Monday, February 19, 2007

The Sand Libraries of Timbuktu

The Sand Libraries of Timbuktu

What does a book that's been
silent for seven hundred years
say when you open it?

Does it mutter half-sentences
in crumbling dusty dialects?
Or do the words burst out
of the page inexplicably like
a spring rising out of desert sand?

Perhaps the books are more ordinary
and like their curators
firework-bereft and bald
Tracts political, historical,
astronomical, and all in verse
enlightening, undramatic, practical
their ancient authors
unencumbered by the West

How often has a book that's been
passed from generation to generation
been read out loud?

Enough trickling out perhaps
to stain shores more familiar now
A sufi tale or two in Andersen's
with clothing heavier for the Danish cold
The silvery glint of a medical
treatise in Crusoe's empty island

Which of these thousands of books
Which of these millions of pages
Soon to be gathered up by academic
hordes, by armies of vain collectors
will be left to the careless wayfarer
blind to the beacon of Shining Africa?

Perhaps a thin sheaf of love poems
Like the claws of a meaty beast
Cast off as offal, but still the shape
of those that still mark our flesh
as we stumble blindly in the desert
in the slow search for the Caravan

Cigarettes and Dawn

Cigarettes and Dawn

his old man fingers shake a little
as he lights up the unfinished morning
and speaks

the myths are all wrong
Prometheus as a clumsy
found out thief
the real discoverers of fire
were a couple of neandernethals
trying to light up a joint

he takes another puff
after the joke's spilled out of him like smoke
a sliver of ash
falls onto the table like grey rain

ask yourself just what I'm smoking
he says
you'll probably start
with the smoke rings
cause they're so pretty
and thats as good a reason as anything
I'll bet you could float up there
for years and years

then, later
you might get down
and double up on the ash
evidence of the crime
and maybe you're real smart with evidence
you'll have at it with cold science
and all your machines of logic

and, later still
you'll think about the cigarette itself
you'll get past brand names
sink those fingers
right into the tobacco, the paper
you'll smoke em yourself
the real real experience
and then you'll think
you've got me

he coughs, and then
his voice lies still on the silence
like it were rich carpetting

if you're lucky
he says
you'll catch a glimpse of the flame
and maybe you'll get
to stare at it a little
baby-eyed unblinking
before it goes out

he's done smoking and as he gets up
to walk into a pink-grey morning
of half-filled tea glasses
he's got an old man's face
craggy and unshaven
with yellowed teeth
and two unblinking coal-black eyes
that could stare the Sun into shame

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Second Place!!!

second place in the Kala Ghoda poetry slam
and the poem I sent in