When we die,
May 27, 2022
The Migrant Poet Slaughters His Voice
One scorching summer
—warmer than the previous summer,
and cooler than the next—
the poet journeyed from the upper south
to the lower south.
He descended, and at the fringe of a rock,
slaughtered his voice. Just like that, calmly,
his narrow eyes squinting in distress.
He did not read Al-Fatiha, nor did he pledge
this sacrifice to Allah.
The poet was exasperated that his voice had become a metaphor;
he wanted to see the blood of his voice, its lard and flesh,
its lineage—to hear its chords vibrating
even if a single utterance would cost him his life.
In our language, he finds himself placing nouns before verbs,
tainted by the lyrical I, perhaps. He picks words
that had wilted until they turned to gold. Wiping away
the dust of the centuries, he plants them in small pots.
The poet thinks he can
heal the dumb, and revive the dead.
Meanwhile, in their language, he crosses mountains and oceans
leaving a talisman on every tree
to find his way back.
He hauls a mountain from the slopes of California,
and flings it into the Gulf of Mexico
before it floats, once again, atop an oil pipeline.
Every morning, I wake up to his voice;
I slam the window in its face, and go back to sleep.
I let him jumble the clocks, talk to me about the prose poem—
how it stands like a bare trunk, interrupting the horizon:
They have stolen our music
and nothing's left but the voice
that reaches me across time zones
afflicted with insomnia, burdened with beginnings,
stuck—like an eternal cry—
in the chasm of time.