Krishna, 3:29 AM

Meena Alexander

In a crumpled shirt (so casual for a god)Bow tucked loosely under an arm still jittery from battleHe balanced himself on a flat boat painted black.Each wave as I kneel closer a migrant flagA tongue with syllables no script can catch.The many births you have passed through, try to remember them as I do mineMemory is all you have.Still, how much can you bear on your back?You’ve lost one language, gained another, lost a third.There’s nothing you’ll inherit, neither per stirpes nor per capitaNo plot by the riverbank in your father’s village of KozencheriOr by the burning ghat in Varanasi.All you have is a writing hand smeared with ink and little bits of paperSwirling in a violent wind.I am a blue-black child cheeks swollen with a butter ballI stole from mama’s kitchenStones and sky and stars melt in my mouthWooden spoon in hand she chased meRound and round the tamarind tree.I am musk in the wings of the koel which nests in that tree —You heard its cry in the jolting bus from Santa Monica to MalibuAfter the Ferris wheel, the lovers with their wind slashed hairToxic foam on the drifts of the oceanCome the dry cactus landsThe child who crosses the border water bottle in handFallen asleep in the aisle where backpacks and sodden baskets are stashed.Out of her soiled pink skirt whirl these blood-scratched skiesAnd all the singing rifts of story.

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Meena Alexander’s eighth book of poetry is Atmospheric Embroidery (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2018). She is distinguished professor of English at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY.



Chicago, Illinois

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