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Sarah Rose Nordgren reads from Darwin’s Mother

Mid-April at KGB I heard Sarah Rose Nordgren read from her new book, Darwin’s Mother, wonderful poems of structure and sound that are not always comfortable to listen to because something is alive and waiting on the page, words that try their hardest to be there at the essence of things where it all begins. Here for example are the last few lines from Cicada, a poem the poet reads on the Vimeo that lets us (or me anyway) really get to see a cicada’s wing:

We felt her above us like a mother
though she was only another
daughter. And then the next month
she stopped breathing and went
all dry and veiny like a wing.

In the flow of that, Mother, Nature, Beauty, Science, God, the sight of whom they say will kill us if we see it straight on, we see and love Nature and Beauty, but Beauty and Nature don’t love us back or see us unless, as sometimes happens, they want to eat us. These poems make me aware of that, and I know they might not be for every reader, those who are easily made afraid because the poems in Darwin’s Mother are as alluring as the tendril of a predatory plant. Watch out. Be careful. Be brave. But by all means read.

I hadn’t brought my camera to KGB, and wished I had so the next day I sent Sarah a Facebook message asking her to send me a selfie video of herself reading the Darwin poems so that I could put it on my blog. As it turned out, a friend of hers had recorded her, and Sarah sent that along to me. It isn’t just up to me; there are other people out there doing it; and all we need to do is share; that makes me optimistic, like these poems do, about what the world is coming to.

I’ve typed out two poems below from Darwin’s Mother that Sarah doesn’t read on the Vimeo for a better idea of what the books holds. Enjoy.


Behind my eye
a little door leads to a loose
copy of Earth

suspended in pink
liquid. Like bits of paper

brain tissues cling and fall apart
when you reach in
your finger.

On the wisps are
trees, animals, cars.

The version will last longer
than the real thing
but, still, not forever.

When putting it together
the maker should’ve planned
for what the ruins will look like
in the distant future—

a snowy globe
flurrying, but with stars
instead of snow.


Ready to absorb any insect
who lands on them, red hairs
arrange themselves on a long leaf.

The Sundews take shallow,
hovering breaths from their clear

globes along the windowsill
where I feed them
distilled water through a straw.

Tonight, you and I are here
in this dream kitchen. We’re trying

to boil tea for our dinner,
but trapped in the glass kettle,
an enormous fly bumps around
like a meaty fist.

You put your mouth over the steaming
spout and suck his body out,

holding him somewhat crushed—
his feet and wingtip poking from
your lips—but you don’t bite down.

So the kettle is clean. But now
if I want to kiss you (and I do),

this iridescence, dead
and black and shining—

Darwin’s Mother is published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. You can check them out here:


Sarah Rose Nordgren

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