Rigorous
Volume Two, Issue 4



Yousuf bin Mohammad


While You Float Free

While you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
still, like that second between lightning and thunder
that perches in the soul,
between the Heaves of Storm
to the edge of the precipice,
I’m a hostage. I’m marooned.

My fellow inmates praise Him to the skies,
sealed caves of seal-sheep, sea clouds here; merely daisies
outside the royal room of blood you occupied…
I nod to this music and think of you
sunlight and nerves, as I hugged myself
borne on the shoulders of the wind.

Peas imprisoned in a jar strove for the sky
beneath the clearing clouds of early day.
And I don’t know which turning to take…
In the street of the poem
there is no great release!

There is no great release
in the street of the poem
and I don’t know which turning to take
beneath the clearing clouds of early day.
Peas imprisoned in a jar strove for the sky

borne on the shoulders of the wind,
sunlight and nerves. As I hugged myself
I nod to this music and think of you
outside the royal room of blood you occupied.
Sealed caves of seal-sheep, sea clouds, here merely daisies.
My fellow inmates praise Him to the skies…

I’m a hostage; I’m marooned
to the edge of the precipice
between the Heaves of Storm
that perches in the soul,
still, like that second between lightning and thunder
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas…


“While You Float Free” is a cento, each verse is from an independent poem. I used each verse twice, first in the first half of the poem and again in the second half at a reflected position in the arrangement of verses and stanzas. The intention is to create a closed palindrome format using verses of other (more optimistic) poems to bring about a feeling of entrapment within a vicious circle of longing and poetry/deaths and revivals.

Sources (While You Float Free):

Lines 1 & 34: “The Rider”, Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952
Lines 2 & 33: “And Because She Won't Make it Through the Night”, Jason Brightwell, 1977
Lines 3 & 32: ‘“Hope” is a thing with feathers’, Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886
Lines 4 & 31: “I heard a Fly buzz - when I died - (591)”, Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886
Lines 5 & 30: “Vertigo”, Anne Stevenson, 1933
Lines 6 & 29: “In Paris with You”, James Fenton, 1949
Lines 7 & 28: “Clare's Jig”, Ian Duhig, 1954
Lines 8 & 27: “To Sleep Possum to Dream”, Vahni Capildeo, 1973
Lines 9 & 26: “And now you”, Kate Miller
Lines 10 & 25: “Midnight to Eight”, David Salner,
Lines 11 & 24: “What I Remember”, Tracey Herd, 1968
Lines 12 & 23: “ The Year's Midnight”, Gillian Clarke, 1937
Lines 13 & 22: “Poem on Saturday”, Maurice Rutherford, 1922
Lines 14 & 21: “At Maldon”, J.O. Morgan, 1978
Lines 15 & 20: “Songs to Joannes, V”, Mina Loy, 1882-1966
Lines 16 & 19: “The Estate Taxed”, Roberto Montes




Traces

Some wrinkled memories remain of you, your
face, now but a cage of bones
and loose skin that is refused,
etched with stories narrated to
the nights’ passion (once how did they burn!)

Does it narrate of a night when
for nights at stretch we
kept arising at sun set?
And little to the love’s fire
did us feed, and little still to
our eyes did the moon, the
skin still recorded tremors of flesh…

Who would have known and who
could have that night seen where would
all of that night go? Who could have
even guessed!

Lost in you I thought you’d
forever stay before my eyes and be
forever mine, I knew you won’t, but still stubborn
I held you on, and still in
me there is a space for you in death.


The ending words of each verse of “Traces” trace Agha Shahid Ali’s poem “Cremation”:

Cremation

Your bones refused to burn
when we set fire to the flesh.

Who would have guessed
you’d be stubborn in death?

-Agha Shahid Ali




A Pause

Cumulonimbus canopy
under its very shade rests a while; half-halted
sailboat of stars for one while waits, sails half-masted.

A dungaree-strapped sailor sits in leisure;
                                                        silent, smiling at the seconds stolen
                                                                                                    from fleeting sailboat’s treasure,

some stereo-sets, stuck at once, relentlessly hale
                                            the tapes, making them wail
and smile in melancholy.

And thus sitting
under the shade of a pause, the sailor becomes one
with his nothingness and then
                                                                                       moves on...


Yousuf bin Mohammad: "I am a poet based in New Delhi. Some of my works have appeared in journals like The Ghazal Page, Eastlit, The Society of Classical Poets, Transom etc.

"Apart from English poetry, i participate in Urdu mushaira occasionally. My Urdu-Hindi poems have appeared in journals like Daleel, Swargvibha etc."




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