Asher Ghaffar's first book of poetry, "wasps in a golden dream hum a strange music," will be published in the fall (ECW Press). Currently, he is at work on a novel at the Humber School for Writers. Asher's work has appeared in national journals such as Open Letter, Lichen Arts and Letters Review, CV2 & dANDelion.
Asher Ghaffar blogs at http://waspsinagoldendream.blogspot.com/
PREDICTABLY, THE HOUSE WAS NOT THERE
Predictably, it didn’t matter because the beginning
was a farce. Predictably, he believes that narrative
can organize the filing cabinet. Predictably, he tried
to subvert in a dream and fly above himself and circle
a broken, black and stringless lyre. Predictably,
his ashes were scattered in
He is in search for a lost music. He is searching of the lost music
of a lost body. His circulation drums inside his veins.
He wants to destroy something or build a stone tower.
He wants to run up a mortgage and run himself to death paying for it.
He is imbricated like a gutter tile.
He could invent a self to inhabit.
Last night, he returned to
Last night, Terry Fox was frozen like an ice-berg.
Last night, he droned like a swarm of bees.
Last night, he met the Indian man at Tim Hortons
who said that he was writing a book called “The Good Life.”
Last night, he was shooed away with a shoe
because he asked the man where he lived. Last night, a roof looked like a mast
for a ship-building empire. Last night, the ground beneath his feet.
Last night, his body morphed into the stranger who comes into hushed
village peddling knifes.
Last night, the man stamped on a bush to make sure the bush
wouldn’t light on fire. Last night, absence
was like a cleavage of tongues. Last night, the man asked him
if he was possessed by a language. Last night, a rainstorm
of bed sheets. Last night, the man thought it was demeaning to ask where
he came from. He understood the ways in which minds are under-erasure
and the good life comes to be. When trace becomes scream. He’ll tear this space
down in a couple of months and leave poetry behind once and for all.
Poetry is for poets. He wants to vanish into another relation. The current
flowed against him. At the GO station, he almost walked into the belly
of a revolving door. Every night something eats away at him until he is both
occupied and occupier...he’s been tracing fingers in the sky.
The body is found in relation to the trace. The trace is agency. The trace
Is (r)evolution. Is bitterness and brilliance. Is coming to mean purity
Is inverted, knotted an alluvial deposit where “salt is purified.” He wants to mine
the slippages. In history. He can’t drive the poem. The poem is driven out
of the trace. The poem is always an organic relation. The trace can grow
like a fibrous plant. The trace can appear to transcend. But always he will find
that he is digger. Always he will give up when language takes over. When history becomes beloved.
Reading Glissant. Hugging the text:
For the salt it means.
Brilliance and bitterness once again.
Lights in distress on its expanse. Profusion. The theme, knotted with foam and brine, is pure idea. Monotony: a tireless murmur
cracked by a cry.
There—on the delta—is a river where the word piles up—the
poem—and where salt is purified (G).
crystallization of past in present meeting
oneself on the genuflecting tongue what is
the function of “monotony” in the poem? bitterness
and bitterness and brilliance sight and taste intermixing
eyes and tongue the tongue concealing/or revealing?
the eye does the tongue dim the eye
gazing at the “pure idea” at the moment of the pure
idea’s conception? the self marooned
by “a tireless murmur/cracked by a cry” a profusion
of meaning process/ed gathered in the trace harvest
histories sequestered penumbra
water only after body has erupted and settled ashes cesaire’s
a paradoxical renewal lush green petrified
wood traces floating up as still lives are broken a ground beneath
stepping stones to a being that cannot be without being tasted
denied sight at the very moment of being tasted shadows chased
into the water drowned and arising as waiting monotony
rippling at the gathering hands
A child comes to age in the time of nation when she discovers
bodies disembodied, drowned emerging
from the waters—singing, tasting a brilliant and bitter purgative of time.
Within the gap that constitutes
a nation in an originary act of pure violence--floating isles of monologues
and bodies tracing their remains.
