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Palinode VII

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Palinode VII


Remember that construction
worker

run over
by the bus, setting off

a riot?
I see him

in every Indian here,
short or tall,

handsome
or devastated,

starving or sleek-headed
and satisfied.

I can’t help it.
Why can’t I

see Rajaratnam
our Deputy

Prime Minister or
the guitarist Alex

Abisheganaden instead?
I go up,

like getting on
a bus,

to every Indian here
and I ask,

are you
Sakthivel Kumaravelu?

And they say,
every one

of them, smiling,
or grimacing, or

furrowing
the brow,

Don’t you wish
for me to be him?


Reuters: Migrant workers fear massive Singapore dormitory lockdown is coronavirus timebomb.


Image: Centurion Corporation

Palinode VI

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Palinode VI


I knew we lost
you when you

flew to England,
but the loss

hit me
like a plane crash

when we stood
on the college lawn—

you in your
graduation garb,

explaining we
would have been

bored by the Latin
ceremony—

and had the photograph
of my wreck

taken. Perhaps
the fall

began when I quit
school at nine,

but at that age
how was I

supposed to know
I would have a son

who would fly
so close,

so dangerously close,
to the sun?


Image credit: Daily Mail/ Robert Judges/ Rex_Shutterstock

Toni Sala's THE BOYS

This novel is a good introduction to the Catalan writer, so the glowing blurbs assure me. "A masterpiece," praises one reviewer. I don't know if I would call the novel that but it is certainly very engaging. Two brothers, both young men, from a small town died in a car accident. Four narrators describe their reactions to the tragedy and carry what plot there is forward. First up is a banker who works in the town but lives outside of it. He is therefore the most detached of the four narrators, seeing in the deaths a question for his own satisfactory but rather mundane life. Next is a trucker who resents mightily the older generation for taking the fat of the land and leaving nothing for the young like him. To fill his empty life, he turns to prostitutes, and then finds himself falling in love with the fiancee of one of the dead men. The third part is narrated from the perspective of the fiancee, who tries to deny the reality of what happened. An artist concludes the book …

Palinode V

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Palinode V


Yes, the Prime Minister
is here too,

in this day-night.
He sits

on a rocky outcrop,
silent, unwilling

to retract
his expressed regret

for sending
women to college

or other
stubborn opinions.

When I asked
him about

his children’s
fight over

his house, whether
it should be

torn down or turned
into a museum,

he could not speak.
He had tears

in his eyes but no tongue
in his mouth.

He has made his will
and will swear by it.


Image credit: Chicago Tribute (Phillippe Lopez/AFP/Getty)

Palinode IV

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Palinode IV


All the time
the air sacs

in my lungs
winked out

like lights
in an inhabited

valley,
the locks

of my heart
closed

at semi-regular
intervals,

my legs
waterlogged,

I thought,
I have no regrets

for living
the way I did, where I did.

The lights
blessed

the smoky Saturday dances
with the

implausibly
slim waists

of girls.
The canals

met us with boats
on their leisured

way
somewhere

to which our legs
would deliver us.

But we never
left the valley.

We bought a house,
paid for

by running
the machines maintaining

cool and comfortable
the valley air.

We had the two
of you,

as the valley said
to do.

And then, first,
the smog drifted

over
from the next valley

and choked to death
all our animals

and the smog,
staying years and years,

so long we had almost
acclimatized ourselves to it,

was followed
by the flood.


Image credit: CNN

Palinode III

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Palinode III


Tell your mom
I don’t

love her less
than your sister.

I didn’t speak
to my wife

last because
we had

a whole life
together.

I thought
it was fair

since she has
our vows

your sister
has the last words

of her dad.
I’m full,

I nodded
to the bowl

of pork porridge
she brought.

If I had
to do it again,

I would have done it
differently,

but there’s no
do again

when one is dead
and now

your mom
is always hungry.


Image: http://www.chineserecipesforall.com/recipes/view/pork-congee

Palinode II

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Palinode II


Your mom, look
at her, crying

so piteously,
as my body is

wheeled
into the fire.

There she goes,
collapsing

into herself,
like a burning roof.

Hold her up.
Hold her

close, my
Hecuba.

I’m sorry
I ever thought

of her
as Helen.

The Love of Helen and Paris by Jacques-Louis David (oil on canvas, 1788, Louvre, Paris)