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
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
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
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.