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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, May 23, 2016.
About this Poem 

“I remember driving past my parents’ first house and recalling how humble it was—they were restless and their pleasure in the place didn’t last long—but I discovered, as I wrote the poem, I didn’t feel nostalgic about the house itself, now so changed. Rather the scent of the sea served as a trigger, flooding me with fleeting sense impressions. It turns out I wasn’t longing for the past but for a state of mind, the capacity to feel the full force of being alive. I hope the poem’s a tribute to the frailty and vitality of imagination and its power to transform us.”
—Ira Sadoff

A Few Surprising Turns

A few surprising turns follow us everywhere.
I was shopping for something to replace
what I once felt. Weren’t there buildings there
where we once lived, fully furnished
and looking out on the sea? Didn’t we distill
from neighbors the necessary codes
and gestures? At the core we were all traipse
and meander, governed by fill in the blank.
But it was here, the ramshackle Cape Cod
with rattling shutters eaten away
then revived, mended and painted over.
It takes just a scent of sea spray
to bring back the once was: skimpy,
the bikini, the beach, the conversation,
the veil of summer, skimpy the engine
that chugs toward love, skimpy the cover
of the universe. Thanks to this fragrance
we can sit under our favorite cedar,
or picture the old dreaded barber shop.
Now I want my hair touched, and my cheek.
I want the salt rubbed out with a handkerchief.

Copyright © 2016 by Ira Sadoff. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Ira Sadoff. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Ira Sadoff

Ira Sadoff

Ira Sadoff was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 7, 1945,

by this poet

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Once I could say
my loyal friend, the house wren.

I might even sing to him.
Did I not hear the beatific,

the breathlessness—
a patter shaking the tamarind pod,

the bright green feathery foliage
stammered by a breeze?

Those muttering implosions,
did nothing intend them?

Is the harp, too, obsolete?

2
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It is a Sunday afternoon on the Grand Canal. We are watching the sailboats trying to sail along without wind. Small rowboats are making their incisions on the water, only to have the wounds seal up again soon after they pass. In the background, smoke from the factories and smoke from the steamboats merges into tiny

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The rabbi doesn't say she was sly and peevish,
fragile and voracious, disheveled, voiceless and useless,
at the end of her very long rope. He never sat beside her
like a statue while radio voices called to her from God.
He doesn't say how she mamboed with her broom,
staggered, swayed, and sighed afternoons,
till