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

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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

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The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (91-95)

2014-08-03 11.18.32

91.

with hands on my shoulders

the man led me backwards

down a long hallway

past the rooms where women come undone

past christmas

& used wedding gowns for sale

past rooms with old laughter

sweating up the walls

he led me backwards

all the way down to Eve

who sat nude

& declared

that mercy was for losers

& condemned me

to liberation wars of convenience

 

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92.

the man led me

backwards

into a wooden chair

he removed the blindfold

 

what games are these, i asked

chance, liberation, war & mercy

 

you’re now mine, he said

you’re now mine

along with spike milligan & the goons

tattered manuals

& old love poetry

you’re now mine

i found you a spot on the shelf, see?

 

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93.

another man

a masked man

demanded all

one hundred & sixty five kisses

if i had any expectation of release

 

so i told him what i know to be true:

a lipsticked mouth must never be kissed

a lipsticked mouth is not for kissing

a lipsticked mouth is art

is protection

is political statement

is the distance between now & never

 

2014-08-02 20.25.13

 

94.

I’ll love you in a minute, you said

blue on brown, blue on brown

I’ll love you in a minute

you said

 

& in that chasm

nature unleashed itself

— lightning struck countless times

earthquakes, firestorms

children died & were born

died & were born again

 

in the minute I was waiting

terror smiled

blue on brown, blue on brown

waiting for the world to settle

 

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95.

& then there were three men left in the country.

Actually, strictly speaking

there were two & a boy

but we called all of them men

 

the boy to remind us how to have sons

which was to say

that having sons was not like having daughters

 

the other was

pure & unadulterated pleasure

which was to remind us how to have a man

which was to say that having a woman

was not the same as having a man

 

the third was a man of the old kind

who was there to remind us

that we needed a man to tell us what to do

to remind us, we reminded him

it felt necessary

because he had no other use

because we did what we needed to do

whether or not he was there

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (86-90)

 

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86.

I don’t believe in the reclamation of innocence through the cooling of sheets

Come

Let’s set these sheets on fire

Let’s burn them all night long

 

I don’t believe in the saving grace of dryers

So let’s set these sheets on fire

After we can descend into hell

& take heaven with us

 

2014-08-02 20.25.13

87.

Almost  quarter to heartbreak

& I’m picking up pieces of you off the living room floor

I’m replacing your bits neatly into the cupboards

 

Remember Achtung, Baby?

You shook your head & I laughed

& laughed and laughed

You carried me home, drunk

Remember?

 

Now twenty three minutes to merriment & it’s achtung

Stop

You & I are marionettes

You & I are marionettes

Stop

 

It’s now ever after

This, too, is ever after

& only ever so

 

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88.

The signpost just north of August reads:

All skinned passengers keep right

 

My skinned peeled off on Thursday

In a fit of rage, demanding the right

the need for

Touch who left Wednesday morning

 

Mine left slamming the door behind her

& the sign reads:

unskinned licensed drivers may keep right

 

& since I don’t drive

I keep left

Keep being left

Stay left

 

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89.

Jasmine,

What shall I tell my feet?

With what words can I convince my neck to stay
How can I say that we will be okay?

The three of us?

The four of us, since the varicose veins refuse to leave?

 

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90.

Let’s not sit with young lovers

What with their hands locked, intertwining fingers

She asleep

Lipsticked mouth hanging open

Her head on his chest

He with his heavy eyelids sleep or love,I don’t know

His other hand on her thigh

His hair fallen over the side of his face

& all of us on the bus ready to protect young love

whatever it takes

 

Let’s not sit with sleeping lovers

We’re sentry, we’re sentry, we’re sentry

 

We cannot sit with these lovers

Vulnerable , weak, stupid

Falling asleep on the bus

What with interlinked fingers and pinked lips

Her mouth agape, his hair falling across his face

So beautiful, so lovely, so shimmery

I can’t stand it

 

So let’s not sit with the young lovers

It won’t do

 

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (71-75)

2014-08-02 20.54.12

71.

