Cathexis Northwest Press
The Death of Weave; Eucharist: Transmutations; Every Becoming is an Undoing
By: Neha Mulay
The Death of Weave
After Mahmoud Darwish
His unmarked lair was the freshest of graves.
In the angled pipe of my throat, a medley
spun relentlessly in His hands.
When the loom broke, I gave up the bird nets.
Corralled by beaks, the fruit held no thunder.
I could no longer unwrap the cusp of a pink earth.
I was walking barefaced in the desert
when I heard His voice
asking me whose task it was
to part earth from sky.
Again, I was struck by that need for a tungsten splash of light
upon my skin. Again, I began undressing the cacti,
roasting buckwheat for the walls of paradise,
kneeling in between a bowl of water and a shrine.
Lord, your marching platoon is a mewling sack of hungry ghosts.
They’ll douse my hands for an arrival that feels like burn.
They’ll parch this skin for an arrival that never comes.
Heat in an oilskin tent and all my magma mirrors glittering in the sand
Somewhere in your eyes luster
Somewhere in your hair rope
Somewhere, a flash of green and home,
and I, pecking for a thimble
in your ark of lodged light.
I will be reckless beyond all limitation,
the snare of a red flag post in the wind,
the only orifice of a country you’re always
trying to leave.
I will be the damask cheek of a wedding
that binds me to nothing. I will be an oblique
in the stone face of being. I will be shadow
though shadows will not touch me.
When you are in Paradise, think of me as gazelle,
tailormade with stencils of shadow, broken marrow
bone across a creek like a bridge.
We will meet when obsidian cracks, when
leaves forget festoons and god rubs away
the ochre tones of spring.
I became curtain for the crosswires of the Lord.
He gave me one wafer and took my tongue.
Like a fever, my knees bent on marble.
Lord gave me his body but not his touch.
Feline through the stained glass, the sun hit
only my left eyeball. Flush of my body
like a wreath wound up. I broke blue plates
in the house of the lord. I gathered chopped heads
of fern in his garden. Weak, my rosary, weak,
the ivory and the blood. Day by day, mending
a vase. Seeking spectacles for the flag I couldn’t
fold up. The robe devoid of thread, my mind
an endless churn. The lonesome gall of a Lord
who would not come. Prayer is nothing
but penchant for arrival. Arrival is nothing
but deliverance. No place strong enough.
Always, the movement defines us. I made stigmata
of shadows, grew in them like silt. The wide expanse
of me, the birth, the drink. Staccato for the berries
that almost made it to our lips. When I gave you up,
Lord, I let you in. It was you I found in the mineshaft
with a broken wing. Your locks unclasped with my breath,
petals dried in the sky as I touched the crack in your heel,
all your suns forlorn, the rake of your thirst stirring.
You fell into my earth with paper skin and moonstone
eyelids. I am your body, Lord. Lavender crush, ash of milk.
The tableaus are clean today. Petals fresh. Drink the ink
from my eyes like a riverbank hungry for commandment.
Every Becoming is an Undoing
In the mausoleum of a summer afternoon,
I gave into strange praise, touched by sea salt,
peeled by cliff face, dancing into pencil shaving
pirouette, treading that endless terrain,
I saw how the light favored wreckage;
brightness flooding the brambles
and their spaces, saltwater crooning
in the reef’s porous silence. Riddled
as I was with absence, I, too, wanted
to be a thing possessed. As a child,
I was never home. Songs left their ashes
in me. I saw myself as instrument.
At the foot of 12 limestone pillars
that rose like apostles into the sky,
I asked for a reign that would
crush the debris of my insides.
I asked for a callous hand
to bruise me into the divine.
On this planet where earth
is the only true purveyor of life,
I paid the price for my neck
and its incline. The wind
primed me for menagerie,
spun my gape into cage.
And when my ghost began to speak,
I couldn’t tell storm from the facets
of his face. I lived in his breadth. Let him take my green stems
and split them across a thunderous sky.
I read the scent of the water,
tried to glean sculpture from sand.
Ghost whistling melody through me,
loving me into dune then leaving me,
making cartwheel of ache, feasting
on the rush of my serenade, and when
like a thing eaten, the bloodlust grew
within and the hunger that fueled
me begin to seethe, I asked my ghost
Is it me or is it you, but he just spun me
on a sugar cartwheel flecked with timber
horses, counting on vertigo to ravish
the sickness within me. I watched the sky
teem with the manic cursive of my dreams.
My clumsy ceiling backwashed into a racket
of milk in my throat. At the ocean’s edge,
I saw how water replaced water in the turbines
of sleep, play of movement making glee
where in every frolic, I was a pulse on the edge
of a coup. Living on litany, believing in a thing
just so breath believed in me, convulsing into
a phantom heady only with its own decree,
I was a flag to be adorned, a body to be bequeathed.
In the wide fling of dog marrow and sling,
in the spirit of rehearsed script, in the name
of a staged becoming, I stumbled at the altar
of a ceaseless wraith and worship left me.
Neha Mulay is an Australian-Indian writer and a current MFA candidate in poetry at New York University. Her poems have appeared/are forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, The Maine Review, and SAND Journal among other publications. She is the Web Editor for the Washington Square Review.
Interview with the poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I’ve been writing all my life, but I’ve been consciously engaging with the craft of poetry for the past five years.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Confluence.”
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Agha Shahid Ali’s “Farewell,” Richard Siken’s “Scheherazade,” Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Duino Elegies.” Natalie Diaz, Carl Phillips, and Timothy Donnelly, among many others.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in the zone?
My writing process involves freewriting in notebooks, editing, and reading work that inspires me—I continuously switch between the three until I arrive at the final draft. In terms of rituals, walking through the city while listening to ghazals and then finding a bar or café to write in is a practice I use to enhance my writing process.
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?
All poems are different—some organically arrive in the form they sync with while others ask for more. Play and experimentation are essential to the process. I play around and try several different shapes until I arrive at the specific form that I intuitively feel the poem is asking for.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
NM: Read. Absorb and imbibe the world around you. Tackle your obsessions but don’t let them consume you. Question everything. Lean into doubt. Understand the nature of your personal impetus, use it as a fulcrum. Use everything that life gives you. Most of all, live. Experience as many worlds as you can whilst maintaining your solitude. Immersion is as important as insulation.
What is your editing process like?
It involves contemplation, experimentation, and research. I ensure that there are ideal intervals of time between drafts—too short and the edits can lack a certain perspective, too long and the process loses impetus, traction, and focus.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
Poems transcend us. In many ways, they are eternal, meaning that any arrival at a place of perfection or completion is both illusory and necessary. Completion is mostly a matter of negotiation—a poet must negotiate a rounding off, an impossible departure. A certain amount of editing will generally take a poem to a place of relative perfection—I always know a poem is finished when further editing would lead to a mutation or the opening of a new realm rather than the purest expression of the poem as it stands.