Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Poem of the Day: "45th Reunion Redbook Rubrics" by Gerard Sarnat

Songs of Eretz Poetry Review is pleased to present "45th Reunion Redbook Rubrics" by Gerard Sarnat.  Dr. Sarnat is the author of two critically acclaimed poetry collections, Homeless Chronicles from Abraham to Burning Man (2010), and Disputes (2012). His pieces have appeared or are forthcoming in over eighty journals and anthologies.  Dr. Sarnat is a physician who has set up and staffed clinics for the disenfranchised, a CEO of health care organizations, and a Stanford professor.  A review of his work in The Huffington Post and more may be found here:  GerardSarnat.com.


45th Reunion Redbook Rubrics
Gerard Sarnat


i.  My boys got a measly sentence; the Greatest Gen garnered fawning praise:

Post Dunkirk those men had no interest in visiting France or camping.

Though none beyond sherry hour elites give a rat’s ass insider

braggadocio martini mills exist, 377 years of

gnarled old fart alumni have made art forms freeloading Havad crimson.


ii. Racing Dunster tunnels to save McNamara’s ass from SDS

hasn’t sat well with me recently – effing Bob never said Thank You.

Then so arrogant, all-knowing, now vulnerable, losses, unsettled.

Still love my job but hate taking direction from goof-offs my son's age...

I am glad to read that a Mayflower a-holio bit the dust.

His ancestors’ coat of arms marked The College’s best-known dorm which housed

Hearst, JFK, Burroughs, Kissinger and my then good friend John Lithgow.


iii. Only Negro I knew, we hitched to Washington for the ginormous

Viet Nam protest, stayed with his mom who worked for the D.C. P.O. --

he’s a Nixon Peabody rainmaker, teaches at the War College.

His freshman best bud quarterback hero sells insurance in Waltham.

Weatherman fled to become Groton squash coach, Zion park ranger, addict;

I live in a halfway house with seven bizarrely familiar frauds...

Riddled with breakdowns, M. won the poetry fellowship I didn’t.


iv. My youngest’s summa, Rhodes, Boston Consulting, NIH doctorate;

pleased son made partner; daughter got into Middlebury -- her first choice...

It’s so tiresome hearing about our perfect children, grandchildren.

My son died. Separated from third wife, somehow I can’t stop working...

Just a dull dentist, I still do consider myself very lucky


v. Heresy to say here but wish I’d gone to Oberlin where I teach...

Every professor who gets to live on a coast makes me envious.

Most highly recognized classmates had no kids, I reassure myself.

So few of us seem to have stayed in touch -- is that normal or Ivy?

Class’s only Nobel Laureate [Dunster Funster Al Gore, ’69,

shared rooms down the hall with Tommy Lee Jones] wrote zilch ‘cept his cell number

while a shrink kids, Waiting for my Prize so’ll have something to contribute!


vi. A girl who wouldn’t date me lives very close by in Los Angeles.

Given transmission into the Suzuki Roshi Soto Zen School...

 I used to pick up fat girls, now I pick up Lipitor prescriptions....

Mild scare from esophagus cancer, fourth wedding, some "near Mrs."...

Bankrupt, regrets, pressure of expectations unmet, divorced four times...

Fine with my cats, marriage was a bad habit I had for a long time...

Living out of my office, not one good career choice, lottsa should-haves....

Occupation: lawyer, not one of those wants to die with his briefs on...

Occupation: Nun, The Little Sisters of Jesus, Jerusalem...

Occupation: semi-retired graduate student in Physics


vii. Same apartment, same man in my life, same dog and pre-occupations.

Decades celibate, snap-in dentures, remain HIV negative

-- truly astonishing since all three of my partners are now deceased...

Dialysis four times a week not near as much fun as you might think.

So tired I had to nap for enough energy to go to sleep...

R.O.T.C., Purple Heart, Boy Scout leader, LDS bishopric,

daughter married, her partner Sue in a wonderful ceremony...

Life is considerably more complex with a two year-old daughter.


viii. Harvard’s hierarchy of self-absorbed, self-satisfied achievers...

Ivy rats, brats in league, Citizens Unite, fuck Harvard Yale Supremes...

Not a strong affinity for those years –won’t be at the reunion...

Subsiding in Oregon, don’t tell anyone I’d been at Havad...

Whistleblower in a deadly experiment, now I’m unemployed...

Dacha south of St. Petersburg, cranky letters to The New York Times


ix. I keep up with a neighbor, who recruits for Harvard, through such missives.

She argues my garden’s stinging nettle choke her fence’s ivy roots...

J. died a half century since dropping napalm near the DMZ.

Battling Parkinson’s for ten years, he was found in the Long Island Sound... 

I sent my closest roomie Rumi for Christmas; he joked, A Jew gives...

One roommate doesn’t write, one gone -- Christ, why didn’t anyone tell me?

The Class has no information about surviving family or life.

A Note on the Text:  The use of italics indicates total fabrication, more or less paraphrasing, mixing and matching, and snatching and snipping from the 643-page Harvard Class of 1967 alumni/alumnae report.

Poet's Notes:  Starting in 1972 with the Class of 67’s first college reunion five years out, twice a decade each classmate received a soft cover Redbook. 

I actually attended only one reunion, the 25th, after a guy met backpacking alerted me, That is the one to go to. So I did. Traveling from the West Coast to The East Coast with my family was a big deal but definitely worth it.  In our mid-forties, those who showed had generally hit our stride.

Since then I’ve kept up, sometimes more, sometimes less, through the Redbooks. Something struck me as special about the 45th: the fullness of our lives shined through all the mundane quotidians. My job was simply to create a “found” poem that mined the sentimentality, irony, humor, tragedy and captured the sadness of lost hopes and dreams.

Editor's Note:  This is one of the most powerful poems that I have ever read.  I've read comparable poetry in high-end mainstream serials such as Poetry Magazine, American Poetry Review, and Boulevard.  The revelation that it is a "found" poem is simply mind-blowing.  Dr. Sarnat has extracted the poetry from a mundane source and really made it sing, manipulating the time stream as a professional pianist manipulates the keys.  

"45th Reunion Redbook Rubrics" first appeared in Dr. Sarnat's third collection, 17s (2014)in which each poem, stanza or line has seventeen syllables.  The poem was reprinted in the November 2014 issue of Songs of Eretz Poetry E-zine.

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