World without end

world without end

so this is what it means to know that you have a crazy mother

world without end it was always like this

world without end and then someone broke in

& told us & told us & told us that our mother was crazy

world without end she was normal

she ironed her memories into her kanga

she used that same kanga to wrap her head

to carry us

to dry the plates

to wipe the snot from the baby’s nose

world without end that’s the way it always was

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72.

now that we know that our mother is crazy

we wrap ours about our waists

to protect us from evil

til the hour of our death

amen

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73.

we’re the startling green grass after the fires of the dry season

insistent

& clear

& knowing

& remembering

& expecting that this was not the last of the fires of the dry season

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74.

the earth remains as still as it ever was

dust rises and rises

creating silhouettes of the men in the road before us

red powder

red powder everywhere

and then the re-settling into stillness

the earth is stony, rocky, stubborn

it will only yield at 3 in the afternoon

& it will take in volunteers

in the smallest of yawns

to maintain the red of the the dust

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75.

over here, money is liquid

it melts nothing

costs nothing

buys nothing

moves nothing

but copious amounts of pleasure & satiation

over there money is cold

it moves everything

costs more

induces cold sweat

& can never provoke a smile

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (66-70)

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66.

At 3.15 am the door slams

the last of the whole words are gone

an army of ants had taken their place

& are hauling out crumbs

& verbal punctuations

bits and pieces

ahs & ums

shas & sheez

jeez & jesus!

all crystalline

all salty bits of sound

 

the ants make quick work

by mid-morning they’re all gone

 

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67.

by midday

all that’s left are images

too awkward to fit through the door & windows

 

like the two bald girls lipsticked and high heeled

like their mother wiping off some of the lipstick

like the one girl pouting afterwards

like the other smacking her lips, still smiling

 

like the mad man scouring the pews with his eyes

like the moment that he seeks you out

like the stern point he makes towards you

making all your pew-mates glance at you

 

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68.

a story emerges after church

how he has a wife & daughters

how he has a twin brother

how his name is Forgod

& how his equally mad brother is Forget

 

& how all this

is performance & story without words

 

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69.

Incandescence, I tell you

isn’t the sum of everything

it’s not even the multiplication of light

it’s nothing without the tapestry inside a black sky

 

Didn’t I tell you that stars would wear thin?

Stars don’t change

Stars don’t move

Stars don’t do a damn thing but stare

 

Incandescence is a red moon

a white moon

a low moon

a half moon

a sliver

a joke

 

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70.

A gecko darts silently out of the shadows

& scurries across the whitish wall

& then stands still

 

A mosquito buzzes angrily

she has no access

 

Inside the safety of a net

I snicker

& then

wait

what’s with the sudden itch

of a spider bite above my knee?

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (61-65)

2014-08-02 20.54.12

61.

You & I on the couch this morning

You in your work clothes & I in my bathrobe

Both of us cloaked in silence

 

when is a good day to die?

 

Not Monday because she’s fair

Thursday maybe

because Thursday’s child they say has far to go

 

A list of words to go through:

Laundry

Banking

Baking

Insouciance

Slithery

Computational

Universality

Dispersal

Do words feel the tongue of the speaker?

 

In the middle of a sentence, a dream

After fucking like dogs pounding ourselves into each other

Intent on each of us becoming one other

 

When is a good day to die?

 

At the junction where Broadway meets Main

A heart falls out on to the road

& the bus brakes just in time

 

Look after your heart, mister!

What are you doing?

Didn’t your mother teach you

to take care of your heart?

 

May or August, perhaps

Any month but your birthday month

That would be altogether too cruel

 

2014-08-04 15.47.3262.

This week we swore we’d dismember language

We pinky-promised to make a list

 

We’d take first English apart word by inept word

We’d begin with articles

 

From Monday on, we’d dismiss the specific

the general, the commander & the war

& just like that:

there was no more war & no language for it

 

On Tuesday you suggested

that we bleed out the possessives

Nothing could belong to anyone or anything

Share one, share alike

& I was no longer your darling

 

So we buried Conrad in the backyard

Along with all five European languages he used to speak

We buried Marlowe beside him, greedy fucker that he was

along with all the declarations he made

 

By Friday we could still articulate love so we hanged on

to action words as political cowardice

 

Saturday, there was no more point

we opened blue caches of verbs

No subject

No verb

No object

No simple sentences to point towards complex existences

 

No subjects

No other

No thing

So we hummed ourselves to sleep

 

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63.

Beloved, yesterday I sent my gal to the market

& she hasn’t come back

 

Beloved, I sent my daughter to the market

the loud one

the big one

the noisy one

the boisterous one

I sent my best self to the market

&  now she won’t come back

 

She was to pick up fresh vegetable, fruit

some other grocery — soap & the like

 

How long was she there?

