“On a scale from one to over-trusting I am pretty damn naive but I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily but don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.”
Sarah Kay is a warrior. If you could imagine a sun-beam in the shape of a Unicorn, that would be her. She’s everything right with this world. Kay’s poetry is a balm even on days when things are hunky-dory. This multi-talented lady is the co-director of Project Voice. She is a self-proclaimed “smoothie expert”, photographer, “mediocre driver”,and a writer. She’s the girl with big eyes, and an eternal zeal to take the world head on. She’s ever humble, and ever polite, making her poetry even more special. Kay is a way of life.
Here are 10 Sarah Kay quotes that will pull at your heartstrings:
1. If I Should Have A Daughter
“Baby,” I’ll tell her “don’t keep your nose up in the air like that, I know that trick, you’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him. Or else, find the boy who lit the fire in the first place to see if you can change him.”
The beauty of Sarah Kay is her ability to capture life in the simplest language. She isn’t a poet of big words, or concepts. She uses everyday imagery to explain our most intimate exchanges. The reason why this poem struck me, is the honesty of it. As a child, I ended up in ‘bad influence’ quite a lot. There were two probable reasons for it: 1) I am a poor judge of character; 2) I liked to believe that I could change people and bring them over to the brighter side. I willingly walked into the jaws of the lion, believing that I could tame it. Yes, I made mistakes. No, I do not regret them. It’s like Kay is speaking directly to me, when she says: “But I know that she will anyway, so instead I’ll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boats nearby, ‘cause there is no heartbreak that chocolate can’t fix.” To all the people smelling for fire, you are not alone. Walk into the smoke, embrace the scared little boy, try to help him paint rainbows. But if you fail, don’t be disheartened. The light in you is what makes the sun shine brighter. Don’t let it die.
“Still now, I send letters into space.
Hoping that some mailman somewhere will track you down and recognize you from the descriptions in my poems.
That he will place the stack of them in your hands and tell you
“There is a girl who still writes you. She doesn’t know how not to.”
Heartbreak is strange. In the sense that irrespective of how you share it, the memory is still intimate. It’s like every heart breaks with a different sound. So many faces, and possibilities emerge from the furniture, whenever I read this poem. I remember dating somebody before WhatsApp was popular. When we broke up, I’d send a text message everyday, for months, hoping, against all hope, that they were seeing them, albeit reading them in silence. I just wanted to be heard, for them to know that I’m still here. I’m still listening. This is still ‘home’. Sometimes I’d write them emails, which I know they never checked. Maybe one day, when we’re old, they’ll stumble upon a stack of emails, in a long abandoned account, and it would still smell of home.
3. The Type
“If you grow up the type of woman men want to touch,
You can let them touch you.
Sometimes, it is not you they are reaching for.
Sometimes it is a bottle, a door, a sandwich, a Pulitzer — another woman.
But their hands found you first.
Do not mistake yourself for a guardian or a muse or a promise or a victim or a snack.
You are a woman — skin and bones, veins and nerves, hair and sweat.
You are not made out of metaphors, not apologies, not excuses.”
This poem is a feminist masterpiece. It excels in what feminists today often forget to do: support the choices of women irrespective of the quality of it. If she wants to be a housewife, let her. If she wants to run a business, she mighty well can! It isn’t the quality of life-choices that make one liberated so much as the ability to make any kind of choice without being judged. You can be any ‘type’ of woman you want to. This poem speaks against labels, and most importantly, sympathizes with those conforming to them.
Another emphatic point of this piece is how it humanizes the character of a woman. We are more than a muse, a portrait, an arm-candy, a trophy partner, or your average wet dream. Women are not commodities with shopping labels. No, my cheeks don’t have to be pink, or my hips curvy, or my skin waxed. Stereotypes don’t make me a woman, my XY chromosomes do. Sometimes, even heroes need a break.
“People used to tell me that I had beautiful hands. Told me so often in fact that one day I started to believe them, until I asked my photographer father, ‘Hey daddy, could I be a hand model?’ To which he said ‘No way!’. I don’t remember the reason he gave me, and I would’ve been upset but there were far too many stuffed animals to hold, too many homework assignments to write, too many boys to wave at to, many years to grow.”
Kay tells a story through one single body part. This particular quote captures the essence of childhood very beautifully. The only guns I knew were ones I’d shoot water out of during Holi. Nothing mattered more to me than paper money and make shift food items. Sarah Kay maps the entire process of growing up in: “Kids high-five, but grown ups shake hands.” The poem also speaks about our developed consciousness: “But hands are not about politics. When did it become so complicated?” The poetess poignantly portrays the innocence that we’ve grudgingly left behind us.
