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the political is personal


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Civil Strife

Meena Alexander


The ink was very old,
palm leaf brushed with the bruise of indigo.
In ancient silk I heard a bird sing
the body's emptiness, a sari swirling on a twigtip.

In the mirror I saw a girl turn into a tree,
Her fingers blossoming freckled petals,
greedy hands tore at her,
she fell handless footless into a ditch of dirty water.

Soon there was an altercation
in the frame of things
I could not tell when the threshold stopped,
where barbed wire would work its bounty.

A child's toe starred crimson,
bullets in guava bark,
civil strife
crowding the rivers

I had to tell myself that birdsong
in a partitioned land
is birdsong still.
And if moving were not music

of its own accord
I might have stuck forever
at the mirror's rim,
seeing a child see a naked thing

split from a misty tree
her self as other parting company.
But the monsoon broke,
the river coursed upredictable.

Black water drew me home.
In my own country
I saw cotton, linen, silk
blown into threads,

the bridge of belonging
shattered,
cherished flesh
burst into shards of thingness,

a summer surplus,
a bloodiness.
I felt all this fall out
of any possible business of the ordinary.

Yet what was the ordinary but this?
In the tale the girl-tree is recognised,
her scent inexorable draws her lover on.
Moving metamorphosis.

Yet what could this mean to me?
I sought out the philosopers, read Nagarjuna:
If fire is lit in water
who can extinguish it?

In trains and planes,
whose quicksilver speed kept me alive,
I murmured after Heraclitus: One summer day
at the water's edge I set out in search of my self.

Nov/27/2011, 3:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to libramoon   Send PM to libramoon Blog
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: the political is personal


Thank you, Libra. I love it when someone shows me a poet new to me, at least when the poet resonates in my body. This is how poetry should, can go when the poet takes her material(s) personally. Besides. What other way is there?

Tere
Nov/27/2011, 6:18 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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