Sharon Kraus

Sharon Kraus‘s first volume of poems, Generation, unflinchingly documents what Publisher’s Weekly calls “the eros of abuse.” “Sensual, passionate, earthly and unearthly together,” writes Jean Valentine, “Sharon Kraus’s work brings a fierce grief up into the sane daylight of her words.” Of her new collection, Strange Land, Marie Ponsot writes that the poems are “darkly brilliant, reaching from harm to healing and the risk of hope.” Kraus’s awards include fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Editor’s Choice Award from Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art.

Poetry Center Reading:

Spring 2002

Eighth Week, Driving Home After The Sonogram, Beethoven

pouring into the car, the East River
fiercely gleaming, the string section leading the horns
as we take that curve where the bridges appear,
first the blue Manhattan, then the arcing Brooklyn,
all of us in that surge, and in me a heart
is beating, I saw it
flicker on the screen the way a star issues out
into the night sky, in those huge pulses that emanate
what we live on. And then it’s that place
where the horns are seriously pounding,
and for a moment I almost turn
to the back seat,
to see whether the baby is liking these sounds: the horns
pushing into the exit lane, the central line of flute
in that billowing joy, and the strings hurling themselves
forward, yes, I want to tell her-him, the music opens up
in your chest, it’s supposed to feel
a little painful. Though it’s too soon to explain
the grief of the man
who wrote down this music
because someone he’d loved, someone he’d thought would save
people,
turned out to be cruel. So that really
the music pushes forward
through a curtain of pain like an atmosphere rippling
above a fire. It’s like those movies where the astronaut
leaves Earth, the capsule shaking
to show how we could shatter,
and the astronaut’s face blurring
as though his accumulation of sorrows were finally
falling away. That’s what’s happening here
in the car, so I speed up over the bridge
to mark it, and because the music is surging, and the second
heart inside me,
and when I looked in the rearview mirror
just now, the back seat was empty
but wasn’t. Because really I am
the space capsule, the shuddering vehicle, and whatever those
sorrows
my baby is moving toward-even the ones I make-
for a little while, this rider, this star-creature, fellow Earthling,
is gathering itself inside me.

From STRANGE LAND (University Press of Florida, 2001)

Voyage

Imagine you lived
in a ravaged place, your house
shaking with the loud calls of rage
at uncontrollable forces, the calls
spilling into the street. And now
the house is gone, and during the long fire
that swept through the city
as a Hand dusts a table,
you were taken from the destruction and death
of those who knew you, and you labor among another people,
now, in their language, who feed you
from their bowls and also teach you,
on the leaf-strewn ground, their dancing. Still,
you cannot go home. When you look at the grasses here,
they are not yours; when you rest your forehead on the table
or run your hand over the bedding
that you lay in last night
with the one who holds you
wildly, carefully, these are not yours. It is possible that, if you
displease,
if your voice does not lilt, anything could be taken from you.
Imagine that when you kneel down in the sand by the river
you see instead the ashes and bone chips
that are what’s left of your people now, and when you try to
hold
a handful to you, even that is merely the luminous green
river silt. You cannot remember their voices
under the river of other voices.
How then are you to sing in a strange land?

From STRANGE LAND (University Press of Florida, 2001)

What If

What if I really loved them
when they were savage, when he
leapt across the room to me
and threw me into the wall,
my back slapped the sheer
face like dough slaps against its maker’s
palm, maybe I
loved it when she blew into a
rage at my slow chewing, ponderous
work at the table, the table rose
in her hands as if she were an anti-
medium hauling the forces from the antiworld
into ours – I must have loved it, I had their
full attention, they fought me like wild
animals fight with one paw in the steel mouth, bare
thrashing at the trapper,
gleam of the pelt and bared
hate beaming from their eyes – I
lived for it, I lived
against it, I was always waiting for it
to happen. When I sat at my
desk in school I’d think about what they were
going to do, I devoted myself to
the study of them, the charts on the wall of
health class showed
her fallopian tubes, his intricate
vas deferens, the vast
entrails and the 7 layers of skin were
their large animal bodies, staunch legs and
abdomens, sturdy mammals
forcing me to kneel before them at night.
Maybe what I loved was
having to beg
to live, I kissed their ankles when they told me
so they’d give me supper, a roof
over my head, I saw so clearly
how small I was at their feet, how low I could crawl, how desperate
to live, and when I
cast my eyes up to
the roof they made bending over me I saw
how desperate they were,
because I was learning geometry, too, the pure
face of the roof’s surface
and the infinite line
it pointed to.

From GENERATION (Alice James Books, 1997)