Yet, as the cab moved uptown through streets which seemed, with a rush, to darken with dark people, and as I covertly studied Sonny’s face, it came to me that what we both were seeking through our separate cab windows was that part of ourselves which had been left behind.
–James Baldwin, from “Sonny’s Blues”
Poets think in lines, prose writers in sentences; the best of both work from sound to sense, with an ear for the music in their compositions. S for Sentence celebrates lyricism in prose, the play and craft at work in the artful sentence. We post a sentence a month along with comments by a guest writer on the craft that shapes it, on what makes it great. In one or two sentences.
—Pearl Abraham, Editor
—Stephanie Grant, Guest Editor
The conjunctions “yet” and “and,” both followed by “as,” present the reader with two long dependent clauses stacked at the beginning of the sentence that lead into the monumental epiphany of the story’s narrator. Baldwin establishes intimacy by gathering us close in the tiny space of a cab, adds locative precision to the scene with a series of prepositions (as, through, with, with), reminding us briefly of the outside world (the streets, the people), then zooms in on Sonny’s face. Though the characters have been brought into this tight close space, the stunning realization experienced is about separateness: Not only Sonny and his brother, but all of us, too, are separate, separate not only from one another but from our pasts. Wow! In this final image, “we,” (the first person plural “we” suggests this is about all of us) see the world from our own isolated cab windows, an astounding concrete illustration of the vast depths of human loneliness.
–Ephraim Scott Sommers is the author of The Night We Set the Dead Kid on Fire