Perfect weather for strange monsters.

Pink weather for strange monsters.

I’ve just returned from a tangent.

It started like this: mired into a world of my own creation on the page, moving characters around to suit my purpose, giving them something to say, or striking them mute as I see fit, it occurred to me that I could throw a catastrophe at them on the next page. Ha! My beloved characters have no idea what’s coming! They are going to buckle under the devastation. Oh, the ecstasy of destroying someone on the page!

And that’s when the strange sail appears at the horizon. Something I once knew coming back to me across the ocean of memory, a familiar phrase rising from behind the curvature of my own mind. Someone somewhere once referred to my kind as “strange monsters.”

Strange monsters. The moniker floats there at the edge of my planet, a brilliant distraction. Strange monsters, not an insult surely, but an honest affirmation. Where had the phrase come from? Who said it? Go chase it!

So I drop everything for the next hour to ransack my bookshelves and flip through every old anthology I suspect may hold the lexicon of strange monsters.

For all the strange monsters who no longer have the need or habit of explaining themselves to anybody.

Turns out strange monsters are from My Sister, O My Sister, a poem by May Sarton. I remember reading this almost 20 years ago and it knocked me out then. So I thought I would share it now, along with a recording of Sarton herself reading it aloud.

So here it is, for all the other strange monsters out there who’ve spent the past few days swimming around in the deep sea of self expression where households turn to filth and societal expectations have no hold. For all the other strange monsters who, when they look up from the flowing current of their handwritten scrawl see an on-shore world looking back at them with that uncomprehending stare.

For all the strange monsters who no longer have the need or habit of explaining themselves to anybody.


My Sisters, O My Sisters

Nous qui voulions poser, image ineffaçable
Comme un delta divin nortre main sur le sable*
-Anna de Noailles

Dorothy Wordsworth, dying, did not want to read,
“I am too busy with my own feelings,” she said.

And all women who have wanted to break out
Of the prison of consciousness to sing or shout

Are strange monsters who renounce the treasure
Of their silence for a curious devouring pleasure.

Dickinson, Rossetti, Sappho—they all know it,
Something is lost, strained, unforgiven in the poet.

She abdicates from life or like George Sand
Suffers from the mortality in an immortal hand,

Loves too much, spends a whole life to discover
She was born a good grandmother, not a good lover.

Too powerful for men: Madame de Stael. Too sensitive:
Madame de Sevigne who burdened where she meant to give.

Delicate as that burden was and so supremely lovely,
It was too heavy for her daughter, much too heavy.

Only when she built inward in a fearful isolation
Did any one succeed or learn to fuse emotion

With thought. Only when she renounced did Emily
Begin in the fierce lonely light to learn to be.

Only in the extremity of spirit and the flesh
And in renouncing passion did Sappho come to bless.

Only in the farewells or in old age does sanity
Shine through the crimson stains of their mortality.

And now we who are writing women and strange monsters
Still search our hearts to find the difficult answers,

Still hope that we may learn to lay our hands
More gently and more subtly on the burning sands.

To be through what we make more simply human,
To come to the deep place where poet becomes a woman,

Where nothing has to be renounced or given over
In the pure light that shines out from the lover,

In the pure light that brings forth fruit and flower
And that great sanity, that sun, the feminine power.

—May Sarton

*We who wanted to leave an ineffaceable image/Like a divine delta, our hand on the sand.—Anna-Elisabeth, comtesse de Noailles (1876-1933) French poet and novelist.

5 Comments on “For All the Strange Monsters

    • You’re welcome… This poem actually reminds me of you a lot! And I love the way she reads, so clear and full of purpose and with no trace of apology in her voice. Like you, when you’re reading poems to us!


  1. I love this posting. And it was such a pleasure to listen to May Sarton read her poem – thank you for that gift today! I also just took a moment to reread Packed – what a lovely ode to our days together, airports and underwear.


    • I still have visions of you getting off the plane in your leopard coat with your uke under your arm. That was a priceless moment! You are one of kind!


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