Extraordinary Things

24 Jul

On days like this

the unkempt edges of my perspective

are tailored with gilded lace,

stitched in such a way

that I can’t look at it straight

but its iridescence

reflects into my vision

and I watch the world

with gold in my eyes.

When Form Reflects Content: On Beauty and Truth

14 May

In his elegy “Lenox Hill”, Agha Shahid Ali recounts to his mother on being asked by the universe, “So, how’s the writing?” To this question, he responds, “My mother/ is my poem”. Upon reading this piece, I had never more intensely resonated with a line. Poetry, to me, is the barest, most candid manifestation of emotion. It is artistic expression so honest that only one sequence of words, thoughtfully and meticulously arranged, can express it. This representation of complete truthfulness, in all areas of life, is the way in which my mother exemplifies poetry.

As a cosmetologist, my mother is an artist herself. She carries out her philosophy through her craft, utilizing makeup to magnify the beauty in someone, a beauty that is already present. Her makeup enhances; it does not create. In this way, she is an amplifier of truth, allowing her clients to perceive beauty in themselves that, to them, might not be as immediately recognizable as it is to the rest of the world.

I remember, during moments of self consciousness so common in my teenhood, my mother would sit me down, and make me up. The knot behind my ribs would dispel as I watched her work: her glasses balancing on the tip of her nose, enlarging her intense gaze; her eyes shifting across my face, like a sculptor scanning for bumps in wet clay; her knuckles periodically tucking under my chin to lift my face towards the sunlight. At times, she would meet my gaze and her intenseness would melt momentarily, offering me a gentle smile before returning to work. And after some time would pass in peaceful silence, she working and I watching, the intenseness would soften again into an expression of satisfied resolve, and I would know she was complete. She would instruct me to stay seated, my knees bumping together in anticipation, as she rushed to find a mirror. And every time she made me up, every time she returned and tilted the mirror towards my face, I was astonished at the beauty she manifested. In my reflection, I would see the version of myself I had always illustrated in my imagination: a face with blemishless skin and blushed cheekbones, defined eyebrows arching over deepset doe-eyes, thick lashes sweeping across my eyelids like weeds on fertile ground. Most importantly, I glowed with gorgeous self-love and appreciation.

My mother would sit next to me and take my hand between hers. “I did nothing,” she would tell me. “All I did was make you see what everyone else sees.” My eyes would brim tears, not because I wished I was beautiful, but because my mother allowed me to see that I had always been.

What my mother does with makeup, I strive to do with poetry: uncover truth, beauty that might be convoluted but is omnipresent nonetheless. My mother, my poem, inspires me in all areas of my life, and every morning, I wake up grateful for the opportunity to read her again.

Morning News

9 Apr

When I make breakfast in the morning,

I tune in to a YouTube CNN live stream

and listen

to shiny podiums and hairgel

discuss

how this breaking news will

probably bring about the

end of the world,

and I slip an extra splenda

into my coffee

to account for the

apocalypse

coming after these messages.

History

3 Apr

Fact: I have five fingers on one hand

now but I can remember

when your five spider-latched onto mine

 

to glide over the world with more surface

area. Fact: you told me the universe is chronicled

in braille but our spider-hands

 

could decode it without touching.

Fact: my vision is foggy

still but your reading glasses crept

 

into my gaze, sliced

into my retina and slurped

away the blurriness. Your clarity

 

was parasitic;

your fact too faultlessly

seamless to be real.

Ghazal on a Plane

28 Mar

I find my body lost in flight.

My ligaments crumbled and tossed in flight.

 

Stationed under ventilated breath, I rise;

and my buckled waist gathers frost in flight.

 

Pressure stifles air in this cabin, high,

forcing my two lungs criss-crossed in flight.

 

I gasp storm clouds from pipes underneath;

they fill my lungs with exhaust in flight.

 

My stifled presence has nowhere to go;

I signed myself up for a holocaust in flight.

 

Outside, we rupture through plaster clouds;

its wreckage clings to my window, embossed in flight.

 

And parts of me unhitch, and lodge in cumulonimbus shrouds;  

this lostness a necessary cost in flight.

Premonition

20 Mar

Last night I dreamt

we were hosting a dinner –

both of our hands caked with

uncooked food and

thinning time –

I baked bread

as the kitchen clock jabbered

like an inlaw,

and when I reached for the cinammon,

the bottle slipped from my hands

and fragmentized on the floor.

 

And when I looked up to you

you were unfamiliar;

like I thought I followed the recipe right

but your skin was singed –

your perfume curdled,

soured the inside of my nose.

 

Today when I reached across the sink

to brush my teeth,

my elbow hit the porcelain bowl

that held your makeup,

and it fell to the floor, fragmentized –

your blush like dried blood

against the ceramic tile.

Cape Cod Morning – Hopper, 1950

11 Mar

From this angle, it appears

a landscape breathes on static glass,

oils rouged with expertise

careen to match the swaying grass –

branches taunt my unscathed knees,

pregnant clouds extol my tears –

 

And I have sat and watched for years.

Confined inside a cultured class

to study pastelled willow trees

and watch the world slowly, slowly pass –

perhaps when no one’s left to please

I’ll wander where the painting clears

 

David’s Poem

25 Feb

I

You remember me

and my tears

rain for the thickets branching under my feet.

You remember me

and my heaviness

presses flowers into paper beneath my

shifting weight.

Remember my voice

and the grove my music wove through to reach you –

 

Your drums gave heart beat to the forest between us.

Percussive brushwood with more

life than either of our lives together,

you remember that forest

and the outback jazz we wrote for it.

 

You remember, don’t you? –

the way the forest swayed for us,

Creaky oak trees careening to your beat, steady,

wind between their leaves whistling to my voice –

Nature had never heard such a saccharine noise.

 

If the brush could smile, it would have resembled you.

 

II

My tears rain for the thickets that bloomed under my feet,

and pay homage to the biting breeze shivering

the spines of trees –

freezing branches,

the splinters of our chests just barely

cohesive.

 

III

Music does not pacify my hands;

tea does not thaw the draft in my chest –

like you left the front door open during

wintertime –

frost crawling, stark against my still thoughts.

 

The metallic taste of loss,

permanence,

pooling against the walls of my mouth,

forming waves beside a silent tongue,

grows frigid.

 

Your screenplay lays

 

coffined in its purple folder

 

on my bookshelf

 

unread

Pyrite

13 Feb

Wriggling between halcyon talons,

captured mid-flight, wealth claws at our necks.

Observe how the affluence strikes –

circling above us to

scorn the grime on our skin,

retracting its claws

to chafe away

the filth from

our fool’s

gold.

Orange Crayon

16 Jan

If I were placed inside a box of crayons

I’d fit between the yellow and the red,

a niche for wildfire in my head,

an orange scaled to brilliance of dawn –

I’d streak across the skies of Vietnam,

cast sunset on the mountains up ahead

to outline mountaintops with golden thread –

ignite their peaks before the evening gone.

I wouldn’t be sweetest tangerine;

I like my fruit with quite a little kick,

a sour, natural antihistamine

to clear the sinus, strong and doublequick –

Though some prefer a softer yellow-green,

I’d draw a steady orange for the skeptic.