The Top 5: Meena Alexander’s Poems

As temperatures dip, grab a cuppa and enjoy the soothing, balmy poems of Meena Alexander.

Here are my top 5 picks of her poems:

5. Lychees

Terrace deep as the sky.
Stone bench where I sit and read,
I wandered by myself
Into the heart of the mountains of Yoshino.
In one hand a book, in the other, a bag made of newsprint—
No weather-beaten bones here
Just lychees bought in the market,
Thirty rupees per kilogram.
Stalks mottled red tied up with string,
Flesh the color of pigeon wings—
Sweet simmering.
Sunlight bruises air
Pine trees blacken.
Where shall I go?
The Dhauladhar peaks
Are covered in snow.

4. Cadenza

I watch your hands at the keyboard
Making music, one hand with a tiny jot,
A birthmark I think where finger bone
Joins palm, mark of the fish,
Living thing in search of a watering
Hole set in a walled garden,
Or in a field with all the fences torn:
Where I hear your father cry into the wind
That beats against stones in a small town
Where you were born; its cornfields
Skyward pointing, never sown, never
To be reaped, flagrant, immortal.


3. Sometimes I’m in a Garden

Sometimes I’m in a garden by a tree
whose bark is burning into alphabets

but then I struggle to a waking place
where I must die a little
tell no tales.

I search the crudest discipline of space
a single room in which I am alone
on its concrete walls I trace
a curious alphabet
articulate with flame.

There I pace, gesticulate
and wait.

Its slowly that I’ll find the gate
back to that featureless garden,
slowly taste the blade
scraping my heart’s blood
into poetry

2. Syncopation

Be fearless with density
You whisper to me
It too is an accumulation of longing,
A sideways swipe at the stars.

We are leaving one
Language for the other,
Always and ever –
What crossing enjoins

Waves of hope,
Bitter notes plucked from sea foam,
Beauty’s tribulation,
Virus of the possible,

Arco of love
Slow fingering of desire,
Our saris packed
Into one battered suitcase

Old leather rinsed
With moonlight  as underwater
Continental plates clash
And on a sodden deck

He rises,
Cloaked in amaranth petals
A big man, his wounds

What spills
From his lips?
Can Krishna
Hear him calling?

And my all time favourite sensuous poem:

1. Darling Coffee:

The periodic pleasure
of small happenings
is upon us—
behind the stalls
at the farmer’s market
snow glinting in heaps,
a cardinal its chest
puffed out, bloodshod
above the piles of awnings,
passion’s proclivities;
you picking up a sweet potato
turning to me  ‘This too?’—
query of tenderness
under the blown red wing.
Remember the brazen world?
Let’s find a room
with a window onto elms
strung with sunlight,
a cafe with polished cups,
darling coffee they call it,
may our bed be stoked
with fresh cut rosemary
and glinting thyme,
all herbs in due season
tucked under wild sheets:
fit for the conjugation of joy.

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One thought on “The Top 5: Meena Alexander’s Poems

  1. Pingback: Poem of the Month: Carol Ann Duffy | The Book Cafe!

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