FERAL, UNTOLD GRACE

[ As read by my partner, Jordan D. Finlay] 

Vultures clean the coast,
          what we couldn’t sing underwater,

we brought back in the throat
          of our afternoon. The shore shaped

by the constant carol of waves,
          like a mammal’s heart. Beached,

the baby Great White, a belly

          gray as a singing knife,

kisses each of her hissing fins
          to the sand. Recovering some altitude,

flashing her wings of cheek. Worn out

          eyes gelled with kindness.

Hurt as a cavity, stalactites
          of her teeth, some still moonset,

let out their dark light:
          I’ve done enough, it is over.

Cupping my hands
          in the geometry of a prayer,

a bedouin by by a desert spring,

          holding all of the ocean I can

to wet her breath as you find
          a bucket abandoned by a fallen castle.

You get behind and carve the sand, too.

          The back fin fanning, your feet

coiled with the same energy
          as a birth. The waves open

and the mossy slip of her tucks
          bravely into your arms, the only way

I know you know how to hold.

          Fins start to coast into

swim and she bursts into
          a glide: so common and sweet as air. 

 

THE WAITERS 

Blue rags in my hands. We eat  

shooed seconds of half-gods—

under each plate, quarter moons 

hide before glow. In the parking lot 

 

after tables bleached, we stare over 

rainbows: ripe oil-plumes, swimming 

 

upstream from the gas station. Holding small fires

to hilled, purple mouths— a strike of momentary beauty.

And with tired hands, generous still 

to rub heads—we hold each other’s 

 

tangled hair in nets. In tight embrace 

of no embers: no control over light.

 

He undoes my unlovely ponytail, caught dark hair 

in pins, freeing into directions of unfastened air— 

where there are no borders, and an exit 

visa in my soul is stamped only by his name. 




In Dead Horse Point, We Are Alone 

 

and you are telling me your new father

is being deported. Riding past 

rivers unrushed by summer. Stopping to drink 

 

vodka and orange juice. There, sober and brilliant, 

crayfish you swallowed starving as a futbal boy in Mazatlán. 

Break open pinchers: tender parenthesis. Let out 

 

how our world has been this fragile,

how we are cut from the navel and scattered. Desert water 

evaporates before it ever wets Lahori lines 

 

of orange trees, the fruit that taught how to slice 

our world. Naranja or Naarangi is a tart tautology. Rhyming 

with nothing in America. Vibrating echo 

 

in both Spanish and Hindi. Naarangi 

travels from India to Spain, gets handed 

in ravished fists like the Earth itself 

 

to hungry monarchs. Crystallized and jeweled 

arancia in Sicily. Carried in sweetened braids 

of a small bride, or dead-eyed

 

glint of guns, as tangy naranja

into the New World. Silently 

“j” is left out there hanging 

 

from its hook. It was half- night. Whispering

midnight is aadhi-raat. We leaned again on 

silverbeams of a motorcycle sweetly christened,

 

El Burro. Circling darkened eyes, tying

hammocks from Aspen trees, sewn out and in

air eddies of hummingbirds.


Covered in pine needles, we pointed

singing names back in English. In Spanish.

In Hindi. How can we say Father? Walls? 

 

Together? Escape?  Sloughed skin 

of a rattlesnake breaks through

and under darkchains. So bleached 

 

white in silverhurry of moon’s or chandini’s 

reflection. A spiral worn soft as the hand-

me-downs of our starving brown

 

grandmothers: Abuela and Nani across

latitudes who once ate orange

out of oranges, down to smiles 

 

of slithering pulp and rind. 

Rinsing my hands under metallic tips 

of common stars — 

 

if we were to do it again, ride and die again 

with you, El Burro out there at half-night, this time 

ride and die again, in the warm breath 

 

of our tent, I’d say 

salam and hold you so 

with the American choreography 

 

of a pigskin flying

to be caught 

by a son, whose real father,

 

like yours, rode and died 

and only returned

once. 



In Brave Slowness of Life

 

Now, a skeleton swings—

 

from a tree — laundry on fishing line, a false horizon —

so invisible, it can only belong to phantoms. I’ve held out

for the dead each year to become less dead. What axis 

would the earth have if love was an unkillable 

 

art? I’ve never wanted fortune or its friends. Just time 

to not be a woman dressed in a copper cage searching 

for perfect swans. It never does last. I find wasps 

disguised as angels—no one is making honey. 

 

It was a clefted apple with worms’ cursive 

into fruit soft as sky. Unavailing and alluring 

as holding a child that is not yours,

imagining an alternative name— a deliberate process 

 

for nothing. Still, I check the rearview mirror—  I do

idle choreography around yard sales. I hold relics 

like hands, yet hesitate because they might have been warm

 

between someone else’s thighs. What we find in love 

we write in yellow—as if dandelion wine was true. In a dream

I had your hands; I knew carpentry. I understood how to whittle the sun 

 

into a pastel—line by line—I composed color theory as admissions of love 

I’ve never possessed. In another dream about birth—

 

I wasn’t an agile Venus. All of earth was without 

sound, without virtue. Softened to dustbloom from rising 

 

sea tides and sour experimentations; I’ve told no one. 

00:00 / 01:53

 © 2020 by  Jai Hamid Bashir 

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