À Samedi


On the Sabbath, the Lord took rest
but not the day before that, not
on the day of the Baron, no sir.
No rest for the wicked and none
for those who make them – no sleep,
no death is still enough, nor long
enough, not with all these souls to
carry across day after day and night
after night after night. The Baron
keeps busy, runs hisself ragged, but not
too busy for the likes of you. Never
say no to your rum and baccy, poor fodder
but that’s all you’ve got and that’s all
the Baron ever asks in return for what
all he’ll do for you if you ask him
nicely. It’s the small things, a bite,
a cigar, some coffee – he’s not so far from
the man you need help with, who hasn’t
turned to rot in the grave, the man who
isn’t a man anymore but comes walking
in your nightmares. No sir, the Baron’s
got empathy. Got a heart or used to,
just kidding, big difference, no voodoo
strong as the Baron when he works. Work
hisself to the bone, so many crossroads
to walk between the living and the dead,
but don’t you worry, he’s never missed
a meeting, not even with those forgotten
by the Good Lord, no sir. The Baron’s
the one you want when it’s getting cold,
when your body’s too full of the poison
of living, when all you need’s a little
rest in the soft dark earth, so that
when you wake, every day’s a Saturday.

baron samedi (wandering-earthchild)

Note: Baron Samedi (Baron Saturday) is a high-ranking Caribbean-origin loa (spirit/supernatural go-between) whose dominion includes, but is not limited to,
the dead, dying, cursed, and reanimated.

Atlantis


Some bodies cradle aeons of
tectonic songs. Galveston silt
and Polynesian myth, it doesn’t matter

which creaking ocean swayed at rest
when Hinemoa swam towards her lover’s music,
we’ve all heard it – the static

just beneath the tide, a turning
record lost above the horizon.
Submerged long enough, meaning erodes

so listening is all that’s left, not self,
not silence. Nothing twilight touches
can sound the length of this wave,

unravelling in fathoms and fathoms to
echo the only words worth knowing.

david-doubilet-stingray-with-sailboat-grand-cayman

David Doubilet – Stingray with sailboat, Grand Cayman

No News Is Good


after Nicanor Parra, Sentences

Everything is sacred.
Making money out of water

has never been easier. Happiness
can be digital. Two wrongs
don’t happen by accident.

What can’t be figured
out can’t be figured in.

What is waiting has been
waiting for a while.

Forgiveness has no end.
The canyon is a cloud.
Nothing is reversible.

letterwritingrevolutionblogspot

Solstice


Underfoot snow, colder than stars
and brighter. The last sounds sink
without echo. In sixteen hours
of night, night lit strangely
like heaven, even time has a shadow,
even breath must leave as smoke
a trailing skein of warmth.
To freeze could mean solitude,
to drift into sleep alone and at peace,
or to stay awake watching the slow descent
of stars into the earth. Whose arms stay
outstretched in gratitude, whose birches
in dingy stripes root the horizon? So wide
the sky you could fall into.

bryan-hansel-winter-trees

Winter trees by Bryan Hansel

Documentary


What is the sea urchin
in your throat and what depths
does it come from? Green or purple,
they somehow eat kelp, sometimes
getting caught in low water,
sitting ducks for someone else’s
discomfort. While waiting for the tide
to return, birds crack open
molluscs, crabs, sea stars, feast
on the helpless insides.
A surprising number of things
hate being touched, would rather grow
defenses twice their actual weight.
Inside the mass of spines, perhaps
a word, maybe a name, its prickly carapace
a battle between what you want
and what you would never say.

sea urchin (gettyimages)

Green spiny sea urchin, Getty Images.

Note: I realise that I run the risk of expending more space and time on apologies for hiatuses than on actual poetry.

