Poetry International 7
Table of Contents
The Song of a Twin Brother
And What Remains
Mawu of the Waters
A B D
I Have Learnt
God Punish You, Lord Lugard
She Was Only Five
Like Split Reed at Waterfrong
Explorer of Aromas
Her Three Days
Letter to His Mother
Selections from "Lovesong for my Wasteland" (Song)
Forty Full Seasons Gone Like Yesterday
What Is Poetry Then If It Cannot Raise A Flood
Taban Lo Liyong
How Did Homer Mourn His Dad
Sarah Baartman and Museum Secrets
Monica Arac de Nyeko
dance to the first rains
Lukas D. Mkuti
Rhythms of the Dance
Ingrid de Kok
Some there be
Birth of a poem
The problem with words
Kgafela oa Magogodi
Morning in Tunis
Mongane Wally Serote
from Freedom Lament and Song
Charles Harper Webb
Why I Won’t Mind if my Fruit Trees Don’t Produce This Year
Pencils and Pens
Dancing With My Father
Take Your Pills
Joan with a Comb
Blues for Robert Johnson
This Poem Wants to be a Rock and Roll Song So Bad
Letter to Hayden Carruth
August 1, 2001
Luis Omar Salinas
My Gentle Dog
On This Energetic Day of Autumn
I grew mushrooms
Keki N. Daruwalla
We the Kauravas
Goddess I am Lonely
Dilip ChitreHoshang Merchant
From Weimar to Buchenwald and back Untitled Poems About a Titled
The Christ of Lake Como
Bibhu Prasad Padhi
il miglior fabbro?
Rukmini Bhaya Nair
Digital Delhi: Six Snapshots
The Third Eye
Wong Phui NamAlamgir Hashmi
A Poet Beyond the Far South
Off the Expressway
Marjorie M. EvascoRicardo Monreal de Ungria
Sic Transit Mundi
Bodies of GoldEdwin Thumboo
Christmas Day at the MoviesAlfian Saat
Driving Through the PSIArunja Parakrama
The Dead Are Among Us
Out of Time
My Rite of Passage
Major Mitchell’s Pink Cockatoo
Long Dry Spell
A Warm Day
That Snake Wind
Missing Elvis and Two Naked Women at the Luddenham Show
Five Artefacts Found on the Highveld
Besides Good & Evil
Song for the Chipping Sparrow
Two Mysterious Songs
The Garen of My Father
Prayers of Snow
Girl in the Tea Shop
Patron Saint of Silence
Boom Boom Boom
A History of Waiting
When They are Asleep in their Nimubs of Flame
Advice from the Experts
George Elliott Clarke
Of the Recent Child Molestations in Kingston, Ontario
20th Century History
A Arthur Nortje
Where the Bear Was
Things Buried in the Backyard
Sandra Lee Scheuer
"Homecoming, Anse La Raye"
Kamau BrathwaiteAndrew Salkey
"Islands and Exiles", section III of Rights of Passage (1967), the first book of The Arrivants trilogy (1973).
Postcard from Mexico, 16.x.1973
Dennis ScottMore Poem
Edward BaughGuinea-Hen Weed
Having Eyes that See
Jamaican Dance #2
E.A. MarkhamA Few Lines from Philoctete’s Epic
Ceremony at Maracuene, Mozambique, from "Epic"
Mervyn TaylorWedding Day
The Careening Poui
Pam MordecaiSnake and Squirrel
Lorna GoodisonChange if you must, just change slow
Praise to the mother of Jamaican art
Dawad PhilipAfter Work at our Place
Merle CollinsSomebody Walking over my Grave
A Wall in Nicosia
MutabarukaLife and Debt
Nursery Rhyme Lament
Fred D’AguiarTropic of Good Hope
Voting in Florida
The glass-hulled boat
From Border Cartography "These Landscape"
IV Castell Dyserth
The Classical Picnic
From the Safe House
Upon A Claude Glass
Music of Quality and Distinction
‘Hooligans hate Handel’
The Child and the Stairs
The Dead Man’s Pain
The painter Fabritius begins work on the lost Noli Me Tangere of 1652
The Meanest Flower
A Square of Sky
The Dragonfly Daughter
The Hudson Remembers
The Mantis Mother
John Hartley Williams
The Spirit of the Staircase
Tankas for Toraiwa
Le Brocquy’s Tain
Tankas For Liam O’Flynn
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Poem Without Words
Poem Rhyming in ‘J’
From: September Elegies
A visit to Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim
Two Minutes Westward
certain pockets of resistance
what the snow said
Edwin Thumboo, Asia
Where the old Rendezvous brooded
By a row of old houses, since sadly slain,
A special road began. A point of colonial
Confluence: Dhoby Ghaut, the YWCA with
Smart tennis courts; colonial ladies hard at tea
And scones. Across the road a small Shell kiosk
Where Papa parked the Austin Seven when he needed
Parts and radex, the latest additive, from Hock Hoe’s.
