Sun to Void

I cannot help my gaze
and did not choose this.
I was a flurry of atoms.
I was a disassembled spark.
I desired impression.
I desired progeny.
Then the Lord said unto me:
Suppose a daughter.
Does it please you?
Immensely. Immeasurably.
But I was not myself a daughter,
could be no mother of one or three.
So I was given all daughters.
All blooms, all fruits.
At first, I was a lamp
craned above a clovered garden.
The roots, they suckled the dirt,
and lashed it, and crawled for eons.
Then they were standing upright
all over the earth.
My gaze horizoned.
My origination fogged.
My eyes searched forever,
my gaze compassing.
I asked God to turn me a way,
give me eyelids, give me veil.
Give me some cover, like every other.
God, please. Please ease me, God
until God grew weary of my weary
and fixed for me an axis.
God said: Wait. Repeated: Wait.
I gave you daughters on daughters.
Are you not pleased?
I do not know pleasure.
I know not what I become.
God said: Your touch
is incomprehensible.
Now you know Me.
No fathom between us.
All men turn their faces to you,
but verily, they turn a way.
They tarry home.

Take Wing Tempo

We ran barefoot on pavement
before a girl tripped on a rock,
got third and fourth lips,
a new hairline.

We jumped from swings, aiming
for grass beyond the gravel path.
We flipped over the frame to float,
weightless girls who didn’t matter.

There’s a scar in the shape of Africa
on my right knee, a faceless dime
on my wrist. I expect flight,
but brace to land on my back.

How I could’ve loved you with that body,
heart that instructs a girl to climb fences
taller than her house, or fight a bully
who already shaves her knees.

What chords a pulse plucks. It plays
in thumbs pressed together. Some night
I’d like to leap from the headboard,
double up, wonder at the blood in our grins.

The scalps of the women with the best prophecies are dry this season

They grow too aware of crowns, spend 
evenings rinsing and rinsing, water boiled 
with oils and herbs left to cool 
alongside chicken and grains. The women 
send their children to work, on themselves 
or the house, and steam their scalps.

I dream of my father but don’t know what he says. 
It’s kind. I share rice and other grains with a man. 
I hand him light in my kitchen. 
He takes it and my belly cools.

I prefer not to write about love.
I prefer not to write about my body.
My father’s love, my mother’s body.
Both regenerate with astounding speed.

At times, I find myself in an ancient pose.
In a café, I make my arms a bow
and look up, as if an arrow will appear
at an absurd angle. I mark a line 

from privacy to throat, trace the dark line 
under my bellybutton. Maybe someone 
took my astral baby. Maybe I birthed the man
who denied me. Maybe he had to deny me
to avoid a crime. I don’t point my fingers.

I’m convinced our fate is determined 
in part by water, that we can’t avoid walking by 
or being near a body of it, however we plan our travel. 
That showers are prescribed before birth. 
How many things have I missed 
letting my wet bangs touch my eyelashes, 
singing into a stream?

Boat Journey

Sunday afternoon on a city beach.
No sand, slabs of manufactured stone.
I watch two blondes, maybe sisters,
Inflate a raft. They use a bicycle pump.
One tries to assemble two paddles,
Gives up, puts them in her bag.
The one on the pump removes her top.
She has exerted herself into better posture.
Her breasts are larger than I expected.
I want to see if their tiny raft will hold them.
The clouds and current move north.
As they enter the water, Tony Allen warns
Against the boat journey: Running away
From a misery / Find yourself in a double misery.
I recall photos of British tourists in Greece
Frowning at refugees,
Greek children in gym class while hungry.
In the direction the raft floats, the sisters
Paddling with their hands, a planetarium.
I wonder if it houses a telescope capable
Of seeing the double misery on a Greek island.
Maybe its lens is too powerful.
The side of their raft reads EXPLORER.
Their soles are black. If you pay attention
To movies, white women have grimy soles.
I have seen black actresses with exquisite feet.
I recall my mother checking my socks
In the exam room before the doctor entered.
The sisters let their ponytails drag
In dubious lake water.
I’m not sure I hear these lyrics: Even if
They let you enter / They probably won’t let you.
Even if they let you enter / The baron won’t let you,
The baron won’t let you.

I note their appearances,
Takeoff point. Just in case.
I doubt any of our thoughts converge.
What is it like to be so free?
To drift in water in a country you call
Your own. Unprepared because you can laugh
Into an official’s face. Explain, offer no apology.