Each bodily trace meeting another singing re-constituting
a collective body. A child comes to be when she speaks
the gaping hole which once constituted
his wholeness and laughs at a city
of crumbling stone.
A body is not a snow storm, a manacle, or a chain.
If it is a chain, it is simultaneously a severing.
The body kneads its own
language, gathers its flour
like a whore.
There are no exits
from the body.
to turn to. No apertures left
for the hemispheres to move
towards. The music has died
in the world.
Open the door, Friend, so I can spit
on your image once again.
There was a time mourning and singing were communal acts.
We will attempt to untangle two disparate acidic burning away of faces and feet.
The tongue learns to genuflect muffled speech inching toward.
We began the narrative when we were transmigrating
into language. Father was born, or ill conceived,
between three wolves. Our feet could not clench a clod
and claim a miracle.
Narrative means to present a body schematic.
One must at last present a body
Father in a dream believed in new land which he left
and is leaving.
Walk over a mine. Explode to find the intercultural dimensions
of the metaphor.
I searched for God and arrived at my father’s door
in a foreign country I became the door for him
to myself. I am the hanging hinge
of your burnt down house opening to you.
You walk through and unscrew me.
Father crosses over. He is crossing over in his sleep.
We type a delirium. Night is nothing but night.
How many times do I have to repeat this before I become a fascist?
We began this narrative when he saw the last child to sit down after the national anthem, dispersed. When the last child left the room, the room was peopled he had never heard of.
By songs there is a river song we could bathe our bodies. We will make river metaphors that root and cross into this anguished sleep.
O Canada of hinge narratives. O Canada of opening and closing doors.
DESIRE NEVER LEAVES*
Desire rarely erupts through metal.
It erupts through eyes which attach
to metal. Erupts orgasmic.
And thus, the body is born
burning. Disgorged eyes, pouring out
skin on skin, epidermal schema.
There is electricity in metal,
bodies conduct it, repelled, indifferent,
attracted—torn like a man who cannot
stop mourning his doll in The Sandman.
How does one forgive iron, molten
through the veins, erupting through the head?
If the statue of King Edward were melted down
into Canadian currency
what would replace him? A memorial
garden for the Japanese in the internment camps?
What is desire to not publicly mourn,
if there was a space to collectively mourn?
There is always the invasion
in the house of dreaming. Hello, nice to meet
you must be an angry oriental mask
The statue stares through us,
laughs, transplanted from
after the Partition.
The aesthetic orienting
the body, grating, grinding,
a word in a smelter.
Then the surpassing, we hope.
There is no surpassing.
What do you get when you place metal
on a tongue in winter?
A real love affair. I orient
myself to stone tablets. Moses on morphine.
I want to tongue you, King Edward.
*Note: the title comes from a line in a Tim Lilburn poem entitled "How To Be Here."
I will tell you this
in the disturbed
time of speech
which is poetry.
These are the unhomely
spaces where we play
our less distinct harpsichords.
Our instruments made
from the pigments
of our flesh.
Our organs turn noiselessly
all the elements
into the fifth
which crackles like birch bark,
floating in a tomb of singing.
You cannibalize our history.
Turn over our leaves
for a new day. Unforeseeable
layers interrupt. Something sequestered
from the night, touched your barbed fingers.
Wanted to scribble loss
over your body.
You wanted to make your whiteness
breathe something other than its quiet hysteria.
And so we envisioned the intestine
from a bark
of a rabid dog.
And so our ears were erect—keenly
aware how the shredded rind
of a lemon sounded.
And so our ears leaned keenly into febrile
darkness, reading generations of silence
fallen from pursed lips.
Our notes, the guttural surf
drawn from the ocean’s
Then the silences dissolved like a sugar doll
in your senses.
You declared: decomposing has no opposite,
is feeling expanded bereft of pattern lifted
into language. There is a cosmic music
that emerges from my bowels.
“Where is the border you will not cross?” Ron Silliman
Chapter one regurgitates the new sentence
for lack of any other direction.
Chapter one uses parataxis
for the wrong reasons. Chapter one is receding
to chapter one. Chapter one is a body rather
than a langue. Chapter one exceeds discourse.
