The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New poems (126-130)

2014-08-03 11.18.32

126.

I need to forget

the whisper of your fingertips

& the firm hold of your palms

so I can know the sensuousness of skin again

 

but I won’t forget

I can’t yet forget

the way you move beneath me

 

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127.

Men in red t-shirts and khaki pants work inside

men in blue t-shirts and rolled up khakis tend the ground outside

a snake pours out of my head

 

Men in red turbans & blue t-shirts

their faces & hands covered

in dust & cement

(who knows what they do)

women in white serve food

 

a snake slithers

 

sullen women in brown sweep, mop the floor

I sit at the beach with a snake dangling from my head

 

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128.

 

Red ants black ants pale orange ants

red ants black ants pale orange ants

tree tree tree tree tree

palm fronds in the wind

my head pours out

a red hibiscus

 

more women in brown — housekeeping

they will not greet me back

my head pours out

snake after snake

snake after snake

snake after snake after snake

 

2014-08-04 15.47.32

 

129.

first snake slithers in the sand

monkey shit on the steps won’t wash away with the rain

angry-looking guard men at the gate in white

 

my head pours out

starry nights

monkey shit

 

first snake disappears

others writhe about for a while

 

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130.

 

a family in single file

the boy — red shirt, green pants — cartwheels

the women— heavy with a multitude of colour — shuffle along

three girls — red dresses, gold trim — skip, skip, skipping

a man in an orange shirt, rolled up pants at the rear

a riot of colour against the blue grey of the sea & sky

they stop to picnic

& colour takes a break

 

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The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (121-125)

2014-08-04 16.58.39

121.

Thursday morning

a gong from the night sky

the rest of the world is asleep

& i’m madly collecting thirty words

(& their kin)

 

words slip from my fingers

stick to my sleeves

slide back, slide back gravity bound

 

i’m going to have to recreate the whole world

with language from these thirty words

but what’s language without possession

or colour?

 

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122.

Thursday morning 4am

thirty words are left on the living room floor

none of them articles

none of them adjectives

none of them pronouns

none of them coloured or even black

 

The list of things to do in a pile of letters

the calendar is blank for next month

& the past week

thirty words fall in a cascade

(so what is a world without letters?)

 

if I speak, will words fall from my mouth

gravity bound

& attracted to their kin on the floor?

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123.

When you suggested the Lord’s Prayer

there was no indication that your left ring finger

had anything to do with it

 

There were eyes pressed against the window

the window

eyes with tongues hanging out of them

 

the window

the window

long tongues, lecherous tongues

at the window

the window

 

eyes looking straight at me

the window

the window

tongues slurping

 

the window

the window

the window

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124.

Your hands on my skin

like yesterday never happened

like the shiver of a spiderweb in the sun

like time vibrating

like praises to that same god

only a breath’s worth

 

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125.

& forgive us our trespasses

as your finger bleeds into the bucket

forgive us your trespasses

our trespasses

yours

 

the debate rages on

until your ring finger

tired of being married

drops off from your hand

& walks out the door for good

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (116-120)

116.

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You see

the man at the bus stop?

the man with the earplugs tight in his earholes?

the man who is breaking?

who is dancing

who is dancing & breaking

who is break-dancing, breakdancing?

 

Look,

the breakdancer is losing his fingers

the man’s fingers are falling off

breaking off, breaking off

 

Broken fingers

dancing fingers

broken dancing fingers

scattered on the pavement

scattered & glittery because blood spray

glittery & bright because different nail polish on every finger

bright & shadowed because the sun catches & sends light back

to shatter everything on to the pavement

 

See the man?

We may need to reassemble the guy

the man

the break dancer

the man broken by exposure to unadulterated music

 

117.

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A prose list, a list of reasons:

God on my skin

The DNA on the inside of my ring

Your insistence on devotion

The regularity of the foghorn these days

Superstition

The buzz on my scalp when you say:

okay, that’s it, good bye

 

A white man, many white men will let other women

other white women go ahead on them at the line up for

the bus & then walk in after them as if you’re not

a woman, as if you’re not there

 

You’re already not there

he wants you to know

you’re not there

 

We were already dying

we might as well not be there

 

The rustling of leaves reminds us

that we’re always on the way back to nothing

Nothing

We were already dying anyway

 

I won’t kiss you good bye

Superstition or not

Foghorns mark time that we forget on longer days

The DNA on the inside of my ring

where my skin caught & bled yesterday tells me

I’m already dying, scrap of skin by scrap of skin

God on my skin, god on my skin where you kiss me

& a small list to explain

why I won’t kiss you good bye

 

118.

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so at first we had a rhythm

my bones did

but now

after the fourth murder

of me

my bones now

rattle

 

we had a syncopation

my bones and i did

why the pattern

why

the pattern

after all this was the fourth time

wasn’t it

the fourth time

to get killed

murdered

(might as well say it)

slaughtered

whose going to remember

 

so my bones have gone jazz

& you’re never going to know

when the next beat comes

where the next clackle of

femur & clavicle

 

(none of your

nonesense)

 

my bones do

rhythm & not

rhythm

tell me don’t

tell me don’t

the fourth time i should know

by now

i should know now

that there’s a spot on the kitchen shelf

an empty glass jar

labelled: tired-bone powder

 

119.

