“And so we revolt against silence with a bit of speaking. / The page is a charred field where the dead would have written / We went on. And it was like living through something again one could not live through / again.”
—Carolyn Forche, “Elegy” (The Angel of History)
To an Aging Mentor
‒‒for W.S. Merwin, 1927-2019
I heard you say that it’s as if your body is growing
into its own tree. This in your long roving
through countries and over oceans
of a word. Out of dead languages
your ink goes flying. You’re still climbing a ladder
up from the first word‒‒a half stammer, half scream.
Up through Blake, Hamlet,
Let the academics visit your pages
with the dust of their mouths. Let the critics
enter your orbit, they’ll fall down stairwells
of your line breaks.
Let them stamp your posterity papers.
From shore to desert you touch the grains
of an invisible alphabet‒‒
And with it, touching
hears, hearing sees
further than eyes, and seeing thinks beyond words.
ancient and young, picking wild roses
in a windy October
–> Alexander Etheridge
Interview with a Former Major Poet
What was it like to be a great, to be
A king amongst your peers? It was a fine
Thing to know they thought so much of me,
That all the schools were scanning every line,
But most to know I’d live through history
In dialogue with greater minds than mine.
So it was hard then, when it came? The decline?
Yes. Could you speak a bit about it? Fine.
There was a fairly gradual shift you see
As my contemporaries died, replaced by fresh
And eager minds, my words no longer breathed.
They saw the world in different hues to me
And shared perception’s all a poet’s let;
We build with words and words can move, they’re free
To dance and love whichever way they please.
Some of your peers retained their stature — Yes.
I guess they may have held a more timeless…
No… universal mode of thought to me.
So that’s it then? You’re doomed to second rate?
Perhaps. The only thing to do is wait
—For what? Perhaps I’ll be remembered yet,
Reclaimed by some ambitious child who sees
What poets saw in me to name me great.
Things change. I’m proof of that. No man knows his fate.
–> Alex McKeown
Opari is the Oldest Form of Poetry
Arms outstretched, on kith and kin’s shoulders
you feel the heavy weight of muscles
as a line of praise poetry reaches you.
In another place I could have laughed it off
but here, almost strangled, heads bowed down
mere breathing was a chore.
When an older mother-in-law, the sister
of the authentic one, who has always taunted you
since you arrived from another state
lays a heavier arm, I cover
till I am able to sneak inside the circle
and now I gasp to find my way outside.
‘Yes’, the one who died is a dowager relative of his.
I try to sneak out by a sliding movement.
I hear the snorting of pigs on the road
outside the open ditch.
I really have to catch my breath,
shake off the stinking smell of sweat —
tomorrow I can chase the lice from my hair and head.
I search for you, my newly married husband
but you are oblivious, you do not come to take me away
to the bench on the road, meant for ‘gentle’ men.
I hear a louder Opari on a loud speaker —
I am startled. They have recordings to be played to people
without kith or kin.
Back home, I always accompanied my father,
my mother being scared like a child of death;
still she cherished lovely black chiffon saris for condolence.
I who used to wear high heels to College.
Now I am caught unawares by the strange custom
of my in-law’s house. In my father’s house
it was always a lit lamp with devotional Devarom chanting.
I am thinking of Daddy
how my brother brought my Amma to the hospital,
they shook hands, his eyeballs rolled up and I closed his eyes.
My children watched seated on a table nearby.
–> Sivakami Velliangiri
Can be seen in
The losing battle
To clean my house
Dust is mostly dead skin
Cells—I think while vacuuming
The corners—perpetually it seems
They ran the crematoriums non-stop
Those weeks after the tsunami—clouds
Dirtied the air and the beaches stained grey
With the departed’s ash—and I realize how odd
It is that in a “natural” disaster much of the devastation
Is man-made—wouldn’t exist without us—our housing debris
The rotting flesh of our own—and dust—both here and there—dead
Skin—but it is not enough to not blame the open window—it is not enough
To try to forgive—to ever give up—but it is also not enough for more than a poem
–> Jennifer Met
The box arrived as I was waiting
for another kind of mail delivery system
a telegram perhaps
with news stop
about my father’s incurable brain stop
the telegram had been blown off course
and was caught in a wire fence
between a neurosurgeon’s rooms
and any chance of hope
that resembles a pair of swans on a lake
eating their own reflections
and this is how it was
as the box came to rest at my feet
when I opened it
a moth with black eye shapes on its wings
flew out and left a satin smear on the side of my face
inside the box there were poems about life
imitating the gift of a good death
and one had a watermark
like a moon stalled over a Drumcliff kirkyard
when I said Dad the moth returned
to land on my shirt
its feelers like fine feathers
in that moment of the going world
so small we were invisible
and for a time no more and no less
than windy things
–> Anthony Lawrence
“Mourning Chimes” by SCWinward