1. 'the far-foreign departure'

Here the
Mind wanders. Everywhere
Is here, but I’m lost, absent.  
Language is difficult, sundered. I think of it
At the set of the sun. There are no seasons,
And no beasts either. There is war, here
In the air, but that day
I had my brothers, and nephews,
When they came with clubs, knives, machetes. 
Feelings are unimportant. 
                 At the edge
Of the city, the car
Burned with them inside it, at home
We saw the first houses 
Burn, like lanterns
In the wind, in tumbling clouds
Of smoke. Skin
Peeled away from syllables
Sucked inside burnt mouths. 

Bodies on the riverbanks. ‘Where we hid in the water,
There are so many stars!’ It’s a good thing light is distant, dispersed,
Shrouded in darkness. In their radiance 
There is despair, but the unknown recedes at the edge of annihilation –

In room after room, the feast on the tables
Still waits to be eaten, to be shared, to be celebrated
After a month of fasting. The heart-light,
In tiny sheaves of crystal, 
Shatters with a familiar ring.
From one instant to the next,
I had no father, no family, no house.
I sought refuge
In nothingness, not needing things, camped far from the known. 
But the earliest light cut us off from things, as if with a knife.
Cut, I was condemned to exile. 
Was too light, too heavy
Too wet for
The robes, the cushions, the silks, the burning heaps of paper.
How do you say 
The blade, from which I took my departure, 
Is embedded-honed in 
Unfamiliar magnitudes? 

2. ‘the day of flight’
It is a fire, a desert.
A truck stacked tight
Full of holes, syllables, and none the lighter for it.

There are those
Who survived. Here the only
Surviving is the sky, the mountains.

Here the wounds
Open, the closed
No’s, written in Latin, 
So many black seeds for the journey.

Here we live on –
After such troughs, what reachment?
What I look for 
Lies still in mirrors of dust.

The tongueless ones left behind, as if entranced by a spell, 
Became invisible, made of air. An alphabet
Of codes, skyscrapers, and symbols, 
Green mansions, green wells, and spring waters.

Of so many tropes that,
In the perusing of it word-hauls became vaults, 
And make-beliefs dragons, 
                      curled up on the ground.
Guarded as the ground they sleep on.

‘Am I myself an hour-glass, or a begging bowl for signs and figures?’
What is kept
Of dispossession
Only makes us heavier in the wyrd-rings.  

3. ‘the long day wanes’
There is neither promise nor fortune
Just sucking gasps of air, as speech bubbles foam upwards
And silence descends, on the thinnest of filaments. 
There is no way of knowing where we are, or where to go –
The deeper down
We go, the more certain we are of being at a loss.
I was afraid of the water, 
So I stayed below. 
A person might thirst for water, or cling to their own, 
But here 
I row downwards, down into the realm
Of un-arrival, as we sink like stars underwater:
Friends, wives, mothers, brothers, and husbands,
Learning to draw their last breaths
Without gasping because their lives
Are un-shored and nowhere, outside of everywhere, 
Too light to be held, too heavy to be clasped, too al nero for vocabulary. 

The weight is enough: it shows purposelessness
On the compass. The boat needed repairs. To be hauled and dried.
The enclosing decks gave me direction, but I am forgetful. 
There are rocks, chasms to be swum through,
Beaches where speech 
Suddenly pauses on the shore, and the blind-eyed  
Steer answers into for-ever-depths. 
My name will not be borne or held:
When I wash ashore, I will be so weak
Desire will hoard itself from rescue, and knowledge
Will refuse entry to the utmost, 
For where can a person go when every there undoes you? 

At night there is no ease of mind.
The boat sinks deeper
But for reasons I don’t know I hold fast, have sureness.
My tongue is heavier than a stone, it will persist until the end of this dream-held sea,
I will cast my nets, fetch them back from the flood, 
Every man, child and woman will be granted leave  
To swim on land, to be washed down heavenwards,
To go ashore, beyond the sidewalks, the courtyards, the trees, and the houses. 

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Spring 2023

Issue 104

In the Spring 2023 issue, our featured author Imtiaz Dharker gives us a sneak preview of her latest collection, where she tells the story of how a ‘Shadow Reader’ once predicted her death in 2022, and her experience of living with that prediction. The issue also carries new poems by Karen Solie, Oli Hazzard, Jane Hirshfield, Randall Horton, D.S. Marriott, Qudsia Akhtar, Christopher Merrill, and Eleni Sikelianos, among others. Translations include work by the German poet Ulrike Almut Sandig, the Greek poet Haris Vlavianos, a Scoto-Japanese-Anglo-Sumerian haiku by Robert Crawford, and a poem drawn from the final collection by the late great Polish poet Adam Zagajewski (1945-2021).

Prose contributions include an excerpt from Anne Waldman‘s Bard, Kinetic, a portrait of her life and praxis as a poet, and an essay by Travis Schuhardt on finding haiku during the pandemic. Elsewhere, Isabelle Baafi interviews Will Harris, while our reviews section engages with new collections by Ilse Aichinger, Rohan Chhetri, Jennifer Elise Foerster, Jane Griffiths, Alycia Pirmohamed, as well as Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan’s anthology, 100 Queer Poets.

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