Against Chaos

after Jagjit Singh
Love could not have sent you, in this shroud of song,
To wield against death your hollow flute, tuned to chaos.
Whatever the Ancients said, matter holds the world
to its bargain of hard frost. But life soon forgets chaos.
He who has not strode the full length of age, has counted
then lost count of days that swallow, like fever, dark chaos.
And you, strange company in the backseat of childhood,
propped on the raft of memory like some god of chaos,
You threaten to drown me: wind through palmed streets.
Oracle of grief. The vagrant dance of figures in chaos
carting trash over tarmac. Stench of Popeye’s Chicken,
the Capitol Records building, injecting light and chaos
into the LA sky. That paper boat in rainwater, rushing, dives
out of my reach and old women give no order here to chaos,
nor calm with their familiar tales. Your voice follows me
into and out of the wrong houses, riding my heels in chaos
as if to say that every half-remembered element I’ve forged
in glass is only the replicate, dying shadow of love’s chaos
that once spoken, is like a poison dropped in the mouth
of song, turning it dolorous and black. I’ve eaten this chaos,
its paroxysm of birth, and seen it uncoil from the faces
of loved ones, into sickness and distance and loss. Chaos
that hounds—that drums its fingers on the window like rain—
who will not forget me and permit me to reach across
thirty years for the child peering out over the very same
landscape, day after day. Yellowing day, that day of chaos
where you are still sounding your warning (though I was too
young). To be left with the bitter heaviness of song, its chaos.

from The Marble Orchard (Shearsman Books, 2012), © Sandeep Parmar 2012, used by permission of the author.

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