Not very long, I expected her back any minute

 

Yesterday’s market isn’t there any more

That big, loud, boisterous space

where storied & money & goods changed hands is gone

 

All the souls fled except for the ones that hang around

Dancing in the breeze

& whistling through plastic bags that flap about

 

All the scattered things & bodies & embers

All the bits that used to represent life

All the stories that were interrupted mid sentence

when my daughter, strapped by some strangers

blew up into nothing

 

Yesterday I sent my life to the market

It’s as if I never existed before

 

Beloved, where did we take the wrong turn?

 

2014-08-02 20.25.13

64.

Today you bury your son

breath in & breath out

How is it even possible?

 

Yesterday I sent my daughter to the market

& today you bury your son

 

Breath in & breath out

never stopping, never stopping

even in the middle of wracked grief

where did we take the wrong turn, beloved?

 

Where?

 

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65.

Adjectives, nouns & adverbs

in a bowl

like fruit

from last week

starting to go bad

starting to have the sick sweet smell

of fruit going bad

starting to die

starting to know that fruit knows

that they’re dead

the moment that they’re picked from the tree

 

A collection of wilting words

waiting to be thrown out

into the compost

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (51-60)

 

 

 

 

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51.

How you left me with your foot in my arms

Your foot, & nothing more to take into the new year

 

52.

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How you left me

Like the sigh after that last kiss

I cannot reach back into last year

to grasp at that sigh

I cannot hold on to a moment

not a moment so firmly stuck to the past year

 

53.

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You left me like blood seeping from bone

at the touch of salt — beautifully and completely

 

54.

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Like a blood dropping onto a clear puddle of water

A ripple from a red explosion & then delicate spidery tendrils

& the water is pinked

as if it was never clear

as if you were never there

as if you were never part of the bloody foot I hold on to

 

55.

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So sing, Mary, sing

No one else remembers that song

Sing anyway

 

When you forget this song

then you will come to know

how completely you left

 

 

 

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (6-10)

 

 

 

10.

Sons Also Daughters 

For Tamara Symanska-Golik

 

Sons Also Daughters

Rummage through your life

Picking this, picking that

 

Killers all,

Sorting through your bones

Taking this, taking that

 

Also daughters

Picking at strands of hair

Gawking at roomfuls of combs, ribbons, brushes

 

Also daughters

Picking what seeds to save

Which to discard

What instances to remember

Which to forget

 

Sons also daughters

Killers all

Spreading seeds, writing code

One zero one zero

One for life

Zero for nought

One for air

Zero for everything else

 

Sons also daughters

Bear life

Hold the proof of your existence

In the stories they pick from your things

Your hair brush, your bones

Your fingernail clippings, you clothes, sheets

Shoes, you papers, love letters

Your old spices, the whole kitchen

Your memories of that place

Your loves, regrets, dead dreams

 

Also sons

Also daughters

Also sons

Also daughters

 

9.

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Enough

 

Enough with the uneasiness

The not belonging

The where are you from really where are you originally from

Enough with the how long have you been here have you been back when are you going back do you visit often aren’t you lucky to come from a place so warm do you like it here

Enough with the statistics that show that migrants come to this country with a higher level of education than the natural-born citizens and on average their children tend to do better than their parents maybe because they are born citizens but not natural-born citizens and why is there such a lack of nurses and doctors but we can’t trust the level of training they bring so they must mop the hospital floors and drive the gurneys to the morgue and drive taxis with their strong accents because they are used to driving in impossible traffic over there and at least they have a job in these days these terrible days these days of world-wide recession also called an economic down turn

My economic down turn happened way back when we left with some clothes, one photo album no books and plenty of hope because there was a shortage of nurses and they spoke English where we were going and it was not going to be so cold in the winter after all

My economic down turn happened when my job searches were limited to those that required high-school certificates and on the job training otherwise the directions to the human resources office led to the exit at the back of the building where a dark-skinned security guard held a cigarette between a yellowed thumb and index finger and had no smile for me

I want to go home

I’ve got the high-school certificate and years of misdirection, decades of living in paradise aren’t we lucky to live in paradise aren’t we lucky to have the mountains and the beaches and all this aboriginal art to look at to look at to look at don’t touch

