A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
In memoriam: poet Agha Shahid Ali who advocated for this form in English Where was poetry mislaid in New Jersey but in suburban comfort put and paid in New Jersey? Sluggard train, commuters close across, not like time, its progress undelayed in New Jersey. Wetlands snake around roads, tracks, depots, dumps, their fragrant stew and trade in New Jersey. Tonight in town as friends read your poems, your voice persists in theirs, those words replayed in New Jersey. Not stacked concrete and steel, all hardened edge, but creeks, curving shrubs, a long-cast shade in New Jersey. Thistle and tansy scrawl toward orphaned fields where corn climbs: a dense and doomed parade in New Jersey. Last year, the farmer ploughed where mansions squeeze, bay by bay, their panels and panes arrayed in New Jersey. Spring rains raise the lawn ragged. And here and there and there: dandelions inlaid in New Jersey. Warehouse stores, blind to the road, enclose stacked stuff and air; you hear their serenade in New Jersey. Each driven errand carts away the days in plastic bags. What never have I made in New Jersey? One sunlit, pond-side afternoon of books clears malled thoughts. Senses cascade in New Jersey. Foreign affairs? The students know nothing, care nothing; yet history is nothing’s blade in New Jersey. Sputtered groans approach, recede, approach, the hill made close with cars against the grade in New Jersey. The surf cleans away an ice cream wrapper and leaves sunrise, into which we wade in New Jersey. Our dead ones perch. They sway above this present laughter on such sadness! But dears, don’t fade in New Jersey. My room of words measures inches squared, wide as the world and narrow as afraid in New Jersey. Beneath the bridge at New Hope dingies moor in swirls of current, lines deployed and played in New Jersey. A night of ghazals comes to an end to fill with birds. As the sky blues, their calls braid in New Jersey. In your luxury of days, shadow, look from love that’s neither stumped nor strayed in New Jersey.
Copyright 2020 Sandy Solomon
Sandy Solomon’s poems have appeared in such magazines as The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Threepenny Review, The Gettysburg Review, Partisan Review, and Ploughshares. Her book, Pears, Lake, Sun , won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Award from the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Agha Shahid Ali (1949 – 2001) was a poet from the highly educated Agha family of Srinagar, Kashmir. Shahid, who taught at a number of American universities, died of brain cancer and was buried in Northampton, Massachusetts, in the vicinity of Amherst, a town sacred to his beloved poet Emily Dickinson. His collections include A Walk Through the Yellow Pages, The Half-Inch Himalayas, A Nostalgist’s Map of America, The Country Without a Post Office, and Rooms Are Never Finished. Shahid’s seminal essay “The Ghazal in America: May I?” influenced a number of American poets to adopt the ancient Arabic form.