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Sarah Kay reads Laura Lamb Brown-Lavoie's poem, "On This the 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic, We Reconsider the Buoyancy of the Human Heart"

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Hi.  I'm Sarah Kay and this is "On This The 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic We Reconsider the Bouyancy of the Human Heart" by Laura Lamb Brown-Lavoie.  This is one of my favorite poems of all time.  I think about it constantly.  I revisit it several times a year.  It makes me cry and also gives me hope.

On This The 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic, We Reconsider the Bouyancy of the Human Heart by Laura Lamb Brown-Lavoie

What's wrong?  Titanic asked me this morning,
  when she found me lying on the ocean floor
  with all my suitcases strewn open.

Oh, I dunno, I moaned.  I was looking through
  National Geographic & saw some pictures of
  you, & thought I might come have a chat.
  You looked great, by the way, in the pictures.

Me?  No.  Titanic smiled.  If anything I seem to
  have become a Picasso.  & I have a beard.

It was true; she looked more like a collage of a 
  ship.  Strangely two-dimensional, in a crater
  of her own making.  French doors, boilers,
  railings every which way.  & she did have
  a bit of a beard--rust icicles hanging in
  red strands from her iron engines.
Sitting up in my own little crater, I sort of blushed.

To be honest, I told Titanic, My honey's leaving
  town soon & I'm afraid it's gonna wreck
  me, so I dove down here.

Well come on in, Titanic said, but I'm not 
  sure I've got what you're looking for.

So in I climbed, through a window between
  two rust stalactites, & began to pace her
  great promenade. (Which should have 
  been awesome, by the way, walking by
  the ghosts of all those waving handkerchiefs
  --except that I was in that feeling-sorry-
  for-yourself state where every hallway
  is the hallway of your own wretched mind,
  every ghost your own ghost, so I didn't 
  take a good look around.)

When I got to the Turkish baths, I sat 
  on the edge of a barnacled tub & 
  watched weird crabs scrabble at my 

I was hoping you'd teach me how to sink,
  I said.  You who have spent a century
     underwater with 1500 skeletons in your
I don't know, said Titanic, I'm kind of
  a wreck.

Exactly!  I said.  Me too!  I'm here to
  apprentice myself to wreckage.  I'm here
  to apprentice myself to you!  Great bearded
  lady, gargantuan ark, you floating hotel.
  With enough ballrooms in you to dance with 
  everyone I've ever loved.

My heart has an iceberg with its name on it, 
  I told Titanic, so I need your advice.
  Tell me, did you see the iceberg coming?  

I did, Titanic said.  

And you sailed right into it?

It was love, Titanic said.  

& the band just kept playing?  & the captain
  stayed at the wheel?  What did it feel 
  like to swallow seawater?  Tell me, Titanic,
  how did it feel?  
It felt like a hole in my side & then it 
  felt like plummeting face first into the
  ice-cold ocean.

She's a straight-talker, the Titanic.

Alright, I said.  Now let's talk about rust.
  When my love leaves, I'm planning to 
  weep stalactites from my chin.  I will
  wear my sadness in long strands.  
  Like you, I will be bearded by it.  

Then I made a terrible noise. 
   Eeeeeeeeeeeerrrkkkk!  I've been
   practicing the sound of wrenching metal,
   I told her, for when my love leaves.

But you aren't made of metal, Titanic said
  to me.  

I'm a writer, I said, I can be made of

Well then, be a writer.  She said.

Be a writer?  I paused, anemones between
  my toes.  Okay.  When my love leaves
  I will start with SOS.  I will Morse
  code odes as the whole world goes
  vertical.  I will write nosedives 
  as my torso splits in two.  

And the next day I will write the stunned
  headlines, & the next day I will
  write the obituaries, & the next day
  I will write furious accusations, &
  the next day I will write lawsuits, 
  & the next day I will write 
  confessions of wrongdoing & the next
  day I will write pardons, but I won't
  really mean it, & the next day I 
  will write sonnets, but they won't fit
  the schema, & the next day I will
  write please, please, please come back.
  The next day I will write epitaphs, 
  navigation maps, warning for future
  generations about the hubris of 
  human love.  I will write quotas &
  queries & quizzes, I will write nonsense,
  I will write nonsense all the way down
  & no diving teams will find me, no robot
  arms will retrieve me in pieces, never will
  I be reassembled in plain air.  No, I will
  remain whole, two miles down, with my
  suitcases strewn open, & in a 100 years I 
  will still be writing about this feeling,
  though my heart be a Picasso, though
  my heart be bearded at the bottom of the 

The Titanic let me cry for a while, my sobs
   echoing off her moldy mosaics.

Then she said: Girl, you're too young for a
   beard like this.  You're never gonna get
   some if you rust over now.  

I sniffled a little & scratched my name into 
   the green slime of the tub.  

The trouble with you humans is that you are
   so concerned with staying afloat.  Go ahead,
   be gouged open by love.  Gulp that seawater,
   sink beneath the waves.  You're not  
   a boat, you can go under & come up
  again, with those big old lungs of
   yours, those hard kicking legs

And your heart, she said, that gargantuan
   ark, that floating hotel.  Call it 
   Unsinkable, though it is sinkable.
   Embark, embark.

There are enough ballrooms in you to dance
   with everyone you'll ever love.

That's what the Titanic told me this
   morning, me, lying next to her on the 
   ocean floor.  

There are enough ballrooms in you.