She was born with a tail. That’s right.

Posted: July 4, 2009 in Poetry Endorsements

Sarah Morgan
Animal Ballistics
(buy via PayPal or Amazon).

The number of people putting pen to paper is great, those with talent are fewer, and those with talent and enthusiasm for performance are even more scarce. And while this may be said of any area where the notion of performance may be entertained, it is rare I lavish such compliments on poets who appear at slams. I have nothing against slamming. I think it’s a wonderful venue the same way open mics are. The only drawback, akin to that of open mics, is that they’re open. And most people, as stated above, are not those with a talent … much less for concise wording and dense, unapologetically enigmatic comparisons.

Luckily slams, like open mics, usually have features to draw in a crowd. As part of a crowd at Bar 13 in NYC, I witnessed one Sarah Morgan knock a crowd of 1/2 sober people on its collective ass, myself included. Though I had spent all my cash on drinks and the entrance fee, the impression she left on me withstood my sobering and made me recognize her when she appeared again at Loser Slam in Long Branch, NJ. It was there I was knocked over a second time and committed to buying a book. I am eternally grateful in the way anyone who has ever purchased a book or memorizes a poem honours its author.

Morgan spins tales sweet, sad, and humourous. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think. This is a poet’s duty, and she does it seemingly effortlessly. Her poems are less about how she’s using language than why language seems to have been born for her to wield. This makes her an oddity in the world of slam. Aside from small exceptions, like the semi-loose narrative example that will follow, her structures are tight; her rhythm per-poem-appropriate and carefully considered; and her metaphors unique. Still, all these qualities do not a fantastic poet make. Animal Ballistics is filled with delightfully crafted poems…not all of which work as well as they should. That being said, what poet in any age has always written perfect poems? That any poet could’ve written some of what appears in this book is an achievement.

Why We are Different
You like peppers.
I do not.

The girl you love is still alive,
you call her home. That is not her name—but that is what
you call her.

You’re attracted to edge and class.
I like things that flow in tatters.

I drop what I’m doing to pick up your phone call.
You drop my phone calls to watch television, or maybe
or think about filling out a job application.
(I don’t intend that to sound mean.)

You wake up early and I don’t understand why.
Tears well in my eyes when I sit near lakes
and you don’t understand why.

My voice cracks when I say certain things
and you don’t notice.
You are in the background of a lot of pictures;
I notice.

You tell me I trust adjectives too much.
I tell you, you trust in not enough.

I am messy. There are clothes scattered over my bathroom floor.
I haven’t fully unpacked from a trip I’ve long since returned from.
You. You are tidy. Your underwear matches your mouth,
elastic and initialed.

You don’t own many possessions;
in a way, I admire it.
I keep everything,
even empty Sweet and Low packets,
even a penis-shaped water bottle that leaks
and does not serve its purpose
as a water bottle.

You exercise…
that is funny.

Your kiss is uncertain.
I didn’t know you were holding back on purpose. I thought
your tonsils were shy.
I breathed on your lips.
You probably just thought I was out of shape and panting.

I want to be a vampire.
That statement will frighten you.

You don’t like my long hair and I know it.
I don’t like your short hair, I told you.

I tell
much more
than you

You’re better at games,
except for Red Rover; I am the best at that,
running full-speed to break myself or someone else.

You pick on me when I get poetic.
I pulled over to weep when you read the line,
“held each other like stolen televisions.”

You preach.
I sing in the choir.
Once I read you a prayer;
you said it was weird.

You find no humor in breast feeding.
I say “that is funny” in place of actually laughing.

Your mom and dad.
My mom and dad.

When you get nervous, you pull away.
I get mad that traveling alone didn’t make you nervous,
like it would me.

I never went to prom.
You never had track marks.

I doubt you’d ever find a pale girl as pretty as I do,
though I will never like eggs.

When showering at night,
you do it before everyone is asleep as not to wake them up.
I get clean when I feel I need to. Water isn’t that loud.

I don’t know if you lie to me.
I am full of stupid hope.

We’ll never be lovers,
we know this.
Still I want your heart in a penny pouch.
You love my midriff.
I’m thinking of aprons now. . . .
and so the story goes.

When I ask what you like about me,
you say I am fun.
It pisses me off.

You seldom ask what I like about you.
I never realized that, until now.
I like your quiet. . . .
lavender bread in cellophane.

You said my eyes are sad
and it is really beautiful
how badly
I want happiness.

Sorry I never wore my red shoes. I was nervous.

You think you can fix everything.
I have no bones on purpose.

Last night you said, “I built a fire,
I could keep it going but I think I’ll let it go out.”

You’ll notice the rhythm is completely off, which lends to the speaker’s tone; Morgan takes full advantage of accelerating with lines of humour and steering the reader into a brick wall of poignant reflection. Throughout all of her poems, there seems to be an inherent knowledge, an intuitive omnipotence pertaining to where and what kind words are needed. “You think you can fix everything / I have no bones on purpose” is a great example of this. And what most endears me to her writing is that it doesn’t explain, which is odd given the narrative example above, but rather guides readers to where the poem needs to go. Subtlety…I’ve missed it so.

Even though her bio tells us she was born with a tail, Sarah Morgan’s writing is nothing but pure evidence that she is 100% human. Some other samples of her work can be found here, but buy the book…it’s an investment in humanity.


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