Meena Alexander Poems

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I was young when you came to me.
Each thing rings its turn,
you sang in my ear, a slip of a thing
dressed like a convent girl--


I watch your hands at the keyboard
Making music, one hand with a tiny jot,
A birthmark I think where finger bone

Central Park, Carousel

June already, it's your birth month,
nine months since the towers fell.

Night Theater

Snails circle
A shed where a child was born.


'It is not enough to cover the rock with leaves'
Wallace Stevens

Twilight, I stroll through stubble fields
clouds lift, the hope of a mountain.
What was distinct turns to mist,

what was fitful burns the heart.
When I dream of my tribe gathering
by the red soil of the Pamba River

I feel my writing hand split at the wrist.
Dark tribute or punishment, who can tell?
You kiss the stump and where the wrist

Bone was, you set the stalk of a lotus.
There is a blue lotus in my grandmother's garden,
its petals whirl in moonlight like this mountain.

For My Father, Karachi 1947

Mid-May, centipedes looped over netting at the well's mouth.
Girls grew frisky in summer frocks, lilies spotted with blood.


Terrace deep as the sky.
Stone bench where I sit and read,

Portions of a mango tree the storm cut down,
a green blaze bent into mud
and they come to me, at dawn

Darling Coffee

The periodic pleasure
of small happenings
is upon us—
behind the stalls

Fragments of an Inexistent Whole

Inspired by Alison Knowles's "A House of Dust"


Syllables sieved through floating gates,
Metal clack of printer

Mortal rendition, Fortran -
The future coming closer and closer

House of broken dishes / by the sea / using electricity

Black flash, strange as any me I might claim

The already gone, its music barely audible
00-111 - 000 cut and sizzling, swiveling repetitions

The mind falling from itself, into no where.
The desire for place not to be denied

What touch affords us, sempiternal hold.


Imagine a woman with a veil over her head,
Black cotton or muslin

Of the sort that my grandmother wore, the edge of her sari
As she sat under the sun, by the well side.

Already the veil covers the garden
Mango trees split into the shape of harps.


The artist decides on materials, timber, tar, tumbleweed,
Then light source - natural, electric, strobe, that sort of thing

She decides on location -
A bracelet, a brandishing of space

Scores for a masked ball, the self and its others
Clinging close, hips grinding, a distinct congress

Precise rendering of rhyme or its uncoupling
Underwater copulation = syllabic sense.

The artist decides on persons - girls with jump ropes
Boys whistling in the sunlight by hydrants gushing

Hot metals, the planet soaked in ether,
A scholar blinded by footnotes, scores of them,

Men and women, faceless now, joyful and inconsolable
Veritable census of the dead.


House of Dust / on open ground / lit by natural light
Is that where I belong?

Lord have mercy!
Grandmother cried, when I was born

This child will wander all her life.
Grandfather tossed in a match

The bush filled with smoke, gooseberry bush -
With freckled leaves

- Tat tvam asi -
The deliverance of Sanskrit

What I learnt without knowing that I did,
Grammar of redemption

Sucked from fiery space
As grandmother's hands turn to dirt

The sky - cerulean blue

Sheer aftermath.

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