Monday, June 25, 2007

Mimi Khalvati

Spent part of the weekend reading Mimi Khalvati's 1997 collection Entries on Light. Some excerpts:

Light's taking a bath tonight
in the sea's enamelled
blue-rimmed bath, lying along
its length. Hair submerged
thighs and belly in mile-long
strips showing through white
between limbs and fingers
bluer depths.

Light's closing her eyes
not once but twice - once
face up, once facing down
from her ceiling mirror.
In the rising steam, the longest
bath earth's ever seen, closing
her lid on sea and sky till only
mist and vapour stir.


***

I hear myself in the loudness
of overbearing waves, you
in the soft retreat, if-and-but
of defeated sighs, the tug
that gets me nowhere.
It'll never end. Sound
of the sea - still Sappho's sea -
the yes-and-no of lovers.

Inland, I dreamt of hearing
waves again but here
sea in my ears, watching reds
of life-jackets, blues
of a hull and sails, recapture
in the yes-and-no of my own blood
only the to-and-fro of our endless
drift - my bed a beach, you said.

Everything I ever said about you
was true; but trueness
in that tone and at that pitch
never helps. How could we help
having loved elsewhere too much
and I don't mean other lovers
but homelands, other cultures
pulling oceans in their wake?


***

On a diving-board, against
a centrefold of sky they queued:
eyes rheumy, hair plastered, scars
whitening under welts of pus
and queue there still as if
in the after-image, sparkling off
into scythes of light, were the gold
and ground of every plunging replay.

Knowing replay is not countless
that water and its breaking
close on a lap behind them
was it for this that they
showed no mercy, shrieking, shoving
the weakest from the highest board
clowing about with variants
on the perfect fall from grace?

Wanting nothing less than a commandment
for themselves to hurl, shatter, resurface
into their features, for this they held
nose and breath, plummeting faster
than the speed of sight, fell and kept on
falling until, in the last recall
higher than the highest board, they froze
in that blue inhuman air.
Actually, had a gloriously poetry-filled weekend - spent much of it horizontal in the grass under a great spreading tree reading, in sequence, Mimi Khalvati, William Meredith, Mark Doty and Lynda Hull. Life is very, very good.

P.S. This is probably as good a time as any to express my appreciation for the folks at Carcanet. It's very rare to be able to pick up a book of poems, any book of poems, from a publishing press, secure in the knowledge that it'll be worth reading.

2 comments:

Ricercar said...

you dont like replying to comments much, do you? :)

Space Bar said...

Entires of Light it says, but such an overwhelming presence of the sea...I loved 'Everything I ever said about you
was true; but trueness
in that tone and at that pitch
never helps.' and the urgemcy of 'Wanting nothing less than a commandment
for themselves to hurl, shatter, resurface
into their features, for this they held
nose and breath, plummeting faster
than the speed of sight, fell and kept on
falling until, in the last recall'.

Why is it that poets who write in English seldom feel able to extend themselves so unironically but with so much power, like that?