Night Poem XXV

The night calls out,
death is death is death.
A crow beats its wings,
and night parts from night.
Absence, dawn,
she slips in like a lover,
remembered and forgotten.
I remember life,
and death is death is death.
I accept the beating of rugs in the morning,
the cries of women to each other,
the importance of trans-continental trade,
of men who whistle when they’re sad.
Life is death is life.
I am life,
I am a war of life
that the night could not eradicate just yet,
a music of ruined and resurrected love.
I declare myself an open city,
and the dawn slips in like a lover,
a liberator.
I pour her a cup of coffee.

Night Poem XII

I breathe this same night as you,
this night humid with eyes,
this night of crushed hearts.

Though continents separate us,
the way it enters first you,
now me,
it is like a tide turning,
bringing a salt of remembered song,
this same night.

What part of you do I receive?
Your fear of love,
your day broken by horizons,
your ecstasy for another’s waist?
I receive all of this,
and I too am broken by a jealous moon.

With a rag-eared note in a bottle,
I send my reply.
I am lonely, and my body wishes this
night we share were not so immense,
so burdened with impossibility.

But a vastness of black flowers
drowns my mouth.
This night we both breathe,
alone with an enormous love,
I cannot traverse this hemisphere of ruins.

The Visionaries (For the Children of the Documentary, Born into Brothels)

Sometimes things force us to see
this life’s intolerable enchantment,
and how far we still fall short
of its primordial command
to be everything,
to be all things.

I’ve seen something that
opened me,
like a blade of sun
slicing the unready fruit,
that glistened in its pain anyway.

I’ve seen children, in the ferocity of their small lives,
clutching at cheap cameras,
showing us how much we could still be,
how young time is, even in us.

I mean the children of the ghettos of Calcutta,
of the sunless streets that
narrow the heart,
and the dead ends like so many short lives.

I mean how, against the defeated wind,
they too find a brief time to bloom
in an explosion of arrogant youth.
Suddenly this trepidation,
the ancient, anticipated song,
the shutter that falls before a fearless eye.

Each one will show us something new.
Each with their camera, their lens,
and the rudiments of vision,
goes out into their broken world
to find its unsought beauty.

And there in their images,
the depth of poverty’s heart,
the dignity of each sudden colour,
unearthed by its children.

How we feel shaken
by these brutal eyes of hope,
how we feel like all things,
like everything in their lens.

A Woman Guerrilla in Vietnam

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You did not make this war,
but it came to you anyway
and it has cleaved you into a woman of fury.
It was the steel men
disgorged from the bellies of their steel beasts,

who knew nothing of
the abundant tenderness of your terraced paradise,
they were the ones
who spread these black scars across the bright jungle,
and tore the villagers from their earth,
scattered their bones in the ruined dykes.
They inflicted the black scar in your youthful heart.

Once, you were the strong peasant child,
girl of the rice husk,
arms browned by the ancient years of a limpid sun,
those smooth pillars of Vietnam,
which held up the beautiful cities of Hue and Hanoi,
the poet scholars, the plaintive music of the gulf,
the ancient palaces cupped by an indulgent flower.

Now, you have the steeled body of the warrior,
and your strong arms have learned to
wield their own iron righteousness.
The jungle is your skin and the enemy cannot see you,

nor does he reckon with the violence of
your threatened womb.
You will avenge the child, the child not yet born,
the hope of your Vietnam.

Refugee

I cage a ride out of Africa,
a boat packed with war-torn emissaries,
a crew of blind, leprous kids.
Behind me,
only the afternoon of a broken sun.

Here, the sea alone, is sea,
time alone, can be without hours of dread,
air alone, without the indrawn breath,
and the sky, an arc into all directions.

Out here, what is state,
or territory for the unmoored?
What is symbol?
The ocean takes us all in her abundant folds,
like a flag or a body bag.
Here, at last, we are free.

But my fellow refugees
know no other way
than how to recreate ancient animosity,
and replay the whole hopeless farce
of our scorched memory
on this waterlogged plank.

Already the society of worms
breeds in our midst,
division of skin,
and words sharpened into toads.
Already the new world is old.

Those who die,
we slip into the quiet, waiting water
and watch them float like buoys
marking the failure of our diplomacy.
We could have rebuilt a country of love
on this raft lost beyond the dry earth,

a brief paradise
between the weapons we left behind
and those that await us.
Countries and martyrs revolve
in our starved minds.
We send our dead ambassadors
ahead to shore.