Listen: On Natasha Ramoutar’s Bittersweet, jaye simpson’s it was never going to be okay, and Lily Wang’s Saturn Peach

 

Yo escribo simplemente para que mis amigos me quieran mucho y para que los que me quieren mucho me quieran más.

I write simply so that my friends love me very much and that those who love me very much love me more.

Gabriel García Márquez

 

 

I. Now

Ask me where I come from and I will tell you. In my memory it’s always me. call me sea glass: sweets filled with sea brine, grandmother of my grandmother’s grandmother. I am already in the future kissed by the sun. all of us sea glass in the playground sand. foamy salt waves, a memory of a long faded memory. Everything listens, lapping at my edges, lapses to kiss. us dewy children witnessed by shifting bonfire light. Tomorrow…Tomorrow…you’re always the light. this burning heavenly heart. Today and again who sketches the dawn. Tell me again how the nightingale called. stay here you are safe here. What if you put your ear to a seashell and it drowns you? Where the wind’s eye rested, now was a good time to learn. Can you hear it? The rain outside.

 

II. Here

no standing ovation in the final act. Turn your palms upward to the sky, the unrelenting sun. Morning is an exit that eats itself. i have been the favourite spectre of so many. I want to be a landscape. Where is the self that forgives? this legacy of longing. why can’t it end with the wave? Our lineage, woven together in a solid gold strand. when i speak i often bleed. My own hands can betray me. You’ll hear a voice below the skipping—a scream. my vocal chords swell. i too often forget screaming is a type of singing. Joy is not a whispered story but a wailing manifesto: my healing is worth every prayer, every song, every ceremony. Now is the time to cry, if you wish, if you have ever wanted to weep. do you think they too are eavesdropping? (our ancestors, i mean) rising with the tide as if to say, I am here. Hopeless to gather what falls, ravenous to belong to a before. our laughter weaving into one collective prayer.

 

III. Tomorrow

I want to bring you a gift, the city lights like a field of stars. the sapphic poets didn’t teach how to be accountable when yearning. These hands won’t do anymore. I waver between wanting to hold the world and wanting the world to hold me. sometimes you want to be wanted so badly you forget yourself. rain—someone’s desire like a sigh. many tomorrows from now i pray—How can I sing? each soundwave is an ocean. can a colour tell me where to go? the wild strawberries ripened. What is time but a series of rivers, distance growing yellow in patches. after the rains, the raven returned. my arms full of silence, daffodils & dandelions. Here come my friends, murmuring wishes to the open air, carrying the sunset on their wings.

 

IV. Again

My throat is infinite, I accept myself. It comes together slowly. let’s begin.

 

 


 

Notes on process

 

In late 2020, I was in Kashmir waiting for three books.

I had recently moved back home to be with family. I brought a few books with me but finished them by the end of my two-week travel quarantine. So I began waiting for an uncle to send (through a series of handovers as mail often doesn’t arrive in Kashmir) a package of three books I had been excited to read since 2019. In the time I spent waiting for these books, the longing for their poetry coincided with the longing for those friends: the friends who had written them, who I had seen months ago, and the friends who might be holding them now, who I was excited to meet again someday. The joy of the books’ eventual arrival one October afternoon marked itself particularly in me—the startling beauty of the three together in my hands, under the sun. In the months that followed, I carried these books with me everywhere I went (mostly around my house). Their worlds became a little solar system on my windowsill, in my mind, circling my heart.

This review is an act of friendship. It is an attempt to collage and offer a version of that cosmos. Four poems for the four of us. Inspired by Eloisa Amezcua, I chose the form of the cento, a patchwork poem made entirely of direct quotes, to bring the reader as close as possible to my experience of reading the books together. I have attributed them here by colour: strawberry for Natasha, orange for jaye, and a lighter pink for Lily. I chose colour as a concrete method to interrupt the standardized expectation of language—to be black and white on the page—and to bring us closer again to the word as “a stroke of paint, a mark on the page,” as my friend Zoe once said. Following this interruption, I chose to preserve the exact shape of the words as they appeared originally (excepting line breaks and slight alterations to punctuation for flow) to preserve craft and to preserve a politics of disrupting linearity. All of my choices—closeness, collage, contrast, colour—were refractions of ethics I found in the work. Through these books, I learn again poetry as a practice of listening. A conversation. I remember that to write poetry is to overwhelm language. A symphony, the sound of us together.

 

 

 


 

Bittersweet by Natasha Ramoutar was published by Mawenzi House in 2020. it was never going to be okay by jaye simpson was published by Nightwood Editions in 2020. Saturn Peach by Lily Wang was published by Gordon Hill Press in 2020.

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