:: Article

Frances Farmer & other poems

By Afshan Shafi.

Buried amongst flowers in Pakistan

(Composed entirely of lines found in the writings of Rumi/ Robert Browning/ Vladimir Nabokov)

All the peaks soar, but one the rest excels; Clouds overcome it
Ignorant men dominate women for they are shackled by the ferocity of animals,
White butterflies turn lavender
Moaned he, “New measures, other feet anon! My dance is finished”?

He noticed a large white butterfly drop outspread on a stone,
So I’ve brought you a mirror, look at yourself and remember me-
I died a plant and rose as an animal

This is our master, famous, calm and dead, borne on our shoulders,
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about

Let us begin and carry up this corpse, singing together
How do they learn it? They fall and fall and are given wings
The lion is most handsome when looking for food,
On a tall mountain citied to the top, crowded with culture

A dark Vanessa with a crimson band, wheels in the low sun
The man said rather, ‘actual life comes next? Patience a moment!’

The sphinx dislodged from the trunk of a cypress in an old cemetery full
Of plum trees in bloom
He said ‘what’s time? Leave now for dogs and apes! Man has forever’

Huge amber monarch butterflies flapped over asphalt
He (soul hydroptic with a fierce thirst) sucked at the flagon

Frances Farmer

Getting arrested for a broken heart is not the same as Frances Farmer being institutionalized for the fever of mortal guilt, not the same as her silver head buzzed and waterless, motored through the shingles of autumn mid-molt
(tangled blood blue cresting the occipital parquet)
I am, I am, I am or I was as I rose out of the bulb,
remembering the Braille of the evening smoke,
the night’s craw of silk swooning
over the raconteurs in their marble lakes,
filthy in their seafarer accouterments,
scuttling about the jasper drift
Feeling no sentiment for those exiled from mere godly color,
those tossed to the cloud corner, to the rats nest and birthing gut
knees to mouth,
cat’s cradle of bone clutched to
tongue and teeth of gravel, in a pageant of blood,
While night’s denizens with characteristic sangfroid will the music
to dwindle over the neverness,
returning to itself thousand fold

My mind would have none of the richness of their laughter.
overcome with the kind of composure
only the dregs of despair could bring to keel,
sisters in their red gowns bearing black clamor in each palm
Entering the room with indictments and effigies,
Arsonists of my spite and melody
Setting my spine on concrete caulk,
And twirling me, the garlanded infidel
Over and inside
The fissures of infant moons
Under my feet

Ganesh, in a confectionary mill

Last November’s basilica is crumbling,
The taffy foundry found to be char, the last scruff of meal
still aerate masses dispense themselves
Onto the crud, and enter the extruder to be filled with
Shiny viscera,
palm oil kidneys blossoming under the churn,
The winds percolating soft while
The clouds widen their tangerine irises,

Ganesh wakes with a strawberry smile
his Styrofoam lips expunge bliss from leather jowls,
lashes and white hoarfrost of the eye
refract petroleum flora and
The textile of his palm, offers a hilltop of
pink candy and glucose intaglio.
no satyr could have envisaged him thus, with
this clutch of winching blades and death ribbons
in rococo hands; he loosely wills to the green lotus,
a noose, hammer, axe, tusk and garland,
a comely exhibition of rage.

he, who galumphed through the century’s rain-carousel,
like a little girl
in his emerald playground, iliac metal suffused
with humectants,
sacred sugars cohering his cross bones
and the toppling caul of a
ancestral-star, across his neck.
his delicate calf, frozen, in supplication to the woodbulb
of his throne,
for a being so strong
his gaze is weary, adolescent,
has no gunpowder to sustain the promise
of violence and eldritch-rosy,
he does not even posses the tranquilized regret
of the aesthete or the shaman
though one can see him across the
astral esplanades, chalking out his charkas,
hop scotching across the sediment, not even
alert to the cosmic sanguinity of his pleasure,
roaring beyond
the elongated shadows

Successful Neon

‘The word of nourishment passes through
the women, soldiers and orchards rooted in constellations,
white towers, eyes of children,
saying, in time of war what shall we feed?
I cannot say the end.’

Muriel Rukeseyer

No one gave their knowledge of mortality to you, when the rote-burnt contusions from your skull to shins began; illuminated muttering, orectic, guileless, no civilized tract of blood in your ears, your boasts a fabulist’s battle cry, a God roar of privilege. you polyglot of the plain drift, cover, cover the lucent incision where listening begins. there is no devotion in you for something singular, beloved, nothing in you suffering or praying for turbulence.

What can you understand of the world when the sun bores into your eyes with the slouch of a bullet turning, but you say we all need the ballast of a coven to bleed, like cornered monsters, we all need something strange to believe in. the sudden star of blood on your face, hands trained to receive bliss, heaven-grass, plastic dew, thorned acacias, to outlive the devil at your throat of bloodied ice,

You knew you couldn’t fight him with beauty alone didn’t you, you knew that what you read ,what made you a man, a Rodin borne of lions, king of the streets was poetry didn’t you (a terrorista behind glass doors California-insouciant,-ennui furling furling over the protean light mirror,your billet-doux to frost and star)

You were the only doe eyed one in an abandoned school with superman pliancy. the excess of those boys and girls; a gauntlet of yellow butterfies in the sun on acid, losing too much beauty and knowing the loss too keenly like your lost smoky mother in the afternoon who, after all ceremoniousness ends, is part of the world’s dross and epitaph after all. and you , plaster supernova, a cheiftan of the veiled and lingering leer. gaze on.

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Afshan Shafi lives in Lahore, Pakistan and has studied English Literature and International Relations at The University of Buckingham and Regents University London. She has also worked previously at PEN Pakistan. Her poems have appeared in ditch, Inkwell and Quill, Full of Crow, The Toucan Magazine, Mad Swirl. Black Heart and other publications. Her debut collection of poems ‘Odd Circles’ was published by Readings (Pakistan) earlier this year.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, April 5th, 2015.