the need to shepherd the earth. I especially love “lop off a branch, a root /amputates, and the juxtaposition of that stanza with the sinkhole stanza, all emphasizing the power of the earth unseen. The only place that I feel unsettled because it feels without any foreshadowing, is the word “unchallenged,” as David pointed out. Would the word “alone” work better? That might echo the stanza “The neighboring group /had flour. Now we mourn/ the loss of bread” and emphasize loss or isolation? Can I say, I envy this beauty?

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