In a Language Not Arabic
by Prakash Kona
The only language of loss left in the world is Arabic.
These words were said to me in a language not Arabic.
— Ghazal by Agha Shahid Ali
I trivialize when I talk of one-sided headaches and head-devouring dreams;
I could be serious, but seriousness implies I’m cut off from an effete side
Attached to pain as much as living. I love life as a child clinging to a mother,
I derive pleasure from living as a lover from the cup of a beloved.
Loss is certain. It is a language I invented waiting. Free verse suits
The chronic need in me to strip words of masks. Waiting is pointless.
What I wait for is equally pointless if words are a slave to loss.
The unplanned vocation is real. One is called to believe.
I’m attached to symptoms. If I’ve a fever it is to fever I address songs of love
And protest. If I’m in love my interest is in lips that dream with eyes open. Guilt is
Attachment to nocturnal loss. Refusal to acknowledge the wall of reality
Is abandoning the creature to mouths of fools. I call it fate.
My eyes are restless and political. I barely pick details. I cannot remember names.
Faces are forgettable as far as I’m concerned. Voices can be haunting.
Politics comes from touching things I love. My eyes embrace a leper
The hands refrain from touching. Words are symptoms of disaffection.
Night is a run of phenomenal encounters. My politics are diurnal. I am a montage
Of fevers mixed with colors. I’m a person resuscitated by mouth of a wandering
Minstrel. I want to peer into eyes of a face; I cannot linger. It is not my nature.
The memory of a mouth sent me across seas. I can’t be serious for a moment.
Remorse is the art of giving words to loss. That does not make it a language. Night
Gives shapes to puzzles of day. Night is a language of being.
Night produces words to supplement the loss of day. Narcissism
Blends with superstition. I need to align thoughts that fly in all directions.
All I do is conceal my loss. I never denied plausibility of fulfillment;
Merely mocked it. Your fulfillment guarantees I leave the room for a language
That loss made possible. I fight invisible terror. Getting used to a particular shade
Of light is all it takes to fall in the somnolent state between surfeit and nostalgia.
Subtlety is not the nature of the beast. Maybe cunning! Never duplicity! To be driven along
Doleful alleys in search of a word greater than loss! In a language of loss
I consummated sleep. I touched near oblivion. Through abyss of nights I traveled
In calm as in storm. Abandoned to pavements you dream of a shroud for a bed sheet.
Shafts of darkness pierce my breast. It’s no facile matter dying the ritual death of
A sesame seed before crushed to oil. The body along with face returns to platforms
Of sleep-walkers with night’s fires roused in estrus of day. In a language not Arabic
I experienced loss that I may beget the patois to describe it.
Without a present I can’t be true to myself. I am loitering streets or waiting nights arrive.
They’re detached states. It’s like dreaming madness but madness does not belong to
The dream. It stands aloof asphyxiating me like a python. My feet have strange
Allergies coming in contact with dust. I itch until I bleed. I think until I suffer.
It is last verses of a poet with a deceptive plainness that hold my attention.
The poet is ready to shed the mask of exile. In last lines is humor and melancholy.
Nothing can cause dread to one at one with nothing. The performer leaves the moment to
Walk into night. Affectation gone I’m affected by faces I do not see in dark.
Because I associate politics with people I refuse to associate it with loss. I give it fullness
Of a moon birthing light like milk from udders of a cow. Poetry is political
Thanks to passion that makes me a saint of language as of loss.
Socrates did not know Arabic, he knew loss. I know a language called Arabic exists. I know loss too.
I exist in time-frame of poets ready to swoon on floor. I call that the finishing gesture of
A poet ebbing into a loss greater than Arabic or any language. We played clowns
Except that some faces looked more preoccupied than others. The death-obsessed child
Dispersed words that others may speak of loss in a language not their own.
I can be spring but I can’t be time. If a thing has four legs and it is a rabbit
I still call it an elephant. Loss is inevitable when you see the world with partial eyes of
The colonized. You cannot prostitute intelligence if you’re a child of nights.
You owe an obligation to shadows with eyes spitting clouds of fire.
Knowledge is how you refer to things. I fall into paroxysms of laughter for no reason. I
Never weep except for a scene so meticulously done that it could break me.
I make scenes to come out of prisons where nothing moves except earth.
My favorite scenes carried the loss of a self I recreated as a dreamer in real life.
I don’t remember being myself. I wake with pressure of dreams on my forehead. I go
To bed exhausted by fire in my body. I walk blind alleys to compensate distaste of
Long days. Smells are accentuated. Silence and breeze descend from nowhere.
I feel the chemical in flesh as if I were dying. I’m in a hurry to complete my epitaph.
On a small throne I sat a queen contemplating dew on a blade of grass. Death is not
Same as dying with indignity. Loss is a stone with old men that lived as if living is
One thing that mattered. Dogs are familiar with roads I traverse to reach a
Destination amorphous as pipe dreams that contort the face.
I’m occupied with composing letters for imaginary readers. The real ones wait for
A brief acknowledgement in a glance opening curtains of day.
I refuse to fall on stage. I drag my body through curtains before I let sleep
Touch eyelids. I give rhythm to that last groan escaping my lips into thin air.
Copyright © 2005 by Prakash Kona