What and So-What

Our first loyalties must be to craft, to making, to imagination. Our loyalty must be to serious play, to language made new, to words. We need to revel in words as if we’d just met them.

by: Peggy Shumaker



by: Quinn Rogers

I like nature, it’s been good to me.
From the lowest moss, to the tallest tree.

I hope to see its continued health,
Give us beauty and leafy wealth.

I’ve never been bit by a jungle vine,
And I haven’t been abused by a forest pine.

In my opinion a briar,
Doesn’t purposely snare.

Violets aren’t known,
For their vicious glare.

Cool green grass doesn’t burn my feet,
Nothing’s intimidating about rolling fields of wheat.

No crime has been committed,
By a mountain brook.

Walk in its frosty waters,
And take a closer look.

We continue to destroy,
Our massive eco-system.

In so many harmful ways,
I can’t begin to list them.

Let’s make a helpful change,
In destructful everday ways.

Notice how nature’s grateful,
And invariably repays.

Is the air we breathe,
And the water we consume.

Not meager enough a payment,
To merely give them room?

An Old Poet’s Suicide Note

Walking in the dark
I grew blind
Wading across silence
I turned deaf
Teachers who speak ceaselessly about light,
how far above is it?
Prophets who taught me about revolution,
how remote is it?
My legs have grown weary
My heart beats are slow
You still tell lies
Don’t lie to children, said the poet
who just died of the world.
I searched in all the books,
for a word of truth
I dug every drought
for a drop of tear
I can no more speak of earth’s beauty
sitting on a sinking land.
Cannot speak of trees sitting inside a storm
Cannot speak of beginnings inside a deluge
I had a country when I was born
Now I am a refugee
I was born with a single chain;
several chains fetter me now.
I raised my hands to scream against injustice
I said ‘don’t’ to the vile hunter.
My life is collection of vain deeds.
This is the first poem I write
without corrections and revisions
This is the first song of the night
I sing without faltering.
The spring of my dreams has gone dry
I draw the curtains on this shadow play,
quickly, easily, like switching off a TV set.
Farewell. Call me when the world changes.
I shall come back if the hungry worms
and the obstructing angels permit me.

K. Satchidanandan
A poet, essayist and literary critic writing in Malayalam. He lives in Delhi and his latest collection of poetry is The Missing Rib. He has translated this poem himself.

(source:  curated by Meena Kandasamy for Mint Lounge Aug 12th 2017)


Source: An Old Poet’s Suicide Note

On Monsieur’s Departure: Queen Elizabeth I

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.
My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.
Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.

Grandpa, tell me what you know about the butterflies


It has been a few days since we spoke and I told you that I would start collecting my poetry and all the writings that I have been doing lately to send to you. I have had family on my mind a lot lately and there is a story that I need to tell you, one that I know you perceive far better than I.

It had been a long, excruciating Summer afternoon. The smell of dirt under my nose and saccharine chocolate between my canines. We lived at the house on Tidewater at the time, the only place I longed to roam about when school got out in May. The sun was surpassing the trees and I knew dinner was getting hot by now. I’d be craving glazed ribs (before I became vegetarian) and pasta soaked in alfredo, only to hope there’d be brownies looming from the oven for when we’d finish. The rest of the kids would be collecting themselves at the dinner table by now, like caricatures climbing into a clown car. I left Jessica, my bird of a feather from around the street corner, after a long day of Bratz and Mary Kate and Ashley: “Sweet 16” on the PS2. Trotting up the driveway and in through the tawny front door, I was greeted by mom in our tiled entry way. She was soft and warm. The smell of her clothes and her skin like home and fragrant perfume were my favorite hello’s (they still are). I saw a look in her russet eyes that faded south of her half grin. She looked at me with forgiving eyes and said that it was Nana’s birthday. I was puzzled and I didn’t see a face. Odd. I have a lot of family and have collected many faces into my subconscious over the years but this one, I cannot touch whole in my mind.
When we wound up at the Sun Burst house when I was 11, we lost the creek. Deep green, zig-zagging through backyards where we would hold hands in black inner tubes and race to where the neighborhood ended (and where our parents demanded we stop). I got my first scar in that creek. The house on Sun Burst would still be just as vibrant and asking of those scars. We’d have a deep cherry tree and equally sized green apple opposite one another in the new backyard. Sunsets that rained through our neighbor’s oaks. I’d notice butterflies skating through our large maple and they would hang on the lattice work underneath. I would watch them whenever I was out there. I still do. Mom and I would sit on the back patio and she would tell me how she thought of Nana when she saw them glide. The Monarchs and the Swallow Tails, the Blues and the Skippers. I never even asked why. I saw the peace in her eyes as they would dip up and over the bushes and the fence and I only smiled.

Maybe that’s why I’m sending this to you. I never asked a lot of questions about Nana, I only ever responded with a smile. I can’t imagine my questions could make you feel any less emotional than my own mother would, but Grandpa – tell me all you can about the butterfly that brings my mom back home.

My Papa’s Waltz by Theodore Roethke

The whisky on your breath could make a small boy dizzy, but I hung on like death . Such waltzing was not easy. We romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf. My mother’s countenance could not unfrown itself. The hand that held my wrist was battered on one knuckle. At every step you missed my right ear scraped a buckle. You beat time on my head with a palm cake hard by dirt, then waltzed me off to bed still clinging to your shirt.