The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (26-30)


2014-08-04 15.47.32

Last Tuesday you were standing right there

without your feet touching the ground

There you were, your hair whipping about your face

& your hands clasped & bound in the farthest corner of the ceiling were three right angles meet

your arms outstretched, handless


Last Tuesday, you said you were thirsty

Shall we go for a drink? you asked

I thought it was weird that you should be ready to go for a drink

just because you had your jacket and shoes on


How about your hands? I asked.

I only take them out on Wednesdays and Fridays when I need to use them

& I only let my feet touch the ground on Monday, Thursdays and Saturdays


You’re not Jesus on the cross. I don’t like it, I said

Well, you’re no devil on the mountain top and I still need a drink, you said

Are you coming?




2014-08-04 16.58.39


Last Word

If that was the last word you’d ever utter

If that was the one

That turned earth’s belly outwards

With red fiery wordless screams

Beyond glowing

It would twist your tongue

Swelling that the back of your throat

Like God’s muttering of that first word


If that was the word that blinked out existence

Drawing itself out

Groaning like a birthing, like coming into being

Shredding that tongue

Melting, moulting

Beyond babies, beyond love, that last word

Would wrench the bejeezus out

Spaghetti like

White strips of fat, skin, pasta sauce blood, gore


That single word

That might have precipitated the beginning of the world

Tell me you won’t say it

Tell me you won’t say it

Tell me you won’t send the stars into the skies

Beaches outlined with white sands, black sand, red sand, mud, blood, baobab trees straining for light

By their roots


Keep it, don’t utter it

Don’t utter it it

Swallow it back

Let it germinate into something beautiful,

Something soft, something rhythmic

Like your heart and mine







This is your death

I don’t care to hear it

This is your death

Swallow it.

Let it grow into something beautiful

Something soft, something rhythmic

Something that will remain contained underneath your skin, now grey

Beyond your smile, now dry

Your eyes, now pale

This is your death

I’ll hold on to you until you implode inside me

The idea of you

Still brilliant with unstated grief



2014-08-02 20.25.13

Last Request


Just before you lose your veil and offer everything to him

(You know this. And I know that you already know this. But know this from me. You’re such a tease)

One tousle, one shake of that fine head of hair

One last caress, Salome

Your fingertips against my scalp

Once more my face between your breasts

Once more, for the last time, before you offer everything else to him

A kiss on my nose, one on my lips, one on each cheek

A last lingering one on my forehead, Salome

Even as your eyes are locked in by his eyes

Just before you give in, Salome, one look back

A last glance so I can see the length of your neck

A single wish, Salome

Your voice after the dance, lingering in my ear

Give me this one last thing

That I can take with me, Salome

Your voice bearing my name – a testament of me in your voice

This is the right thing

This is the right thing to do

My face between your breasts, a caress on my scalp, kisses

Whisper my name against my ear, Salome

Before you offer my head to the king.




2014-08-02 20.54.12

Stuff to do When Your Hometown is Burning

  1. Finish up your cup of tea before it gets cold, because you know you hate it cold.
  2. Think about calling your mother.
  3. Don’t call your mother. She’ll freak out.  Asking questions like hail pelting down, like pepper sneezed into your face, like unrelenting projectile vomit on your recently cleaned carpet.  Don’t call you mother.  She’ll freak out as if you knew much more than the headlines proclaim:  Gulu is in Flames.
  4. Change the channel.  Change. Change. Change. Nothing. None of the news media will carry it, and why should they?  Gulu is burning, but does not even warrant a lined script flowing at the bottom of your TV screen.
  5. Return to the internet site.  Read the article again.  Gulu is Burning.  Still burning.  Same title renders the burning a continuous and never ending act – Gulu is hell.
  6. Email a friend.  Enclose the link.
  7. Read your friend’s response – oh dear.
  8. Oh dear you, oh dear me, oh dear everything around you –scattered books on the table, papers, receipts from a cup of coffee and muffin that you hated, the latest O Magazine proclaiming secrets to an long and joyful life complete with beautiful skin – your hometown is burning.
  9. The dishes are stacked up in the sink.  They always are. Grape stalks on the kitchen counter, coffee grinds on the floor by the trash can.  A damp kitchen cloth.  Your hometown is burning.
  10. The face of a woman you know appears on the computer devoid of any apparent emotion.  What does it feel like when your hometown is burning?  How can you show it?  Where are the T-shirts, the arm bands, the youtube clips, the tweets, the letter writers, the dissenters, the peace lovers, the protesters, the batons, the loudspeakers, the police, the guns, the teargas, the burning tires in the middle of the road, the pickup trucks, goons throwing politicians to the back of the track and speeding away?  Where are the signs that your hometown is burning?
  11. Pink and yellow tulips in a vase.  Not any less gorgeous, even as dead stalks that cling to any semblance of life –opening up to the light through the blinds and closing up in the evening, sucking at what juices might be mixed in the water.
  12. Wash some dishes.
  13. Shower.
  14. Fix your hair.
  15. Wear lipstick.
  16. Remember to take your shades – it’s sunny outside.
  17. Call your mother.
  18. Listen to your mother freak out just like you thought she would . Why should this be happening to us again, why? When did it start? Who is doing this?  Not again, she wails, not again.
  19. Gulu is in flames as the fourth division pours out into the streets showing firepower, manly power, deadly, manly firepower.
  20. Your hometown is burning. So you take the bus, go to work, mark papers, submit a short story and think about dinner.



2014-08-03 11.18.32


A Moment for Ali Farzat

This is not a love song

This is no revolution song

Cue redemption

Cue freedom

Cue democracy

And all those crazy ideas

That mean nothing when you can’t be yourself

This is not a poem

Not even a love poem


This is no poem for lost souls

The dead can go to hell

Where else are they going to go?