Two Years Later


From the coastal highway, you can almost see both
bridges, red taillights stretching across the strait,
factories letting their people go for now.
Air conditioners on full
blast in every car, pockets of resistance;

nights in Penang reach a high of thirty-five
degrees Celsius. I’ve been caught in the throng
of strangers and strange smells between buildings
in the old part of town,
somewhere between the Equator, tradition,

and foreign investments. The chains we make for
ourselves are the hardest to break. Both bridges
make dotted lines to the mainland in the dark, invisible
from Gurney Drive and
Flower Bay, the mess

of overpriced tourist attractions and teenagers who want
nothing more than to be someone else. I’ve seen
the assymmetrical shape of gratitude. Tonight, Penang is
bright and lit up like a fancy paper
lantern. It’s Saturday and tonight,

all the water in the world couldn’t surround
this island fast enough. It’s a fashion to start burning
from the inside out. Both bridges snake
over the water, twin pathways
for professionals trying too hard

to be everywhere at once, keeping Penang
in contact, plugged in, connected in both
reality and reflection. Two cables
for a sparking current so human, it’s ready
any moment to incinerate its own shell.

bridge2 (rickyliew)

Second Penang Bridge by Ricky Liew (Flickr)

This was written (for an assignment) after Great Southwest by Texas-dweller Glenn Shaheen. Referring to my hometown, the title of this poem points to the long-awaited completion of the second Penang Bridge in March 2014, connecting the island state of Penang to the mainland peninsula of Malaysia. The first Penang Bridge, completed in 1985, has been a cultural and architectural icon for Penang, and there was much ado, among the island-dwellers especially, about the second Penang Bridge.

New Wuxia


Heron parts the reeds, two
handfuls of light and air. Ink on
water. Divide the moon into
daytime and dusk. The mind is
a void, is the distance between
now and heaven. Become mist,
here where you stand, mist over
still water like glass. Reflect deeper.

Heron takes flight, wind moves
among lilies. The body is a shadow
like any other. Is it not tethered
to the soul? Does it not follow
the mind as a shadow follows the sun?
Become breath, escape your lungs
like smoke; like fire, fill the space
between light and darkness, and darkness
will be a road towards heaven if you seek it.

great blue heron (kevin fleming)

Great blue heron by Kevin Fleming

Note: Written for an assignment on figurative language. Wuxia is a genre of Chinese fantasy, based on martial arts, honour, revenge, and loyalty. Here, the values and forms of Chinese swordplay philosophy provide a play on movement, meditation, and spiritual journey.

Theme and variable transmission


Symphony, I said, and meant ‘all these different
musicians on a stage playing notes off a page’,
until you showed me piston slap, clutch and flywheel,
the steady, honest rhythm of crankshaft and camshaft

and half-speed rotations. I know we can’t hear it,
but this is real chamber music, live from the distributor,
melody of octane and oxygen, brass and strings
suspended together in fluid coupling. Surely

this is what con fuoco means: sparks, a collision
in pitchless consonance, mechanical expression
and thematic engineering inverted in a suite that still
turns over itself long after we leave the concert hall.

In the orchestration you know, each movement
leads to another, differential joints sequenced
like episodes, modulations, transformations.
What have you conducted, how many fugues

for this ensemble, toccatas in moto perpetuo
all those gears in counterpoint, constant progression
from manifold to manifold, allegro-andante-
presto, intake and exhaust.

(for a writing exercise on diction)

DSCF4347

Inventory


I could have sold you
stars like apples, or paper
cranes in chains for miles.
My arms were full of mixtapes
then, my younger heart an island
of dirt held together by cotton
thread and pride. What I had
was always enough, maybe too much
at the time. Later, as a stranger
I wandered through a town built
on reclaimed land, sea-dust still
drying on its roads and roofs,
already starting to become soot,
a town I took with me because
I couldn’t stay there myself.
You can’t buy that today.
What I carry in this thoracic
space isn’t always for sale,
but some things I eventually give
away. In the end, everything I keep
turns into music. Someday there will be
nothing here worth trading.

empty_alley_by_thetachi546

Deviant Art: thetachi546

Dehydrated


It rode around with us for weeks
afterwards, crumpled and misshapen
and slowly getting more and more battered
by the city’s jolting roads. Lying
on the floorboards, it rolled forwards,
diagonally, then back to the seat, and I
watched it now and then when you would
reverse. You looked straight into the
blind space your mirrors couldn’t reach,
but always over, over the empty
recyclable plastic bottle that was so
precious on the day we were parched
for water, for anything to ease the heat.
Thirst will make you reach for the nearest
thing that looks like a cure, will make
you pay too much for it. Sometimes,
remembering how our daily path wore down
that bottle, my throat becomes
sandpaper and my tongue itches and
I wonder if we’re paying still.

brock davis iphone photos