Poetry | December 01, 2010

Featuring the poems:

  • Poetry Recitation at St. Catherine’s School for Girls (featured as Poem of the Week, Feb. 9, 2011)
  • Reading Tranströmer in Bangladesh
  • En Route to Bangladesh, Another Crisis of Faith
  • To the Bangladeshi Cab Driver in San Francisco


Poetry Recitation at St. Catherine’s School for Girls

“If this were the beginning of a poem, he would have called the thing he felt inside him the silence of snow.”

-Orhan Pamuk, Snow


Before the hanging cross, the girls

take turns standing at attention before

us with eyes closed or hands clasped,


headbands bright green or bangles

yellow, glints that fill the silence like

falling snow. They recite poems they


have carried in their mouths for days,

and my desire to go back, to be one

among these slender, long-haired girls


is a thistle, sharp and twisting at my

side. The words psalm, blessing, lord

rise in me like bees heavy with pollen,


and the teenager I once was unzips

herself from me, emerges, a crocus

bristling through snow. She is back


in the old chapel where the priest

again lifts into the air the Bible,

declaims about the kingdom of God,


gifts promised only the righteous–

the girl I was, heavy and slow in her

thick glasses, knew she would never


enter heaven, never be these young girls

singing, arms pale and slim as the white

birch whose branches, dappled with gold,


shade the stained-glass window. In Pamuk’s

novel, the headscarf girls in Eastern Turkey

hang themselves rather than go uncovered,


and still I desire that certainty of conviction,

even as the self beside me pulls on her hair,

sucks long strands of it deep into her mouth,


so I gather her in my arms, shake her, tell

her to listen, that the sky will always happen,

these branches. Sometimes, it causes me


to tremble, tremble, she sings beside these

girls who will grow into or away from their

bodies, and I know I must push the heavy


amber of her back inside me. Help me, Lord.

There are so many bodies inside this clumsy one.

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