“After Reading a 12/4/2001 Associated Press Report” by Padma Thornlyre

Padma Thornlyre



More than a million tons of rubble
from the World Trade Center towers, 
and an estimated ten thousand body
parts—what wasn’t reduced to smoke 
or vaporized. “Vaporized.” It takes 
more than a moment for that one 
to sink in, because it means only this, 
that we are breathing the dead, the dead 
who lingered in Manhattan and are now
dispersed upon the eight winds, becoming
a breeze in Kandahar, a gust in Qala-i-Jangi, 
the stuff through which mortar fragments
fragment the fragile bodies of the Taliban,
of al-Qaeda warriors trumpeting bin Laden,
holed up in Tora Bora’s honeycomb caves.
I wonder what stranger, what potential 
friend has entered my nostrils here
in Colorado, and if she’s why I’ve been 
sneezing, why my eyes are dry
and burning, my throat raw, 
the mucus thick and welling 
well inside my head. I’m not fond
of Magritte, but I can’t stop myself
from seeing Golconde, a human rain.
Accursed for our worshippings,
damned for our devotions, gutted
by the very God whose blood we drink.
Today, George Harrison’s ashes
will be given to the Ganges. Give me
love, give me love, give me peace on Earth.
May he find his way to the salt; may
the water that holds him evaporate;
may he, too, become our breathing.

from Rattle #56, Summer 2017
Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness

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Padma Thornlyre: “My psychological constellations include a severe anxiety disorder, persistent depression, and occasional bouts with dissociation and fragmentation, as well as autism in the high-moderate range. In practical terms, this translates into a history of disastrous personal relationships, employment beneath my education, and a marginalized, on-the-brink life, economically, all fueled by low self-esteem and a sense of not belonging. Artistically, however, living with mental illness means I am open to perceptual possibilities that are unusual but rendered malleable by the trickery of language. For instance, having benefited from therapy with a brilliant depth psychologist, I honor dreams as providing much of my content-matter; and having experienced fragmentary states, I sometimes construct new poems from fragments of other works, like collage, creating new types of ‘wholeness.’”

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