Poem of the Week | September 09, 2019

This week’s Poem of the Week is “The Body of the Guru” by Brooke Sahni!

Brooke Sahni is a native of Cleveland, Ohio but has been living in the Southwest for the past ten years. Her poetry and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in magazines such as Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, The Massachusetts Review, Cave Wall and elsewhere. She holds a BFA and an MFA in Creative Writing and is currently living in New Mexico where she teaches and is working on a collection of stories.

 

The Body of the Guru

 

A bustling airport, my aunt pulls up an app
called myguru, tells me everyday she reads

ten pages of scripture—every line is Hindi
Punjabi and English
she says of the words aglow

behind the glass, then confesses her wish
that my grandmother were still here to teach me.

What steadiness it takes to write the word of god,
to imbue spirit into paper, an app. I recall

the book The Making of a Sikh Scripture where the author
uses language like clothe this revelation and the body of the guru.

The big question: Many ask, if the children
do not inherit the tradition, then how will it

survive in foreign lands? What devotion—
from belief, to scribe, to pages, to printing press,

to silken robes, the body. I once asked
my father how many letters are in the Hindi alphabet

and he said I should look it up.
Didn’t you go to school? I joked. I just

can’t remember. Over the PA a voice announces
our departures so my aunt and I head out
our separate gates.

 

Author’s Note

“The Body of the Guru” is part of a book-length manuscript of poems that is interested in the conflation between text and body, language and the construction of the self. What does it mean to imbue an object—the parchment (the “skin”) of the Torah, say, or the illuminated pages of the Guru Granth Sahib—with language? How do words shape belief into something that takes on material form and vice versa? And if we aren’t handed family languages, which words do we use to fill that absence? Perhaps those new words are more powerful in constructing a personal mythology. “The Body of the Guru” came out of some of these questions and explorations.

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