Sarah's Poetry

The purpose of this blog is for some understanding that as I began my transition for all purposes, I had to reconcile some emotions that had been following me since my years in Vietnam. This small group of poetry began with "A Soldier's Time", an emotional catharsis starting in 1968 after I returned to the United States.

These poems emerged at the same time of Sarah's appearance.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Escaping the Gray Veil which Hides


Searching the racks takes time, selecting the right dress.

Color combinations with style, feeling the cloth and stitch.

Looking for dresses to hide what shouldn’t be there,

You select several to try on, one too small one too large

You look at several, wondering how they will fit,

Too long, too short, up to the neck, or reveals the chest.

Waist too wide or none at all, to cover arms, to show all.

Some that button in front, others in the back

Which to take to the room and which to leave on the rack.

You reject more than you select to carry to the room.

The others ladies look at you but do not stare.

You can only imagine what they must be thinking

To watch you search the racks for glorious dresses.

The owner shows interest, helps with selections,

Giving suggestions for styles and size.

Then leads you to that magic place

Where you only dream of becoming butterflies.

You watch reactions from other shoppers

As they see the butterfly emerge from her cocoon

With her selection of colors in dresses.

As she takes flight from the gray of her inner room.

I noticed that I did not date this poem as I have dated others, but believe it to be written sometime on the spring of 2003. Finding color is not hard when one roams the many racks of dress. Cloths embolden with large flowers, colorful prints, wonderful splashes of styles, shapes of design to give greatest visual pleasures of color.

I believe that I needed strong, brilliant colors found in the dresses I chose to overcome the drab and grays of men's clothing that I wore every day. Oh there are men's shirts with color, don't get me wrong, like all the Hawaiian print and motifs, but they were not the same or even could transport me to another world like the colors found with women's clothing. Colorful dresses which I would use to light up my soul and gain moments of strength, dressed as I knew I would live one day. As Sarah, like all things bright and beautiful.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reflections of the Feminine Mind and Body


who’s reflection do I see?

as I stand before this mirror

the image tis both clear and real, it cannot be me.

my mind’s own eye hast its own image clear

dressed and colored with prejudice free

who’s reflections do you see?

who’s reflections do I see?

this mirror cannot lie,

but shows a face full in imperfections

masked with colors sharp and clean

on skin with soft and subtle lines of age.

mine own vision, an aging beauty be.

who’s reflections do you see?

who’s reflections do I see?

the mirror sees only outside, not what’s within.

her time before the mirror is short, her pain hidden well

until others gladly welcomes the person she sees

her joy to share with all, her true reflections

only then can mirrors see the image she knows

is hidden until her true self is who you see?


What does it take to create illusions?

What part of you, do you chose to hide,

To show your other side.

Not to be ugly or fake.

Discover how hard you must strive

To let the inner beauty shine, flaws be faint

With flawless color and paint.

What does it take to create illusions?

The feminine figure is beauty and grace.

Foundations for body and face,

Spandex, satin and lace.

Powders, blushes, lipsticks and creams,

Meticulously applied it seems

To create the someone of your dreams.

What does it take to create illusions?

Are we trying to hide from someone,

Or is it just me this other persona,

From where does she come;

Is she conjured from deep

Within our very souls?

Does she survive just beneath the surface

Waiting for colors with which to contrast

With the drab fabrics

Of the visible shells of ourselves.

My other blog has a picture taken standing at the shore of Walden's Pond near Waltham, Mass. On this particular day, there was no wind to speak of to disturb the waters showing a strong reflections of the tree line. The mirror can be our friend sometimes to let us check our makeup and reflects the view as we stand admiring ourselves. It can also be something that we prefer not to use as it also reflects those small pieces of our former selves that we are so desperately trying to erase.

