Whose Hand Is This, Asks Harold

I vaguely recalled the godowns,
the white looming ghosts as
we cascaded down the river,
and the hand of my father,
oh my father.

The bumboats brought them–
firewood, charcoal, spices, rubber,
so Harold wrote–godowns owned by
Guthrie & Co., Caldbeck’s, and
McAlister, and Chinese companies
with undecipherable lettering.

At the padang, the lawn between
cricket club and recreation club,
friendly football matches, or rugby,
or cricket, and people placing bets.
All-around street food–mee siam,
rojak, say bak with rice.

Harold sat across the north bank
seeing Old Parliament House,
summoning the ghosts of bygone
food stalls for office workers,
postmen cycling with bundles of
letters to different offices.

You’d read someone’s narratives thinking
whether they be borrowings, or anarchistic
journalling. Or even a cookbook with
hybrid ingredients as part of your
heritage. Let facts speak or mingle
with myth, the journaler decides.

Let no man’s feathers be ruffled
(though it may be), as what crusade
this be for but memory? As the wind
blows through the yellow footnotes,
let one be not too tight-lipped,
risk nothing, oh losing it all.

Prompt:

Hello poets! I’m so happy to see the ones who practice writing poems submitting. And nailing them down. How does one nail them down? I mean, a poem is kind of an assembly line, and you choose what to assemble. Only it isn’t a McDonald’s assembly line, so each one carries with it a uniqueness of perspective. But as with an assembly line you need to give your reader, your client, a takeaway. What does the reader take away? I’m reading poems where there isn’t a sense of a takeaway. Yea you have assembly but you end up with a crumbling takeaway that flakes to nothing. So try again, will ya? Think about what you take away in this powerful poem by Argentinian poet, Julio Cortazar.

To A God Unknown

Whoever you are
don’t come.
The seeds are mixed with tiger’s teeth,
an endless fire pours down on the helmets,
nobody knows when the grimacing will stop,
the erosion of a time in pieces.

Obeying you we have fallen.

–The tower went up straight, the women
wore bells on their ankles, we enjoyed
strong fragrant wine. New routes
opened like thighs to the happy greed,
to the insatiable holds of the ships. Glory!
The tower defied all caution,
like a strategists’ celebration
it was its own reward.
Gold, time, destinies,
thought, treaties, violent caresses,
agonies, races, tributes,
they rolled like dice, with their fiery points.

Whoever you are, don’t come.
The record is legend to these timid eyes
with their focal and bifocal, polaroid, nonglare glasses,
to these hands coated with cold cream.
Obeying you we have fallen.

–The stubborn professors make ratlike faces,
they vomit up Gorgias, pathos, amphictyoies and Duns
    Scotus,
councils, canons, syringes, skalds, trivets,
how tranquil is the life, the rights of man, Ossian,
Ramon Lull, Pico, Farinata, Mio Cid, the comb
for combing Melisendra’s hair.
That’s how it is: preserve the legacies, worship you in your
    works,
eternalize you, the lightning flash.
Turn your living rage into a precept,
codify your free laughter.
Whoever you are
don’t come.

–The whiteface fiction dangles from its monkey,
the alarm clock gets us out of bed on time.
Come at two o’clock, come at four,
too bad we have so many commitments.
Who killed Cock Robin? Because he didn’t use
deodorant, yes ma’am.

As for the rest, the H-bomb, the musical comb,
detergents, the electric violin
lighten the passing time. The waiting room
isn’t so bad: it’s carpeted.
–Consolations, young anthropologist? Supplied:
you see them, you try them on and you take them away.
The tower went straight up,
but we have Dramamine.

Whoever you are
don’t come.
We’d dump you, garbage, made
in our nylon and orlon
image, Jahweh, oh my God.

It’s an assembly alright, but it’s very powerful discourse isn’t it? Whichever discourse you decide on, let your assembled poem give a clear takeaway. What? That “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”? What? Think about what a line like “The waiting room/isn’t so bad: it’s carpeted” says. Why does it sing with irony? Does yours sing? And of course, the repetition, “Whoever you are don’t come”, said so many different ways now. So yea, assembled poem, clear takeaway, said so many different ways.

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