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Archive by tag: Carol RumensReturn
Jun 29, 2020

The US poet’s reaction to the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown is a searing elegy for black lives destroyed

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Jun 22, 2020

Finding an unsettling symmetry between ecological catastrophe and the Aberfan Welsh pit village disaster, this sonnet conjures a fragile beauty


The miles-deep Greenland glacier’s lost its grip,
sliding nine miles a year towards the sea
on its own melt-water. As, forty years ago,
the slag-heap, loosened by a slip
of rain-swollen mountain stream, suddenly
gave with a roar, taking a primary school,
crushing the children. The century of waste
has burned a hole in the sky over the Pole.
Oh, science, with your tricks and alchemies,
chain the glacier with sun and wind and tide,
rebuild the gates of ice, halt melt and slide,
freeze the seas, stay the flow and the flux
for footfall of polar bear and Arctic fox.

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Jun 15, 2020

These stark lines set out a hard, unfinished personal reckoning with atrocious memory

My pity is fake,
my poems, atonement.
Mutation in my genes
began in the gas chambers.
Even before that,
antigens were
created in my blood
against torture and murder
and mindless oppression
and all kinds of atrocities.
Yet, nobody cares
if we count their dead
or our own dead.
See the dead
arranged in a row,
arranged in a pile
or burned in a pile.
Everyone wants
to keep evil at bay.
Therefore, I don’t cry
over the Palestinians,
nor do I cry
over anyone else!
Because, if I cry
over my dead,
they will stand before me
in a long line,
their fleshless corpses
eaten by time,
as in a roll call
or on the “day
of visitation”,
and their mute
muselmann hands
will offer
faded shreds
from an old shroud
to wipe my tears if I weep
If I weep

Translated by the poet and Anthony Rudolf

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Jun 08, 2020

One of the Malawian author’s many prison poems, this defiant work builds into a forceful cry of rage

Skipping Without Ropes

I will, I will skip without your rope
Since you say I should not, I cannot
Borrow your son’s skipping rope to
Exercise my limbs; I will skip without

Your rope as you say, even the lace
I want will hang my neck until I die;
I will create my own rope, my own
Hope and skip without your rope as

You insist I do not require to stretch
My limbs fixed by these fevers of your
Reeking sweat and your prison walls;
I will, will skip with my forged hope;

Watch, watch me skip without your
Rope; watch me skip with my hope –
A-one, a-two, a-three, a-four, a-five
I will, a-seven, I do, will skip, a-ten,

Eleven, I will skip without, will skip
Within and skip I do without your
Rope but with my hope; and I will,
Will always skip you dull, will skip

Your silly rules, skip your filthy walls,
You weevil pigeon peas, skip your
Scorpions, skip your Excellency Life
Glory. I do, you don’t, I can, you can’t,

I will, you won’t, I see, you don’t, I
Sweat, you don’t, I will, will wipe my
Gluey brow then wipe you at a stroke
I will, will wipe your horrid, stinking,

Vulgar prison rules, will wipe you all
Then hop about, hop about my cell, my
Home, the mountains, my globe as your
Sparrow hops about your prison yard

Without your hope, without your rope,
I swear, I will skip without your rope, I
Declare, I will have you take me to your
Showers to bathe me where I can resist

This singing child you want to shape me,
I’ll fight your rope, your rules, your hope
As your sparrow does under your super-
vision! Guards! Take us for a shower!

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May 04, 2020

A peaceful, lightly surreal scene is shadowed with wider foreboding

The Chess Player

They’ve left. They’ve all left.
The pigeon feeders have left.
The old men on the benches have left.
The white-gloved ladies with the Great Danes have left.
The lovers who thought about coming have left.
The man in the three-piece suit has left.
The man who was a three-piece band has left.
The man on the milkcrate with the bible has left.
Even the birds have left.
Now the trees are thinking about leaving too.
And the grass is trying to turn itself in.
Of course the buses no longer pass.
And the children no longer ask.
The air wants to go and is in discussions.
The clouds are trying to steer clear.
The sky is reaching for its hands.
Even the moon sees what’s going on.
But the stars remain in the dark.
As does the chess player.
Who sits with all his pieces
In position.

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Apr 27, 2020

To mark what would have been his 100th birthday, three pieces from his 100-part ‘war poem’ that is also about a forbidden love

Three poems from The New Divan

Hafiz, old nightingale, what fires there have been
in the groves, white dust, wretchedness,
how could you ever get your song together?
Someone stands by your tomb, thinks
as a shadow thinks: much, little, any?
You swore you’d be found shrouded in another
grave-cloth of pure smoke from a heart as
burning dead as beating but the names
of cinders are thick where passions were.
Whole cities could be ash. But
not the song the Sufi says we have
but our dying song, you knew, gives us our beings.

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Apr 20, 2020

Wondering where the house keys are sets off a chain of associations leading to a much larger question

Safe Houses

I find that I have started recently
to keep spare keys to the front door
in several pockets, such is my fear
of being locked out. Caught by the wind
the door could shut quietly behind you,
leaving you to face the outer world alone.
Once safe inside I don’t put on the chain.

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Apr 13, 2020

An internal dialogue wrestles with the question of how to contend with undeclared racism

Can I fight the power?

A meditation on ‘post-raciality’

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Apr 06, 2020

A chance sighting of an ex-lover sets off very ambivalent emotions, but also a kind of miracle


You walk by holding a bunch of flowers
never knowing that you’ve just performed a miracle.
Are those flowers for your girl?
I imagine her dressed up like an Easter egg
in yellow and pink. I’d tap at you like an egg,
cracking your thin chocolate shell.
If I were made of chocolate too, I’d break
off parts of myself to give to you and your girl.
Once, I gave my words for garden
and water and moonlit and love
to a man who kissed me. After he rolled
a stone over my heart and shut me off
from the world, I had no words left
to describe the dark dream that followed.
Now you’ve walked by, godlike in jeans
and an old t-shirt, the sun glinting on one
silver earring. Now a rose is once again
not only rose but also soft and red
and thorn and bee and honey.
Now a bird is singing song and tree
and nest in a high place and blue speckled egg.
You yourself are glowing with words, they move
up and down you as if they’re alive.
The words bring themselves to me
and tell my tongue sweetness over and over.
The words are everything. With them,
I’ll turn water to wine at your wedding.

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