Anis Shivani

Ars Poetica

We are stalling for time over the Grand Canyon’s north rim,

as shadows of the century of no-war descend like hollow chalk,


putting our Rastafarian hearts in the shade, muting our twin

reindeer opposition: queer anonymous sleepers reappear,


Rip Van Winkle-like, as marooned camera eyes, layered in lost

yew off sunk deserts, repeating horoscopes for blind Everymans


hanging off ceiling-high bookshelves, finding passage to your seed.

Every rivulet here has had a name foretold for its peculiar destiny.


We dig up potato fields, maize, yarrow, whatever grows in the mirror

of the fallen yeti sky: famine disarrays free verse from its


stronghold on the linearities of colonial barter, man for man,

woman for woman, genitals pictured as nonce words, thick


sheaves of questions making scarecrows levitate to the rough winds.

There is no passion for missionary thirst. The blond beggars settle


quietly to refereed deaths in dark alleys overlooked by informants,

their children having long proceeded to islands buckled by paint.


I want to draw pictures of you. Without the sun chafing the leaves.


Foolish darkness, have you not heard Stephen Hawkings’s natural voice? My mind is a Piccadilly muddle, surprised at the wrong turns, nullified by the pubs and their mobbing patrons.  The centuries totter on top of each other, unable to rest. In Florence they took me for a predator, though the boys for once were friendly with the pope. A young girl read me a haiku and it was as if I was a bee trapped in a flower, my death an imminent sun. In this moldy shop, cubism is a disorder we value, it comes with the rewards of childlessness. Some say cows have minds, some say monkeys have souls, some say snails understand time. I found myself unable to come for years at a time. Then when the party of ribald sailors visited me, on the darkest Friday of the winter, they promised mountains of snow, and it was like the earth settling to a new equilibrium.  There was a cinema across the street where they showed grainy Buñuel, and I met many a tireless woman there. I would have been a nobody in the Crusades, not even a cheering bystander. Fallow those apples of the Eve-bungled paradise, where my Satan would have fellated the couple, everyone’s hands tied behind their backs. Alice in Wonderland holes, canyons projecting with the eye of a needle and mines covered over with chalk, so watch your step. Since the first shipwrecked sailor, islands have been caricatured, like women too faithful to one man. I mind my own business, sweep the dust off periodicals and newspapers with arms mechanized by medieval talents. The Buddhists say empty your mind, and I say my habitat is that emptiness.  Poof, and like a fountain of dust all the souls that art curated soundlessly fall on a bookmark the size of my thumb. There are trapdoors leading to libraries from other universes, where illustrations are transferred from the mind to the page with the power of will, so watch where you grope. My first wife is buried somewhere here. I thought today was Sunday, or perhaps Tuesday, but relativity has seized me in my ancient boots: What is the day and time and year, name it, you fool!         




Chiffon love, rumor from a railroad, holding your nose at breath of waters: fey lovelies have endangered salmon-centuries to habitate short canyons of delight. Fuel stifles Mediterranean longevity, whistling for Seferis’s eyesight. I am a fire-closed chaparral in a Sunday altercation.  Laughter in a pancreatic doze, a hot affair at the farm, windows closed. O steam, O calculus of middle age, O minor steel goddess, give us rest.




A swollen Che hand, bursting through the other side of history, like dead fish or obedient commanders or Hemingway prose. Volcanoes are passé. Nude beauties squat like primitives, tired of the abuse in the family van. At the last moment the officers change their mind and condemn the poet to instant death. Love, sputtering like a car out of fuel, made over into teal workshops and stanzaic collapse.




A different piazza every morning, to sell my immaculate body, but the same customers. The elegance with which Françoise Sagan said no to lusting publishers. Only translate! How corny the fees imposed on late-returned books, as though books had feelings. Some women have all the luck, born into privilege, fetish of panthers. I stand still in a world of beauty, rising from the clumps of the earth, like a hard-earned promotion.




Priests who outlive Irish intransigence, murmur into the swallowing mouths of canonical texts. I find Derrida comical. On the road to bestiality, many a minor corruption, strengthening the irredentist soul. A deliriously ill bird comes to my window and I act as though it is myth incarnate. Rape and dark don’t go together. I raise my right hand, swearing the truth, and notice the death-defying glimmer in the judge’s eyes.




Design is a problem for undergraduates. The elegant bushwhacking versus the array of bulldozers. Often I fall ill from contentment. I know how it is inside remote monasteries, where love is memorized in discriminating couplets. No one taught me fear. I know all the circles of hell, which is the most abstract conception of all, its eggshell definition slender as the membrane between truth and lies. I invented freedom. 

Anis Shivani

<em>Edit Poetry</em> Anis Shivani

Anis Shivani’s debut book of poetry, My Tranquil War and Other Poems, has recently been published by NYQ Books. His second story collection, The Fifth Lash and Other Stories, is just out from C&R Press, and his novel Karachi Raj is forthcoming in October 2013. His other books include Anatolia and Other Stories (2009) and Against the Workshop (2011). He has just finished a book of sonnets called Soraya and a book of criticism called Literature at the Global Crossroads. Currently he is working on a new poetry book called Empire, a novel called Abruzzi, 1936, and a book called Plastic Realism: Neoliberal Discourse in the New American Novel. His work appears in Southwest Review, Boston Review, Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, Agni, Epoch, Fence, Boulevard, Pleiades, Denver Quarterly, George Review, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Antioch Review, Harvard Review, Subtropics, Colorado Review, Quarterly West, and other journals.