The trunk that held the sari silks, the umber
aromas of clove and cumin, the woolen suits, the
coconut oil, the photos and the Gita,
held also the screams of Chuknagar. A shrieking
music. Gunmetal chords like landmines loomed
amongst the gold and red and sepia.
The shining Pam-Am jet that flew my parents’ Bangla Desh to here,
brought with them the war that had devoured their childhoods and a country
in a nine months bloody utero. Though December was an eager midwife,
that war has never ended.
Dhaka’s cantonments reside now in your skulls;
Rahman’s leaden munitions now
within your homes and cars and bills and fears and sons.
We never choose the wars that we inherit.
All uniformed in blood and flesh like yours,
I was conscripted witless in the womb
to duke it out some days amongst Ravana
in your head all sticky, swarthy, raping, murdering Sitas by the hundreds.
My mother’s cries were but pariahs / lepers all unraveling.
That war has never ended
for questions do not like to be disturbed
once comfortably discarded in the past.
I aroused its rage in innocence: one entitled, boyish turn of phrase
and all your worries woke within you.
Words in my father’s piercing basso staggered towards me like amputee veterans:
lonely, long abandoned thoughts / memory’s orphans / chaos.
That war has never ended
because your enemies live in me too. They
are my childhood angers / teenage bitternesses.
Their vengeful residue can never settle
until it’s murdered you or me or all.
Some sabotage is here at school
or there within my bread or sex or voice. We’re halfway there
unless the bitter karma’s swallowed by someone.
We wear our wars like adjectives.
Our childhood landscapes offer us no shelter.
The air between grows battled scarred and blistered
like the air of Bangladesh. Though
Dhaka or Dachau makes no difference: all wars
return home some time.
There to be suffered or swallowed.
Iggy and the Stooges' Raw Power Assaults My Loneliness
Next thing I know, you've got me from behind;
your ragged harmonies undress the world.
I feel your coiled anatomy unwind;
its careful chaos, breath by breath, unfurled.
Your concentrated verve dilutes the night
and mellows out these antisocial streets.
I cannot shake it off, try as I might,
the noncommittal swagger of your beats.
This barricade of skin cannot resist
the chords that want to finger through my veins;
the voltage of the ravenous, insistent
shock you send resounding though my brains.
Henri Matisse. Dance (I). Paris, Hôtel Biron, early 1909.
(this is an ekphrastic poem; see the painting here
They dance because they want to know
the truth that nakedness sets free: the pulse
that sets our limbs aglow / that groping
for affinity. That groping for some friend or foe
consumes all our extremities. Consumed
is what we are, although, not always
this flow of our intimacy that channels
through our hands like heat begins the
dance we dance because it is our torso,
arms, and feet. It is our torso, arms, and feet /
is what we are, and is not free: not free
to dance alone for see: she reaches out her hand
to meet his hand, for we are incomplete
if we cannot communicate
that pulse that sets our limbs aglow,
that nakedness can make us know, or else
surrender to the weight our loneliness may well create.
A fuse through which no current flows /
a word through which no speaking goes is
why we dance the dance we dance.