the poetry that matters

Asher Ghaffar

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, 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 Baghdad. Predictably, his ashes sang.

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 Thunder Bay.

Last night, Terry Fox was frozen like an ice-berg.

Last night, Canada switched bodies with the United States.

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


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

volcanic body
        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

of water.




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.

No orifices

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

        habeas corpus…




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 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 India,

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

away, harvesting

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

green sibilance. 




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

Auschwitz by recollecting that colonialism

made Auschwitz possible

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.


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