Monday, May 21, 2012

Thamel Boys

This is an excerpt from an essay I wrote this semester called "Maila Pani." This thread is about my trip to Nepal last summer.

The sprawling city of Kathmandu looks different from the ground, in the jagged, zigzag streets and alleyways, sharp turns and corners illuminated by clouds of dust cast into the air by rickshaws and old women selling corn.
Taxi? Taxi?” 
This is what I hear as I walk back to the guest house in Thamel, the taxi driver leaning out anxiously and hitting the side of his cab. I shake my head, keep walking. We’ve learned to walk most everywhere, our farthest destination usually being Ratna Park. Otherwise, unless we venture the distance to Pashupati, we are here, in Thamel.
Thamel’s streets are slightly wider than those we cut through to go to Ratna Park, paved to accommodate pedestrians and taxi drivers delivering tourists to their guest houses. These streets are familiar, the three of us tracing our steps exactly as we walk underneath the dozens of brightly colored signs advertising restaurants, coffee shops, and shisha lounges toward a small intersection up the road where Krishna will be waiting.
Chris!” Krishna has a high raspy voice that matches his boyish smile. The rest of him is far from boyish, from the dozens of cuts lining his arms like rows of corn, to the cigarette hanging limp from his scarred, dirty hands. This is the boy Chris came back for, who stole his heart last summer when he came to Nepal for the first time. Kevin and I returned with him expecting to find different reasons for being here, but we too found our hearts connected to this street corner, and we have been here every day since. I’ve never known whether to describe Chris and Krishna as brothers, friends, or something else entirely. At times Chris’ love for Krishna is like a father’s gentle concern, at others like a dear, old friend. Chris embraces Krishna and walks with him a little ways down the road, the two friends locked in silent conversation as they go.
Ashish is at his best right now, not to be disturbed as he approaches unsuspecting tourists, asking for money. When he’s rejected by one couple he nevertheless follows them down the road, winking at Kevin and me as he passes where we’re sitting on the curb. We’ve dubbed Ashish the most dedicated street kid, foregoing shoes in order to gain sympathy even though he’s higher up in the ranks of street boys. Anil is his only superior, the leader of the group. He’s the one who sat us down and sang worship songs the first night we were here, a routine he learned from missionaries and evangelists that he now uses to get drug money.
I’m assessing the street, looking to see if little Ramesh is working today, but he doesn’t seem to be here. He usually takes a break from begging when I’m around to lay his head on my lap and rest, occasionally trying to give me a kiss. Vijay is here, glue-bag in hand, arguing with Sunil on the corner opposite us. Vijay is my favorite, a 17-year-old boy with a deep love for attention and the unfortunate commission of doing the most degrading tasks necessary for the group’s survival. This is due to his most striking feature, a series of disfiguring scars that cover parts of his body and face, making him the most vulnerable in the group, and the one with the most to prove. He comes over and gives me a gentle hug, patting me characteristically on the back.
“Hello, Shara.” He lifts my water from its place on the sidewalk and pretends to sneak away with it, mischief playing at the corners of his mouth. “Vi-jay,” I say, prompting a sudden burst of laughter from Vijay, who returns my water and sits down between Kevin and me.
“Look, Vijay,” I say, pointing to my side satchel where I’ve sewn a beaded bracelet that he gave me last week. “SUMAN,” says the bracelet. I don’t know who Suman is, and I’m sure Vijay doesn’t either, but he beams with joy when I show him where I’ve placed his gift. “Sing, sing!” he says, and we break into a chorus of “Baby” by Justin Bieber. Vijay calls Chris over to “do the rap” and Chris complies, inserting Vijay’s name into the song and causing Vijay to burst into fits of giggling as we sing “Vijay, Vijay, Vijay, ohhh...”
Kev is scanning the streets for our friend Simone, a younger street boy who only occasionally shows up in Thamel. Whenever we see him his face lights up, eyes zeroing in on Kevin before he leaps into his arms, laughing. Chris and I watch as Simone clasps his hands around Kevin’s unshaven face, now broken into a wide smile.

