May 27, 2008


Iím sculpting a tiny death
in my potterís wheel
your skin ripples in motion
in time with the hum

Water is used to soften
the unformed clay
my lips knead and
mould a living wave

An exercise in timing
to link hand with heat
once in the kiln
every flaw will show

A suicide art moving
with a cry into me
and Iím left with tears
of a crouching child.

I wonder why I worked
so hard just to empty you
to have what I shaped
slip down from my hands

—Priscila Uppal
from How to Draw Blood From a Stone (Exile Editions, 1998).

Posted by dwaber at 12:49 PM

May 26, 2008

careful careful

if you drop this poem
it wonít forgive you
wonít return even one
of your calls it will
pass you by on the street
looking the other way
with shades on and heeled
shoes and never will it
trust you again or lie
in your arms or care if
you cry or even stop to
watch you fall it has no
time for you if you canít
hold for just a second
wait for it to adjust
to the bumps in your hands
remember if you drop this
poem with certainty
it will never admit it
ever loved you, not to anyone

—Priscila Uppal
from How to Draw Blood From a Stone (Exile Editions, 1998).

Posted by dwaber at 12:47 PM

May 23, 2008

No Poetry After Internet

The book is an artifact, its dusty
leaves like layers of desert sand.

Bindings cannot stand the competition,
the glittering lights, graphic

flashiness of electric communication.
Take this ache and make it a web-page

this joy and make it an emoticon. Upon
the screen masses edit elaborate memorials.

Metaphor is dead. The poet a recycled
identity. Hold the Enter key to your lips

and press. Page Up, Page Down, Insert
Symbol. Control. Alt. Delete. Privately

a new generation of readers is busy
restructuring old verse, cutting out tongues.

The ultimate translation project:
The Word is already obsolete.

—Priscila Uppal
from Live Coverage (Exile Editions, 2003)

Posted by dwaber at 01:15 PM

May 22, 2008

Sometimes Iím Not Sure I Agree with What I Write

Sometimes Iím not sure I agree with what I write,
if the air I breathe is really and truly stale and bland
in the basement. If you have a pointed nose
like a birdís beak or eyes the shade of burnt sunflowers.
Iím at a loss as to whether our house has Victorian trim
around the windows or an art-deco kitchen, and no oneís
confirmed to my satisfaction that the door handle
jiggles because of that awful winter in 1995.

Is my father actually to be pitied?
My mother mythologized?
My version of my lost childhood anthologized?

Iíve got the sad thing down like a posture.
The weeping willows roll in when called.
The death warrants stack themselves paper upon
paper, never caught in the printer.

Sorrow is no longer unexpected. It arrives
with every breath and birdís beak and door handle. Winter
or summer, that awful feeling of it being there
whether itís already left or not.

—Priscila Uppal
from Live Coverage (Exile Editions, 2003)

Posted by dwaber at 12:48 PM

May 21, 2008

The Poem Can Be Completed By Anyone

This is difficult for me to admit, but the poem
can be completed by anyone. You need not invest any particular
time or money into it; you need not even care much
for the results, the eventual outcome, as long as you lend your ear
for an instant, we will deem the experiment complete,
and you can be on your way, contemplate how it is you ended up
with those brats for children, this county for your namesake,
when you had ideals once, dreams, and you even used to pick up
a book or two, not that you ever thought much about poets,
but they were ok, worth keeping around, and so it might come to you
as a surprise but this poem needs you, whoever you are, it doesn't really
matter as long as you have eyes, as long as you breathe, whether
it's into the air or by tube, makes no difference, but you must
have at least the faintest pulse, a poem needs at least that to go on,
though it need not be finished, it's had so much trouble finishing lately,
what with everything else and all, which is why, poor passersby,
I've latched onto you the business of seeing this one through:
What is it you'd like to say?
What do you have to say for yourself?

