Six Poems

By Joobin Bekhrad

FROM ‘THE SAILOR’

I
Even with his prayer
Still moist on my lips,
And in his presence,
’Bove gilded steppe,
Did he stand veiled
Atop the mountain
In astral navel fixed,
Watchtower awash
In primordial light,
Whose violet heights
We’d scaled, weightless,
With crumpled wings
In belated returning;
But I closed my eyes,
Still drunk with sleep,
Smiled all the same —
Blind to his face,
But happy knowing
That I would ever be
Within his shadow.

XIV
Her broken nose,
Gaudy lips, and all
Sink in the blaze,
Rise in clouds
Above the tenement
Before the eyes of
Her would-be boy,
From which she fell,
Loose ’n’ limber chit,
Headlong in a wink,
With floating sheaves
Of Delphic leaves
After dry spells
Long drawn out,
As sighs that Apollo
Out of songs
And swigs the last
Spanish draughts
In the ruins of the night,
At the end of the line,
In bleakest east.

XVII
This lonesome cella
Lies sprinkled with dust
That sticks to my feet,
Falls through my fingers,
The dust of stars
Born of dreams and
Blotted out by time.
No longer do I peer
From out the shadows
Or squander words
Better left unsaid,
But listen to the echoes
Of a litany of blessings
On that goddess
Of ravaged steppe,
Gone, like Babel’s babe,
As an ebbing glow
Now burns my eyes,
And I try to recall
The slant of hers.

XXV
Should I slip away
Behind my eyes
And wrest from light
The tail-end of a dream,
Or think upon you,
Giving thanks that,
She dies again as ever,
My calendula, and I
Live yet to see her so?
Not lit up on the lees
Of yesterday’s wine,
Nor a plaything of
Some blinkered thief
Who makes off with
What little o’wit is left —
I want to be to flesh
And earth unbound,
Feel those fingers,
Still now and warm,
Decked with gold
Of Rhages, running
Through my ringlets.
I’ve no longer the heart
For crescent moons
And candlelight.
O, if you could but
Give me the wings
That once were mine!

 

FROM ‘TURNCOATS OF PARADISE’

VIII
A wince at black magic
Spells the death of day.
I’m all out of words,
And I’ve said nothing
At the bright-lit bend:
Brown eyes and brambles
Still without a name.
Lo, here come the Ides
To turn me heathen,
Steal my sun-snatches.
And there go the swines
Of worlds old and new
With mouthfuls of pearls,
To the hills, out of sight;
And the witching hour
Leaves me with none
Of night’s sweet lethe,
Only weak of limb
And pinched of hope,
Bare ’fore hidden stars
And stillborn dawn alike.

XVII
Odalisques, wreathed
With wilted petals
Of the Orient plagued,
Await with traces
Of sand-speckled smiles
The laggard flames
Of psychic pyres.
Southwards we turn,
Disbelieving our words,
The laurel and the lyre,
And all those violet visions
Risen from blind alleys
Beneath our mountains,
Turncoats of Paradise.
Though the feathered ones
Can no longer gainsay
This bitter sun so bleak,
We won’t see our bones
Buried neath our feet;
And if the sky we can’t see,
Atlas’ shores are ours.
What a sendoff we’ll give
To our cracked idols,
Cast them out to sea,
See them on the breakers,
And never look back,
But find, with eyes of jade,
Our way home before dusk.

 

Reprinted with permission from the author. Find both collections here.

Joobin Bekhrad is the author of Coming Down Again, The Sailor, Guguli, With My Head in the Clouds and Stars in My Eyes, and numerous other books of prose and poetry. His books aside, his writing has appeared in such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Economist, Forbes, The Times Literary Supplement, CNN, and the BBC, and been translated into a variety of languages.