The Earthquake Days

In the earthquake days I could not hear you over the din or it might have been
the dinner bell but that’s odd
because I’m usually the one
cooking if not dinner then
a plan to build new fault lines through the dangerous valley.

I can’t give you an answer right now because I’m late for my 
the one where I step into my angel offices and fuck
the sun senseless.
That eclipse last week? Because of me.
You’re welcome.

The postman rattles up with your counter offer and I’m off
to a yoga class avoiding your call yes like the plague
because son you can read
in the dark and I have no
hiding place left.

You know me too well and you know it.
We walk hand in hand down the hill
into the Castro
avoiding the nudist protest not because we are afraid but
because we already know all about this city, its engineered 
the earthquake-proofed buildings, the sea walls.

No tempest will catch us unaware
while we claim our share of
the province of penumbral affections.
You have no reason
to trust me but I swear I lie

down in this metal box as it thunders and looks
inside my brain. I am terrified nothing
is wrong because otherwise
how will I rewrite the maps unmoored
a deep sea a moor a cosmonaut

Who needs saving more
than the one who forgot
how the lazy cartographer mislabeled
his birthplace as Loss?
Riding the bus out to the end of the lines and back

I collect trash for art, oil spill, spent forest, the mind
is at work and everything is at stake. I demand
statehood for my states of mind, senators
for my failure, my disappointment, the slander
and my brain unmapped reveals no

explanation for danger the ground untamed.
I make paintings of nothing and
stand before them like mirrors.
I recently became a man but I do
not want to let go of my weakness,

instead want to meet God in heaven and in long psychotropic odes
have Him send me again digging in the dirt to unleash
tantric animal governors to lay down
the orgasmic law twice skewered and miserable
in the old photographs, miserable in my body, huddled

next to my mother, recently permed and aglow so unaware
of what is about to hit her. I am the answer to Bhanu’s question:
“Who is responsible for the suffering of your mother?” and so sick
I considered that sickness

could bring us closer and Shahid and Allen in heaven
slap me silly because they want me to know that
this world is worth its
trembling. At the next table over a mother
tries to reconcile her bickering sons. I have
no brother but the one

I invent has always got my back, he drowns
out the mullahs so my mother can
hear me finally. In a different book Jesus
never suffered, never was flogged or died
went whole into heaven without passion.

Shall I then deny myself passport through the stark places
unsalvageable, imagine it, the Mother
of Sorrows did never grieve in the new season
trees smell of semen and the tectonic plates
make their latest explosive move:

to transubstantiate my claim
by unveiling this city down to its stone.

Everyone I know wants to douse
the hungry flames, flee the endless aftershocks,
unravel every vexing question.

You owe me this witness.
I owe you the fire.

More Poems by Kazim Ali