All September

All September, this city swathed in rain, sorrow has
prospered in the damp air and all the things we have

broken, we cannot put back: not like this monsoon
sky that will reset itself, no scratch, no seam, leaving

us to wonder — if we imagined all the grey mornings
after all the stormy nights, if touch, too, was a dream,

if water was an affliction, if detachment came from
the separation, or fastened itself to the silence (tiny

spores of colourless indifference, growing on a forever
bed of contoured waiting) — if in the molten dark, we

reached to wipe the washed light from the face of the
moon, skin brushing skin, strangers, in the silvery wet?

 

**

I was writing a set of “City Poems” last year that was supposed to organically grow into a chapbook of some sort. Of course, 2020 effectively destroyed all creative mind space and everything seems to be on some kind of endless pause. Somehow, from that muscle memory or from a sense of foreboding, this poem has emerged into the light. From comments and discussions, I can tell several poets are struggling to write. One left a message on my blog today that she hoped to be inspired to write again. This is probably the best thing we can do for each other – hope someone finds some words and hope those words will help us find ourselves.

Break open a poem

Break open a poem and time spills out, not
quite like sand from a fist, too small, too tight;

not quite like rain from a cloud that has drifted
too long — break open a moment within a word,

within a line, and all the moments before it spill
out, not quite like the blur from a speeding train:

the contained is rarely smaller than its container –
possession is only a manner of being. Break open

this night, hold its screams apart, see, all the things I
thought I could bear, can no longer bear themselves.

The whole poem you wrote

As if there are words that actually mean what we
think, what we feel: the keyboard is an absurd

compromise, an approximation, the discord between
manifest alphabet and mind is the dark sky of day.

To listen, to read, is to dress the naked body,
impale an ill-fitting soul upon its breast, to tell it

your secret, give it a name. The reader declares
possession, the listener misappropriates pronouns.

Didn’t you say goodbye like an onomatopoeic verb
with nine syllables for retreating footsteps? Wasn’t it

the whole poem you wrote — while all you wanted
was for the moon to interrupt, just one more time?

Just…

just to say that
this was meant to be,
I had to believe —
in time,
in the foretelling,
in the inevitable,
in distance,
in the algorithm,
in the universe,
in pain,
in karma,
in sin,
in god

just believing in
you and me,
was never
enough

The morning after the poem

at first light, on a
single sheet of paper, I found
a poem that does not want to be
read, a sky that will not know its
end, a cloud that realized it cannot
resist the wind, and a moon that
longs to scream over and over and over
again that all it can ever see,
is darkness —

the poet, as always,
did not
show up
at the
reading

For things we know

Once upon a time, a tree grew at the edge of the highway
from a seed dropped by a careless bird. And every day he

missed the garden, the warmth of roots, the touch of other
leaves, even the song of birds. There must be words in

some languages for such yearning, for things we know
without knowing the words for them. Just points on an arc

of rightness. An infinite horizon that separates the
manifest from the improbable. Isn’t that why the universe

keeps expanding? Isn’t that why spring keeps returning,
why a tree keeps growing, alone, in a garden of moving

cars? Isn’t that why a tree gives up and walks away with its
roots and the moon triangulates that emptiness and sighs?

If you loved enough

The rhythm of the sea is the incessant wondering –
not if you loved but if you loved enough. An answer

that will only come with loss. The verbs of separation
conjugate in excruciating ways. Grief is a hyphen

connecting empty mirrors. Shouldn’t absence invalidate
a mirror? How much can you love a night not defined

by a moon or stars? Should such a night, be night? You
ask if it is the fault of the sky or the limits of love or of the

imperfect lover? Enduring darkness in the hope that
morning will come, is not love, it is faith in the light.

Love asks for more. At low tide, it asks you who you
are, after taking what you do not have and cannot give.

Act One.

and that scene, over and over: you can be anyone
you like in your own drama, but you choose the

girl spreadeagled on the ground, life slipping
away from her, one truth at a time. Or the one

with wings, hovering above — they look at each
other, with the same eyes, incredulity awash in

fake moonlight, both saying at the same time, “I
know you.” When the curtain drops, there is

silence, or a lone shout, or a nervous whisper, never
the same, never different, and you tell yourself,

that is their drama, they are playing to another
audience. For them, their act may have just begun.

 

 

Closer than fear

Is there a way to hold a question? Not as close
as lust, closer than fear, arms closed to the

answer? Or is that the way the question holds
you? In this monsoon, as evening turns to night,

without drama, I try to write a love poem, without
tropes, without the moon, objectively — without

love. But too much is made of love which, like life,
is passion in passing, matter in transformational

happenstance: only this thought, born of thought,
nameless, formless, can last unchanged forever —

love like a question will outgrow your hands, learn
to walk, yearn to walk away: only this thought will

stay — that, for a while, love felt warm, like it
belonged, as if, for a while, it was the closest answer.

Some things just are.

The transformation of is to was — like an overcast
morning, the inevitability of sunshine and the

possibility of rain are not equal, there are all kinds
of ways to foretell all kinds of things — yet, an

umbrella bears consideration. Some things just are.
Like seeing you now across the street and not

stopping, not slowing down, not wondering where
you’re going, not remembering an hour later, all

the times it rained and words got wet — some words
that were quiet, cold, running down heated skin,

some warm, dissolving in light tapered on window
sills — not thinking at night that some things should

not be together, like sunshine and morning rain:
rainbows too are surely errors of judgement.