The poems in Sara London’s Upkeep offer a guidebook for both coping with and negotiating the difficult terrain of life after great personal loss. In the book’s opening section, the speaker explains to a Martian the ways we earthlings attempt to raise our dead—“you’ll find that with dreams // we exhume our dead without the mess /of upturned dirt”—and later finds comfort in objects that connect her to her late Mr. Fix-It father. These are elegies whose solemnity has been upended by humor and nuanced interrogations of the daily rituals that heal us. “How do you / do it, start the experiment— / gas up, each day, anew?” she asks. Oatmeal and duct tape help, London suggests, but ultimately the heart decides: The “old tubes, they play on.”
To say I sail would not account for my whereabouts,
or suggest the horizon is evident, or the north star
to be found. Wind rustles and retreats, and it’s
entirely commonplace to find me plying
headlong into the froth of my own wake.
I do gaze. Distance is something I debate
as I dream, awake in ambient brine next to you.
Next to you I clang bells at the moon’s milk-load
of wattage. I pay a medium toll for mixing up
stern and bow, mast and staff, suggestible (gullible)
and suggestive (evocative). Sank, sunk, etc., et alia.
But as I fumble metaphors in the lee of the licks
and in the Milky Way’s way, your field tenders
its miracle magnet, tugging me through Cabo-de-Hornos blows,
ensuring I skirt shoalings wending home.
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