I’ve done my stint at washing dishes for twelve-hour shifts working at the golden arches where customers demand white vanilla ice-cream no chocolate on it because I could never have understood that white vanilla ice cream was no swirl and what didn’t we have ice cream where I come from

We all want to go and live in paradise after all this after all this

After all we are not the inheritors of the riches in our backyard because we don’t have any trained geo-physicists to survey the land or ethics panels to tell us

That it is

Not right

not right

not right to

take

take

take

And leave us the pollution to deal with the high unemployment the shine gone from our dark skins the white smiles the ring-wormed children the long train of cervical cancer that they say is on its way to Africa

Now all I need is a passport and a country to call home

 

8.

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Smoke

I’ll never smoke again

Smoke

I’ll never drink again

Smoke

I’ll only drink for health and only red wine at that

Smoke

I already drank another one and hid away the can

Smoke

I lie

Smoke

I evade

Smoke

It’s all make up anyway

Smoke

We all die some day

Smoke

It’s not really a struggle, it’s a game, I can handle it

Smoke

You don’t matter

Smoke

What a fucking disaster

Smoke

I can’t wait to start again

 

7.

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Our lands like our bodies like our minds like our mines

for excavation

what’s your blood type?

what’s your blood type?

what’s your blood type?

will you be donating your organs?

If so, tick this box

 

If not tick this other box

Sign here and here and here and here and here

 

6.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

 

And so it was that we slid into things at the beginning of spider season

Spiders across the kitchen floor

Scuttling over the memory of us just there

 

Spiders along the wall exactly where your palms were

 

One spider hanged delicately, deliciously

hovered and then climbed up and disappeared into nowhere

Perhaps you were never here after all

100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 1-10

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 1-10 as they come

Day 1

I have nothing

I stand before you with nothing

I am nothing

You stand before me with nothing

I don’t know what I know

but I know that you know nothing

Having come from nothing

To nothing & from nothing

Let my nothing meet your nothing

We may find something there.

 

Day 2

This will not be a litany of remembrances:

We know who the guilty are

The guilty know themselves

This is a charge against the witnesses

& those who cannot speak

This is a charge against those who speak incompletely

& incoherently

Against nature who saw everything & did nothing

against the bodies that dissolved

& the ones that refused to dissolve

those that insisted on writing the landscape with bones

This is a charge against pain

against heartbreak

against laughter

against the dead.

 

Day 3

We were pock-marked by these things:

a torrent of accusations falling like rain

bayonet sticks

lies

We were mocked

by faith in tiny shards

by the cross, with its pliant figure

representing grace

or representing the presence of God

What God in such a time?

What God afterwards?

What God ever?

Day 4

Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
We have run out of days

Day 5
What do I remember?
Nothing but the contagion of stories
What do I want to say?
What do I want to say?

Day 6
Images from those days return like silent movies
The available light of the rest of this life and I
can’t hear anything
Just the silent movies

Day 7

Then we stumbled into the place where words go to die

& where words come from

 

First we bathed in it in it like sunbathers

then we washed ourselves in it

we rinsed our mouths out

shampooed our hair

swam in the words

& at night

we covered ourselves in words

& went to sleep

 

at night

the nightmares returned

but the dreams also came

 

Day 8

Justice woke up and went to work

but no one showed up

 

Justine, not justice, went to work

but no one showed up

 

Justice and not Justine

woke up and went to work

but no one showed up

 

women woke up and went to work

no one knows where Justine and/or

Justice are doing these days

Day 9
These days
circle and circle
some days soar from above like kites
others circle around and around
like hyenas waiting for the story to die

some sit
some stand in long legs
vultures wait
some stay some change seats
others come and go
some dive in
some walk, crawl, cycle
dial on the radio to listen
to stories in embers
stories aflame
stories in stories
stories stoking stories
stories stalking stories
stories in circles & circles

those stories haven’t yet killed me

Day 10

What indeed

constitutes

the criminalizing function

of language in media?

 

Stuffed

Hacked

Punched

Pumped full of bullets

Slaughtered

& left to rot on the street

 

Pigs

Dogs

Cockroaches

 

People murdered

Calculated and rated on a per hour basis

& sometimes exacted to ethnic & tribal

differences

struggles

divisions

clashes

 

Never people you know

Until they are

 

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?