the falling paper flower

the plastic tree branch

the plight of reminiscing

the bureaucracy of kismet

the factories empty of logic

the bins to hold what’s done

the spaceship of butterflies

the video game of intimacy

the series premiere of strife

the discretion of the cosmos

the sharp wisdom of the young

O friend who reads in a cave w/o light

the comb detangling the scars

forward is not so far away

The Interviewer Acknowledges Grief

Sister, I waste time. I play
              and replay the voices of these
hurt women flowering

             like marigolds or thistles.
Something lost, forgotten—
             that picture of you, violin

sewn fast to your shoulder,
             bow in one hand poised
eternal. Again, the power's

             gone out—tell me, what is
it to say I miss you? Because
             you won't grow breasts, never

feel desire rippling across you
             like bolts of silk these many
lithe men unshelf daily

             for my choosing. Because you
can't reassure me I have
             the right to ask anything

of women whose bodies won't
              ever again be their own. You
can't blot away this utter, sooted

              darkness. You don't hesitate
when another birangona asks you,
              Do you have any siblings?

For decades, you've been
              so small: a child tapping
on opaque windows. Now,

              through the veranda's black
iron bars, I see you, dark
              silhouette hurrying past,

a bagged red box dangling
              from one slender arm—gift
for a lover or mother. Again,

               the generator shudders me back
into light. Isn't this, Sister,
               what I always said I wanted?

Apology from a Muslim Orphan

I know you know
how to shame into obedience
the long chain tethering lawnmower
to fence. And in your garden
are no chrysanthemums, no hem
of lace from the headscarf
I loose for him at my choosing.
Around my throat still twines a thin line
from when, in another life, I was
guillotined. I know you know
how to slap a child across the face
with a sandal.
Forgive me. I love when he tells me to be
the water you siphon into the roots
of your trees. In that life,
I was your enemy and silverleaf.  
In this one, the child you struck was me.

Your Own Palm

O, my daughter, once I was a poor boy
folding peppers into my sarong 
to walk three miles to sell, but what
can you tell me of sorrow, 
or of the courage it takes to buy
a clock instead of a palmful 
of rice to go with the goat 
we can’t afford to slaughter?
Look at the lines Allah etched
on your own palm: you have
a big brain and a good heart, 
still, you don’t use either enough! 
Once, I walked through a war 
beside my brother parallel 
to a gray river. Why do you care
about the few damp bills
I didn’t give to our mother?
Or the clock I bought to take apart? Well, 
I left that country with a palmful 
of seeds I’ve thrown across
this dry, hard Texas. Allah
has blessed me with this vine
that coils upward. I care
so little for what others say, ask 
your mother. That nose ring
doesn’t suit you, by the way. 
Once, you were small enough 
to cradle. There was a coil 
in that clock made of metal . . . O, 
that something so small can matter . . . 
                        No daughter, I 
don’t need a glass of water. Look, 
this will grow into maatir neeche aloo. 
In the spring, you see, its purple leaves
will be the size of your own palm. 
In the village, there is a saying: 
“Dhuniya dhari, kochu pathar paani.”
I don’t know where the clock is 
or how much it’s worth! There was 
not enough for kerosene . . . why 
do you always ask what can’t be answered?
 

Related Poems

Electronic Thorns

Translated by Ghayde Ghraowi

The soul departing from trees of speech
Does not want to ascend 
Nor to be buried;
It wants to finish reading.
..
My heart is a stone that stumbled in the dirt and broke apart 
..
O the mud of the storm, 
heavy, it drags my soul 
From one tavern to another

 

My hand is a cage that forgot to lock its door
So speech flew away
..
I am made of music 
That departs on an evening jaunt 
To the garden of the unknown 
..
Wherever my sorrow comes to preside
Mud is my door  

 

Outside the blathering cemetery
a lone word was lost 
And began to limp 
..
My garden throne was forlorn; 
peopled with memories 
..
My heart, 
a garden filled with thrones

 

The signal was green 
We crossed the road to eternity 
In familiar forms of transportation 
..
In the furor of death
A new tree sprouted 
In fine script
..
Its scent is like infirmity, 
This soul

 

It was as it must be
I was as I must be
But we did not agree 
..
In a hefty handbag
I abandoned my superstition.  
The soul travels, rising, falling  
From an expensive handbag 
Out leaks my mud
..
Who can direct me toward mud that resembles my dust.

Collude

with the anemone zero.

Drink 12 oz. of coffee in Longmont.

Are you parched?

Is your name Pinky?

What color is the skin of your inner arm, creamy?

Valentine City rebate: a box of chocolates from Safeway.

Yours, yours, yours.

In its entirety.

Don't collude with your inability to give or receive love.

Collude, instead, with the lining of the universe.

Descent, rotation, silk water, brief periods of intense sunlight
striated with rose pink glitter.

The glitter can only get us.

So far.

Here we are at the part with the asphalt, airstream Tupperware,
veins, some nice light stretching.

Call me.

This is a poem for a beloved.

Who never arrived.

What New Name

What new name will you bear in a world governed by code and calculation

What program will reveal the ratio between communal identities and the loss of the body

You are not known or pronounced

Your nonce nonchalance does not convince

Your scores are neither high enough to qualify, nor deep enough to be legible, nor detailed enough to play from

Custodian of nothing, childless, rude and startled

So many scintillating shards or conversations when things shatter

Savagely unbodied by the microscopic architecture of psalmless palm

Drawn means tired or created or a naked sword or tied up and torn asunder

It’s not loving someone who can’t love you back, but the end of loving them that’s the saddest

Now emotional intimacy has tech, yoga has tech, sex has tech, even tech has tech

You don’t even know what day it is, what the weather is like or where you’re supposed to be next

Let yourself be found like water through rocks, you are what’s lost, you are the pool collecting in the ground

Speak now speak always speak in the long undrawn colloquy of night