Mirrors do not lie, is it regretfully they reflect the true image of the person that stands before them, or do we recognize the joy of the person we are to become. We must learn to see our true selves, just as the still waters of Walden's Pond reflect that which rings the edge, we must show others what they want to see and think they see, as we mingle in the crowds. Only when we adorn ourselves with the trappings of feminine garments and paints can we escape from beneath the surface of the mirror.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


One simple embracing act

Costs the giver practically nothing

What he/she gets in return

Cannot be measured

Till it’s done

One simple act

Open feelings given

Without attachments

To hold on to someone

Releases the hearts

Most single important

Reason for being touched

Without expectation

Of return

One act so simple

Yet gives each

Who participates

More in returns

Than initial


SJ Riggle

December 16, 2001

Even though this was written almost 9 1/2 years ago, (seems like a lifetime) its message for simple hugs still needs to be spread. There are friends dealing with the pains of abandonment by family and friends who are just hurting. A good embracing hug can do wonders for a person's heart.

So I encourage to give away good hugs to those who you see that might need one. A hug is all one needs to receive sometimes.

Friday, March 4, 2011

By writing "A Soldier's Time", I also opened the floodgates to other poetry I discovered I needed to write. Poems which described my churning emotions of shame and guilt during my years of early transition. These poems helped me illuminate the doorway of transition and to a new life, an opportunity to see life from two perspectives, one a reflection of the other. Just as the reflections of the tree are present on the waters of Walden’s Pond, so is the reflection and presence of my first life lived as a father and husband seen in Sarah’s eyes. These poems let me put into words all the emotional angst and fears that I faced as I approached my transition. Each poem followed the joys and successes as I climbed each step of accomplishments to become Sarah as I walked her path.

Transition is like finding a road that diverges from one heading to another. You are never quite sure how to start or what to take. You don't know what you will leave behind or discover beyond the bend or over the hill. Either way you go you don't really know if you have chosen well.

Roads to Take

I wait to see

which road I should take

always going forward

over the next hill

never to return

I wait to see

is the road to the left

going with the expected

to the right leaves me guessing

I don’t know what’s right

I wait to see

what life can do for me

should I take the bull

by the nose

or by the horn

I wait to see

what can I live without

my wife or children

my life as I know it

to walk the well worn path

I wait to see

whose love I need

from my wife

or from my children,

I think best to have from both

I wait to see

if perhaps any other road

could fill my life as full

of pleasures for me

or to those beyond

I wait to see

that perhaps my life’s road

with all the pain and glory;

the best road to take

is the road I’m on

November 29.2001

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Check Point Charlie

“Checkpoint Charlie”

One gate numbered as Charlie

Guarding the division of two worlds

One German city divided by the Wall

One city surrounded by darkness.

One gate standing between lives

Dominated by political terror.

Entrance to a path infused with the dark

Oppressive cold hands pushing at your shoulders

Sending chills down the neck and back

An opening to times past.

Like a faded black and white photograph.

Where the past dominates the future

Lines for a single loaf of bread,

Lines for a pair of shoes

Like the discarded pair left in the trash

New department stores with empty shelves

Broken escalators going nowhere

Plaza’s empty of crowds

People with empty eyes, frozen faces

Shuffle down streets with broken spirits

Looking through the bars and wires of the wall

Looking to the west

Looking for freedom

Looking for hope over the gate

Looking past “Checkpoint Charlie”

February 20. 2002

If you have never had the opportunity to walk through "Checkpoint Charlie" which was the most used gate between East and West Berlin during the time of Communist Occupation, then you miss a most chilling experience. It wasn't just being check by military police, you were given instructions on what to take, what to say and not to use US dollars the feeling of sorrow, pain, oppression was greater when you walked the tunnel to the Eastern Checkpoint, where your group was photographed and counted. It was going back in time, all the buildings still showed the artillery marks. For the first 100 meters you passed deserted buildings and dead echos. Such a strong sense of sadness, of blank stares in people we passed on our way to St. Marks Square in the middle of East Berlin. We have exchanged our US dollars for East German Franks as we got a better rate on the US side than we would have exchanged them 1 for 1 in the East. Which all the East Germans wanted.

