Cathexis Northwest Press

© 2018 

The Drum and the Violin; Naseeb; Centipedes and Other Childhood Demons
The Drum and the Violin

 

What drumming called

my curves to your bamboo hands?

What fissures in oblivion 

entranced our lineages

to lay down?

Here. Now. Semi-solid. 

Between midnight

poltergeists. String accompanists. 

Pocketing shooting stars. 

What thickness is

stretched translucent

over steel frames?

 

I dare you to strike

me with the softest

part of your open palm. 

 

Dha Dhin Dhin Dha

Dha Dhin Dhin Dha

Dha Tin Tin Ta

Ta Dhin Dhin Dha

 

I promise

I’ll preserve

your drying hides

with my cries. 

 

And accept

there will be more. 

More rhythm.

More surface.

More out of sync

lovers with bowstrings

snapped in half.

 

 

Naseeb

 

I collect

my destiny:

fragments of

misplaced earth

and sky.

 

I collect 

a conspiracy:

skin and

carcass

of beings 

with deeper roots

than I've known.

 

I collect 

love known:

I squeeze

the shells of

severed synthesis

wondering how

eternal

their watering.

 

I collect 

my wake:

entrails of tactile

teachings

always both. 

Both supple

and shriveled.

Both soft belly

and hardened

magma cover.

 

I collect 

the bark of trees

in limbo, begging

release.

I become

a taxidermist

and revive their

life with my hands.

 

Understanding

my fate

is to break down and

apart

to fall

lose my way

scrape and bruise

as I tumble

be torn

from everything

I know as home --

be a lesson

in my undoing.

 

I am less and lighter

than tree bark;

dangling in mid-air

will soon make way

for descent. 

 

 

 

 

Centipedes and Other Childhood Demons

 

I don't have to dig 

for these secrets;  

they wedge themselves 

into damp cracks 

beside me. 

 

This festering nursery 

for poems; 

so far from the sun 

I forget grace 

has many forms.  

 

I steady the weight 

of this world 

across 100 legs, 

brace witness against 

the most repulsive touch. 

His predatory fangs 

lift and seize. 

Slow poison 

quickening her 

nervous system for  

a lifetime.  

 

I am no longer 

the most frightening thing. 

 

Could I weave her 

a silk pillow to protect 

her from future nightmares? 

Or journey with her 

to warmer days? 

Where life exists 

eventually. 

 

I let drop  

the insect from my grip 

choose to gently starve until 

we can share a dream 

of solitude 

together. 

Or until 

I use phantom 

shadows to become 

a scorpion and avenge 

her childhood at last.  

00:00 / 01:46
00:00 / 01:25
00:00 / 01:18

Naazneen Diwan is a queer, Muslim poet and social justice educator. She is the current Lead Instructor for Baldwin House Urban Writing Residency hosted by Twelve Literary Arts in Cleveland, Ohio. She is an alumni of Art Omi writers' residency and the founder of Kalaashakti healing arts and meditation workshops with Muslim women. Her poems have been published in several publications, including Kohl, Project As[I]Am, SAMAR, and MOONROOT, and have been performed in venues such as Tuesday Night Cafe, The Japanese American National Museum in LA, Khmer Arts Academy, Other Books and The Last Bookstore. She has forthcoming pieces in Sky Island Journal and The Yale Review. Her poetry manuscript, 99 Names, was also a University of Wisconsin Press Poetry Prize Semi-Finalist. She will be presenting on a panel entitled, “Teaching Embodied Poetry to Diverse Communities,” at this year’s AWP.

"I often create portable altars out of found objects when I am writing remotely. And as a writer without a 9-5 or office space, I am usually writing remotely. While writing 'Naseeb,' which is Arabic in origin but used in many languages and means fate, I had picked up some tree bark and a few yellowing leaves during my walk to my coffee shop/office for the day. In looking closely at a microcosm of the universe, 'Naseeb' is about death, annihilation, and liberation. 

'The Drum and the Violin' came about from discordant and frictious lovership. In it, fantasy rubs against the coarseness of reality as two people seeking affection and connection find, instead, mismatching needs and crashing expectations. I have played the viola and violin since Middle School and I was paired, however briefly, with the drum in life and in this poem. 

I teach a creative writing residency called Baldwin House for the organization, Twelve Literary Arts. As I entered my first run of the 8-week experience, I thought about assigning the first writing prompt as taking a different perspective. And then, as I started my morning journaling, memories of my childhood basement and the sexual abuse that occurred there secretly, appeared. And the image of this scary basement with all sorts of creatures and centipedes thriving and crawling out of every crack came to me, so I thought, why not ask them (and myself) to take the unlovable perspective. That is how 'Centipedes and Other Childhood Demons' was born. "