I thought we were an archipelago….Sheltering in Place #5

Dar al ahmar                                                                                            c.craig



attention as a form of ethics (excerpt)…..

Asiya Wadud (American)

I thought we were an archipelago
each felt under our own finessed and gilded wing
let’s make an assumption
let’s make an assumption that.             the lake has a bottom
let’s make an assumption that    that everyone will mourn
let’s sack a hundred greenbacks 

for the sake of acknowledging they mean something 
what does it mean to have worth? 
who would dream to drain a lake? 
I spent my days staring into the eye of the Baltic 
it’s because I am also a body of water 
it’s not that onerous  
I’ve built a muscle memory  
it’s not that heavy 
let’s talk about erasure I mean 
that’s easy 
start with a word that you don’t like 
start with a people you didn’t know 
start with a neighborhood, rank 
start with any miasma dispersed 
let’s talk about burden 
let’s talk about burden for the weight 
it lends us 
let’s talk about supplication 
about my palms — uplift, patience 

let’s celebrate our substance  
subsistence in  
amber rivulets of stilllife 
constellations how you molded me  
country how we became it 
the longitude is a contested border  
my longest muscle I named  familiar 


Asiya Wadud

I know very little about this poet. Her website says she “lives in Brooklyn where she loves animals.” Her publisher’s website adds that she teaches poetry to children and English to immigrants. Photographs show that she looks young, is pretty and has glorious hair.

This poem came to me as email poem-a-day from poets.org.  I tried to find a fuller version.  There is a video of her reading a longer version here https://vimeo.com/358902549.

I believe the poem comes from her book Syncope.  About Syncope critic John Waters says “Syncope is poet Asiya Wadud’s profound, wrenching, and clarifying new book of poetry about the 2011 tragedy in which a boat filled with African migrants and refugees bound from Libya to Lampedusa, Italy was literally “left-to-die” in the Mediterranean. An act of recovery, of countermemory, of memorial, of resistance, Syncope represents one of poetry’s powers: to write the unwriteable, to bring voices, history, and lives forth from the depths.”

Her website uses scans of hands as graphics.  Scan can be a powerful form of photography.  I find her hand scans moving.

With a mirror I could see the sky…..Sheltering in Place #4


boy at window darker 2

night, boy at window, Stockton Street                                                                                    c.craig

The Room

Denise Levertov (British American 1923-1997)

With a mirror
I could see the sky.

With two mirrors or three
justly placed, I could see
the sun bowing to the evening chimneys.

Moonrise -the moon itself might appear
in a fourth mirror placed high
and close to the open window.

With enough mirrors within
and even without the room, a cantilever
supporting them, mountains
and oceans might be manifest.

I understand perfectly
that I could encounter my own eyes
too ofen -I take account
of the danger-
If the mirrors
are large enough, and arranged
with bravura, I can look
beyond my own glance.

With one mirror
how many stars could I see?

I don’t want to escape, only to see
the enactment of rites.




Denise Levertov was born in England to politically active parents.  She is quoted as saying when young she sold The Daily Worker in the working class streets of Ilford Lane.  Immigrating to the United States, she became friends with William Carlos Williams and was published by the Black Mountain School.   Levertov was taken to task for her poetic response to the Vietnam War — especially the collection To Stay Alive.  Critic Marjorie Perloff characterized that as the work of “an hysterical woman” — dismissing both the message and the messenger. Michael Bengal, from whose 2017 blog (1), I took the Perloff quote,  defends Levertov. He  argues that she was (in the words of Paul Blackburn whose friendship with Levertov broke on the rocks of her Vietnam War work)  “mining … images the war arouses in us.” (2)

With that I arrive at what I see as the question of the moment and why I chose her poem:  with what can we respond to the brutal images — I do not refer to the sick here, I refer to the politics  —  massing around us?  I wish  we knew.


(1) http://mikebegnal.blogspot.com/2017/07/on-denise-levertovs-to-stay-alive-1971.html
(2) https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69088/craft-vs-conscience