To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Kazim Ali: Four New Poems & an Excerpt from an Interview

  Crumpled Up

Debris crushed to flowers made
summer you will thought swam
Shard have this ember
rendered member of the body whose
urge surged swerve and shine
ocean opens shone hours
ours to contrail pretends
to sketch a shape of a flower against
infinite information of the sky
data mined eternal I in formation of a
day to mind the steeple wore
steep war mined the memoir of shore
meme war fought on the internet
where however there are interments
fast parsing the rationing shore
endlessness warned between each
wounded party marked
intersects insects in sects descend
to spend the real their wings
beginning that season’s gnawing groan
of sex summer leaves shirring you can
at these moments open your mouth
imagine the San Francisco Chronicle
May 15, 1974 crumpled up sent forth
first paper to read then discarded
released found by Lenka one of an
endless piece of information met
for a moment given to Philip recited
received resited reseeded recedes
given to Kazim passed through the city
the situation an ovation oration
oblation ablation show me what you
pray for and eat save now in this flesh
archive what ought not be lost maker
of most light tossed sun rise up from
Rodeo Beach leaf me be reft left all
those bunkers in the hills their doors
rusted shut by metal or paper or
human touch weather concrete metal
paper or flesh we mark time on this earth

Golden Boy

Almost afraid I am in the annals of history to speak
And by speaking be seen by man or god
Such then debt in light be paid

Atop the Manitoban parliament building in Winnipeg
What beacon to dollars food or god
I hallow starvation

This nation beneath the body hollowing
Its stomach to emptiness and in breadth
The river empties

Who sew spoke the craft born along
Long echo and echelon grains of light
And space we width one and other weight

The soul not the spirit breathe through
Spirited went or wend why true
Weave woe we’ve woven

A dozen attempts these tents pitched
On the depth be made biped by pen may
Perch atop the temple pool

Proven the prove these richness wheat and
Cherries and prunes what washes
Over woven ocean

Frayed I am most sir desired
Sired in wind seared and warned
Once in wild umiyak sworn

We parley to mend be conned be bent
Come now called to document your
Meant intent your indented mind

Haul oh star your weight in aeons
There in prayer money morrow more
You owe and over time god spends

The spent river melt into
Summer sound out the window
Sound out the spender

Where does the river road end
In what language can prayer or
Commerce be offered

Ender of senses pensive atop
Plural spires be spoken or mended
Broken and meant for splendor my mentor

Junipero Serra Arrives

 Now a year like bone
On a coast named for the khalifas
We bring date seeds as tribute to Muslim ghosts
Not the ones we harvested but the ones that haunt our own breath
We bring grass that will spread like Christ
If the spirit will not bend the body can be made to break

In the dawn unfjording
We stitch new texts into the air and ground
What chance to sky
What garden left
Your tongue shall tie
Don’t say mountain haunted by bone

Don’t say body don’t say home
I too chose to live past the arrival of blades
Into the bodies of my forebears directing
Them like rivers or stone given
Such vague directions by god or
Man dear memory of myself

Wanting to climb wanting to know to be
Taught what is there
Each time I am reinvented as another human
Too many times to see the way
Gold and green are not the lights meant to grow
Here in an Arabia far from home

In a Spain lost to inquisition
Swept away that golden
Jewish age in wind and sun
All its sea words blue and mispronounced
From books that did not belong were miswritten
The mosque roofs grow moss

Rain shines down through the late May storm clouds
What lonely span of ocean I crossed having renounced
My family of questionable faith on that middle island to come
To the valley of the Kumeyaay on a shore we will oddly
Call Khalifa to obey the dismembered god who in pastures
Of invasive plants summons me once more to storm heaven


To the sharp report in the dark the season comes home
Long tongue sound between hand and arm between mouth and flesh
Hold this moment river still what if it was my life
To return after years to the same province of danger
An old town you know like the handle the bump stock the trigger
I want to return to the boat that bore me from the far shore decades ago
What I lived in those languages I forgot the places I left that I want to return to
Were we seen were we spoken were all the wolves baying
Met at the edge of the bright darkness of rain
Time cannot fulfill its promise to splinter return or slow
Vow this wheel this we will this weal we even wean
We in the world would wolve a low vow foaled
Worn low at the hip to be a solid soldier who soiled his sold soul
For the chance to be the first to aim first to fire to fly
In the cross hairs I am heir to no oar to hold I am on both sides of the gun
Toll as sound or cost one that never ends and the other never returns
Any embrace is the first error in meanings slope
Wrought by thought that one could reach another touch his shape
Known in two genders like Orlando whose tongue newly woke
To pronounce any word for god or man means to enter violence’s fold
No oath sworn to save no salvation no salve no valor no ovation no nation


And the following from an interview, spelling out a change of direction & a moving forward with his larger project:

“A little while ago I thought I ought to stop writing about God. The reason is that I was starting to have ideas. Ideas mean a system of ideas. Every idea you have may preclude another. I thought that it would be better to have a space of unknowing and that other poets would continue to make poems about God. I don't know if I have kept my promise or not, but by turning away from the task of trying to know the unknown and from the vocabulary of the spirit, which is necessarily the language of abstraction, I was able to come back into the world.

“What occupies me now is physical landscape, the history of places, the ways human communities work in time and space -- maybe I have become a sociologist or a geographer -- but I still work in sound and gesture. At the moment it's contested places that interest me --the struggles of the Pimicikamak Cree of Northern Manitoba against the provincial government which dammed the river that gave them their livelihood and compromised their culture and their way of life; or perhaps the work I do in offering yoga teachings and trainings to Palestinian people in the West Bank. Or the "border" communities that exist in every American town and city, not just those on our southern border.”

[NOTE. Kazim Ali was born in the United Kingdom and has lived transnationally in the United States, Canada, India, France, and the Middle East. His books encompass multiple genres, including the volumes of poetry InquisitionSky Ward, The Far Mosque, The Fortieth DayAll One’s Blue, and the cross-genre texts Bright Felon and Wind Instrument. His novels include the recently published The Secret Room: A String Quartet and among his books of essays are the hybrid memoir Silver Road: Essays, Maps & Calligraphies, and Fasting for Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice. He is also an accomplished translator (of Marguerite Duras, Sohrab Sepehri, Ananda Devi, Mahmoud Chokrollahi and others) and an editor of several anthologies and books of criticism. He is currently a Professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego. His newest books are a volume of three long poems entitled The Voice of Sheila Chandra and a memoir of his Canadian childhood, Northern Light.]

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