Sarah White on The Lake & Off Course

Sarah White on The Lake two poems, Ventricular, and The Ballad of Narayama


Young Fanny Mendelssohn, in petticoats and pumps—
In the lower chambers of the heart
lost every race against her younger brother.
severe arrhythmia gives rise
In their middle years, they raced again and she awoke
to a danger of collapse       
at the gates of Death, alone.


Chest compressions may be given
On the day of her burial,
         by anyone, including family members.
Felix heard anthems in an awkward key, and her voice:
       To restore a normal rhythm
“Brother, you’re so pale. There’s not much time.
(about 100 beats a minute)
Take these dark hymns and write my elegy
       electric shock must be administered  …
at lightning speed.



The Ballad of Narayama


A man carries his mother on his shoulders
through the brambles. She will no longer
be living in the village.
They’re going up the sacred mountain.


He is weary. He doesn’t want to leave her
up the mountain in a clearing
on her prayer mat, knees crossed,
peering through the brambles.


She knows she won’t be living
in the village. The man carries
his mother. He is weary.
The snowfall is a blessing.


Narayama is a mountain and a ballad
to be sung in any order—
down from the prayer mat
to the village, up to the clearing


where he leaves her, cross-legged,
smiling at the snowfall
and the shoulders disappearing
through the brambles.


Sarah White’s most recent published collections are The Unknowing  Muse (Dos Madres, 2014) and Wars Don’t Happen Anymore (Deerbrook Editions, 2015). She lives, writes, and paints in New York City.


The Lake 

“All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. And then there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.” 
Jean Rhys


Inspired by Jean Rhys’ imperative, The Lake is dedicated to publishing all forms of poetry by new and established poets, highlighting the best of contemporary poetry and reviewing the best of the new books.


Also appearing on Offcourse  literary journal in Albany.