Monday, May 29, 2023

Alycia Pirmohamed, Another Way to Split Water



as a child    she wore a skirt of seagulls
and was afraid of the dark    called her mother god
because what else

could mother an ocean but god?    she ate nankhatai
and plaited her hair    she smelled of cardamom

newly crushed and boiled    she split into spring’s tulips
carried a jar of condolences    just in case.

she was a daughter caught praying in the mountains.

she was stone through stone   melodic    a vase of trees
rattled by her name: water    like the roots that hold
the earth together.

ginan and its woven stanzas    she is the sound of a
messenger calling for another bird    another

metaphor for god   as a child    how was she to know
what to call beloved?

I’m both struck and charmed by the slow progressions of lyric observation and philosophical inquiry throughout “Canadian-born poet based in Scotland” Alycia Pirmohamed’s full-length poetry debut, Another Way to Split Water (Portland OR: YesYes Books/Edinburgh: Polygon Books, 2022). “I see the wind pull down the tautness / of trees and the swans at the lagoon part / through the wreckage.” she writes, as part of the poem “MEDITATION WHILE PLAITING MY HAIR,” “Each one is another translation for love / if love was more vessel than loose thread.” There is such a tone and tenor to each word; her craft is obvious, but managed in a way that simultaneously suggest an ease, even as the poems themselves are constantly seeking answers, seeking ground, across great distances of uncertainty and difficulty. “Yes, I desire knowledge,” she writes, as part of “AFTER THE HOUSE OF WISDOM,” “whether physical or moral or spiritual. / This kind of longing is a pattern embossed / on my skin.” It is these same patterns, perhaps, that stretch out across the page into her lyric, attempting to articulate what is otherwise unspoken.

There is such a strange and haunting beauty to her descriptions, whether through how she describes “each stammer of lightning” as part of the poem “NIGHTS / FLATLINE,” or, as part of the poem “I WANT THE KIND OF PERMANENCE IN / A BIRDWATCHER’S CATALOGUE,” as she offers: “Any birdwatcher will tell you / that winged boats // do not howl through their sharp, pyramid beaks. // That sound clicking through / waterlogged bodies // must be the prosody of my own desires.” The language of the poems across Another Way to Split Water delight in sparks and electrical patterns, providing far more lines and phrases that leap out than one can keep track of, beyond simply wishing to reproduce the book entirely. “Origins are also small memories,” she writes, as part of the poem “AFTER THE HOUSE OF WISDOM,” “and there is an ethics to remembering— / I hear lilting from below the evening green / that houses our episodic ghosts.” Two pages further, the poem “NERIUM OLEANDER” offers: “How much of her skin / is a body of water? // Nerium / because she is a flood // of rain as it falls / into a river, // because she sprouts / in rich alluvials.”

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