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Was it Camus who said that the man who gives definitions has no real sense of the world? Prageeta Sharma doesn’t mind giving definitions in her poems. She often uses linguistic constructions that declare that x is y. But she also has no qualms about reworking, complicating, or even contradicting them as her poem continues, shuffling a vocabulary of literary self-consciousness into a poem of rigorous whimsy. Did she write "clean from weakness"? Does she write "darker than narcolepsy"? Yes, but Sharma’s language ain’t misbehavin’. It is celebrating that slippage which makes ordinary communication in relationships difficult, which keeps us always a bit unknowing and unknown. Does he love me or not? "You say marred and I say martyr." As a poet in her twenties, "dangling again" between the India where her parents are from and the America where she grew up, Sharma is inclined to explore cultural disjunctions, the glide of sound, power, and perception between people and languages: "you are pointing west when you say dish–desh." Sometimes she sounds as American as John Berryman. But at other times Sharma serializes simple declarative statements or taps into a kind of Berlitz translation diction: "We are an Indian family with Indian friends from India." In other words, her imagination is whirring at full kilter, and her approaches to the poem are varied and fresh and exciting.
Poorly matched the world and she
or so her best self would say (knowing her well
and making rare appearances.) But kingside she sits to post her fee
to lumber locks and fucks the jocks. And the malodorous cell
kept her solid for a while. The day came when she planted her feet
elsewhere. With the suggestion of limitation–she drunk it all down
and pushed and pushed her way to the source of the dinner bell–in her seat
she asked: Who are you and what is this we are eating? What gown
has draped this crapshoot? But it was winter and then summer
before she got an answer. Now it was too late for her hanky to drop
onto the centennial and nobody took her seriously. The drummer
drums a march to the wicked world’s beating and we stop
the poem from the real dream that stood underneath her–what she drank
with what she ate. Awfulness only lasts a while, light to green, everything
melts to the deep sea. After dinner she thanked her host–lank
and benevolent for the kind creepiness and social visiting.
Tomorrow the directory says to take up more rooms, more loves,
no matter how unorganic–for Saturn’s last fires have kept her from the infirmary
and her bad seed has turned good. Saluting now the uncool doves
of St. Francis–of her childhood of the sanctimony of another family.
She holds all meetings in secrecy–this for the greatness of
Decadent and unyielding, never impairing the strength of a victim’s cry,
she smirched the walls of her house with patterns–gross animal outlines,
tulips, or the quick stumped fox who smiled and bleakly froze to blind her sky.
Release Me from the Paying Passenger
There is nothing to really note in this world
you might say. But since crescent moons
frame brittle grass all over the world,
I won’t stop with this philosophy. I won
the argument yesterday when we were nearby
the park and the day before when you ran me over.
I have run away from you–with accidental
fortune in hands–not all of your bank statements.
But I am not a Calvinist in the true sense–I only
lowered it to ahistorical terms. I believe in principles–
prophetic principles. You say marred and I say martyr.
I drink two liters; you don’t drink anything.
There are pests roaming the floorboards.
There are animals all around us now.
Save the foolhardy measure for your male companions.
They desire this more readily–
more enigma, shall we say, to entertain them–
barren matadors or empathetics.
I need neither kind of grand marnier nor vodka
to wash my throat or collapse my senses to tiny
careless obliterations. The way this ended shut you out,
so drop the lensatic compass and lavish gift, and please, run.
There are silverfish bugs across the window sill
in the white house. He says: my name is Jug Dish,
and you are pointing west when you say dish–desh
and you are taking a stab when you say jug–Jag.
However, the name is Indian. Point west, take a stab.
This is my house. I am a child. He is Jug Dish.
We are an Indian family with Indian friends from lndia.
Jug Dish studies English poetry.
I study English poetry.
I point west to take a stab at a silverfish.
The mountain of ink is paint,
there is memory, here,
for friends of the Indian community.
The next window we will be looking out
of is Jodhpur, where Jug Dish lives.
The first part of that word, yes,
it is as serious to pronounce as taking
up your first job. ‘Pur’ as in spur–as in the mythical cowboy
(an Indian Cowboy). Family, please, hand me over to that silverfish.
Some formula for sacred council as not to weep
into the meadow grass. And a man that frequents
open fields to scale for insects or the representation
of mediumistic reigns will be filled with murmurs
darker than narcolepsy. But the soft lightweight
muslin keeps everyone clean from weakness.
Airy wire frames the printed word and the noose
wraps the presents ever so quietly that rugs need
to be scrubbed for awkward limbs to shell resistance.
By way of an interference, holding firmly the lusterware,
the lure jerked me with a madcap head, and the menfolk
left neatly with hypothetical nectar.
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