Red Letter Poem #46

Steven Ratiner, Arlington’s Poet Laureate, is today’s guest blogger.

s e x, of course – the ever-present siren-song of our physicality, that’s one element.  Love, absolutely – our need for deep connection, in all its wildly-inventive incarnations.  And it involves the act of reaching out – embracing another’s loneliness; risking the surrender of all the artful barriers we’ve devised to safeguard our own.  But in the end, we’re won over, seduced by that dreamed-of possibility: we – ours – knowing – and home.

I’ve been thinking about art-making, and it seems to me it too is a kind of Valentine.  This is especially true of Sarah Bennett’s delightful poem, selected to celebrate the hearts-and-flowers holiday.  In fact, isn’t language itself a form of seduction, whispering its sweet nothings into our eager ears until we no longer resist and partner in its brief dance?  “Phasmids” comes from Sarah’s beguiling collection, The Fisher Cat (Dytiscid Press) in which her lyrics are, by turns, veiled or unexpectedly exposed, spurred by the poet’s nimble inventiveness.  She is (by her own description) a book designer, gardener, clarinet player, and appreciator of the natural world.  Way back in the 1980’s, before the current trend, she was selected as the Poet Laureate of Worcester, MA.  Out of nothing – signs, sounds – words construct an ephemeral something that feels as tangible as the chair we’re sitting in, the page beneath our fingertips.  In “Phasmids”, every element of the poem is designed to invite the mind’s participation – even that caesura (a pregnant pause?) between that quiet “unnoticed” and the startling “Show me…”.  Tell me: how can anyone resist this delightful will-you-be-mind?

Red Letter Poem #46: 

Red Letter 46

The Red Letter Poems Project was created in grateful partnership with many of our town’s cultural resources: the Arlington Commission for Arts and Culture, the Arlington Center for the Arts, the Robbins Library, the Arlington International Film Festival, and Arlington Community Education.  See the full archive of the project at  We’ll send out a poem from a new poet every week. If you enjoy them, we encourage you to forward them to friends –  in Arlington and beyond –  or to post them on your social media platforms with the hashtags: #RedLetterPoems, #ArlingtonPoetLaureate. If you want to make sure you receive these poems directly – or to receive notices about future poetry events – send an e-mail to: with the subject line ‘mailing list’.

In ancient Rome, feast days were indicated on the calendar by red letters.  To my mind, all poetry and art – and, in truth, even the COVID-19 crisis itself – serves as a reminder that every day we wake together beneath the sun is a red-letter day.

– Steven Ratiner

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