Saturday, June 08, 2024

Azad Ashim Sharma, Boiled Owls



A new attitude that won’t kiss
    damage to our constitutions.

I cheated on you with a substance
    that difficult hymn.

You are tired of hearing apologies
    this amends is living

in my abdomen
    tense with the past’s sun.

After patience wears down to heal
    with pearled relation

there is forgiveness
    in our romantic comedy

away in a silent song your smile
    a big screen.

In the morning I fall in love
    with you again    you are again

I wake up to your moonflower face
    held slow for two green hummingbirds.

From South London writer and publisher Azad Ashim Sharma comes the poetry collection Boiled Owls (New York NY: Nightboat Books, 2024), following Against the Frame (Barque Press, 2017; Broken Sleep Books, 2022) and Ergastulum:Vignettes of Lost Time (Broken Sleep Books, 2022). Boiled Owls is a collection around sobriety, addiction and depression across a graceful, incredibly powerful and vibrant lyric, as the poem “RHYTHM ANALYSIS FOR A TIRED HEART” opens: “Unwashed it pounds / into breathalysed marrow    after a spree / loved ones        radical feminists / are made into detectives    my pupils dilate / uplift wears itself into descent / embeds with the force      of a concrete duvet [.]” There’s such a evocative way that Sharma’s lyrics provide such rhythmic sweeps and expansive gestures, seeking wisdom through expression and full attention. “You held me / lazy at the low end of beautiful,” he writes, as part of the poem “XENOBIA,” “and desire peeled over estimation. / It will reproduce itself / as necessity, / irrespective of how I smell just after rain.”

The poems are both stark and rich, offering rare insight through the lyric from within that dark space of addiction. Through writing, he works his way through it. “I can communicate today and deep the pain / without a blind code,” he writes, as part of the poem “PLANETARY DEATH IS A / HOPELESS DRUG ADDICT,” “scabrous or rusticated. / You need to know how much I resent the world // for its beauty is right at my throat burning / away my tobacco skin.” Forcefully lyric, Sharma writes of the losses he’s endured that could so easily continue, from that razor’s edge against the possibility of being completely overwhelmed. “What can I do when I encounter another person,” he writes, to open the poem “TAKING A WALK,” “except to yearn for all of our lost connections? // I felt nothing for a decade—only extremities // or a semiotics presmised on exchanging value // all around the roads gladdened by nostalgic ire.” This is composed not simply as a book of addiction, recovery or endurance but as a book of resistance, offering a lyric examination of the space within what is so often misunderstood, or wilfully mischaracterized. The expansive and devastating essay-poem that closes the collection, “[NARCOPOETICS],” lays bare a lyric first-person straightforwardness that almost belies its own heft, anchoring a collection already able to find clarity from within the ongoing uncertainty, incoherence and chaos of addiction. “Cocaine is nothing like height it's falling; falling into a deep air hunger.” he writes. As the piece continues, further:

Endurance can mean my capacity to endure drug use, to put my body through lines that, when totalled up, would go on for miles and miles.

I would often, when high, go out for a cigarette and end up smoking two or three in a row.

I imagined addiction as this never-ending cigarette.

A cigarette you couldn’t stop smoking.

Addiction as endurance, then, impacts the very conception of time; a time that is lived without movement.

I was suspended in time, buoyant, jubilant, quickly floating with anhedonia, vomit, blood.

Denise Riley described the death of her son in Time Lived, Without Its Flow: ‘You live inside a great circle with no rim’.

I was living a line without end; a morning after that had no hope of reaching midday; enduring time in the duress of a continuous present; making the same choices hoping for a different outcome.

In medias relapse means I am relapsing.

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