Think of the names: Dhobby Ghaut, Princept Street
There were three Cathays, a name the Lokes made
Famous: resplendent building, much our tallest then,
Looking out to sea; camera shop, and the Store,
Where Rudy R’s wife, petite, temporarily demure,
Quietly assessed her customers as she held her
Intelligence above show-cases. Two doors away, Heng,
Conversant with German cameras and sales Japanese,
Was enroute to a partnership, starting to be called Mr.
And the books, the bookshops where I picked up
Penguin New Writing, Palgrave’s G-Treasury, Q’s
Oxford anthology, a happy find, and old mixed issues
Of The Wide World, full of imperial adventure.
White man carrying his burden, across the map
Of Asia, Africa; up Ruwenzori to the moon, down
The Brahmaputra. Mainly first hand accounts, direct
Experience; unshorn; open to ways of superstitution;
Giving plain narrative that power of art, and honesty.
No theory of the Other; or diaspora; only them.
And the old Rendezvous: affordable after school.
The man with the mole couldn’t decide if it was lucky.
He holds the extra spoonful, balancing fate, deciding
On the way you looked. Two doors away Simon Ong’s
Family shop with fishing tackle, Winchester torches,
Knives of Solingen steel. Outside, the Woodsville tram,
Full of St Andrew boys, swings around the corner,
Brakes squealing.Bit by bit, seemed different with each changing vantage
Standing there, the world grew,
Point, shift in weather; hormonal stir, sweetly unknowing;
An ache that knew no words; a quickly passing month.
Eyes changed, took in more, the fullness of a smile,
The curve beneath blue uniforms. Our bodies turned
With the mind’s discourse, the rainbow’s ripening,
As thoughts fingered each image, each chance encounter.
Experience became a word. Life was ceasing to be simple.
Kofi Anyidoho, Africa
I've just had a private
session with your book of poems--
the seventh such session since
the south winds came & claimed
the house you built with words
and scattered your voices
into bits of memory
as I hitch-hiked into snowstorms
and you into atlantic hurricanes.
Why must it always take
relentless fevers of winter winds
for the warmth of human touch
to bring our sunshine a little
closer to the cold logic of time?
As I turn from poem to poem to poem
Your voice expands into volumes
of Care and Fear and Joy and Hope
gathering clouds and blues
against a twilight of shadows & sorrows
holding mirrors to rainbows in your soul.
But each time I strain my mind
to touch your breath a holocaust
of screams descends and shatters
the beams in corners of your eyes.
Each time I curve my glance
to catch the twilight in your voice
a thunder strikes and lightnings
dissolve into tremblings
along distant horizons of ancestral mindscapes.
I have promised myself
There will be no more returns
into Solitude of SoulTime.
Still there are Journeys
we make. Alone. In the Night.
Or with CompanionSeekers of the Light.
Perhaps one day in some
Corner of this Market-
Place of kindred Souls
You & I may sit among the Oases
& count the endless Desert
Grain by countless Grain.
Till then I must forever trem-
ble my lips
over pollens in your name
slowly making peace
with a dawn deprived
of dreams a dawn
without the ancient
Promise of the Sun.
Lala salama BrendaMarie.
Pencils and Pens
Charles Harper Webb, United States
Did this silver pen from Jack's Dive Shop in Kona
scrawl "Ten sea turtles, a scorpion fish, and an octopus"
in Kate's and my dive log? Or was it this gold one,
front-weighted like a throwing knife, from Hong Kong's
Hyatt Regency, where Kate stayed when she was ten?
or this tan tent?spike I picture in Dad's fist as he paid bills,
cursing and grimacing? It could even have been this ballpoint
from the Billings Motel Six, where I crashed with my band
until Marie, the Climax Club's snake dancer, took me in.
Maybe I snagged this "Squirrel's Club" scribbler from my son.
His mom?my ex?could have whittled this orange Faber Lance
down to size. (What teeth did the chew?marks come from?)
