Selected poems from 'Tabular Rasa' by Jeff Raheb

  • Havana      
  • Paro Dzhong - Bhutan      
  • Dal Lake - Kashmir      
  • Bamboo      
  • The Center      
  • I Pour You A Cup Of Tea      
  • For The Women Of Bosnia      
  • You Say It Is Raining      
  • Zimbabwe      
  • The Comet      
  • Pygmalion      
  • Ganges      
  • Nasca - Peru      
  • Zu Twa Szi      
  • Body Rain      
  • The Shadow Puppet (Jogjakarta )                      
  • Songkla - Thailand      
  • 5 Haikus
  • Dal Lake

    I float on Dal Lake
    between the thick soupy crisp air of soldiers
    water lilies, Kashmiri bread
    and the Muslim prayers
    that penetrate the hardness of war
    chanting Allah Bismallah
    Floating Islam
    Holy words drenching the air
    Drenching the green cloth of Hindu soldiers
    Sliding down the cool metal of a rifle
    9 years of war
    1,000 houseboats lie empty
    in the Himalayan fog
    Intricately carved furniture
    Thick with dust
    and the powder of blood and bullets

    Himalayan silhouette etched black
    against the song of lotus gatherers
    Foggy voices like cloud of moon
    Lotus lake
    Gray of war and desperation
    Children beg
    1 rupee
    1 rupee
    1 rupee
    Endless monologue
    Parched like lotus shaped paddle

    They throw flowers to me
    I throw them back

    Time passes slowly
    like smoke on a lizard's tail
    trailing in the thick rancid air
    of burning meat and maple leaves
    Like a shikara
    moving over the glass of Kashmir
    The sound of a dozen Bangees
    floating over the water
    Hollow, solemn and mournful
    Echoing against the hardness
    of the surrounding mountains
    The circle of Himalayas
    Like a womb
    around the prayers of Pachin

    In the middle of the lake
    I hear the call to prayer
    Azan Nemarz Suba
    Azan Nemarz Pashin
    Azan Nemarz Degar
    Azan Nemarz Sham
    Azan Nemarz Koftan
    From dawn till dusk

    4 mosques
    4 singers
    4 directions
    staggered by a breath
    like an imperfect echo

    Azan slips into the pockets of island soldiers
    Waters the impatience of soldiers on the shore
    Steals into the vacant eyes of soldiers in the Mosque
    They want to go home to their wives, to their children
    They want to leave the place of prayer which is not theirs
    The place of prayer which has seen death
    The place where God was pushed out
    In order to not see the killing
    To kill what they don't see
    The place which was no longer a refuge


    Dal Lake turns to the color of red lentils
    cooking in a dented metal pot
    In the Shikara boat we eat dal and rice
    and throw scraps into the silver water
    where it washes up
    onto the dirty boots of a soldier
    I hear the dull gray click, click of his rifle
    as it touches the ground

    The prayers have ended

    Copyright 2004 Jeff Raheb