What this blog is and how to use it

This blog contains poems that have caught my attention over the years. Many of the poems I've discussed and explored with 16 -19 year old students in my capacity as lecturer in English.

Browse the list of poems by scrolling down the page or read the titles of poems or names of poets in the sidebar 'Poem Titles and Poets'. Then click on the title or poet.

Friday 12 February 2021

from How to Wash a Heart by Bhanu Kapil


Don’t forget me, I whisper to my
Give me something to eat, I’m
So hungry, I call out to my
The conditional care
Of even these
Imaginary parents
Excretes a hormonal load.
Am I safe with you?
Or like a baby crawling on the bumpy
Carpet, am I my own
Mother, actually?
Imagine a baby developing so rapidly
That by nightfall
It has ripped through the pale blue
Smock to evolve
Beyond the limits of the human.
I remember
How my mother woke me up
So early
To look at the bloody stars.

My grandfather fermented the yoghurt
With rose petals
And sugar then buried it
In the roots of a mango tree.
Come here, he said, extending
The sweetest fruit I have ever tasted
Come June.
On the far side of the orchard
He grew saffron and the mangoes there
Were red and pink.
In the dry well
He planted a pomegranate tree.
This is where they threw
The bodies
Come August
Can you find your way home
By smell?
Metallic, the air tilts along a diagonal line.
I smell the pollen of the flowers of the mango tree
Which once concealed
A kill.

For lunch, my mother made okra
With caramelized onions,
A feat! The wet caps
She stuck to my forehead, cheeks
And nose.
Grimacing as the gates of the school
Swung open, I was
A joke.
The children who were children
Like me
I was alone with the slime
Dripping down the neck
Of my red and white dress,
Nettle bites lucid on my shins.
Because I ran through the alleyways
And not the streets
To get here:
A hot yard.
Shame invites the sun
To live in the anus, the creases
Of the throat.

The priest brought my mother home.
My father fell over in the snow
After drinking his guts out.
The world
Was falling down around my ears.
When our neighbours
Said go, we fled,
Our hearts beating
Like a fish.
Hello, sang Lionel Richie, on the taxi’s orange
My grandfather burned his notebooks
Then scraped the ash
Into a hole
He could button up.
Don’t ask me to remember
The word for zip.
My secret is this:
Though we lost all our possessions,
I felt
A strange relief
To see my home explode in the rearview mirror.

Monoracial, we fetched up
In a place without
Discrete racial categories.
Our hair
No longer felt like our hair
No matter how long
We combed it
With milk.
The messages we received
Were as follows:
You are a sexual object, I have a right
To sexualize you.
You are not an individual.
You are here
For my entertainment.
You complain too much.
Your sexual identity is not
The way you talk about what happened to you
Is a catastrophic representation.
Merry Christmas,
Little pig.

Click here to buy How to Wash a Heart

Click here to watch Bhanu Kapil reading from her collection How to Wash a Heart. It comes with a three-minute introduction.

Or click the link below

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