By Lynne Sachs
When filmmaker Lynne Sachs turned fifty, she dedicated herself to writing a poem for every year of her life, so far. Each of the fifty poems investigates the relationship between a singular event in Sachs’ life and the swirl of events beyond her domestic universe. Published by Tender Buttons Press, Year by Year Poems juxtaposes Sachs’ finished poems, which move from her birth in 1961 to her half-century marker in 2011, with her original handwritten first drafts. In this way, she reveals her process of navigating within and alongside historical events such as the Moon Landing, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., streaking, the Anita Hill hearings, the Columbine shootings, and controversies around universal health care. In Year by Year Poems, Lynne Sachs realizes the long anticipated leap from her extraordinary career in filmmaking to this, her first book of poems.
Here are five of the fifty poems:
Our telephone rings.
Neil Armstrong on the line.
He knows I stole the Earth’s only moon.
“Give it back,” he says.
I watch him step across the lunar landscape.
I thought we could be friends.
He turns to look at all of us
(from the moon)
I am the only one who sees his sadness.
I see him running naked
on the university green
and then again, the same guy in a shopping mall parking lot
his floppy folds
the soft calluses on the bottoms of his feet.
our slumber party
becomes a midnight snack of truth or dare treats.
We seven copycat girls throw off nightgowns
and run into a suburban field of telephone poles and feral cats
will see us.
1982 (for Ira, my brother)
The gypsy women of Paris go by in groups of five
while I am in worn jeans, a pair of pumps, and a paisley blouse.
Each rain floods the sidewalk with a stream of green and brown,
like a studio of an Impressionist painter,
curious brush strokes,
relics of the Jardin des Plantes.
I’m a tired college student
napping in an empty Sorbonne classroom
late-to-class bus rides
crumbs from my morning baguette ground between threads.
My evening phone booth call catches my brother
as he prepares for school at home, 4359 miles away.
His hello transforms this dirty glass box
into four dynamic movie screens.
I see him clearly
at home with Mom
eating a bowl of cereal and drinking a small glass of juice.
I see a new diamond stud in his left ear,
Mom at the sink, a confused look on her face,
wondering how to read the placement of his glistening gem.
What we share and still continue to hide.
Raindrops slide down the fourth window pane,
framing him with a man I can’t quite see.
In a dark parking lot behind a downtown Memphis bar,
a secret cameo of infatuation.
I wipe away the condensation
to get a better view
as the screen goes dark on Boulevard Raspail.
In our front yard now, Columbine grows wild.
With each bloom, I think of her, a mother too.
She feeds her son, knows the fruit that makes his lips pucker, the sheet that pricks his stubbly cheek, the grade he received on his biology test, how often he hiccups drinking a Coke, which ride scares him at the amusement park, how he conjures an obscure spelling word, how long he takes to shit, the moment in a day when he is most likely to be kind.
I doubt he ever told her about the night his skin touched skin, or the day he skipped school, or how many guns he hid behind the broken sewing machine table that she refuses to throw away because one day she hopes to have the time to sew again.
In the eventuality that preparation for security advanced
signatures obtained life jackets confirmed permanent medical
records sealed pharmaceuticals delivered weather reported
batteries checked tires filled expiration avoided warnings
acknowledged wills signed if-and-only-ifs collected and still
no one anticipated the return of my brother-in-law’s cancer.
A friend forgot to send her payment — a single check
she never put in the envelope, hidden under
a stack of receipts, appointment cards, and electricity bills.
The check, never arrived. Her policy, cancelled.
She who had already given up her ovaries and come
face-to-face in the ring with illness, won that round.
Now no rope to hold onto, no pillows to fall back on.
We two friends of more than twenty years sit at a table
in a café talking of our homes, books we’ve read,
people almost forgotten, purses with zippers, jump
ropes, kitchen counters, projects abandoned.
I ask her about her health. She’s crossing her fingers.
That’s all she has until they pass that bill.