quietude, gaped earth, substantial loss

Asiya Wadud

the ferries encumber their own weight. they pass each other at close range. the unlikely vessels transmit their cargo. all the bodies carry on. everyone on board is black. everyone covets a faithful salvage. the carrion circle overhead. they patiently stake out the rippling time. then time shirks us and newspapers yellow. time evidenced in furled edges. I wanted to hold their full weight in my palm. palm is plan spelled oblong. the plan was to meet in the Alpujarras, work the farms til our good bones yellowed. work the earth til it shone gold black. we note the slippage of time. the spilling vessel, the elastic edges. the lax maps. the precedent. they establish the changing need: less fuel, pack the vessel, reference the Middle Passage etches for knowledge of how the ship is packed. how the threads rope us into a seamless package: quietude, gaped earth, monumental loss. the crisp cutting siren of the new day dawning. the shoreline with its subtleties and the mirror image that we name this duty.

the spilling vessel, the elastic edges. the lax maps. the precedent. we cut our losses — we named them knowledge we came back heavy we reached for the narrows. we lived in yeses and gracious miracles. meanwhile, in our mourning: islands remember everything, that’s how they subsist immemorial. they carry on hopeful that the archipelago remits light. the island searches out the light, and it is easy to find when you’re primed for looking.

we trusted in the cutting sea. subcutaneously we are gold. our livers are fatty. our lungs contain the dense, unkempt air. the mandible cuts fear. the ulna refracts elastic edges. the wave frequency extends aeternum. I intend to measure the distance. we all supplicate and keen. we all supplicate and cup an exacting distance.

the boats pass each other at close range. I count 77 bodies. 77 shoulder girdles abutting the wind. the unlikely vessels disgorge their cargo. colony and agony rhyme in duress. all the bodies carry on. I must confess the carrion circle overhead. when time passes, newspapers yellow. the obituaries name a weighted coffin. the lives never lose significance. we were born, each of us manifold, and that’s how we’ll die, too, subcutaneously gold.

the edges furl to show where time waned. I wanted to hold their full weight in my palm. palm is plan spelled oblong. the plan was to meet. Palermo anciently slips with the tides. the spilling vessel, the elastic edges. the lax maps. the precedent. how the threads rope us into a seamless package: quietude, gaped earth, monumental loss. the crisp cutting siren of a day delivering. the shoreline with its subtleties and the alkaline duty, equally of self and of a distant progeny.

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Asiya Wadud is the author of Crosslight for Youngbird, day pulls down the sky/ a filament in gold leaf (written with Okwui Okpokwasili), Syncope and No Knowledge Is Complete Until It Passes Through My Body. Her recent writing appears in e-flux journal, BOMB Magazine, Poem-a-Day, Chicago Review, Social Text, FENCE, and elsewhere. Asiya’s work has been supported by the Foundation Jan Michalski, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (River to River: Four Voices 2020; Governors Island Arts Center residency 2019-2020; Process Space 2017), Danspace Project, Brooklyn Poets, Dickinson House, Mount Tremper Arts, and the New York Public Library, among others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York where she teaches poetry at Saint Ann’s School, Columbia University, and Pacific Northwest College of Art.

"Asiya Wadud’s title, No Knowledge Is Complete Until It Passes Through My Body is a quote from Congolese dancer and choreographer Faustin Linyekula. Wadud’s poems move with the body, with light, weight, and multiple forms of life. She repeats and returns to interiors and edges, to threads, rooms, coastlines, bodies of water, the Middle Passage. “Most knowledge is scant magic,” incomplete even as it moves through the body. In resisting completeness, Wadud generates ample magic."

-Judy Hussie-Taylor

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