Related Poems

Five Scenes from Icarus

Translated by Rebecca Ruth Gould and Kayvan Tahmasebian

I Justice

Each word
is sacrificed to a sword
that beams forth its light.
It rains.
Each word wears a white mask
and a self to be
submitted to the rain.
Each word is an angel
trembling from nakedness.

I have lifted the sword.
I rip the mask
off the word
and place it on my face.
I submit myself
to the rain
and before the scent of life ascends,
I take flight
with the angel’s two wings.

The rain has stopped.
The sun of language
draws near!

 

II Misty Dreams

The sky wanted
a misty sip from me
when the hood of the stroller filled with dew.
In the stroller, sleep seized you!

Through the vineyard, through the mist,
slumber and wine were distributed.
Cheers
in the mist!

Icarus
fell.

 

III Icaruses

The word with its movement—the word in flight—
has filled the space with the scent of flesh.
What is a poem but the movement of a word?

In the room the women
are talking of Icarus
while Icarus’s poem
is not composed.

Just one word:
the sun!

And if you return someday
from that burning pilgrimage,
I will fill the torches cup by cup with the sea
and you will know that its flame
is the bluest and coldest of flames.

 

IV In Reverse

                   to Mohsen Saba

1
The one who left will never return
will collapse.
At the cloud the narcissus stares at the cloud.
It rains. It does not rain.
Beneath the wet cloak,
when will I be moved to bring the firewood?

2
Oh, my friend! My friend!
Twice is enough.
The third is spring air.
When Icarus falls
from the green sky
the narcissus’s corolla fills with rainwater.
Look inside! A small Icarus
ascends.

 

V From Icarus and the Bondsman of the Deer1

Just as the thunderstorm in the rainbow
mixes colors with colors,
I wish that poetry could mix the two legends together
so that we could stare at each other in the poison sunrise,
and the plants would recognize water in the poison sunrise.
(Water is our majestic selflessness and has taught them
the secret of life and us the secret of death.)
And the sun would fit into the grape.
(The grape is the Holy Last Supper.)
Now that the flood of sun has taken the wing away,
the deer is helpless.
He falls.
Generous deer bestow nothing.
They watch and watch and watch.
Now that the sun slowly
moves west
on the hill, two fires have turned red.
The horizon is recognized in your compromise.
This horizon of bliss: the bondsman of water
concealed in wet firewood.

 

1“Deer Bondsman” is a title for the eighth Shia Imam, Reza (whose name, meaning “bliss,” is referenced in the second to last line of this poem). According to legend, Imam Reza protected a deer from being killed by a hunter. He died after being poisoned by grapes. The two legends to which the poet refers are those of Imam Reza and Icarus.

Narration, Transubstantiation

“God is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere.”
                                                              —Borges


1.

The peony, which was not open this morning, has opened,
falling over its edges 

like the circumference of God, still clasped 
at the center:

my two-month-old daughter’s hand 
in Palmer reflex, having endured 

from the apes: ontogeny
recapitulating phylogeny, clutching for fur.  

Her face is always tilted up when I carry her,  
her eyes, always blue.  

She is asking nothing of the sky, nothing 
of the pileated woodpeckers,

their directionless wings, directed bodies,
the unmoved moving.


2.

Hold still, 
song of the wood thrush, 

twin voice boxes poised, smell of the creek
and the locust flowers, white as wafers 

on the branches, communion: pistil, stamen, bee.  
Hold still.   

She doesn’t say 
a word.

 

3.

When we eat, 
what we eat is the body 

of the world.  
Also when we do not eat.  

She is asking the sky for milk.  
Take and eat, we tell her, 

this is my body 
which is given for you, child,

who are here now, 
though you were not, 

though you will be old 
then absent again: sad 

to us going forward in time
but not back.  Not sad to you at all.  

The peony whose circumference 
is nowhere, you, whose head 

now is weighted to my chest, 
the creek stringing lights 

along next to us,
the peony which has opened.

Even the Gods

Even the gods misuse the unfolding blue. Even the gods misread the windflower’s nod toward sunlight as consent to consume. Still, you envy the horse that draws their chariot. Bone of their bone. The wilting mash of air alone keeps you from scaling Olympus with gifts of dead or dying things dangling from your mouth—your breath, like the sea, inching away. It is rumored gods grow where the blood of a hanged man drips. You insist on being this man. The gods abuse your grace. Still, you’d rather live among   the clear, cloudless white, enjoying what is left of their ambrosia. Who  should  be  happy  this  time?  Who  brings  cake  to whom? Pray  the  gods  do  not  misquote  your  covetous pulse for chaos, the black from which they were conceived. Even the eyes of gods must adjust to light. Even gods have gods.