NON-VERBAL; $3.99; BY THE LAUNDROMAT, ON ST. CATHERINE STREET
Feed your feral with the heat of planet.
Rings of Saturn come and go, trace
Ellipses around me — you, deep stain
fundamental to misery, I wait for you
I am no moon suffering in your light.
You show up at my feet, tall as a mountain, maybe
but I am unmovable little girl. We are made
of the same dust: stubbornness. In me it rises
like sun sighted at a rocky horizon.
First, as faint as hope
Then, pink like
a woman returned to life.
Waiting for you to die
is like playing dice with time.
Chances are I lose
my colour waiting for you
to lose yours. I suffer for no one. You
do not ring around me. Unwanted corset,
wet. Your red hands cannot grip my waist.
Something feral in me comes out, says
no, no, no, no
to the possible,
no to the real,
no to you demanding
small things not yours.
I feed her now with warm water, eyes
alight with the heat of survival.
She loves me, dark
and sweet, bites for me
but does not speak.
*First published as TALK BACK in DREAM FRAGMENTS (Cactus Press 2020)
The cost of sweet berries, he tells me
is more than my ears can handle. So I bite
grape under tongue, blush strawberry
in breathless shame.
The neighbour's secret naked now,
although off the record: the tails
of this story pleated as a turban,
lived as a commute on 80 East.
Mouth to mouth we live, search
in each other's body something sweet
and new to taste.
Do you hear
their illiterate backs break?
What do you want to do
with the so-much air you take?with the so-much air you take?
BY THE LAUNDROMAT, ON ST. CATHERINE STREET
This world rules itself
beyond tears. It is an ego
that dials for the police,
it is a human mind
that has never met
peace. I always see
sharply the ways
I cannot divide you
from me. So you are
my friend or my enemy
like dirt in a potted plant
like cigarette ash on
the street. Why this
commotion in my heart,
why this disease?
But don’t you and I
also share how we
are losing our minds.
I crave something
so much, I kiss the
idea of anything.
So I see your fist
raised at me. How
communion can be.
Despite the kerfuffle
on the street,
nothing you do will
I will kiss the crumbs
you leave. I am the maze
of feeling that you
so cheekily weave.
Avleen Kaur Mokha, also known as Mirabel, holds a B.A. in English Literature and Linguistics from McGill University. Mirabel's work has appeared in places such as carte blanche and Déraciné Magazine, among others. Presently, Mirabel edits poetry and prose for Persephone’s Daughters, a literary magazine devoted to survivors of abuse. Her debut collection, DREAM FRAGMENTS, came out in fall 2020 from Montreal's Cactus Press.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I grew up writing lyrics, listening to songs on repeat. Around the time I reached puberty, I moved to poetry because of the privacy it offered when compared to music.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
Not the first, but one that’s stuck with me for many years: Twice Shy, by Seamus Heaney. I keep repeating the lines, “Our Juvenilia / Had taught us both to wait, / Not to publish feeling / And regret it all too late.”
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Heaney, of course. I am drawn mainly to the Romantics and the Modernists. For more contemporary inspiration, I read Anne Carson and Maggie Smith. Like many, I came across Smith through her poem Good Bones – which I think should be required reading for adulthood.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
Music and privacy help me. I can’t write well unless I am in a private state of mind. I dim the lights, play my most recent favourites on Spotify, and poke at the keyboard. I am not a fan of the adage write drunk, edit sober. I need to be sober to be in touch with what I am trying to put down in words.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
Sometimes the form comes before the words. When that happens, it’s like when you are doing an eye test. You can see how long the lines are, but can’t spell out the letters unless you have the right lens. Finding the right form is a bit awkward, like moving around in the optometrist’s office. Sometimes I have to stare at the blur long enough for it to become words.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
Decide on one. You don’t have to wait to become transformed into the most “powerful” version of you. You’re here, you’re alive, and you have things to say. If you are worried about the way you deliver it, then just pick a voice. You will realize when it doesn’t match your content, or your personality. In short, process of elimination.
What is your editing process like?
It is mainly about cleaning up punctuation, and then creating some linguistic chaos. For example, I consider how certain my speaker’s voice is, and if I need to create hesitation, I might break up grammatical phrases so the final word in a line is a or the, to create a weaker line ending. I am a fan of intentional grammatical ambiguity – it can be an interesting obstacle in the reading process. I find phrases with the most versatile meanings, and try to obfuscate the grammar. This way, my reader is prevented from seeing all of the figurative meaning immediately. You will have to read around the obstacle, which hopefully makes it more rewarding when you finally see it come together.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
When it starts to get worse the more I edit it. Like makeup. The comedian Iliza Schlizinger has a bit about how you can touch up your makeup too much during a single evening. I think the same is true for poetry.