Box of Sneezing

Before the ceiling on my little sky

blew off, the walls worsened

for the wear, the horse for

the neighing. I followed

diviners over felten hills,

their rods trembling, noses

to the ground. I knelt

through every furrow;

the follicles clung

to their crevices. A word

about the landscape’s

furnishings: on a bar

stool, a victrola kept

spinning round and round,

rickety, uneven,

and when the right velocity

was reached, someone

drove the needle down.


Robert Oppenheimer went to New Mexico as a youth to recuperate from tuberculosis. He later said he had two loves, physics and New Mexico. Would there be a way to combine them?

Eugene O'Neill had TB, as did Paul Éluard. Albert Camus suffered TB for years, an ailment compounded by heavy smoking, but while TB toiled away, a car crash killed Camus within seconds.

My cousin Christopher, whose middle name was Camus, was killed in the Catskills by a hit-and-run driver, never apprehended.

Emma Goldman ranted incessantly about how stupid people are. Asked by her long-time companion, Alexander Berkman, how she could reconcile that conviction with her drive for anarchy, she was unable to answer the question.

Watching the 'gadget' explode in Los Alamos in 1945, Oppenheimer thought of the lines from the Bhagavad Gita, "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

Miles away a girl who had been blind from birth saw the light of the explosion.

Centuries ago, the existence of mermaids was widely accepted as true. In winter 1493, Columbus wrote in his journal that three of the creatures had been sighted off the coast. They "rose well out of the sea, but were not so beautiful as they paint them."

Dead Headlights

To judge from this road I can tell

you the future

is dark in all

directions. Starlessness

seeps into the black

grass bending back

from the traffic, instinct

away from roar, away

from racing. Make a bed

for me among the flat

rocks no one

turns, the skin

around the lips

of a mouth

that will not open.

three poems by Sarah Sloat

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