Friday, February 08, 2008

A Nostalgist's Map of America

The best poetry is like looking through a kaleidoscope. The world always looks different through and each time is a delightful surprise. I love these lines by Agha Shahid Ali because I can read and savor them so many ways. This could be about love, friendship, nostalgia, illness or death depending on what I want it to be and mean to me.

I love the way the words flow like they we were a stream coursing gently over smooth, shiny rocks with metaphors glinting like specks of sunlight. I could pick a handful from anywhere and it would be the same clear water. The images conjured up by the "disguised climate of Southern California", "rain from distance drenched arms" or "the eavesdropping willows" commingle as rain drops do when falling upon a river.

A Nostalgist's Map of America

by Agha Shahid Ali

I kept speaking to you
after I hung up, my voice the quickest
mail, a cracked disc with many endings,

each false: One: "I live in Evanescence
(I had to build it, for America
was without one). All is safe here with me.
come to my street, disguised in the climate

of Southern California. Surprise
me when I open the door. Unload skies
of rain from distance drenched arms." Or this:
"Here in Evanescence (which I found - though

not in Pennsylvania - after I last
wrote), the eavesdropping willows write brief notes
on grass, then hide them in shadows of trunks.
I'd love to see you. Come as you are."

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