Monday, November 1, 2010

A poem for November: "figure: MAP (AT TIDE)", by Sonam Kachru

(Sajjad Malik,

figure: MAP (AT TIDE)

--"And if the seasons defeat our garden?"


What fear after the flowers if our eyes recede
And we ebb with unfamiliar light, against
Discolored skin, at tide -- the cutting shores,
The crueler seasons?
Here are yet mothers, and every bit as kind
As the stranger sea; we are taught, and teach
Our children to live as at the ends
Of cut stem or of leaf, or at the break in bone
With the wit of calluses; to take our tea with salt,
Wash one another clean with mud.
Are here not mothers, with a knife
To keep under the pillow of a child at night
To sever them from sleep, if their sleep
Be unkind, or inviting: to forgive us
Should we trespass in the light of morning
With a too beautiful or even unmarred face
Even as we forgive those who recede
And do not wake?

What if this be not light we once knew
To gather to it all that is bright
In a clean room in a swept house,
In the splendid accord of flowers
Pressed to absolute, almost up-to breath,
Condense at the window above the translucent flesh--
Her first turnips; to abound,
By the un-mute edges in spring,
In water we drew from mirror-blank wells,
Moldy taps set in mottled walls, to remember
Something of winter. Still,
The light is not nothing -- to show us nothing
Of the nothing new with us --
But is some scaled thing,
Or unwelcome thought,
Coiled in a damp corner in a fevered brain,
Alive to all that un-still still lives
And passes through us, and is caught
As little dust In little light.

Here is the country, if any, for amateur theology
For, doubtless, God wanted this blue country,
Eventually, to tire of the gravel-throated songs
The drowned hyacinth songs --
O, O, O
But he kills me everyday ...
Did you see him this fall
Embrace me to winter? --
And tire of her tears
That flowed as prayer in her rivers,
Ash in her songs;
The gentle, whetted songs
For crueler mouths, all heartless birds
Our stones no longer breed
From the thirst of snow, the silence in reeds.

By Sonam Kachru.
Opening quote: Dina Nath Nadim, Bombur ta Yambarzal, 20th century.

(Material in italics from the author's translation of a song by Habba Khatun, circa 16th century. This excerpt of a poem in five parts originally appeared October 13 at Kachru's website, Argumentative Indians.)

On his blog, Kachru, born in Kashmir and living in Chicago, writes:
"my wife and I live a very happy, emotionally rich life. Our dog complains, but then she is too smart for her own good. She eats more often than we do." The author also requests visitors to his site "honk if you would like to see more" of this poem.

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