We toss out heirloom chairs, our children's art, clothes marinated
in good times, but let pencils and pens collect in drawers,
or?gripped by tin cans?fan into bouquets: Bic, Papermate,
Ticonderoga; worn erasers, missing caps, blunt leads.
Like Depression veterans saving tin foil, we don't trust
the progress we've made. We fear to find ourselves back in a cave,
minds gushing thought, nothing to save it but leaky, lying memory.
Homecoming : Anse La Raye
for Garth St. Omer
Derek Walcott, Caribbean
Whatever else we learned
at school, like solemn Afro-Greeks eager for grades,
of Helen and the shades
of borrowed ancestors,
there are no rites
for those who have returned,
only, when her looms fade,
drilled in our skulls, the doom-
only this well-known passage
under the coconuts’ salt-rusted
swords, these rotted
leathery sea-grape leaves,
the seacrabs’ brittle helmets, and
this barbecue of branches, like the ribs
of sacrificial oxen on scorched sand;
only this fish-gut-reeking beach
whose frigates tack like buzzards overhead,
whose spindly, sugar-headed children race
pelting up from the shallows
because your clothes,
seem a tourist’s.
They swarm like flies
round your heart’s sore.
Suffer them to come,
entering your needle’s eye,
knowing whether they live or die,
what others make of life will pass them by
like that far silvery freighter
threading the horizon like a toy;
for once, like them,
you wanted no career
but this sheer light, this clear,
infinite, boring, paradisal sea,
but hoped it would mean something to declare
today, I am your poet, yours,
all this you knew,
but never guessed you’d come
to know there are homecomings without home.
You give them nothing.
Their curses melt in air.
The black cliffs scowl,
the ocean sucks its teeth,
like that dugout canoe
a drifting petal fallen in a cup,
with nothing but its image,
you sway, reflecting nothing.
The freighter’s silvery ghost
is gone, the children gone.
Dazed by the sun
you trudge back to the village
past the white, salty esplanade
under whose palms dead
fishermen move their draughts in shade,
crossing, eating their islands,
and one, with a politician’s
ignorant, sweet smile, nods,
as if all fate
swayed in his lifted hand.
From Border Cartography, "These Landscape"
Jo Shapcott, United Kingdom
Towers, walls, the castle,
even the earth we measure
with our steps on this walk -
are tough as you like.
In this light, the red stone
is more tender than stubborn:
the castle keep gifted
with the surface of a peach.
There’s a fish mountain
not far from here, crammed
with antediluvian bones.
This hillock is smaller,
the stones raided,
only the ground
wanting to remember
the fragments it’s made of.
It’s like being inside a shell
the way the hills encircle
the town. And the rain’s
of the streets. The font
in the church is so old
that just to touch it brings
drizzle down from the west.
The Garden of My Father
Patrick Lane, Canada
My mother, drunk again, her nightgown pulled up to her hips, raised her legs and scissored them in the still air of the room where we had all lived once in the great confusions of family. I didn't know what she did there alone in the years after my father's death, what mirrors she stared into or what she saw there, what rooms she paced or where she placed her hands as she gazed into the test pattern late at night, drunk, the rye whiskey bottle beside her and the golden glass she drank from. Bare calves and thighs and the dark willow smudge of wet leaves between her legs. Daddy loved my legs, that coquette wince of voice, the sound like something soft dropped among steel blades and minced there. I didn't know then it was not my father she spoke of but her own. Or perhaps it was both and she was only drunk again and lost in time, her memory a face she might have known once and did no longer, love as she did. There are stories so simple they elude me, their meaning lost in the telling, so that even now I miss the words, the or and if, the but that makes all questions possible.
Or was it the willow above the pond
where I saw her last, that flash of red babushka
above her hands deep in the earth?
If, if, if? In time I will tell you of the wind
in the willow if you hurry to the garden,
if she is still there on her knees by the pond.
But you didn't see her, did you? So furious
her scraping at the earth, the willow flailing
in the last great winds of spring. Oh, yes.
My return to her was to a garden, the orchards of the desert hills. I would pick my steady way through the trees above the lakes in the fall until the cold branches were empty of fruit. A dead marriage, children gone, a continent to wander, and always leading back to her. What if, I might have said. Nights after the bars closed I would walk cold drunk the miles back to that dark house, the only light from the window a flutter of blue light, the comedies and tragedies over, the news finished, the test pattern a flicker on the screen in front of the couch where I knew she sat with her whiskey and her glass. How I would wander outside saying this was the garden of my father, that is his tool shed, there is the place where he parked his car, and here is the well, the root cellar, the sawdust bin, the steps leading down into the basement??here, there, this and that, and not going, yet, into the house.
