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green parasol

meena alexander

(for Svati Mariam in the year 2000)


Sweet blossom of hair and flesh
fourteen years ago
you tore me up so swift:

they'd set you blued, bawling
to my left breast.
Later I fit you hungry still

between elbow and wrist.
Dreamt us rib to rib
in the chiselled ivory box

bore north over red hills
as part of her wedding dowry.


In the studio on 61st
I watch your sharp torque
of groin and thigh

a dancer's labor
toes strung to the polished floor
knees flounced in precise piroutte.

Later you hunch in your room
scrawling hot alphabets
in the margins of Their Eyes

Were Watching God.
Home work done,
you're instant.

Messaging your friends
chat of the latest rap or
boyband, or bandana.


You're quiet now.
Here take this gift
strip off the worn silk

tear the cloudy tissue paper.
Its all I have this moist
quilt work of rooms

and balconies
continents torn, tampered with


My love my little phoenix
your mother the old
nest is quite undone:

soar over the Bronx river,
set fire to old straw.
Light up the broken avenues of desire.

Then be a girl like any other
in soft mist
in flowering sunlight

at the rim of stone gates
raise a green parasol
under a green tree.

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deer park at sarnath

meena alexander

It seems impossible to begin
to speak of those gone ahead
intact, fired by breath

Through flowering mustard
they race past a main road
northwards to the deer park

In the terrible kindness of the dead,
they whisper as they pass

Inscribe yourself if you can
on brick or bone or slate
then surrender it all with grace

Rejoice in these trees
jutting windward

A threshold
cut in rock
with seven kingdoms visible
is still no stopping place

Clouds consume the palaces
of the gods
stone chariots stir in soil
all Sarnath is covered in dirt.

There is no grief like this,
the origin of landscape is mercy.

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art of pariahs

meena alexander

Back against the kitchen stove
Draupadi sings:

In my head Beirut still burns

The Queen of Nubia, of God's Upper Kingdom
the Rani of Jhansi, transfigured, raising her sword
are players too. They have entered with me
into North America and share these walls.

We make up an art of pariahs:

Two black children spray painted white
their eyes burning,
a white child raped in a car
for her pale skin's sake,
an Indian child stoned by a bus shelter,
they thought her white in twilight.

Someone is knocking and knocking
but Draupadi will not let him in.
She squats by the stove and sings.

The Rani shall not sheathe her sword
nor Nubia's queen restrain her elephants
till tongues of fire wrap a tender blue,
a second skin, a solace to our children

Come walk with me towards a broken wall
Beirut still burns -- carved into its face.
Outcastes all let's conjure honey scraped from stones,
an underground railroad stacked with rainbow skin,
Manhattan's mixed rivers rising.

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Anno 1, Numero 4
June 2004




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