—Priscila Uppal
from Ontological Necessities (Exile Editions, 2006)

Posted by dwaber at 01:11 PM

May 20, 2008

I'm Afraid of Brazilians or Visiting the Ancestral Homeland is Not the Great Ethnic Experience Promised by Other Memoirs

Against all political correctness,
I must say it,
I must admit:
I'm afraid of Brazilians.

I don't like them.
I don't like this country.
I don't like this language.
I don't even like this currency.

And not in the mystical sense.
Or the abstract.
Or the perfectly hypothetical.

I can't blame this fear
on movies, or television programming,
or the front covers
of Time magazine.

I'm afraid of Brazilians.
I am visiting Brazil
(my mother's country)
and I'm afraid, truly afraid
of every Brazilian I meet.

This is not something you can say
in a poem, you tell me.
Please don't compose this poem
here: in broad daylight
where any self-respecting Brazilian
could feel perfectly justified
peeking over your shoulder
to see what you've written.

Please, not so loud, you say.
You haven't given them a chance.

You're right, I admit.
(I can certainly admit it.)
I've given them no chance
to please me. Don't you

understand, this is the nature
of being afraid, and this is
the nature of the poem
I am writing, which must
get written, no matter
what the climate

or the reception
(here, in my mother's country
or abroad
or in my own ears).

—Priscila Uppal
from Ontological Necessities (Exile Editions, 2006)

Posted by dwaber at 12:12 PM

May 19, 2008

The End of the Paragraph

The heroine has informed her plot that she will escape. All of her things are in order: her adjectives have turned themselves in, nouns given up their residency cards, and the verbs, those precious little stones, are sewn smartly into her knickers. In the meantime she counts meal coupons and braids her hair into rope. Her lover asleep on the wrong exchange, she fantasizes heís singing his medieval ballad on some old diesel train, but then must wash herself clean of that, must follow where the word leads, pull up her socks and adjust her jaunty cap, purse her lips against the electrical wires of our imagination and jump, jump, to the end of

—Priscila Uppal
from Ontological Necessities (Exile Editions, 2006)

Posted by dwaber at 01:53 PM

May 18, 2008

Women Don't Write Manifestos

History will testify: we were never good communists.
Let's not be comrades. I'm not your leader.
Just give me a fair price for my wares.
And one day, when the wind blows the other way,
you can commandeer my children,
all nine of them, if you must.

I have few fresh theories to purport,
avant-garde advice.
I won't insist one colour
is more beautiful than another.

What do I care?
I must live off-colour.
I must live.

—Priscila Uppal
from Ontological Necessities (Exile Editions, 2006)

Posted by dwaber at 03:02 PM

May 17, 2008

The Peculiar Deaths of Women Writers

From the executions of classically trained pornographers
to the acts of god (lightning, earthquakes, floods) that target
their homes, women writers die

before reaching forty, in childbirth or in bathrooms
while wringing out laundry, sorting out socks and shirts orÖ.

They take it well though, these ladies.
Their few lines in the recovery anthologies.
The patronizing critics who imagine
each a famous bardís sister in an alternate universe. Their bios
like thank-you notes for the invitation to the party.

I wake up with DTís when I think of all those women, winning
contests and giving up the prize, trying on
several pseudonyms for size, squatting
like dead ducks for gentleman callers
to make a strategic choice.

ĎCircumstances surrounding death unknowní, Ďbirth date an educated guessí,
details derived from diaries and letters from men which have survived:
a debt uncollected, friendship ended, a falling
out of favour with the court, destitute, prostitute,
hands tied behind backs and the barrels of shotguns.

At the National Exhibition we kill them four, five at a time.
Thatís me behind the decoys, between the plates. Thatís my grand prize
up for grabs. Time to take dictation:
Iím going down without a fight
no matter how many fraternity boys come out tonight.

—Priscila Uppal
from Ontological Necessities (Exile Editions, 2006)

Posted by dwaber at 03:13 PM