I'm going back to these wonderful people in December! To find out more:

Monday, April 23, 2012


I move my body unnaturally at the edges of your being,
writhing in response to your movements
and away.
I watch, hawklike, for a sign of approval
that rarely comes.
Like a dog that hasn’t learned to find food on its own,
I wait outside your house until the meager nourishment comes,
Devouring it,
and wait again.
I have got to be alone with myself,
I have got to escape your unfocused eyes!
I didn’t want to make you like this,
But it was done long ago.
You were a god before I was born—
unwittingly the center of my incapable mind—
but ultimately
I tear, rip, and break at the seams where independence meets identity,
a lover unrequited,
and it would be strange to see you do the same.
I pull at my silk chains but all they do is give me paper cuts.
I have got to be alone with myself,
have got to escape your kind, powerful eyes,
Your benevolent gaze.

-Sarah Sanders, '12

Thursday, January 26, 2012

leave the light on

“Mama, what happens when we die?
Do we disappear into darkness,
like my hand does when the sun drops behind the mountains?
Do we evaporate like mist, gently lighting on the ground where we fell?
Or do we stop existing?”
“Mama, close the door, but not
all the way. Leave a light that I can run to when the darkness tries to take me.
Turn on a little TV, so I know you’re still out there.
Leave me now, but don’t go too far.”
When the sun goes down, is the whole universe dark?
Will I be able to see when I die?
Or will I be blind, deaf, and dumb?
Entombed forever in the knowledge of my own nonexistence,
Hold my hand while I sleep so that I don’t drift away.
I don’t like waking up alone.
The chill in the room wraps around my bones and strangles me with its persistent nothingness,
Its persistent nooneness.
Empty of Someone,
It is filled with ghosts and ghouls that could chase me off this bed and into something
called Hell.
Fill my ears with sound so that nothing else can get in.
Don’t let me think on this empty space anymore, 
Don’t let me die!
For that awful Figure will come to claim this life one day, Mama, keep him at bay.
“Baby, when you were born we all stood waiting,
wanting to welcome you home.
When you came, you were crying.
But when I held you, you were safe and warm.
That’s what happens when we die.
Everyone will be waiting for you to wake up,
And when you do,
You’ll never be alone again.”

-Sarah Sanders, '12

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cimmerian Shade

I’ve been in this Cimmerian shade too long
My heart of stone cries out for daylight’s heat
I pick the pieces up and carry on
It’s hard to say how long I have been gone
My muscles ache as I take to my feet
I’ve been in this Cimmerian shade too long
My joints are stiff where once they had been strong
They’re painful but they are not obsolete
I pick the pieces up and carry on
Before the dusk was gone I had withdrawn
Unable with this darkness to compete
I’ve been in this Cimmerian shade too long
I ache to find a cure for what is wrong
A source of light the darkness can’t deplete
I pick the pieces up and carry on
Perhaps if I can wait there’ll be a dawn
I shake the godlike guilt from my conceit
I’ve been in this Cimmerian shade too long
I pick the pieces up and carry on

-Sarah Sanders, '11

Monday, November 7, 2011


My feet have kept on walking though my body has gone dead
My limbs fall limp beside me, I cannot hold up my head
The sun beats down upon me, the mirage it makes is clear
It’s burning in my eyes and it is ringing in my ears
This path that I have tread, I can’t recall what it is named
I don’t know how I got here, I’ve forgotten why I came
My ankles long since broken, a disfigured silhouette
I walk toward the horizon and I stain the soil red
The earth cries out for water as the dust flees from the sun
It floats into my ears and looks for life, but there is none
Each step I take is muffled, and I think your voice is near
But my thoughts are screaming at me, and they’re all that I can hear
The movement automatic, I cannot seem to slow down
My footsteps have turned frantic, struggling to turn back around
I’m suddenly aware that I’ve been walking for too long
But I have long since lost the strength to say My strength is gone
I desperately remember what it’s like to see your face
I pray you’re up ahead somewhere, my feet pick up the pace
My breathing has gone heavy, and my body has gone dry
As despair dispels my energy, I cannot even cry

As consciousness creeps in, I find I’m standing very still
I think I could cry out now, but I don’t know if I will
I don’t know where I am, but I’ve a feeling I’m alone
So I sit and pray you’ll find me and you’ll carry me back home

-Sarah Sanders, '11

Friday, October 21, 2011

I Am Aware of the Darkness I Sit In.

