“Plumes” by Arash Saedinia

Arash Saedinia


A plume of smoke, visible at a distance
In which people burn.
—George Oppen

Love, can I call you that, you called me that the other night, Love, I couldn’t move today, or only sank, fell, falling. Today I slept until I couldn’t and looked for your call. Your message woke me. I replied. Twice, worried you hadn’t gotten the first. And you replied, and I thought, What folly. I cleared and fell asleep again. I looked for you online. Friends post pictures of Gaza in pieces, people in bits. The skyline in plumes. Plume, a pretty word, but who can afford it? I click through the OED, arranged in pixels on my screen. Regarding the souls of poets, Plato said, “Arrayed as they are in the plumes of rapid imagination, they speak truth.” Beholding the Angels Life and Death, Longfellow wrote of “somber houses hearsed with plumes of smoke.” In “The Exile,” Ibrahim Nasrallah, an exile, writes, “Poets surround me like the fruit of regret.” If we began as light, we became flesh and have become information. Light unto sensor into bytes. Digits, pixels. Our daily bread. The news feed: Omar al-Masharawi, eleven months, dead of burns, wrapped in white, borne upon his father’s arms, whose fingers splay across the shroud, steady and soft. More photos. In Gaza City, Jabaliya, more shrouds. Charred blocks in Khan Younis, Beit Lahiya. The dead, the dying. Rubble, stalks of rebar, ash and limbs. Columns of smoke gore the air, choking daylight. Missiles from a distance. And from a distance, plumes.

from Rattle #54, Winter 2016

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Arash Saedinia: “The first poem I wrote was in response to the first U.S. invasion of Iraq. I was a teen. Exactly what I wrote I have forgotten. There was something about a headline. I was incensed at the air of triumphalism in the press and on the street. I knew hardly anything about writing a poem. I can’t say why my thoughts and feelings unfolded in measured lines comprising a long stanza. I forget the words but recall the craft pad I grabbed. I used a rollerball. I remember the black ink on the dun sheet. No one told me to write it. I wrote it. I had to. It began as an urge, a compulsion.” (website)

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