HOMELESS CHRONICLES from Abraham to Burning Man is a viscous kind of cerebral punk. Sarnat, new to poetry at the age of sixty-four, is no Beatle, not even a Rolling Stone. Akin more to a prolific Sid Vicious, the highly educated Sarnat has emerged from the medical world and “delivering care to the disenfranchised” with poems that span time and circumstance.
At his best Sarnat delivers a high-octane mix of history and imagery. In “Whimperbang: Yad Vashem Revisited,” Sarnat writes about touring Israel's official memorial to victims of the Holocaust. Opening with “Heine was right:/ when books burn, humans are destined to be next,” Sarnat's poem unfolds a series of visceral images. There are few if any songs of innocence between these pages, though lines like “I dreamt and redreamt a binary dream/ rooted in revenge and prayer for those up the smokestacks,” spin my head a bit and keep me tuned in to the final transition where Sarnat emerges into the present day with social commentary coming from his fellow tour companions: “The yeshiva bocker in side curls, skull cap, and black coat/ whose steps we've trailed these aching hours, / mutters something under his breath, what I take to mean, / “Enough. Let me out of here.”
From shape poems to poems that hint at spoken word to an epithalamium which takes place at Burning Man, there is nowhere Sarnat is not willing to go, and nothing he isn't willing to risk. And while this book is a bit X-rated, there are some nice easy PG poems in here as well, including a favorite called “Edward Hopper Foster Care,” about the revival of both plant and patient. By my reckoning of Sarnat's poetry, if this powerhouse doesn't knock you off your rocker, I'm not sure what ever would.