Tag Archives: poem

On an Ohioan Autumn, Remembering Reetika

BY DIPIKA MUKHERJEE
(In Memory of Reetika Vazirani, 1962–2003)

Dipika discovered Reetika Vazirani’s poetry during a writing residency in 2002, when a copy of Vazirani’s collection World Hotel had been placed in her room. Dipika notes that Vazirani’s poetry is frequently about the anomie of a migrant:

   Culture shock is not your reflex upon leaving the dock; 
   it is when . . . someone asks your name 
   and the name of your religion and your first thought is 
   “I don’t know,” or you can’t remember what you said last time; 
   you think there is something you forgot to sign . . . 
   and you are positive 
   that those green-shirted workmen in the room right now 
   want to take you in for questioning.

                                                  — Reetika Vazirani, from White Elephants [5]

Dipika and her family moved from Singapore to Lima, Ohio, in 2003—just two years after 9/11. In the process, her 11-year-old son was detained for four hours at Chicago O‘Hare Airport. That same year, Vazirani killed her infant son and herself. Out of shock and grief and Dipika’s own sense of anomie came this poem.

Standing at the serrated edge
of a Goghian field,
the stalks, like jagged fingers,
stabbing obscenely at the sky,
I think of another woman.
A poet,
a mother,
she killed her child and then herself.

There is the dull gold of decay,
corn husks and dying light of day
and one lone blackbird.

I, who have traveled
from a place of excess fecundity,
a land so pregnant
that the undergrowth teems,
I stand in this aridity,
a dark desiccation,
a Foreigner.


This poem was previously published in The Palimpsest of Exile in 2009.

Rubicon Press published Dipika Mukherjee’s poetry chapbook, The Palimpsest of Exile, in 2009. Her poems have appeared in publications around the world, including World Literature Today, Asia Literary Review, and United Verses. She has performed at the International Stage at Het Huis van Poesie in Rotterdam, been the featured poet at the Hideout in Austin, Texas, and read at the Shanghai International Literary Festival, the Sugar Factory in Amsterdam, and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Reach her at dipikamukherjee.com.

The Notebooks

BY LOIS MARIE HARROD

Harrod re-read James Wright’s poem “With the Gift of a Fresh New Notebook I Found in Florence” after traveling in Tuscany, where she had lost her notebook. Still upset about it, she wrote the following poem.

Mine. Lost. Not found.
No amazing grace. Lost like a saint.

Left on the balustrade on the top floor
of the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena.

Left to shuffle its scroll in the air.
The opposite of James Wright’s,

Fresh New Notebook Found in Florence . . .
This secret field of the city

down over the hill from Fiesole,
the gift of a fresh new notebook.

His empty.
Mine fat and full.

Child come almost to term.
Perhaps someone found it, saved it

passed it to another, said
someone left this up on the portico,

or shrugged, E ’in inglese,
laughed at the sketches,

non tanto di un artista.
tossed if before reading the lecture notes,

Christ’s foreskins
multiplied like loaves and fishes,

the degrees of relics and artifacts,
who touched, who did not.

Lighter and lighter as the seasons pass.
But, so far, this field is only a secret of snow.

Earlier we had been standing
in the Sala della Pace,

looking at the “Allegory
of Good and Bad Government.”

Even in that well-ordered city
the dress of one dancer

had disappeared,
that botch of empty fresco.

Afterwards we walked
through the rain.


Note: Italics (other than the Italian phrases) are excerpted and re-ordered from JamesWright’s poem “With the Gift of a Fresh New Notebook I Found in Florence” (1982).

Lois Marie Harrod’s 13th and 14th poetry collections, Fragments from the Biography of Nemesis (Cherry Grove Press), and the chapbook How Marlene Mae Longs for Truth (Dancing Girl Press) appeared in 2013. Harrod is widely published in literary journals and online ezines, from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. She teaches creative writing at the College of New Jersey. Read more of her work at www.loismarieharrod.org.