Sunday May 26

NordgrenSarahRose Sarah Rose Nordgren is the author of Best Bones (U of Pittsburgh P, 2014), winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize for Poetry. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Agni, Ploughshares, The Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, and the Best New Poets anthology. A recipient of two fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and a 2014 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council, Sarah Rose earned degrees from Sarah Lawrence College and the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where she held the Fred Chappell Fellowship. She grew up in Durham, NC and currently lives in Cincinnati. For more information visit her website.

The Network

To you, the group we speak for
may seem only loosely
specified, but the members fall
under many of the same particular categories
indicated by our program.
We like to imagine these members
living together in one blue circle
projected on a white wall,
much like the traditional families
we know of from history.
We chose this image of the blue circle
because it communicates the group’s
unified stance toward the public
as well as a cool, calm feeling
like looking down into an alpine lake
that grows or shrinks in proportion
to the number of fish living in it.
In this way, the program mostly runs itself
after the initial install. A series
of graphs broken down by the members’
interests can be envisioned
on the opposite wall,
but we prefer focusing on the simple
blue disc which, in addition to the ideas
we already mentioned, also represents
memory—a necessary addition
to any true community.
We’ve learned a lot about community
since we took this job back in 2004
and there are some common
misconceptions. First of all,
groups don’t actually have anything
they want you to say for them. The job
is more about watching patiently
until you know what they want to hear.

Virtus et Scientia

Perhaps it was a mistake to make
our motto Virtue—our one virtue
being to need the very least. We ask
for so little while other teams
receive write-ups and cold weather gear.
It’s not that we don’t submit
requests to our supervisors,
we make them most fiercely and
neutrally and on the proper forms.
But our ink is the exact color
of our paper, and the local post office
indefinitely closed. By now
we’ve learned to live on so little,
even our hearth fires are frugal.
We feed them the same brittle sticks
our specimens imitate in both fields
and glass cases, like they can’t
discern between the two. After years of
making do, we are embarrassed
to have wanted at least some small
applause for our suffering—
That is the secret wish we hold
like a white candle among us all the time.
Our specimens respond with less
and less enthusiasm to external stimuli.
We maintain our notes, but Progress only
inches forward on its hundred frail legs.
There are numbers for degrees of movement.
There are numbers for degrees of stillness.
Feelings have very little to do with it.

About Us

We have some things in common.
Like, we are in love with each other.
We all went to the same high school,
but graduated in different years.
We are loyal to a television show
about a hospital. We are bereft.
Our skin prickles for the cool, firm
hand of the doctor, his stiff white
cuff and shining metal tools. We offer
each other little, and receive little.
We insert pennies to be stamped
with our emblem. We are like nurses
who have fallen ill ourselves, still
dressed in blue. We are against
the regular patients who must be washed
and scattered. We can go at any time
but choose not to. We thrive
among clatter and order. So clean
we could eat our dinner off each other.
We watch our favorite program
from adjustable beds. We Share photos
of our families from vacation.
We Like pictures. We dream of filling
the high school auditorium to see
our favorite band playing just for us.
We stand close enough to speak
electrically. We have very sensitive skin.