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Saturday, March 06, 2021


by Indran Amirthanayagam

               for J

Stumbling is generalized from
the top down the line, the pass
to the prince but not his acolytes,
and I in turn taking my name off

the poem that calls for accounting,
consistency, respect for all
the people all the time. Living
in fear of bureaucratic sanction is

the natural state of the apparatchik,
hiding behind internal assessments,
frank reviews protected from
the public eye. But the poet

feigns innocence and writes
as if free speech were the only
principle, not playing scales
the conductor directs. Into these

coordinates, orchestra pit
the editor arrives, notices
the bureacrat's vibrating,
even squirming violin,

the post-midnight fear
of exposure, his attempt
to hold the presses—the editor
the only hero left standing,

taking a firm stance,
dropping the poem from
tweet and website,
and moving on

to the next submission,
the next poem written
without shackles,
that challenges

the moderate, real
politik, that gets
the leader to draw
a clear line in the sand

before the desert wind
picks up and wipes it away
like the usual human construct,
built in a mess, two steps

forward, one back, chicken
clucking still in the coop
smelling free wind in the yard,
the fence beyond out of sight.

Indran Amirthanayagam writes in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. He has 19 poetry books, including The Migrant States (Hanging Loose Press, 2020) and Sur l'île nostalgique (L'Harmattan, 2020). In music, he recorded Rankont Dout. He edits The Beltway Poetry Quarterly, is a columnist for Haiti en Marchewon the Paterson Prize, and is a 2020 Foundation for the Contemporary Arts fellow.