Abandoning us to this

Leaving us without love

Without song, without redemption

Freedom, democracy


This is nothing but a moment

Held among the stars


Stop, they said, stop

You can’t do that any more

So the stars shifted

Held the explosions like a breath sucked in

You can’t do that anymore

Do it and prepare to lose it all


Ali held his pencil in the air

Do it, they repeated, and prepare to lose it all


What good is a pencil in mid air

What good is a song unsung

A poem unrecited

A blank canvass, a baby unbirthed

What good is anything when you don’t have

Love, freedom, democracy and all those crazy ideas?


Ali had his pencils

Ali had pens, chalk, markers

Ali had pictures in his head that infuriated them

Enough to say stop that!

Do it again and prepare to lose it all


So Ali held his pencil in midair

Ali held his pencil inside that moment that the stars stood still

Warding off explosions in the sky

Waiting, waiting


Ali held his pencil mid air

While love, freedom and democracy

Danced about his eyes and ears

Like crazy ideas waiting to coalesce on paper


This is not a love song

This is no revolution

This is no redemption song

Thundering through the ground

This isn’t even a poem

Just a moment like the one when Ali held his pencil in midair

Imagining crazy ideas

Wanting for the encounter between paper and pencil

A marker, two, an image, two

Is all Ali wanted

To meet pencil to paper


Instead, Ali’s hand met the power of another man’s muscle

An arm free from those crazy ideas

Armed with the certainty of action and action just now

Do it and prepare to lose everything, they said

So Ali’s pencil never met the paper


What’s there to gain when your wrists are broken

When your body is so badly beaten

When stars fall from the sky

And no one sees them land among us?

What’s there to be free from, to love, to democratize when you can’t draw?

What’s there but nerve endings on fire, exploding stars contained in your palms

The world’s pain, now reflected in your body

The world`s pain, the one you can’t draw, Ali

What else is there, Ali?


This wasn’t a poem either

Just a moment

Just a moment between you and I

Between you and I, Ali


I write, because you can’t draw right now

I write, because you can’t draw.

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (21-25)


2014-08-03 11.18.32

In this full moon

Two men get ready — a legacy and impending widowerhood

One man takes down a calendar from the kitchen wall

& re-marks the rest of the year in blue felt pen

then he sharpens the knives in the cupboard

no point in keeping blunt knives anymore

but he will keep the gold band for a while yet

The other makes his way up a mound of stories

clears his throat and begins his speech again


2014-08-02 20.25.13

In this full moon

a man cuts out the remaining days of the calendar already marked in blue

miss, not miss, miss, not miss, miss, not miss

he strings them out on a clothes line to catch the sun tomorrow

We hear you, man

It was never going to be easy


2014-08-04 15.47.32

The other man stands atop a mound of stories

Layers and layers of narratives, sketches, vignettes and the occasional poem

Right up there he leans on the podium and clears his throat

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m honoured to stand here today

A gold band glitters in the light

He’s married, don’t you know?

We hear you, man

We hear you, we’re not deaf


2014-08-02 20.54.12

In this full moon

a man prepares his legacy by parsing out the relevant dead

the relevant dead being men from a thousand years ago

he points at a picture of two metal fragments

(what are the indications that this man may live on forever in light of the evidence

of these two metal fragments?

Pretty good, I’d say.  Pretty good)

As long as we forget that women still go missing

As long as we forget that women still get murdered

As long as we forget that the missing and murdered women come from that pile of stories

Miss, not miss, miss, not miss, miss, not miss

wedding bands, moonlight, madness and stories

So what is it, man?


2014-08-04 16.58.39

Between this full moon and the one before it and the one before that

and before that and before that going back some time

a woman steps into a place that vibrates at such a high frequency

that she disappears altogether

we never see her again

we call her among the murdered and the missing women

what is it about the Franklin Expedition that we must never forget?

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (16-20)



2014-08-04 16.58.39



Tell me a story, you said

Tell me a story  if you want me to stay


Once there was a woman in pieces

One arm here and one arm there

One leg flung across the living room

& her individual lashes were impossible to find in the patterned shag



2014-08-04 15.47.32

Once there was a woman

who was struggling to put herself back together

Most of her torso was in the bathtub

& her tears were draining away in the kitchen sink

after having rinsed all the dishes from last night



2014-08-03 11.18.32

Once there was a woman who hadn’t known

that care was what had kept the hinges of the elbows fluid

Take care of yourself

Take  care of yourself

Take care of yourself


Tell me a story if you want me to stay


There was a woman who went shopping at the dollar store

She managed to get a bottle of school glue between her teeth and paid for it in pennies

Her limbs re-fused when the white glue turned clear

but it was hard to glue the skin on her back properly

because her fingers had become tacky from all the gluing that day


Tell me another story

If you want me to stay


2014-08-02 20.25.13


White butterflies by the rail road trucks

A motorcyle parked by a flower garden

A man plays guitar by the waterfront and sings a sad song

The sky is blue

The sky is clear


Tell me a story that is not a sequence of beauty

Tell me a complicated story so that I might forget that I should be happy



2014-08-02 20.54.12

Once there was a woman who wanted to be a saint

So she conjured up a trophy at the mayor’s office and lined up at ticketing


(That doesn’t make sense)


Once there was a woman who wanted to be a saint

So the mayor walked right out of the office, right up to her at her place in line at the ticketing office

and handed her a trophy

Her parking tickets disappeared at that same moment


(That doesn’t make sense)


Well sainthood doesn’t make sense, does it?

How can we make miracles when we can’t see the precious that we are?