Out of a porthole a child pokes her head
Rocks prance under water
Sunlight burns a hole in air
Fit for a house to fall through
Palm trees dive into indigo.
Where is Kochi now?
Out on deck men raise glasses of cognac,
Women in chiffon saris
Giggle at the atrocious accents of the poor
Trapped in the holds with their tiny cooking stoves
And hunks of burlap to sleep in.
In between sari hems and polished toes
The child sees flying fish
Vomited by the sea
Syllables lashed to their rainbow wings
Tiny bodies twisting in heaps.
Sea salt clings to them.
The sea has no custom, no ceremony
It makes a theater for poetry
For a voice that splits into two, three:
Drunken migrations of the soul.
No compass to the sea. The sea is memory.
Meena Alexander has published six volumes of poetry including Raw Silk (winner of the PEN Open Book Award) and Quickly Changing River (TriQuarterly Books/ Northwestern University Press). Poetics of Dislocation appears in the Michigan Poets on Poetry series. She is editor of Indian Love Poems and author of the memoir Fault Lines. She has published two novels, Manhattan Music and Nampally Road and two academic studies, one of which is Women in Romanticism.
Alexander has received awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Arts Council of England and American Council of Learned Societies. She is Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center and Hunter College, City University of New York. In April 2011 she was poet in residence at Al Quds University, Jerusalem. www.meenaalexander.com.