Poems from “Alive in This Place”


I’ve had many, but this one,
this cozy aerie on the 7th floor, is the last.

I’ve traded the grateful garden, the fish pond,
extra space for children and guests,

for the arches and high ceilings of another era,
sturdy doors, thick concrete walls,

perfect for hanging photos of foreign travels
and the all-too-vivid dead.

But the best part is the vista.
I can see across broad expanses,

swaths of paintbrush treetops,
birds looping, swirling in the ecstasy of freedom,

peaked red roofs sending up wisps
of chimney smoke over the familiar

rivers and bridges, distant steeples I can name,
the mist of Niagara Falls visible in April.

My windows open wide into a world
above the canopy which once limited my vision.

At last I can see across lifetimes—dappled morning
melting into a white-feathered sky,

the mysterious gathering
of thunderheads at the horizon,

a satiny darkness sweeping-in, opaque
but shimmering with reflected light.

Like Ordinary Weeping

First, the pain pools behind the eyes
like ordinary weeping,
but when the girl Saviti
squeezes her lids together,
not tears, but small white stones
drop with the sound of wind-chimes
into the sling of her sarong.

Squatting in the sun
along the Jarkhand-Airport Road,
Saviti crushes limestone slabs to pebbles
with the rhythmic chink and ping of the pick,
chalk invading her nostrils, shoulders bent
under the thunder of the jet-stream,

the heft of gravel scooped into baskets
and balanced on her head to the weigh-station.
What desiccates your tears, Saviti?
Is it an unrelenting thirst from a life
smothered beneath layers of grit?

Yet every night Saviti trudges to her village
through dark excavations, inhales
the Holy Ganges in the distance,
and raises her eyes to sip nourishment
from a star-shattered sky.
Excerpted from Alive in This Place from Coffeetown Press.
Do not reprint without permission from the publisher. Copyright © 2019