NEA Literature Fellowships

Sara Gelston

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(2015 - Poetry)

The Curtain Rises

and the mother is dead. The curtain rises
and the mother is crying over her grown child.
A drama we wait to understand. The scenery
is beautiful and we know this is enough.
The scenery is a house, a field, and we know
nothing is behind it.  There is water boiling
on the stove. It boils and we know this
is an easy way to say everything is always
at the point of becoming something else.
A volatile scene. A delicate one. The curtain rises
and the grown child is trying to be a man.
We know this because he is running up
a hill and cannot breathe. He is moments
from boiling over and we know this from the music.
It is a rising and the notes are deep. It is a score
with no words but we know they would be
I love you and belong nowhere. I am becoming something else
and do not know how to stop. A drama we wait to understand.
The curtain rises on the mother the mother it is always
about the mother. She is becoming something else.
We know this because she is cutting her hair
and this always means I could not change what happened.
The grown child is dead beneath a tree. We know
it is hollow. The boiled water is gone and the mother
is crying. We know this is the end because the music
tells us I am ending. I am ending. Soon I will have ended.

(Appeared in Third Coast)

Sara Gelston was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Maine. She received her MFA from the University of Illinois and was the 2012-13 Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and a 2013-14 Writing Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her recent work appears in Ploughshares, Best New Poets, Versal, Colorado Review, Hobart, Third Coast, and elsewhere.

Photo by Max Somers

Author's Statement

It's hard to predict the tangible results of this incredible award. It's part of what makes it so thrilling. What I can predict: the unknown. The unknown poem or car repair or opportunity that will, for this coming year, be easier to embrace.

I'm incredibly grateful to the NEA and specifically this panel of judges for awarding me this fellowship, particularly at this early stage in my career. Its significance is massive. It serves as an acknowledgment to continue doing what I'm doing, to keep moving, and to continue work on my first collection. Put plainly, this award allows for chance. For a life a little freer from daily concerns, a little more open to conversations, to travel, to those things that shape poems. I could not have guessed I would be included in such a group, a history. This is worth something, too: utter surprise. I hope my work from here forward does justice to that sentiment.