A Hundred and One Nights of the Falcon

Where I come from, no gift comes in round numbers. No ten
Rupees is ever given, it is always eleven, a token
Of not finishing, not ending, the extra one a harbinger
An invitation, a wish, a granting of plenty, of more
To come. Auspicious, we call it. A bringing to the fore
Of a promise for the years before the young. Where
I come from there is a tale of a clever woman who staved
Off death with a thousand tales, each one saved
For another night won, a full thousand and one. Where
I come from, legend has it that women sat vigil not
One night or two, not a couple, a handful, a dozen, a
Few. Stories are told in hushed tones of a full hundred
And one, every thrower of stones has heard it, every
Wielder of guns. Songs are sung of the women of the night
Who spread their wings, became falcons, and took flight.


On New Year’s Day last year
I woke up in a new home. Mine,
But not yet; loved but
Not heart-set; mine,
But a strange bed, a distant view
Of hills bathed in blue
Deep-winter light, a promise
Since redeemed. Mine,
But never before
Known. How we’ve grown
Accustomed to newness.
Familiar with not knowing how
With what words, what ink
What salutations
To greet this stranger who eats
At our table, quaffs our drink.
Not knowing if naming
Or not naming
Will drive him hence. Not wanting
To lose that which
Is always here. So dear
That no known name
Will ever change
Its forever.

This morning I woke up
In a familiar bed made new. You
Would think that this place
This house where
My children grew
Would need no naming
And part of that is true.
Yet this stranger, craning
It’s neck over my shoulder
Erasing each word I write,
Who, running beside me knew
The ache of muscles in my stride
From ship to ship, port to port
Racing from one home to another
Desperate to outpace him
This stranger has forever
Made every loved thing unfamiliar
Every borne grief new.

How may I unname him
Let me count the ways.
Not death nor loss nor absence
Or love, not sorrow nor grief
No song no poem no light above
Nor ground beneath
Nothing special or specific
Neither unique nor new
Not such that is bequeathed
To only me or even a few
Named every moment, called
Every name, beseeched
By every heart it ever threw
Always everywhere and forever
All of this is true.

Yet it has made every loved thing
Unfamiliar, every borne grief

Other Nations, Other Colours

It’s just as well, sometimes,
To see no trace of the storm.
To crunch through fallen leaves
With joy. Not to note the forlorn
Branches, that say nothing of thieves,
Or the berries that cling. In foreign climes,
It’s best not to notice, sometimes.

Such clouds that haunt the blues
Are best seen in sunny skies.
Across the path, just feet away,
Another berry tree lies.
Standing, still, you can hear it say
‘Leaves, or berries, you have to choose.
Thus much to win, thus much to lose.’

Sing me no songs of consolation


Slivers of sky string
Their silver blue through
Green and rock, stones
Strewn in their path like
Little clouds, as if to sing
To me their broken tones
Of consolation. But
Who will bravely bring
The riverbed forth. The gravel
And sand of dry grief. Who
Will raise pebbles smooth as bone
Unwritten, unscratched. What thief?
Who dare to build that dyke
That will dam the waters and read
On them their smooth, unwritten
If there is such a one,
To that sturdy soul I say,
Show me the pebble, worn
As my heart, one among millions
And wring from that single stone
The river that runs from me, one
Among millions. Build me that
Single dam that will make
Of that river a lake
One, among millions,
Where I may stop, and leaning,
See no face but my own, broken
As only mine is, as a river
Washes through me, a mirror
For no grief but my own.
Until then, Sing me no songs
Of consolation, no hallelujahs
Of pain sung before. I take
No comfort in the lake
Of another’s tears.
Raise me that stone, dam me that lake,
Name the face that weeps into those waters.
There are fathers enough, I know,
And no dearth of daughters,
Yet I take no solace from the songs
Of bereavement that they make.
Like a primordial flood the
Massed choirs sing of loss and losing
And drown each daughter’s voice
Added without her choosing.
And I, who have no other choice,
Silent as I hold this dam against
The breaking of that deluge, I,
Who reach into the deep only
To throw back stones I cannot
Keep. I, who float,
Face up, like the dead, and reach
For clouds that lie like stones
That lie, that sing, that preach
But have nothing to teach
Me, nothing to place
In my palms, facing upward.
I slip silently under boats that
Skim the waters, their keels
Humming, and think – you,
Who are on the boats, you
Whose shirts do not fill
With waters that run through
You; you, whose fingers strain
The river as you glide through pain
You liars, deceivers, dealers in
Consolation. I want
No part of you. I hear
Your songs but they are not
Mine. Your tears
Fall on my face but they
Are not mine. I cannot
Fashion a lyre from my breath
Unless it bespeak
This death.