NEA Literature Fellowships

Sabrina Orah Mark

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(2007 - Poetry)

"The Saddest Gown in the World"

"I do not give anymore," said Walter B., "a fig about you."  "Are
you sure?"  asked Beatrice.  "Absolutely," said Walter B.  "Not a
fig?" asked Beatrice.  "Not a fig," said Walter B.  "Promise?"
asked Beatrice.  "Promise," said Walter B.  "When do you
suppose," asked Beatrice, "you will give about me a fig again?" 
Walter B. looked up at the sky.  "Probably not for many years,"
said Walter B.  "Oh," said Beatrice.  "Should I wait?"  "Of
course," said Walter B., "you should wait."  "I'd be very happy,"
said Beatrice, "if you joined me while I waited."  Walter B.
squeezed her hand.  "One day," said Walter B., "I will make for
you a sewing of all the figs I never gave about you."  And one
day Walter B. would.  He would sew all the figs together.  It
would not be easy, but he would do it.  If he could promise
Beatrice anything he could promise her this.  He would make for
Beatrice a perfect sewing of all the figs he never gave about her. 
She could wear it, thought Walter B., like a gown.  And
everyone would applaud.

Sabrina Orah Mark was raised in Brooklyn, and received a BA from Barnard College, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Letters and Commentary, American Poet, Black Clock, The Canary, Conduit, Denver Quarterly, Forklift, Ohio, Gulf Coast, The Indiana Review, Jubilat, Volt and other journals. Her poems also appear in Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century. She has received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Glenn Schaeffer Foundation. Her first book of poems, The Babies, won the 2004 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize (judged by Jane Miller), and was published by Saturnalia Books. She lives in Athens, Georgia, where she is working on her second book, Tsim Tsum.

Photo courtesy of the author

Author's Statement

I've been working on a book-length collection of prose poems called Tsim Tsum (a phase in Jewish Mysticism that asks that the moment of creation not be separated from the moment the creator departs for the creator's creation). The book circles around two characters, Walter B. and Beatrice, who, because they are harvested at the center of a Tsim Tsum, at a center where emanation and limitation share the same breath, they are always staged in a kind of exile. They are always a little lost, and a little bewildered. The gift of an NEA allows me to focus on Walter B. and Beatrice in ways none of us ever thought possible. The fellowship will allow me to finish and repair the (ruined) world I started for them. I am deeply grateful.