Friday, December 3, 2021

Asher Ghaffar : From SS Komagata Maru





Bradford came to me in the form of a seamstress

who ran from an arranged marriage.

Once Jack the Ripper scrawled 
                     on these walls the clue

to his whereabouts.  

The mythic and marvelous accumulate here

in the belly of sewers. 

Wordsworth searched
the wool centre of the world.

For a song that hearkened

to a perfumed cowl.

But no history crosses the line between
“wool” and “world”.

    When sulfur belched through London frost, 

Titus proclaimed cholera was a gift from God.
                     I’m trying to grasp a city not built for you.

Not built for the workers before you.

If it were slowed  

to the motion of water     would you drink it?

Fast forward to London

Her fingers graze freshly cut bodies. A gutted double-decker bus. Calls to 911.     

There is a train leaving the station. Check. Blame is a summer day


    to flesh. The IRA? 

A twisted heap of wire. Approaching footsteps. A child hides

his face behind     stacked boxes. 
He will be revived, there will be another and another and another you 


You will eat us away.  


White—that riddle that appears to mark

the beginning. The word made flesh,
The blinding blizzard.
         Witness rather than casualty. The frontier that appears

to mark the beginning. 

The collateral damage on the pixelated screen. 

White—how you seamlessly drift through airports. How
          your voice bloats with humanity. How you create the clouds

of our unknowing. How the world comes

to be and is undone
                     through your busy hands.

When the button is pushed and the bomb falls 

On the libraries of Baghdad. 

How I wish I could civilize you. But first I must visit
the one who guards
Nizamuddin’s tomb. 
In his eyes, my life found its shadow.  

How I wish I could awaken him from the silence

that scribes his medusa-like gaze. 
           I have crossed the border to bring you his celebrated water.

As the buzz of helicopters vanish, a hum appears,

a circulating absence emerges from the furnace of sky 

in the nameless country where red flags flutter,
your sky’s playground.

If you ever get tired of being invisible—

Enter annihilation.
Go ahead, drown yourself—hurl yourself 

into the moat of your making. 

    Because if you don’t want—not wanting

is yours for the taking?



Asher Ghaffar writes essays, poetry, and the occasional story in a lumber jacket while driving an ATV around a town where he also leads the choir.  He is the author of Wasps in a Golden Dream Hum a Strange Music (ECW Press, 2009) and a forthcoming poetry collection, SS Komagata Maru (2022), which was nominated for the K.M. Hunter Award in Literature. Asher is the editor of History, Imperialism, Critique: New Essays in World Literature (Routledge, 2019) and is tidying up another collection of essays, Muslims in World Literature: Political Philosophy and Continental Thought (Routledge, 2022). He lectures at OCADU and works at X University.

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