NO MATTER THE WRECKAGE
BY SARAH KAY
Sarah Kay’s poetry is a paint-filled water balloon bursting in slow motion, eliciting the joy of youth, passion suspended in time, and complicated sorrow. Three poems deeps into “No Matter the Wreckage,” I was an unabashed wreck. Kay highlights her poetry with nostalgic daydreams, themes of growing up and apart, and learning to feel comfortable in your own skin. Kay helps you feel understood. I easily tore through her collection within hours, heaved a deep sigh, and was inspired to write for myself.
Kay divides the collection into nine sections, each separated by an assortment of nine thumbnail sketches by illustrator Sophia Janowitz. These sketches play with the ordinary and extraordinary; simple and complex subjects foreshadow the poems to come. Janowitz gives you a taste before Kay entices you to turn the page.
Her first poem, “Love Poem #137” wets your palate for a delectable collection. Kay writes about the reality of falling in love and the mundane, comfortable, and joyful ways two lives intersect. She writes: “I talk through movies. Even ones I have never seen. I will love you with too many commas, but never any asterisks.” Like a tightrope walker, Kay interweaves a deep expression of love with honest depictions of love made flesh; flesh which makes mistakes, soars, dips, and inspires.
Kay writes searingly about the struggles accompanying love and longing for someone not yet ready to surrender themselves all that love has to offer. In “The Toothbrush and the Bicycle Tire,” Kay writes: “I will fit into whatever space you let me. If loving you means getting dirty, bring on the grime. I will leave this porcelain home behind. I’m used to twice-a-day relationships, but with you I’ll take all the time.” The reminder of bending yourself as an homage to the one you love, hit me square in the chest. I’ll admit, this was the poem that made me cry, the first time.
If you’ve ever dated an artist, “The First Poem in the Imaginary Book,” will likely shake you. Kay writes about the search to find your imprint on a lover’s work, revealing that your presence in their life was significant. That same longing is echoed in her piece, “Postcards” as she writes: “I send letters into space, hoping that some mailman somewhere will track you down and recognize you from the descriptions in my poems; he will place the stack of them in your hands and tell you, there is a girl who still writes to you. She doesn’t know how not to.”
Kay also plays with sibling dynamics and finding your bearings in the world. In “Brother,” Kay writes: “you are my favorite stick of dynamite. You are the opposite of a rubber band. There are so many things I would tell you if I thought you would listen and so many more you would tell me if you believed I would understand.” Kay writes about the qualities which separate her from her brother, artfully reflecting to the reader her view of herself. In “Forest Fire,” Kay juggles the emotions of grief, lineage, suffering, and transition in a powerful description of her grandmother’s journey near life’s end. For readers having experienced familial grief, Kay’s writing may serve as a flashback to our own sorrow.
Similarly, Kay has mastered is the art of growing into whom your meant to be. Who can’t relate to that? Kay captures joy and releases it for the reader, reminding them that mistakes can be triumphs in “Accidents.” Kay writes: “once there was a laundry accident. Now everything I own looks like a Funfetti cake. Once there was a microwave accident. It melted my shoulders into old crayon tops. Now I have stopped counting the accidents. So they don’t count as accidents. Now they are just decisions.”
One of Kay’s last poems in her collection, “The Type,” evokes a yearning to finally settle into your place in the world and urges you to make the leap to forgive yourself for not being wiser, better, or kinder. Kay writes, “forgive yourself for all the decisions you have made, the ones you can still call mistakes when you tuck them in at night. And know this. Know you are the type of woman who is looking for a place to call yours.”
Kay’s collection, “No Matter the Wreckage” is contemplative, honest, raw, and heartwarming. I hope it stirs something inside of you to write, reflect, make love, and forgive yourself. We don’t need permission to take these journeys, but Kay is a comforting partner. After all, she’s taken the journey before and knows the paths like the back of her hand.