Chapter one revels in inversions
that make no sense. Chapter one is monstrous.
Chapter one is a wall attempting to speak.
Chapter one could be original sin
all over again. Chapter one should be the ultimate
catharsis. Chapter one could be a river
that changes names. Chapter one
like wasps in the ear drums.
Chapter one should praise the new sentence.
Chapter one attempts to construct a rhombus.
Chapter one shouldn’t produce numinous
illumination. Chapter one believes in a point
that is the end point. Chapter one is apocalyptic.
Chapter one could be the Gospel of John.
Chapter one is all about indeterminacy.
Chapter one might bleed more.
Chapter one surges towards the end
of the mind, halting at the wall of history
before hitting. Chapter one might love more.
Chapter one should break all rules.
Chapter one should not make grammatical sense.
Chapter one should not mention ontology.
Chapter not should not mention Ibn Arabi.
Chapter one doesn’t believe in voice.
Chapter one glides across the glassy water
and eventually sinks like a hung woman.
Chapter one believes that schizophrenia
is radical poetics. Chapter one won’t look further back
from the point where it touched the new world.
Chapter one eventually becomes a loyal subject
of the state. Chapter one is endless deferral.
Chapter one believes in a point that is the end point.
Chapter one is apocalyptic.
Chapter one could be the Gospel of John.
Chapter one is the albatross of modernism.
Chapter one is usually white
Chapter one is usually male
Chapter one is usually middle class
Chapter one will attempt to remember
Chapter one will leave an empty chair
in the house where a body tells
the beads of time until there is a new world.
Chapter one will leave the door hanging on a hinge
so the spectral presence of history can emerge
inhabit an empty seat. Chapter one is the empty seat.
Chapter one rises into new senses.
Chapter one looks as far back
as it can before it breaks the beads of time.
Chapter one writes to reach a stand still.
Chapter one writes to reach a living silence
which alters the cells. Chapter one awakens periodically
from its somnolence. Chapter one believes that silence
is the living presence of a new being.
Chapter one believes that silence produces
the subject that is neither loyal to the state,
nor loyal to the self. Chapter one believes
a revolution is near. Chapter one believes that the body
is a microcosm of the whirl. Chapter one ends
where chapter one begins. The body contracts.
The body expands. The body wants to dream.
The body wants to love. The body wants to grasp.
The body wants to possess it. The body wants to build
a house here. The body wants to take apart the house
brick by brick. The body wants to laugh until every house
crumbles. His body is an earthquake. His body is a tornado.
The body lives in clouds. His body lives in drought.
The body wants to write prose.
The body wants to write a paean.
The body conjures up an indistinct memory
of a woman who makes the blackest tea.
This woman could be the body.
This woman could be his grandmother.
This woman could be a rainstorm.
This woman could be hail. She could mean finding too much,
finding too little, finding not enough. Memory becomes deranged.
The senses are obscured. Narratives expand in his mind.
When the palm closed in prayer
the world closed with it. When the palm opened
the world with it. When the song rose
the palm was emptied. When the empty emptied,
the song lay down and died. When the died emptied
the bread was born, when the bread was born
the world with it. When the senses were scandalous,
the world with it. When the myth fell, the body with it,
when the body broke, the bird awoke,
When the enemy knocked at the door, he became
the bearer of good news When good news was emptied,
the road unraveled. When the road unraveled,
the building crumbled. When the building crumbled,
the song with it. When the song was emptied,
the ribs scrambled. When the body fainted,
the longing subsided, when the subsiding emptied,
the enemy entered. When the enemy was revealed
the song entered. When the song entered
the song entered. In the whirling night,
he found the semblance of sense. In the vertiginous sky
bloomed a lotus flower. Behind the palace of defeat
the hovel of wisdom. When he locked himself out
he was at last free. In the raging night
he found he had lost his voice. In the early morning
the night cast its still sombre shadow. When the leaves fell
the butterfly emerged from its destitute sheath.
When the pollen fell, the highway unwound.
After the angel told him that his nightmares
would cost his life, he gladly offered his severed head.