Poetry International 7

Table of Contents

Poetry Sections:



Contributors Notes


Kofi Anyidoho


The Song of a Twin Brother

Abena Busia


And What Remains

Mawu of the Waters

Niyi Osundare


I Have Learnt

Ambiguous Legacy

Odia Ofeimun


Ogaga Ifowodo


God Punish You, Lord Lugard

Lola Shoneyin

She Was Only Five

Like Split Reed at Waterfrong

Sell-By Date

Toyin Adewale

Explorer of Aromas

Her Three Days

Olu Oguibe

Letter to His Mother

Remi Raji

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

No face


Patrick Mangeni

The Road


Lupenga Mphande

The Ilala

dance to the first rains

Lukas D. Mkuti

Rhythms of the Dance

Ingrid de Kok

Body parts

Some there be

Spring custom

Lisa Combrinck

Birth of a poem

The problem with words

Skinderbek city

Kgafela oa Magogodi


shit poem

Keorapetse Kgositsile

Red Song

Morning in Tunis

Mongane Wally Serote

from Freedom Lament and Song



Contributors Notes

Charles Harper Webb

Why I Won’t Mind if my Fruit Trees Don’t Produce This Year


Pencils and Pens

Diane Wakoski

Winter Solstice

Dancing With My Father

Jim Daniels

Take Your Pills

John Ashbery

Joan with a Comb

Kim Addonizio

Blues for Robert Johnson

This Poem Wants to be a Rock and Roll Song So Bad

Maria Terrone

L’Affaire Dictatcion

Marilyn Hacker

Letter to Hayden Carruth

Ruth Stone


August 1, 2001


Luis Omar Salinas


My melancholy

My Ambitions

My Gentle Dog

Angry Lady

On This Energetic Day of Autumn

Gary Young




Contributors Notes

Agnes Lam

I grew mushrooms

Jayanta Mahapatra

One Evening

The Stones

Keki N. Daruwalla

We the Kauravas

Goddess I am Lonely

Dilip Chitre

    From Weimar to Buchenwald and back Untitled Poems About a Titled
Hoshang Merchant

The Christ of Lake Como

Bibhu Prasad Padhi


Makarand Parajape

il miglior fabbro?

remote control

Rukmini Bhaya Nair

Digital Delhi: Six Snapshots

The Third Eye

Ranjit Hoskote


The Scribe

Cecil Rajendra


Lex Terroris

Wong Phui Nam

    A Poet Beyond the Far South


Alamgir Hashmi
    Being There

    Off the Expressway

Omar Tarin

The Pitcher

Marjorie M. Evasco

    Sic Transit Mundi

    Bodies of Gold

Ricardo Monreal de Ungria
    Christmas Day at the Movies
Edwin Thumboo
Alfian Saat
    The Dead Are Among Us

    Keppel Road

Arunja Parakrama

Out of Time

My Rite of Passage

Jean Arasanayagam

Pata’s Horoscope



Contributors Notes

Poetry Section

Robert Adamson

Major Mitchell’s Pink Cockatoo

Martin Harrison

Long Dry Spell

Anita Heiss



Jill Jones

The Dissolve

A Warm Day

Dennis McDermott

Kinky One

That Snake Wind

Jennifer Maiden

Missing Elvis and Two Naked Women at the Luddenham Show

Missing Elvis:Two

John Mateer

Five Artefacts Found on the Highveld

The Rock

Peter Minter

Besides Good & Evil

Jan Owen


The Pangolins

Amanda Stewart

Kitsch Postcards

John Tranter

Con’s Café

At Naxos

Herb Wharton


Cross Roads



Contributors Notes

Don McKay

Song for the Chipping Sparrow



Jan Zwicky



Two Mysterious Songs

Patrick Lane

The Garen of My Father

Lorna Crozier


Winter Birches

Prayers of Snow

Girl in the Tea Shop

Patron Saint of Silence


Boom Boom Boom



A History of Waiting

Susan Glickman

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


Identical Twins

Things Buried in the Backyard

Gary Geddes

Sandra Lee Scheuer

Jimmy’s Place

Wilderness Factor



Contributors Notes

Derek Walcott

"Homecoming, Anse La Raye"

Kamau Brathwaite

    "Islands and Exiles", section III of Rights of Passage (1967), the first book of The Arrivants trilogy (1973).
Andrew Salkey

Postcard from Mexico, 16.x.1973


Dennis Scott

More Poem

Edward Baugh

    Amadou’s mother

    Home truths

Guinea-Hen Weed

Mervyn Morris

    Parlour Game

    Having Eyes that See


    Jamaican Dance #2


E.A. Markham

    Ceremony at Maracuene, Mozambique, from "Epic"


A Few Lines from Philoctete’s Epic

Mervyn Taylor

    Local Blooms

    Ghost Driver

    The Careening Poui

Wedding Day

Pam Mordecai

    Mortal Stew
Snake and Squirrel

Lorna Goodison

    Praise to the mother of Jamaican art
Change if you must, just change slow

Dawad Philip

    Quarter Moon


    Country Christmas

After Work at our Place

Merle Collins

    Quality Time

    A Wall in Nicosia



Somebody Walking over my Grave


    Nursery Rhyme Lament
Life and Debt

Fred D’Aguiar

    Voting in Florida


    Alligator Lullaby

Tropic of Good Hope

Great Britain


Contributors Notes


Kathleen Jamie

The brooch

The glass-hulled boat

The hill-track

Jo Shapcott

From Border Cartography "These Landscape"

III Carlisle

IV Castell Dyserth

V Montgomery

Alan Jenkins

The Classical Picnic

Water Baby

~Michael Donaghy

From the Safe House

A Darkroom

Upon A Claude Glass

William Herbert

Music of Quality and Distinction

‘Hooligans hate Handel’

Moniza Alvi

The Child and the Stairs

The Dead Man’s Pain

The Malady

John Burnside

The painter Fabritius begins work on the lost Noli Me Tangere of 1652

Mimi Khalvati

The Meanest Flower

Come Close

The Valley


Overblown Roses


Pascale Petit

A Square of Sky

The Dragonfly Daughter

The Hudson Remembers

The Mantis Mother

John Hartley Williams



Miss Melody

Matthew Francis

Phonebox Elegy


Sean O’Brien

Evening Towns


Lavinia Greenlaw


The Spirit of the Staircase

Blue Field

Sheenagh Pugh

Baliasta Kirkyard

Bilfrost Bridge



Contributors Notes

Seamus Heaney

Tankas for Toraiwa

Le Brocquy’s Tain

Tankas For Liam O’Flynn

Michael Longley



Above Dooaghtry

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Come back

The Flood

Medbh McGuckian

Poem Without Words

Poem Rhyming in ‘J’

A Chaplinesque

Dennis O’Driscoll

Book Sale

Ave Maria

Soft Fruit

Mary O’Donnell

From: September Elegies

A visit to Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim

Peter Fallon

A Will

The Orkneys

The Blaskets

New Zealand


Contributors Notes


John Geraets

Foundation Logic


Paula Green

1.5.02 See-See

Two Minutes Westward

Michele Leggot

certain pockets of resistance

Cilla McQueen

Riddles (i)

Riddles (ii)

Stoat Song

Michael Radich


what the snow said

Bras Basah

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.

    Standing there, the world grew,
Bit by bit, seemed different with each changing vantage

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-

surge-haunted nights,

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,

your posture

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.


Castell Dyserth

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

made mother-of-pearl

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.

The Dissolve

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

Think: Toraiwa!

Because — surprise — he quizzed me

About the erotic life.