5. Love Letter From A Toothbrush To A Bicycle Tyre
“I know about your rough edges
And I have seen your perfect curves
If loving you means getting dirty
Bring on the grime
I will leave this porcelain home behind
I’m used to twice a day relationships
But with you, I’ll take all the time”
When I first heard about this poem, I fell in love with Sarah’s brain all over again. Not only does she write beautifully, this magic-beam of a human being also experiments in perspective. I mean, who would have thought a toothbrush could ever fall in love with a bicycle tire? But here we are, reading their love story. I think it only goes to prove that improbability is what love thrives on. Take for example any classic romance: conflict is key. This poem also talks about the imperfections in your muse. Perfection is a myth (unless you’re talking about the marriage of Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka). Love may be idealistic, but the lovers can never be. It’s inhuman to be flawless! We carry the sun and moon within us, and one day we’ll find somebody whose craters fit right into ours.
“When I meet you, in that moment, I’m no longer a part of your future.
I start quickly becoming part of your past.
But in that instant,
I get to share your present.
And you, you get to share mine.
And that is the greatest present of all.
So if you tell me I can do the impossible,
I’ll probably laugh at you.
I don’t know if I can change the world yet,
because I don’t know that much about it — and I don’t know that much about reincarnation either,
but if you make me laugh hard enough,
sometimes I forget what century I’m in.
This isn’t my first time here.
This isn’t my last time here.
These aren’t the last words I’ll share.
But just in case,
I’m trying my hardest to get it right this time around.”
This happens to be my favorite of Sarah Kay quotes because of the hope that it embodies. Hiroshima is one of the most poignant pieces of Sarah Kay. Not only does she speak about reincarnation, but also the first-hand experience of a victim: “But in Hiroshima, some people were wiped clean away, / leaving only a wristwatch or a diary page. / So no matter that I have inhibitions to fill all my pockets, / I keep trying, hoping that one day I’ll write a poem I can be proud to let sit in a museum exhibit as the only proof I existed.” Kay embodies every human beings eternal fight against oblivion, and the search for a purpose.
7. Private Parts
“Some nights, I wake up knowing he is anxious.
He is across the world in another woman’s arms and years
have spread us apart like dandelion seeds, sanding
down the edges of our jigsaw pieces that used to
only fit each other.”
Some memories never go away. How do you blend into another human being and not carry them within you long after you have ceased to be a compound? You might be miles away from each other, happy in your own bright worlds. But once in a while, when it gets too cold, you’ll lie under the covers wondering if they’re doing the same. Truth is, you never really forget anybody. Equations change, and so do people. And God forbid, if you’re in love, the memories last forever.
8. For Franny
“You love each other until the city becomes beautiful.
Until the gutter becomes a monument to the time you
needed menthols, in the pouring rain, in the summertime,
in the middle of the night. Until the street lamps lighting
the way to sundown become constellations guiding you home.”
Have you ever been so deeply in love that the city begun singing to you? Your lover tends to leave parts of themselves tucked into places around you. A food van where you got your first hotdogs together, an ice cream parlor where you had the worst brain-freeze ever, a book store where you secretly learnt their favorite genre, so forth. Every city is budding with a thousand stories, all beating on a different pulse.
9. Dreaming Boy
“In most of the dreams I remember from childhood, I am a boy. Rescuing a maiden from a tower, or not rescuing anyone in particular, but definitely a boy. For years, when the only language I had were the scraps tossed from the popular kids’ table, “lesbian” seemed as likely an explanation as anything. What does it mean to dream myself a gender? What does it mean to hold that secret beneath my tongue?”
This poem sent shivers down my spine. It baffles me how somebody could speak about gender ambiguity, and the isolation that ensues, and still make it sound beautiful. Kay explores the subject like nobody else, slashing gender binaries to bits. Not only does she empathize with the conflict, but also does a fantastic job in holding it up in front of her audience. Gender was never an air tight container, and I’m overjoyed that my favorite poet believes in that too.
10. Ghost Ship
“No matter your wreckage.
There will be someone to find you beautiful,
despite the cruddy metal. Your ruin is not to be hidden
behind paint and canvas. Let them see the cracks.
Someone will come to sing into these empty spaces.”
Kay is a beacon of light. You are greater than what happened to you. You will always be. There isn’t a single act, or disaster that can define you. Your cracks will fill with gold. You’re on your way to becoming a masterpiece.
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I could fill the world with Sarah Kay quotes, if given the chance. Most of these poems have Spoken Word recordings available on YouTube. The way she reads her poetry makes me want to curl up into a ball and make kitten noises. Everything about her calms me down. You could count this as a prediction: one day, Sarah Kay is going to save the world.
“You will put the “wind” in win some lose some, you will put the “star” in starting over and over, and no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute, be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.”