nursery rhyme

left copped out coopted by right1
let our children play out the folly of our plight
mindful eyes shut to keep out the light
shall we just play peekaboo with night?

The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children.

Audre Lorde, Power

1. “Right coopted Left copped out” – Coined by my friend Faraz Hussain while discussing how adept the mainstream is in appropriating all progressive talk and defanging it of radical potential.

iv ifs & one but

  1. If you can smell death, how shall the vulture speak your say?
  2. If you taste the rule of law, will the bile repeal what you know?
  3. If matter was round, would it not balloon into a missive?
  4. If rain splashes your vanity, can it foretell the sound of pain?
  5. But death is law & matter is forever rain.

Parallels between us

“I know the answer lies somewhere around wherever love resides”. By Amina, our daughter.

amina's anti-pigeonhole

Over the past few weeks of our lives in lockdown, we’ve had the pleasure of interacting with a small family of cats in our building. A mommy cat, who we saw through her pregnancy and her extreme neediness and shrill meow, and her three identical ginger kittens. We spent one fun evening with them in the entrance corridor of our house, feeding their hungry stomachs constantly for about 45 minutes, playing with them, and creepily watching them sleep (the last bit was just me). Despite the kittens being identical, I learned to differentiate them quickly based on their personalities. The biggest of the lot was the most playful, always chasing after the string I’d entice his little self with. The second one was the most timid yet curious; he’d always seem to want to play with his brother but greater fear of this human made him run back off to…

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urchin ways

when the urchin boy
  girl go out to sea   I
ask them of that old song the one
  their parents’parents’parents’ knew by heart the one about
  water   & salt –

when the urchin boy
  girl go out to sea   I
ask them of that old song the
  one about fire & salt & fire & naught and how loud
  how loud it was –

People ask about the Cold Mountain way:
plain roads don’t get through to Cold Mountain.
Middle of the summer, and the ice still hasn’t melted.
Sunrise, and the mist would blind a hidden dragon.
So, how could a man like me get here?
My heart is not the same as yours, dear sir . . .
If your heart were like mine,
you’d be here already.

– Han Shan, “Cold Mountain Poems” (translated by Jerome Seaton)

discovering song

Will I discover song under this
    rock? Only the
    moss will tell – Will I

know the meaning of root this
    morning? Only
    the rock-song will tell –

Found the songs first
in little pieces
under a stone. Took all my strength
to gently roll the stone
and prod them out

but behind the yellow piss-pine
crouched the trickster, waiting
to put a mountain there.

– Wendy Rose

As I was interspersing writing poems while reading Wendy Rose’s, I wrote this one and the next poem I read of hers was the one above: serendipitous bit of poetic intermingling.

two sides in want of a third

When rain falls with conviction
  I ask the woman,
  “would you like to buy the sky?”

“No need as dying is near impossible.”
  makes sense as death is a triangle
  two sides in want of the third –

When there is no rain or when
  when conviction fails, the
  woman is silent, sky is up

For sale & death has no neighbor knocking
  on its door asking, “is there a
  song we can borrow for the night?”

Within each one of us there is some piece of humanness that knows we are not being served by the machine which orchestrates crisis after crisis and is grinding all our futures into dust…In what way do I contribute to the subjugation of any part of those who I define as my people? Insight must illuminate the particulars of our lives: who labors to make the bread we waste, or the energy it takes to make nuclear poisons which will not biodegrade for one thousand years; or who goes blind assembling the microtransistors in our inexpensive calculators?

– Audre Lorde, “Learning from the 60s”.

a nongreen wage

there is nothing tragic in the
  the logic of being moss
  perhaps the mouth goes dry
  maybe your vocabulary

slips, but
  the green is no longer just a color
  your mouth is no longer dry and you spout words as if
  your dictionary is on fire –

what is tragic is the logic of
  the nongreen wage, the math of
  the unfed mouth – what goes
  dry is the unsaid word,

the less than word, the feet that
  knew no ground no wall but wail
  this unfed mouth is word now
  that soots your green with rage –

These historic changes – that peaked in the 19th century with the creation of the full-time housewife – redefined women’s position in society and in relation to men. The sexual division of labor that emerged from it not only fixed women to reproductive work, but increased their dependence on men, enabling the state and employers to use the male wage as a means to command women’s labor. In this way, the separation of commodity production from the reproduction of labor-power also made possible the development of a specifically capitalist use of the wage and of the markets as means for the accumulation of unpaid labor.

– Silvia Federici, “Caliban and the Witch”

harmony as apposite

harmony as the opposite of order
  it is verb, (I harmonied
         the planet dry)
  it is past participant, (the
         binged on remembrances)

  ‘harmony, harmony’ makes no sense at all
  ‘order, order’ makes past a perfect fool

  it is not a noun but a pretense of dawn which is a noun
  it is not speech but an imperfection that makes
   the world utter wholenesses
   which is speech

  (try it, ‘harmony, harmony’; makes no sense at all.)

          “The tradesman is alarmed only
          when he smells the spill of the till – his
          currency is currency, which he oils daily with
          order & stain – in the evenings he
          relaxes in the company of dead scrolls -”
– from “The Principles of Order & its Many Sadnesses”
ascribed to sheikh usoolan-fuzool, circa 53rd year of our forgetfulness

once i

once i
took to my roots
  they claimed parsimony
  a misspelt patrimony
  a submission to the ordering of the other –

“An abhorrent sentimentality is
  to ardor as angst is to the coffin’s
  thievery” – attributed to the late
          (ir)reverend bhakti seth
          mir fakhr-e-doodhsiyahi, the
          last soothnaysayer of Gujrat.