HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man
by Gerard Sarnat
Gerry Sarnat’s tough, witty, language-obsessed poems are both a post- holocaust reconstruction of his family’s history and a progression towards a declaration of his own intention. In his seventh decade, after a medical career that included doctoring the homeless, the poet declares: “I must give birth.” I admire the skill of the poetry—often as precise as a diagnosis—as well as his labor-like decision. The poems may be unsentimental but they are also, importantly, emotional.
—Phyllis Koestenbaum, Stanford,
Doris Day and Kitschy Melodies among other poetry collections
The epic poem HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man . . . is an interesting foray into language. I can hear my tongue trying to form the words he uses like a rattler throatily teasing me from the first page of the book. From the Judean Desert of his heritage to Burning Man’s pagan artsy Black Rock Desert, this rattler charms you, scares you and tells you before it is coming, warning the imminent charge long before you get to the bloom of the poem’s end and see it for yourself. . . . The thrust of the book is this: Who do we tend to and why must we? . . . This book is a woven traffic of patterns he follows, synchronizing and priming through the forest of mankind, exposing us for the monkeys we are, and sometimes praising us along the battering route he has taken for being humane and human after all.
—Jane Crown, publishing editor of Heavy Bear,
host of Jane Crown’s Poetry Radio
Some Poems from HOMELESS CHRONICLES
Alms Rounds — You Go Your Way, I’ll Go Mine
AS A KID, I DIDN’T DIG JESUS ‘CAUSE I WAS A JEW.
SOON WEARY OF TEEN PRINCESSES AND CHOSEN PEOPLE
I BEGAN TO GROOVE ON HIS COOL, FELL IN LOVE WITH A BLOND
STRUMMED HER GUITAR FOR ME ONCE, GAVE US BOTH UP FOR CHRIST.
IN FLAGRANTE, THE UNMAIDENLY NUN FLED CONVENT HABIT AND WIMPLE
BUT STAYED VIRGIN MARY TO MY HEAD IF NOT MANHOOD BELOW.
OBSESSING GERARD MANLEY, I CONJURED IMMACULATE BIRTHS, BONES RISING
MADE NO MORE SENSE THAN YAHWEH’S FIRE AND BRIMSTONE MISHIGAS.
AFTER SUI GENERIS BEAUTIFUL MUSIC, WE LOST TRACK
OVER AN INTERESTED MAN’S RICH CATHOLIC LIFE
WHICH TOO PASSED LIKE ALL THOSE LATINATE HOLY MAGIC TRICKS.
(TWICE SHE PHONED, WOKE THE WIFE WITH JESUITICAL QUOTIDIANS.)
I SPEND LAST DAYS BEFORE LAST RITES WANDERING PLACE-TO-PLACE
WEAR WHAT I OWN, A SADHU WHO CARRIES A BHIKSHA BOWL
PRAY, FAST, BEG, BLESS; AND REGRETTING MO. CHURCH’S RES JUDICATA
ONE BITE AT THE APPLE SIMULACRUM, STILL WHIMPER ‘BOUT THAT GIRL.
Rooster in the Night No. 2
The shallows in earnest, candles sputter,
burn molecules might fuel extra hours not to be.
Ears ring, cheeks turn pink
imagining my love imagine me.
She chants the song of her soul these forty-nine days
I sit with the urn, cry stars into her ashen sky.
The valley of shadows disorders time
as I fumble prayer beads.
My thumbs sense a scuffle to take earthly leave,
hurtle away on cinnamon and blue bardo wings.
Funneled through dusk’s gray cocoon melee,
untethered, a radiant silk moth dawns past mourning’s crow.
About the Author
Gerard (Gerry) Sarnat is the great-great grandson of Jacob Ben Isaac Gesundheit, the High Rabbi of Warsaw, and shtetl lowlifes, Nahum Z. and Yente Liebe Sarnatzky. He is a father of three, grandpa to two, and has been married over forty years.
A virginal poet at the tender age of sixty-four, during 2008 his work was published in sixty journals and anthologies, and was commended or won many poetry competitions and prizes both inside and outside the US. In 2009 Gerry began editing literary journals. In 2010 he was invited to teach at the university level and began readings, radio interviews available as free iTunes podcasts, and workshops domestically and in Israel.
Gerry’s Harvard and Stanford educated, a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. He has been a professor at Stanford Medical School, and CEO/chief medical officer for national healthcare companies. Gerry has set up and staffed homeless clinics, served on international non- profit boards and chaired community organizations serving the disenfranchised.
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