Indran Amirthanayagam – A Letter to the South

Indran profile Dec 2020

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Volume Two, December 2020.

Indran Amirthanayagam writes in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. He has 19 poetry books, including The Migrant States (Hanging Loose Press, 2020), Sur l’île nostalgique (L’Harmattan), and Lírica a tiempo (Mesa Redonda, 2020); in music he produced Rankont Dout which is available to download from music stores; edits The Beltway Poetry Quarterly; writes a poetry column for Haiti en Marche; won the Paterson Prize; is a 2020 Foundation for the Contemporary Arts fellow.

A Letter to the South

When the storm raged last night and lights
went out and heat cloyed as if I were turning
on sheets by louvered windows in June,
the French Quarter, I recalled I rode the train
that summer to New Orleans and sent you
reports and poems every few hours on the way.
The train got caught in a terrible rain, the driver
stopped, and we passengers looked out at trees
swaying and bending, our loves in mind and heart,
wondering whether we would make it home.

I write to you now in your southern sojourn
and lights have just come back here in this
city bridge to the North, in my fingers,
eyes and heart. I am deeply in your,
and God’s, debt for this inspiring love
beating on my forehead like rain
on the windows last night, wind whistling
and yet I felt you with me, the God-bless
you sent by Messenger, showing me
the light after the rain too that will pass.

Fill me up

In this year of the Covid plague. more than 800,000
have died. Many millions have lost livelihoods.
Fear and loathing are running wild through families
and neighborhoods. Loves are coming to an end
or changing form. Great loves–ones that nourish
for a lifetime. So what  is to be done in the days
after the disaster, after the slow-cooked, insidious
spreading of the virus? Embrace the moment.
Embrace the recent and distant past. Take stock
of where you are and put one, then two steps
forward. The God of love will replenish you.
You may have lost a companion in the day-to-day
but your poems have become richer,
finer-tuned because of the costs paid in writing
them. In the midst of great suffering comes
great learning. Love is not exclusive, cannot
be corralled, and must be let go to breathe free.
The Muse will ride into the empty nest,
her kitbag stuffed with stories and memories,
and birds will drop seeds as they pass by above.
Eternity will not leave a vacuum unfilled.

Mask Man, One Island

Taylor, tailleur, taliare, cutter,
with scissors, needle, thread,
seamer, working cloth to fit
dimensions of the man, sway
of the woman. Taylor,

sequined, dotting the mask
with semi-precious stones.
Taylor, poet reading
Brooklyn jazz. Friend,
confidant, thank you

for the hand-sewn, unique,
indelible clothes, visions
through the back door,
landing at the Port and
greeting old schoolmates,

together in the country
of warm snow, writing
from island to island,
Trinidad between Hudson
and East Rivers, Labor Day

Carnival bringing all roosters
to roost, Belmont, Savannah,
Flatbush, spun in the same roll
of cloth, every Shrove Tuesday,
every Labor Day, masked.

© Indran Amirthanayagam