2014-08-03 11.18.32

shitstory

not murder or pillage et al

shitstory in the telling

engraving

remembering

 

that

i love you

(that’s herstory)

i love you – that story

i love you

not shit narratives

not shitstory

 

120.

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So I heard that your were done talking

that you’d reached the end of your words

that the rest of your life in silence

will be matched by respectful nods

from strangers who heard that you had run out of words

 

So you’re not talking anymore

but have you given any thought to how it looks

you bobbing your head up & down

in response to strangers nodding at you

 

you’re a snake

 

what does it look like with your head bobbing up & down

in response to strangers nodding their heads?

What do you think?

 

Oh, wait

right

you’re not talking anymore

***

& now that you’re not talking

& all I have is the bobbing of your head

up & down, up & down

this is what you told me

 

that your dad & his friends laughed

when they made lewd jokes between them

(none of which you remember

except that they laughed)

& all you remember is the laughter

& not any of how those jokes made you feel

 

today the men at the office make race jokes

as if you’re not there

& they laugh & snicker

laugh & snicker

 

now all you do is bob your head

up & down, up & down

maybe someday

you’ll forget how you feel about that

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (100-105)

2014-08-02 20.25.13

101.

Your fingers & mine are already locked

& in a moment we shall overcome

the trials of an unlocked poem

 

 

2014-08-03 11.18.32

102.

Descent

as a title

as me hovering over you

as the September moon

close but not quite there

 

Descent

your eyes are already languid

& we haven’t even started to write

 

This poem will not respect our commitment

to dignity

2014-08-02 20.54.12

103.

Twenty four hours

& I’m already forgetting

even as I hang on to you

 

Two days, ten years, a minute ago

I can’t remember what your kisses used to mean

 

What’s your excuse?

 

 

2014-08-04 16.58.39

104.

Time appears this morning like an errant sun

& yet we know

we know it’s not going anywhere

 

It’s us spinning ourselves around it

telling stories that hold us together

by need

& us going on & on & on in the same sweet spot

 

2014-08-04 15.47.32

105.

The moon blows back  compensatory myths

out of colour

night skies full of incompassionate stars

– these are everlasting points of equality

 

Under this we’re spun the same way

& we dream.

 

 

 

 

100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 11-20

Inspired by the quiet homage to the 1994 Rwanda Genocide that Wangechi Mutu started posting on social media on April 6, I decided to respond. I offer these poetic pieces as a way to think about the way in which we navigate through knowing about and understanding the genocide and other wars that endure.

Day 11
Savage savage savage
savagesavagesavage
sa vedge sa vedge
sav edge sav edge
save edge save edge
saved saved
saved

Day 12
What now?
That we must create our own world
That we use the right words for the world we want to live in
Like God: Let there be light
And there was light

Let us forgive our enemies
Let us be good examples for the next generation
Let us belong to one another
Let us be friends

Day 13
There was a rainbow in that sky
the day a chain-linked fence separated us

You probably saw the rainbow in the sky
The chain-linked fence, you probably saw it as well

Here are Days 11-20 as they come
Day 14
Now their eyes flit flit flit
dragonflies in the afternoon
their hands are calm as they write
but clammy in the handshake
what can we do for you?
what can we do for you?

Their eyes like dragonflies, what can they do for me?

Day 16

We were the carriers of the events
Days and nights worked in tandem
to make us forget

We carried proof of place & proof of time
We recited these details over & over
We marked our steps
We marked the cadences into a rhythm & held them close to heart.

Day 17
This is the horror that did not turn you into stone
This the poem, the mirror with which you can behold
that you did not turn into stone
This is true: you’re still not stone

Day 18
Yesterday tripped and fell into evening
As it plunged deep into the night, voices rose up
from the abyss:

Come! Come!
They called
Come!
We never slept, trying to makes sense
whose voice was whose

Yesterday tripped and fell into a long night
of calling, of voices beckoning, recalling
things done, things undone by time

Today, I’m trying to sort out the differences
whose voice was whose
which place, what time

They all sound the same now — the dead and the
unborn; they all sound the same.

Day 19

So this is what the Greek storyteller foretold:
First, the pity inducing event

Those poor, poor people,
Pity in the numbers, pity in the grotesque photos that followed
writing and the reading that followed

There was nothing, nothing we could have done different
Everything was beyond us

Then came the fear it would spread like contagion
Uncontrolled like a forest fire

Now it is time for catharsis

Day 20

It has been called a harvest of death

It was more like a net that was cast

A fisher net

A fisher net cast by a man

A fisher of men

Christ, was that you?

