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December 2009 Issue

All text and design © 2009, by Nicola Masciandaro, Raza Yaseen, Andy Jackson, Taylor Graham, and Gene Doty.


Nicola Masciandaro

Question: is something causing cosmos to appear?
I really ask — do I? — do not only appear.

See the crystal growing of all things as answer,
A perfect inverse of platitude that appears.

The more I timepass inside thinking's deep flatness,
The more wine signed mystery on my doorstep appears.

From where has everything already been let in?
That is home, not the perspective where it appears.

Funny philosophers, thinking thought as a thing,
Not image in a mirror where each thing appears.

The summit of this life is its not having been.
To be standing there now we suddenly appear.

Be happy only to hear, not catch Nicola,
One who not once to himself will ever appear.

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whether or not to commit suicide

Raza Yaseen

ah to be or not to be hamlet
whether or not to commit suicide

reason for visiting amsterdam
is it van gogh or is it suicide

with the fabric of the universe
ultimately god would knit suicide

my soul the eternal fugitive
condemned for its illicit suicide

my cold night against your body's flame
a dark life behind a lit suicide

neither mrityu nor amrita
survived the great sanskrit suicide

a lost winning lottery ticket
someone's seven-digit suicide

there were some unreported motives
it seems like hell will audit suicide

in spring pain painted everything red
in fall it will exhibit suicide

do not let it come on its own terms
catch death off guard with a fit suicide

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" . . . mirrors"

Andy Jackson

I run to the pillars of culture, from the dizziness of mirrors . . .
Will I ever find a clearing in this wilderness of mirrors?

I've yet to see myself in glass, just what I'm becoming.
An ever-flowing, churning stream, this distress of mirrors.

Try cutting your own hair or writing an honest diary —
perspective's skewed by the cornered guess of mirrors.

O these flecks of silver, how your smile builds these lines!
Yes, it's exquisite to age, but I could see less of mirrors.

Every surface is reflective, a resonance at a cellular level.
Easier to only take the advice (I too confess) of mirrors.

I agree with everyone — my answers, careful translations.
It's as if I don't exist. O the shallow sadness of mirrors.

Our hardness is made of molecules and will. No, of course
you don't believe the lies of politicians, of darkness, of mirrors.

We lay all the bricks ourselves in our solitary confinement.
Others cross oceans, call-centres for the promise of mirrors.

Clipping his nose-hair, trimming his brows is a man already
dead, unaware of the slow subcutaneous caress of mirrors.

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Ghazal of the Other

Andy Jackson

Our senses are desperate cannibals, lost concerning God.
The body a maze, limbs' dead-ends, self spurning the Other.

Your clothes on the line, sails of memory, pull my body.
No raft, no buoy, no flare here, just this churning desire.

God, I offered you money, my body, the fuel of my shame.
All my Tourette's prayers, answered with burning silence.

I'd climb into the soft curves of a font, yet even ink bleeds.
Other lives move through us, worms turning the earth.

The leashed dog dragging the table down the footpath
is my guru — I, whose self watches its adjourning body.

Look — my skin's raw where you were torn from me! But
were you ever here? Love prefers love to discerning truth.

Your breasts pressed against my belly! In time, my flesh
will forget itself, but for now holds this, returning home.

Not the empty exchange of speech, but the slow approach,
silence, an aimless circling and unfolding, learning —

Petals of stolen roses wilt and drift to our kitchen floor.
Ghazals? Bad actors. As if they know yearning, love!

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such destination you gave this world

Raza Yaseen

such destination you gave this world
that from your feet you pave this world

you dream of universe and its light
i can only see this cave this world

i feel that death will tighten its skin
waiting for me to shave this world

for god's sake do not believe in god
or else he would enslave this world

when you leave me do not wave your hand
instead of your hand just wave this world

let siva destroy all he wants
after all visnu will save this world

raza why do we inhabit it
in the end it's one big grave this world

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Does This Help Your Karma?

Taylor Graham

The morning's dim and cold as a December lizard.
Turn on the water, fill the bucket, and find — a lizard.

What instinct keeps a dry-land reptile afloat on
such a flood? Treading water. Observe this lizard.

Blue on back and belly — vibrant blue. Sapphire
beads in water. Your cold hands tingle with lizard.

Sun behind Stone Mountain, equinox coming.
Hint of fall. Under jacket and vest, a fence-lizard.

You water trees in hopes of rain, unkink the hose —
while, clasped to your shoulder, tiny claws of lizard.

How sun strikes the first rock, a stump, gold —
warming. Untangle, from collar and hair, the lizard.

Aren't poets strange, and you, Taylor Graham,
the strangest, writing yourself savior of a lizard?

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Editor's Comments

Mon Nov 30 10:54:15 2009

NicolaMasciandaro opens this issue with a question, always a good place to start. Appearance and reality are old themes in philosophy and run through this set of ghazals as well, sometimes on the surface and sometimes in the depths — if one shouts, are there echoes in Plato's cave? Is it all a matter of perspective? This ghazal echoes the Creation Hymn from the Rig Veda (10.129), which questions deeply the matter of existence.

Death is also a perspective, as the body slackens when life evaporates, suicide a deliberate exit from the cave, really, a willful leap into darkness — I recommend you Google mrityu and amrita for more dimensions. Search just for those two terms without additions; don't follow Google's suggestions (assuming you use Google).

Andy Jackson handles qafiya especially well — rhyme is a mirror in wch one word reflects another but changes the sound as well — of the ten qafiya-rhymes in this ghazal, five have stressed syllables and five unstressed, a subtler echoing of change

Isn't the Other really a mirror, albeit a distorting one? "Ghazal of the Other" uses the qafiya but not radif. Usually, a ghazal without radif but with rhyme puts the rhyme at the end of the line. Andy has kept the qafiya in its traditional place. The effect? The words occurring in the radif position (including the dash!) become ghost-radifs, echoes of an unstated radif.

Some see the world also as mirror; it is definitely Other to many of us. Raza's ghazal tames — not the world, but its image, its significance for us.

In Taylor Graham's ghazal — is this lizard Other or mirror? lizard and poet share a world — note the resonance of appearances in this ghazal, temperature, season, sun, rain. Do we save the world or does the world save us? Rock, stump, bucket of cold water, inscriptions in the flow of appearances that arise and vanish as we read.

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