Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Primate Behavior

by Sarah Lindsay

“As a poet, Sarah Lindsay is fearless. Subjects others would find unpromising or intimidating she forms into poems of eerie, spectral beauty. Antarctic exploration, astronomical theory, the lungfish, the manatee, and the rotting orange–even Superman’s puberty!–all are transmuted from strange Idea into graceful Song. Primate Behavior is a must read.” –Fred Chappell

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 112
  • Publication Date April 01, 1998
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3557-5
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $11.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9675-0
  • US List Price $11.00

About The Book

Once in a generation a young poet arrives with such an unexpected and compelling vision that readers take notice right from the start. With Primate Behavior Sarah Lindsay makes just such a debut. Her exuberant, witty, and outrageous poems have already stunned and delighted the readers of some of America’s best magazines and journals.

Primate Behavior is the product of a wild and exhilarating imagination, ranging wide across an abundant imaginary landscape. Sarah Lindsay writes of space migration and the cave paintings of 35,000 B.C. Her poems speak from the perspective of an embalmed mummy and detail the adventures of nineteenth century explorers. Lindsay investigates the world as no one has yet had the daring and inspiration to do, reanimating history and folk legend and setting in motion curious new worlds that speak eccentrically, but unmistakably, to their own.

Primate Behavior is a remarkably sustained and self-assured performance. The Grove Press Poetry Series, which has brought the public both powerful retrospectives and the work of authors in mid-career, now introduces an exciting new poet, Sarah Lindsay.

Praise

“Sarah Lindsay’s molten imagination burns new channels for poetry. No lie.”—Kay Ryan

“As a poet, Sarah Lindsay is fearless. Subjects others would find unpromising or intimidating she forms into poems of eerie, spectral beauty. Antarctic exploration, astronomical theory, the lungfish, the manatee, and the rotting orange—even Superman’s puberty!—all are transmuted from strange Idea into graceful Song. Primate Behavior is a must read.” –Fred Chappell

Excerpt

By Luristan to Thule
Delirium was the last country she saw clearly.
Mounting its exotic, riven flanks
on the back of a patient fever,
she left with regret the land of her hosts–
divisions of snow, upended stone threaded with tracks
between the goatskin houses with goatskin beds–
then left too the regret.
For decades she’d taken pleasure in imposing
the first white profile (with its great spinster nose)
upon such places, barely named,
as lay a few days’ journey beyond fable,
uplands that bore no showy gold or ziggurat,
only the shallow marks of laboring generations,
the central campfires repeated deep in their eyes.
Past rocks tipped early out of the cradle of myth,
she finally became separated from her pack
with its twenty pencils, the notorious hat,
coins and aspirin, equally useless,
and yielded to discovery of one state
that lacks the primary luxuries: return,
and the safely delivered story.

So Were the Animals
In that time,
before the sun wore red and yellow feathers,
before the sky’s umbilicus parted,
the Machiguengas were people but so
were the animals, so were the plants,
so were the stars. Then Yabireri
breathed on this one and that
and made them toucans, cacao trees,
orchids, or giant otters.
Until Yabireri blew his breath
they were all people,
consuming granite, changing red light to sugar,
swallowing twelve-foot anacondas;
they were all people,
pushing each other’s eggs from the nest,
streaming white fire that travels after they die,
changing from male to female;
they were all people,
weaving houses of grasses and bright blue trash,
folding dewlaps away and turning from orange to brown,
lapping blood from the small wounds of sleepers,
rolling themselves in balls, eating hot sulfur;
they were all people.
Two stopped the spirit god
before he could change them all.
There were still people
to drink ayahuasca and rise to the spirits,
to knit barbs in wire and string it wide,
to write down endless numbers,
to look into fire and sing till their eyes hurt
and still sing, to dam rivers,
to slit the belly of a thirteen-year-old girl,
to tear a mountain open and let it rust,
to trace an eyebrow with a wondering thumb,
to make stories out of everything.
There were still people
Yabireri could not blow out.
He watched from where they left him,
impaled on a wooden stake
at the mouth of the sky.

Constantinople, Plague Summer
Wind out of the north today, with the stench
from the towers across the Horn, where the emperor’s men
have packed the dead. I danced for a man last night
with black peas all over his arms. When I placed my hands
on the floor, reaching over my head, he began to scream.
Spilled red fish sauce, I think, ran over the table.
I took all the food I could carry.
Those the plague passes over are starving.
I dreamt of ortolans in a pastry nest,
woke to another slave bolting to drown his fever.
They say plum pickle wards it off, or lemons;
they say God sends it. I think it’s part of the world
that strikes and spares and never gives us the pattern.
Tertia, our best, went first.
They say the emperor prays all day.
Some say he is dying. He’s sent for me, nonetheless.
No chin, like a rat, and his small hands are never still,
but if any wine is left in the city he’ll have it,
olives and figs to push between my breasts,
perhaps little birds in a pie with fruit in their beaks
or spitted with their eyes open.