the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Fall 2007



Indran Amirthanayagam

Bridge, Summer

A summer flight
when the neighbor‘s driven
to the Keys or flown
to Alaska, when the

reading series shut
down and poets shift
to cabins in the woods,
and the government

settles down
to chop wood,
pitching the shavings
and files into neat

burn boxes...yet
the persistence of memory,
needs of the archives,
a diplomat flies

with seven thousand
pounds of house
to the next way station
charged with setting

up bridges, assuring
that savvy, bright
students of social sciences
swing trips and

in the homeland, while
woodcarvers and poets
also have their swig

at the benefactors’ trough,
burning several hundred
gallons of jet fuel to chant
childhoods before

hip, susceptible groups
delighted by the cross-cultural
encounter, strange and rare
yet aware these days

of how the once unknown
Dalai Lama picked
by priests from the villages
has clocked many thousands

of miles as a Frequent
Flyer to the Holy See
and Richard Gere’s
Manhattan digs,

and to be photographed
with Bill. I have no truck
with Dalai, I accumulate
the miles myself

and continue to assemble
widgets for bridges, kiss
the governor’s wife
on the lips just to say

that Britney, Madonna
and I speak English together—
we understand show biz—
there must be diversion

for Jack’s incessant
seriousness, laboring
every day to make sure
all the bridges are fortified

through the generations
like corn flakes coursing
through the boy’s
morning ablutions,

giving him energy and fight
to study lesson plans, read
the encyclopedia, grow up
one day to build the biggest,

lightest, most definitely
virtual suspension bridge
on the planet, visible
from the Moon and beyond.

— December, 2005, Monterrey



I miss you, machan,
the way we spun poems
in the atmosphere
over coffee, gazed

on tickling images
that slithered
from earth dug deep,
topsoil perforated

with sweat and orange
peel—I wanted to say
dreams, ambitions—but
we’ve overcome

the young man’s wish
to shine in his own light,
all that narcissist jazz—
two codgers snuffing

a smoke, but even
that’s a lie, happy men,
in spite of complicated
life, roaring on a stage

revived, sixty-five—
silly counting hours—
yet the ticker began
day one and we don’t

know if we’ll pummel
fists in the air
on the night before
the last morning,

clap our hands
with the multitude
at the Hollywood Bowl,
Beatles resurrected

just in time, or
whether we’ll presume,
gad about, roll
a joint or trampoline,
make love, drink wine,
or just slide away
in evening clothes, dig
our graves under a leafy tree—

but who will shovel
the dirt, place a cross
or bulletin board
with a few lines of verse?

— February 7, 2007


Back to Poetry