100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 31-40

Inspired by the quiet homage to the 1994 Rwanda Genocide that Wangechi Mutu started posting on social media on April 6, I decided to respond. I offer these poetic pieces as a way to think about the way in which we navigate through knowing about and understanding the genocide and other wars that endure.

Here are Days 31-40 as they come

 

Day 31

Here: it is daytime now

We’re here

It is now twenty years after a hundred days that we did not plan on living through

We wanted to, prayed, yearned to make it

 

Not that those who didn’t didn’t

Day 32

 

In Eden

We heard birdsong and didn’t hear it

We saw the soft flutter & sail of a falling leaf, but we didn’t know how to read it

We worked the earth, lived off it, trampled it back and forth, back and forth

 

In Eden

We never thought about the difference between house and home

we never even thought to call it; we were it, it was us and ours

gang wa

 

Now as we fall unendingly

we know different

we understand belonging as transitory at best

& as elusive as the future we once imagined.

 

Day 33

So we mothed along towards the fire

With the full knowledge that there couldn’t be anything else beyond this

We mothed along

with bare arms, wingless

 

a light step here

a light step there

sometimes no step at all

& other times dreamless stops

 

We mothed along knowing that it was possibly death

& not fire that beckoned

 

Day 34

So we saw, tasted, smelled, touched, felt and heard what we knew to be true

 

We had to see, taste, smell, touch, feel and hear in order to know this word

–genocide?

How much made it valid?

Would one less death have disqualified those hundred days from being called a genocide?

 

And more?

 

Day 35

There’s no denying the flap of an angel’s wings

for someone who felt it fan her face in those days

 

The salve of a gentle touch

The stretch of an arm to catch you as you reached for the top of the wall

the strength of a wail

the depth of a moan

the light of unending days

the consistency of seasons

as real as angel wings

 

There is, however, a slope that leads

from these days of fiction

into nightmares that are real.

 

Day 36

Oh, I curse you

I curse you long and hard and deep and wide

I curse you with fire from my mouth

I join everyone with fire in the mouth

Wherever we live & wherever we lay

We curse you, we curse you, we curse you.

 

Day 37

When Christ lost a beloved friend, he cried out:

Lazarus!

Lazarus, come out of the tomb

Lazarus, come out of the tomb

 

Imagine Christ crying for the beloved on this land:

Lazarus! Lazarus! Lazarus! Lazarus!

Lazarus, come out of the tomb!

 

Imagine Christ with a croaking voice:

Lazarus, Lazarus, Lazarus

 

Christ in a whisper

Christ mumbling:

Lazarus, Lazarus

 

Christ spent

Christ crumbled

Oh, Lazarus

 

Christ either had no idea of these one hundred days

Or he must have lost his voice in the first few moments

 

Christ may just have not been capable

He might have noted the endless and boundless losses of the beloved on this land

He might have hung his head down, powerless in the face of this might

 

Christ, look to your mother

ask her to pray for your intercession

 

Day 38

If there’s a breeze tonight

We might think for a moment that it is sweet

 

There is a breeze tonight

& it is sweet

 

I can’t remember if the breeze was sweet in those days

There was a breeze

There might have been

 

Why not?

It might have been the same sweet breeze that kept us from burning

 

Day 39

If we were to go back to the time before these hundred days

We couldn’t return without knowing what was to come

 

How could we?

 

If we were to swear off, that we couldn’t return to these days

I don’t know that we could; we know

 

We’re marked by this knowing

We know that we’re marked

 

& this knowledge taints us

& so we can never absorb your innocence

 

But

Your innocence will not shield you from these days

Because your innocence does not cleanse

& so your innocence cannot save you from what you must know

 

Day 40

She is my country

 

Every time she goes

I am a leaf in the wind

Every time she goes

She takes with her

All the home that I can ever claim

 

What use do I have for the carrier of bones?

What anthem can I sing for the graves of children?

 

She holds my home in the country that she is

& every time she returns, she is my flag

& I am home again

Reconciliation through poetry

http://www.sfu.ca/dialogue/programs/blaney-award/reconciliation-poetry.html

Thursday, February 27, 2014
7:00 – 9:00 pm

Central Library, Alice MacKay Room, Lower Level
350 West Georgia Street

Admission is free
No registration required but seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis

Five diverse poets will unveil newly commissioned work exploring the concept of reconciliation in honour of Chief Robert Joseph, recipient of SFU’s 2014 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue.

Featuring poets Jordan Abel, Joanne Arnott, Juliane Okot Bitek, Jordan Scott and Daniel Zomparelli. Co-hosted by SFU’s Centre for Dialogue as part of the 2014 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue and Vancouver Public Library as part of the City of Vancouver’s Year of Reconciliation.

Guest of Honour: Chief Robert Joseph, Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada, Recipient of the 2014 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue

Click here for the poet biographies

In partnership with:

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Special thanks to event advisors Wayde Compton, Barbara Kelly, Megan Langley and Renée Sarojini Saklikar