I want to drop you like a china plate
send deep cracks through your artfully drawn centre story
that cause everything that binds you to
I dispose of you, careful
not to cut myself on your broken bits
I will think of you only as a missing
piece of a larger collection
a thing I might have placed something
hot and untouchable upon
I want to drop you like a china plate
"I am too angry to pray," I admit aloud. "I understand," the priest says. "Just scream to God that you miss him. In the silence that comes after you will hear him say, "I made him. I too know what it is to love him, then let him go."
let the sun
our last kiss occurred in the early dawn hours on the third of October.
I was writing in the office and for the first time you knocked on the door before entering.
we undressed one another and when you went back downstairs I realized all my love letters read like apologies.
my land is conquered.
spread over my heart's topography
a viral kiss of certain death turning all green it graces
yellow, you have touched everything.
I am not of the church I am it. Crumbling and desecrated. Kissed by a Father Time whose mouth blessed me with ivy and age, cursed me with stained glass windows that can only look outward, suspect the scaffolding of supporting only ruins.
But from the rafters like bats and bells rings a Cohen hallelujah chorus, a fully fleshed adhan resounding, promising, swearing on a father be damned,
You can still crawl inside me. You can still worship here.
I have not returned to that house since the month I spent perfecting my zwetschgenkuchen recipe and let all the cakes turn stale on the countertop without eating a single piece. Every room was filled to the ceiling with plums. Fat and soft, purple, some almost black. For weeks I sat on a crate, crushing the soft flesh of dozens of plums into the carpet below, reading Kristin Lavransdatter while I waited for the rest to tumble, turn on me, crush me.
"You are unravelling," Kristin whispered from the page. "Then hold the strings," I hissed back.
The snow beckons my return. She knows what it is to bury something alive. To watch it struggle beneath the weight. The snow knows she becomes water to feed the spring. That all suffering works this way.
You do not want my poems, throw them out with empty wine bottles, emptier newspapers, coffee cup sleeves, one night stands, expired batteries. You demand a custom suit display of affection, tailored to you alone. Some high rise illegal sentiment. Glittering and obscene. But this is me touching the backs of your knees, standing on peaked rooftops, whole fingers in mouths. I know no other languages.
I want to run my left hand lazily across the back of your neck and calm your mid day evening dawn time fears
the ones you come back to
like a map
like a too small sweater love
the kind that itches around the neck
but cannot be thrown out.
let them have your liquid tongue, your plus ones, your dinners ready when the day is done. I want your night sweats, your dry runs, your hands on the wheel getting licked by morning sun. I'm still wretched but I'm not blue. I have new words for the sins that got me over you. and as you're driving east with nothing left to give you'll hear me shouting baby this ain't no way to live.
Migrating birds take me north
mirror my flight in the opposing direction
from the tepid and fragrant midatlantic
over mountains peaking like tachycardic heartbeats
to where the weather is a comfort
Across the great cold forgetting
a barren crippling white
lashed to the land with thick ropes of ice,
the prairie bound by
even more wicked than me.
I've never read a book I didn't judge by the cover. I've never met a liar I didn't love first.
Was there ever anything large enough to carry
all of my poems
the wide and wild sin of my body
every gauzy tress of light to penetrate a window?
I filled my words with you
and you with them until
we grew fat and full,
leaving no spaces
no room between celestial bodies.
You held them tenderly and do
when I was and still am
not yet big enough.
Snow is beginning to gather on sidewalk corners.
On the days I attempt to carry it all myself I must step into the street so that I do not slip and fall.
I tell them I've moved on
with the me
you taught me how
that you saw
we forsook faith to walk
without roads, without
cutting down trees
for ink and yellow ochre
you burned us on the pyres
and staked us in the streets
and from our mouths bloomed mulberries
your children who will name us martyrs
we love more than you hate
are more hopeful than you are afraid
In 1914 World War One was ravaging Europe while Monet sat in his garden, quietly shading lillies lavender green lavender green. And in 1940, while Germany was invading France, Matisse bended the light to rest perfectly on his own delicate flowers.
The wars will come and go. Your art is the quiet, eternal revolution.
you only like my portraits, my words frighten you. are a dark wooded briar patch. their heavy bodies like plums smeared across the page. sticky on your fingers my love like a stain. scrub as you might you cannot get it out.
go home to your pancakes. a marmalade lie. turn on your electric blanket, warm the chill away. pretend the blues aren't here to stay.
your brother called again. this time at 3 am, this time we spoke until 7. I told him all the things you used to say, leave the house once a day, stop eating just salami, show the fuck up for people and the guilt will go away.
"when I miss you I read your poems. I read your poems every day" he stutters into the receiver. I say I miss your mother, hope she is well. he tells me that my lingering passion for you after all this time reminds him of her love for your father, how it never died when he did. later, when we hang up, it is this that will make me silently sob so hard that the elderly man next to me in the train will reach over to hold my hand. we will ride like that, hands clasped, for the last fifteen miles into New York.
your brother asks if I will meet him downtown when I return to Toronto. he is sorry he never hugged me once, not once in three years. he is dying now, really this time. the weakened valves in his heart are failing. I tell him no, no. all our hearts are defective, Usama. all our hearts are afraid.
I tell him he cannot act out of fear any longer, that if I myself had learned early enough I wouldn't be living back on the other side of the world, that other side of the city. all across the planet things are dying before their time, their last gasping breaths morse code warnings to which we rarely ever pay attention, we rarely ever heed.
I never grew your babies
our love took on different forms
stretched canvases stacked in studio corners
poems that move across screens,
your lustful pursuit of light and my impregnation with
a dedication to foreign soil-
land that will never claim me,
the way I laugh now and try to mean it.
The trees that stand in the river
always remain wooden
cannot become a crocodile.
For a long time now;
we have stood
on the rooftops of stories
believing this city is ours.
The earth beneath the foundations has sunk
but even now we stand
on the rooftops of stories
assuming life to be
the insipid afternoon's wasted alleyways
with their shattered bricks
and gaping fissures.
: an excerpt from Kishwar Naheed's poem Censorship