Sky Ward (Wesleyan Poetry Series)
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Drunk on the sun and the sea, Kazim Ali’s new poems swoop linguistically but ground themselves vividly in the daily and real. Both imprisoned by endlessness and dependent on it for nurturing and care, in Sky Ward Ali goes further than ever before in sounding out the spaces between music and silence, between sky and ocean, between human and eternal. “Daily I wish stitched here to live,” moans his Prometheus, wondering what release from familiar bondage might actually portend. “So long liberation,” his Icarus sings as he plummets from the sky with desperation and grace, ready to unfeather and plunge into the everything-new. Whether in the extended poem-prayer to Alice Coltrane or in the “deleted scenes” and “alternate endings” to his critically acclaimed volume Bright Felon, or in the spirit-infused and multi-faceted lyrics he has become known for, Ali once again reinvents possibilities for the personal lyric and narrative.
begged to be reborn as a brute or beast but it was me who wanted to be killed like a king, my uncertain body chained to the rocks promising to lie still, to be destroyed, wanting only to kiss the hands of my winged assassin I would break any promise to be so daily devoured, eternally delivered — Frozen Daily I wish stitched here to live Facing west watching the last light Tattooed on my left wrist, “let-go” Tattooed on my right wrist, “not-it” Daily you make me dizzy with messages
prayerbook racing along the surface toward the rocks finding in the water a pounding afterlife sound that undresses itself prayerbook spun to unravel answering the eroding cliffs and dunes dear orange shafts of late morning speaking backward and in tongues wet-suited supplicants balancing on boards racing for shore how do you find your self deeply in the forest on the ocean floor dear snake-haired woman who wondered to some the book in sound you wrote was thunder it is one thing to
breathe in both sides of life I see the life that sees me at the beginning of everything who are you stranger receding finally getting colder my body without touching another night gives you an hour night swipes it back Goya’s New York I want to go home the streets are flooded up to the car windows I want to drown the loneliness of the man in the painting about the execution he is looking no one else is looking Hofmann’s New York it hardly matters my silence weather moment or
manmade catastrophe. Unable to forgive, deeply mine this earthly light that swells sickly inside. Like wind I drift westward and profane when the doors of ice slide open. While he prays my father swallows the sickle moon, its bone sharp path spent. Preyed upon by calendars of stone unbound the nickel of the mountain in streams. Mine this awful empty night. Mine this unchiming bell, his unanswered prayers. Mine the rain-filled sandals, the road out of town. Like a wind unbound this shining
Gratitudes to the Ohio Arts Council and to Oberlin College for support of various kinds that enabled to completion of these poems. Of course a boy must thank with all his heart his dear mother and father. And to Lucille … NOTES Follower The name “Icarus” means “follower” Journey to Providence “Whatever we loved has been lost … we are in a wilderness.” — A Russian critic in response to Malevich’s “Black Square” “We are all of a sudden airborne” a mash-up of John Yau and Agha Shahid Ali