Meena Alexander

REFUGE


Under my skin
In syllables untranslatable
With blue from the backs of snails
Plucked from the Dead Sea
I have marked the name of God,
On my wrists where the blood trembles
On the delicate skin of my throat
On my eyelids shaped
Like fishes I have pricked and pierced
With my pen.

On silk and taffeta
And muslin, on finest organza
Slit from my wedding gown, on tulle
And fresh washed linen, on the
Skin of cherries from my mother’s kitchen
On bits of hair from my husband’s beard
I have breathed the name of God, the ineffable
Never to be overcome, the soul of our soul
What the body longs for
Desire incarnate, what my ink wills
Shadow tracery on this paper
I have stolen from a stack in the library.

  I have saved blue speckled eggs
From a hole in the trunk of the almond tree
That was struck by lightning
I have picked up fossils of light
From my grandmother’s grave
In my net of syllables I have
Stitched sparks from a long- lost foundry
Sieved red from a rut in the earth
Where the butcher mounts his stand.
Clinging to the fins of a dolphin
I have swum to Lampedusa and back
Do you know that?
I have kissed the eyes of the child
Who fell off a fishing boat
Who barely floated, who swallowed
Sand and could not breathe.

  I have unlaced his red shoes
And set them by his side
I have knelt by his shoes
And watched them fill
With the breath of the Unnamable
And foam from the breakers
Of the Mediterranean sea. 
I want him to live with me
In a house made of wind and water
And sky. Who am I?


MEENA ALEXANDER has been described in The Statesman (India) as “undoubtedly one of the finest poets in contemporary times” was born in India, raised there and in Sudan and educated in England; she lives and works in New York City. Alexander has two new books forthcoming in 2018: her eighth book of poetry Atmospheric Embroidery (TriQuarterly Books/ Northwestern U Press) and the anthology she edited: Name me a Word: Indian Writers Reflect on Writing (Yale U Press). Her poems have been translated into several languages and some have been set to music. www.meenalexander.com


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