“Another Thing That Amazes Me” by Sarah Pemberton Strong

Sarah Pemberton Strong


Is how, on the rush hour subway, everyone
harbors beneath their dripping coats
a set of genitals. No one can look

anyone else in the eye, so obvious
is our nakedness under the clothes.
Though it’s only October,

there’s a blizzard dumping sleet
across Manhattan, and the streets are full
of people anyway, some wearing nothing

more than sweatshirts, their hunching shoulders
caked with fallen slush. It’s amazing
some people will stand

outside for an hour in this weather
just to see the de Kooning retrospective at the MOMA—
myself, it turns out, included.

Also that the same shade of paint
can make some people happy but give others headaches.
When I get home, I’m going to paint

my living room orange
against the six months of winter
that’s just begun. The Platonic ideal

of a raincoat is bright yellow,
and though I can’t see one beyond
all the crotches on the Lexington Avenue Local,

it’s comforting to think there will be an appearance soon,
little rite to remind us of the sun’s assured return.
It amazes me that I still want God to be more

than a perfect metaphor for loving,
that I still want to fall to my knees
for something other than this woman swaying above me,

her fingers knotted to the subway strap,
the folds of her labia just a couple inches from my mouth
while our bodies fly through a tunnel under the city,

and high above us, a deluge of gray crystal
blots out the gold of trees all down Fifth Avenue.
Amazing that the light of the sun makes us open

our eyes in the morning. And that when
there is no light, our eyes open anyway:
searching for it, then for each other.

from Rattle #38, Winter 2012


Sarah Pemberton Stong: “This poem, ‘Another Thing That Amazes Me,’ was inspired by a trip to Manhattan in what turned out to be the worst weather I’ve ever been underdressed for. The experience, together with writing about it, invoked some of the qualities of a meditation retreat—periods of strong physical discomfort interspersed with delight and wonder at the ways we’re all connected. I read and write poetry for the same reason I maintain a spiritual practice: to experience that sense of connection to all of life. Still another thing that amazes me is that I have two books coming out this spring: one’s a novel, the other is my first poetry collection.” (web)

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