||April 2, 2010
"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
California Institute of Arts and Letters
"Gerard Sarnat's epic poems burst across the page with the glee usually reserved for shooting stars. This is a playful balls-out poet unafraid to temper bold statements with enough humor and compassion to make us nostalgic for his ecstatic profound view of life. He sings to us through the voice of a universal poet. Sarnat's written one hell of an exciting book!"
-Suzanne Burns, Misfits and Other Heroes
among other poetry collections
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
(TWICE SHE PHONED, WOKE THE WIFE WITH JESUITICAL QUOTIDIANS)
OVER AN INTERESTED MAN’S RICH CATHOLIC LIFE
WHICH TOO PASSED LIKE ALL THOSE LATINATE HOLY MAGIC TRICKS.
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.
Irregular People: M-W-F
Head of the queue, once proud pro QB, traded his rifle
for a gun, bizarro ex-con Gerardo charms my inner Howdy Doody,
"Hey, Doc Gerard, my brothas don't buy we’z cousins!"
A hooligan calls hisself Morphyne on the clipboard,
just in from the tulies, bullshits a med school bud from Willets,
name can’t recall, wrote him Vicodan, dog ate ‘em - orders more.
"Sorry, Sir, we don’t do pain scripts here. I’m no shopkeeper.
Community clinics work better that way
for most everyone in the long run."
"Screw you, dude, I was told you was different,
but you're a prick like the rest.
Better be careful - or …"
Covering my back, big black cuz puts an end to that,
taunts the outsider, “You’re on the nod, tomato can,
- it’s time to move on, and make it quick.”
Injecting her weekly STD cocktail
through vermilion slattern Capris, I remind flaming Maria Diana
this ain’t the place to transact charnel house commerce.
My Chi-town chum Sam unhooks his bike from the train’s eco-rack.
Boom box atop paraphernalia balanced on handlebars,
crossing the ties, he rides over his latest paranoia.
"Ger, I've definite proof your smirks fibbed all along
about us both attending O'Keefe Grammar School - why screw
my head up the butt of your cryptic uncathartic clinical shit?
If you closed your eyes, maybe you could finally see something.
I'm gonna sic Legal Aid on your fucking friendship lip service ass
should you refuse to cease and desist."
Alma Rose, all kindhearted lard and grins, heartache and breakdowns,
fiddles brilliant water color beach primitives of now foster twins:
I’ll buy one for rent money, try to get some into Stanford’s Fair.
My fave Mona Lisa sashays in, mustache trimmed, cig hung.
“Doc, is you collecting gutter art or buyin’ runty people?
In any case, them free sample shemale hormones sure work great!
Ain’t it time you start ooching them Christians
to raise that long green, get me on the tits and cunt fast track?
By the way, what color is they, Poles or Italian?"
A charming diabetic OCDer, Jill’s sexy ex-librarian fingers
finger Braille while sipping Styrofoam tea and sugar
- no NutraSweet ‘til we reopen day after tomorrow.
“A New Rattler on the Block”
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
"A Viscous Kind of Cerebral Punk"
HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man is a viscous kind
of cerebral punk. Sarnat, new to poetry at the age of sixty-four, is no Beatle,
not even a Rolling Stone. Akin more to a prolific Sid Vicious, the highly
educated Sarnat has emerged from the medical world and “delivering care
to the disenfranchised” with poems that span time and circumstance.
At his best Sarnat delivers a high-octane mix of history and imagery. In
“Whimperbang: Yad Vashem Revisited,” Sarnat writes about touring Israel's
official memorial to victims of the Holocaust. Opening with “Heine was
right:/ when books burn, humans are destined to be next,” Sarnat's poem
unfolds a series of visceral images. There are few if any songs of innocence
between these pages, though lines like “I dreamt and redreamt a binary
dream/ rooted in revenge and prayer for those up the smokestacks,” spin
my head a bit and keep me tuned in to the final transition where Sarnat
emerges into the present day with social commentary coming from his
fellow tour companions: “The yeshiva bocker in side curls, skull cap,
and black coat/ whose steps we've trailed these aching hours, / mutters
something under his breath, what I take to mean, / “Enough. Let me out of
From shape poems to poems that hint at spoken word to an epithalamium
which takes place at Burning Man, there is nowhere Sarnat is not willing to
go, and nothing he isn't willing to risk. And while this book is a bit X-rated,
there are some nice easy PG poems in here as well, including a favorite
called “Edward Hopper Foster Care,” about the revival of both plant and
patient. By my reckoning of Sarnat's poetry, if this powerhouse doesn't
knock you off your rocker, I'm not sure what ever would.
-Cameron Scott, Sugar Mule
"A Modern Day Odysseus"
HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man takes us on
a journey from the sensual, innocent stages of growing up to an end
reflection on whether “these jottings (will) see the light of day” . . .
Gerard Sarnat talks about his experience with the homeless as he
wanders “the asphalt with a toolbox of hope.” He is at his best when
concrete and earthy. He describes Big Bad Bill, a dumpster diver
with “weeping ankles wrapped in weeping rags” as he searches for
“fungoid muffins, rancid tuna” from the trash. In “Irregular People:
M-W-F,” written in short three line stanzas, we encounter graphically
who the poet sees on his rounds at a community clinic-“ a bizarro ex-con,”
Mona Lisa who “sashays in/mustache trimmed, cig hung/ Them
shemale hormones sure work great!” and “Billie Holiday's cocoa
butter double/ demure in torn tight jeans and pink plastic sandals /
doesn't even know I exist.”
Who are the homeless in this collection? They are the people of the
street obviously but also the homeless are the WW11 refugees of his
roots, the kids like himself who grew up coping with a multicultural
world of the American melting pot. In the poem, “My Odyssey, My
Iliad” we see the author far from home trying to return from the
wars and the constant battles of his professional life as a modern day
Odysseus. Here he becomes most lyrical and the cadence carries the
narrative of the poem along with it. “Polishing off today's lineup of
dopers and loners/ users and losers, screamers, moaners, schemers/
smashed shoulders and dreams.”
The Homeless Chronicles is an interesting, often lyrical response to the
historical and personal passage of time, the man and the writer from
Abraham to Burning Man.
-David Fraser, editor Ascent Aspirations
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