I wanted to place the word sorrow
in a poem so that it was no more
or less than and, if or but.
One crow for sorrow, two for mirth...
I know I have it wrong, but willow leaves,
are they what fall among her slow fingers?
It is not a willow leaf, nor can it be, but that I
make of it a sorrow. The form of, how I know
the wind by the shape willow leaves make in fall.
I don't think she waited for me. I was a ghost as much as anyone was in that cold of autumn. I could tell by the way she looked at me I was a stranger kind of son. It wasn't a question I could reach into. Oh, it's you, she'd say, as if there was anyone else who might have come. I'd drink her into dawn. I'd drink her into sleep, my body folded on the faded couch, dreams of apples tumbling from my hands into bins that never filled. Small money for the winter just ahead. They were the years after my father's death. Each fall I'd come and stay the harvest month. The living room was full of the gone, too many to count, the shadows of my family, my father,
his breathing quiet in the chair I never sat in. That's the man's chair. Sit there, sit there, she'd say. I could hear his lungs hiss, quartz crystals like stars inside his chest. When she pulled her nightgown up and raised her legs it was as if she fell backwards into a darkness all her own and the flutter of her calves and thighs what a body does before it dies.
So white, so white, that slim dance
in the room of the dying night.
Dark earth, a staghorn beetle's prance
among wet willow leaves in light.
How small her gentle feet, her glance,
wet willow leaves, her hands, their slight.
Should, must, will, all words. Who was it I served as I stared at her white flail and the damp I call now leaves for lack of a better, other word, between her legs? Daddy loved me, she'd say, her flirtation not with me but with some ghost that walked inside her eyes. A father's night in that steady sorrow of straggled lipstick, the giggle of a girl as she lowered her legs, her nightgown awry, and looked at me as if she knew. Flirtatious, thin coquette, she stood and walked to me, and dropped into my lap my father's watch, then swirled around the room until she slumped into my arms, a little thing, her body like a child's, thin bones and wretched flesh.
The stone fell five thousand years through ice
to find its way to the garden. First things,
where nothing is that is not nothing.
I crawl on my knees to find the trace
of her hands in the wet earth. I have a stone
to place among willow leaves and beetles.
Her ghost in the garden again today.
Sleep soon, little mother. Go to spirit
that this world at last might rest.
I carried her then to the bed she had shared with my father and covered her, her face slack and wet. I sat in the first light coming over the blue hills, the watch on my wrist. It had begun again, the thin hands starting their slow, methodical measuring. In the bracelet's chain his sweat had congealed in thin grease mixed with dust, the fragile tick of seconds counting the night into the day, my thumb moving across the scarred face and hinge of links that bound me.
Jill Jones, Australia
Have you admitted something is catching
on the gate?
Is it the way a wind blows
out of the mouth of spring
the crackle and crisp touching up
of a skinny evening?
How the flowers move above their shadows
black leaves, green hearts
the lines of worms and bugs written on leaves.
But you cannot exhaust your head
or put it down
Though the city makes you tender
at times it seems you were never
part of it — here.
Elsewhere nothing seems true
but loose as a whisper, part of the dissolve.
With a glance of the hand
you are heaping the forgotten
rather than tending
the laying down.
Currawongs from a day’s mist blanket
remind you, echoed as a lone girl
while all this obstructed rippling
is slowed down to drift in the passing cold.
Tell me how it is undone -
moving between the birds, the cracking trees
over a railing as I taste wind swirl
past ghost lips, the never blue light
my house, my intersection -
to arrange the chill then light up the knots
to experience the labour
that now unshapes me.
Tankas For Toraiwa
Seamus Heaney, Ireland
I loved to carry
Her violin case, its nose
In air, its back end
Nice and heavy, the balance
Factored in and factored out.
Every time she placed
Her two thumbs to the two snibs
And opened the lid
She couldn’t help a quick frown
(Disguised pleasure?) as she checked.
Then her brow would clear
And the sun disc of her face
Tilt up and brighten
At the tap of a baton,
At the tip of a baton...
In the baize-lined case
Emptied of the ingrown jut
Of the fiddlehead,
A lump of ancient resin
And a dirty chamois cloth.
The conductor’s hands —
Big and out of proportion
To his skinny wee
Professor’s body — always,
She said, "interested" her.
Fiddlehead ferns: why
When I think of them do I
Because — surprise — he quizzed me
About the erotic life.