I am standing,
face to face.
with a bright shining sun and a brilliant gleaming moon,
and your eyes, which make me uncomfortable with their kindness and warmth.
I don’t believe you.
My hands are drawn to you, grasping for your touch,
but my eyes want to turn away, shut tight for fear of seeing you cringe.
I feel your warmth radiate.
I hear your voice, full of friendship and love.
but I am illegitimate.
If I am looking into your face, I can feel myself come undone beneath the danger of loving you.
I am aware of the threat,
the terrorism that may pull me apart at any second
if I let these walls down and bare my soul.
the violence that will unfold if my passion is reciprocated,
the unfathomable destruction that will consume both of our lives
if we fall in love.
And I am aware of the darkness I sit in.
And I do not want to be its friend.
And I do not want you to leave me there.
and so I pray for violence,
and a burning light so bright I cannot help but reach out and touch it,
and be burned
and feel again

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Honor of National Coming Out Day 2011

This summer I found out that one of my best friends is gay. If I had ever imagined this scenario, I would have pictured him sitting me down, perhaps over coffee, and breaking the news privately. Perhaps he would have cried, or trembled while relating to me the grueling and terrifying experience of accepting his sexual identity in a conservative Christian environment. Perhaps he would have rehearsed what he was going to say, or maybe he would have no words at all except something to the effect of “This is who I am, and I can’t possibly hide it any longer.” In either case, I would have been sure to hear it straight from my friend himself.

Instead, I learned of my friend’s sexual orientation through a Facebook status. There were no tears or private, vaguely suspicious meetings. Just a Facebook blast after he had come out privately to friends and family... But not to me. And I know why.

At first, I was tempted to take the omission personally. But when he said he was terrified I would be upset if he told me, I realized that my membership in a particular group was what made our never-realized meeting so impossible. I remembered another close friend from high school, who had moved out of the state, avoiding me when she visited home because she had come out as a lesbian, and no matter how close our friendship had been, I was still a Christian. 

I once heard someone say that if the Church were to keep silent—completely silent— for the next fifty years on the issue of homosexuality, the world would still know our general stance. We have beat the issue into the ground, and into the heads and hearts of countless people in our pulpits. We have plastered our opinions on billboards, and t-shirts, and picket signs.  We’ve been at times painfully intentional in turning our backs, and closing the circle of our communities with tightly clenched fists, keeping out those who violate what seems to be our number one rule. We have made quite sure that any moral, religious, philosophical, or logic-driven arguments Christians may have against homosexuality will never be forgotten. And the goal has been reached. We’ve done what we set out to do. The rejection felt by those in the LGBT community from the Church I am sure will never, ever be forgotten.

It didn’t matter that I had never voiced a negative opinion about homosexuality to my friend. I hadn’t used Scripture to justify hate or prejudice, and I had definitely never made a picket sign that says “Fags go to hell.” If I had never so much as even mentioned the issue, it still would not have mattered, because I am part of a group that is seen by those in my community and across the country as uncompromisingly against homosexuals. No more of this “Hate the sin, love the sinner” crap. Our actions and attitudes have historically communicated nothing short of hate toward the LGBT community, and that is something we need to be honest about. I wish that it was enough to simply stay quiet and try not to say anything “offensive.” But in order to make our friends and family feel welcomed in our churches, we must do much more than that. Our hospitality toward the LGBT community requires communion and solidarity.

I am an ally of the LGBT community because I don’t want another person to stay silent because of me. I am an ally because hate has driven our friends, brothers, sisters, and children away from us. I am an ally because Jesus Christ has welcomed me, and I believe the Church can love better than this. I am an ally because of my friend.
-Sarah Sanders '11