As we walked around E. B. we came upon a line of people waiting to get into a shoe store to get 1 pair of new shoes. We saw a lot of shelves empty which should have had new things to sale. We did get a chance to buy some recordings and wanted to buy some instruments but didn't have the money or a way to get it back home.

When the wall came down the military moved the whole building to preserve it in the new museum which was being created. So you can still see and visit 'Checkpoint Charlie' if you can get to Berlin.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A poem of Catharsis

This poem is the beginning of my release of my life from my male self and life. I wrote this as I began to reconcile my emotions with myself.

A Soldier’s Time

Each soldier’s time in country is tied to another,

Ties that both bind and separate; bend with us or break.

Each arrives to make their marks, to carry the torch of duty.

As soldiers bend family ties, memories of their existence fade.

Soldiers step out of the plane’s doorway,

Faces blasted by fierce waves of searing heat.

Lungs gasp for cool air, engulfed by Asian humidity.

Unfamiliar smells overpowers youthful senses,

Fragile protective cocoons of yesterday, shattered,

Welcome to Viet Nam, grunts!

War preparations are everywhere,

Wings of steel birds beat the air as they circle.

Ever vigilant they circle, hunting to satisfy primal needs.

Soldiers with machines protecting the man made nest.

The nest of concrete and steel, spreading like a virus.

Welcome to Viet Nam, grunts!

Herded like cattle, we shuffle and push along.

Through processing gates we scramble,

With bags and boxes from home we stumble.

Speeches, instructions, rules, regulations and orders obeyed.

Bullets and beans issued on the appropriate day.

Welcome to Viet Nam, grunts!

Loaded with new equipment and orders

We board bus and plane as directed by higher headquarters.

We follow the tracks of soldiers we are assigned to replace.

Spreading across the countryside heading

To our new companies and destiny; we hear:

Welcome to Viet Nam, grunts!

Women in broad straw hats wadding in paddies planting rice,

Men in metal helmets beating the bush looking for signs

Of the Asian soldier we call “Charlie”.

Kids in the streets with baskets loaded with items for sale,

Hawking “shoe shine”, treats or beer.

Welcome to Viet Nam, grunts!

Women in colorful dresses, standing in doorways of bars,

Selling themselves to pay mama-sans, buy food for the table.

Men in olive drab in doorways of war birds, watch for tracks

Losing pieces of their innocence expending M16 cartridges

Gaining caution and fear of what tomorrow brings.

Why are we here in Viet-Nam?

First we raid and destroy with bombs to preserve democracy.

Then we perform musical concerts to pacify and entertain.

Rifles and clarinets, bombs and drums;

Bullets zing while triangles ring.

Noises of war grow with a crescendo,

Clashing with music at the fortissimo.

We are in country first to play, second duties are to fight.

Why are we here in Viet-Nam?

Soldiers die and their thoughts and memories fade,

Just as melodic strains of marches echo’s through the hills,

Clashing with machines grumbling then dies away.

Soldiers count remaining days with short-timers sticks,

Until one’s time in country has been fulfilled and are replaced.

Why are we here in Viet-Nam?

Some soldiers can walk away, others must be carried,

Each arrives home in their own way, to testify to their bravery.

Those that can tell loved ones; what they feel and how they survived,

Must remember to tell the stories of those who lost the battle.

Each deed must be remembered, each life must be lifted.

To tell our children, why we were in Viet-Nam!

Each soldier’s time in country is tied to another,

Ties that both bind and separate; like fragile strands of fine ribbon,

Reaching back to the hills of Viet-Nam, are the strands of our memories.

Trampled and obscured as the next soldier carries his torch of duty.

Back home our faded ribbons hang on sunken chests

Signifying our ribbons of fading memories

To “Our Soldier Time”, in Viet-Nam.

Sp5 Riggle

First Cavalry Division; June 67-June 68