Hari Alluri
Finalist

Unfathomed

—for Adlaw, after Anastacia-Renee / after Kamau Brathwaite, with listening to Honor Ford-Smith, Aracelis Girmay, M. NourbeSe Philip, Roger Guenveur Smith, and Christian Campbell / after Jake Eduardo Vermaas / for Julay

The circle glows around you every time you first begin.
The remembering, kapwa, the circle. I remember “Right On
for the Darkness” was playing at the beginning of time,
and plays again. Time was playing hide and seek
with meaning, and the dream woke up without forgetting
where the dream came from. If golden,
it was like, kapwa, the seeking part of hide and seek,
golden like darkness. Curtis was there, as were Highlife’s chief
descendents, on the radio and on vinyl at the beginning of time. Yes,
ABBA would hide in me as well, and Donna Summer
heat, the tape deck spinning like video dissolves of Bollywood
blasphemies with bass lines Prince kicks up
by arguing with a note, kapwa. When I say kapwa,
I mean the dream awakens. Because a nanay asked it to.
When I say anting-anting, I mean the lullabyes I never
got to sing. What, have? I must: begotten by song,
I miss some of you so much, the ancestors you’ll never get
to keep becoming, the daydreams you’ll never have
because you are all dream. And you, whose name emits
the morning sun. When I ask if a star is just a star
without a constellation, invention acts up
upside down, like islands: putting lava back. For you,
poems kulintang and slide veena on synth—leaning
chords that overturn the sonics of a birth. The salted gift uncovers
divination, vegetation-trained in martial earth.
Say word. Say kapwa once more. Sing, “You are there…” Name
a stolen waterfall, and it means there are drums beneath
the strings. My nanay holds onto the strings, for her own
dear life o. If life was the dearest thing, it would be
the thing that bends a calculated measurement
into music. A mere vibrative wave, and I’m haunted. I say this
cussing at the axis of a single day, at each small card your nanay pulls, reads
like all of them are you: I’m grateful. The moments before beginning
are playing hide and seek. Not in between monsoon and harmattan.
It was difficult to become land at first, ocean and sky
still fighting over when. The reason I can’t see myself is all dust and all rain,
kapwa. Right on for the darkness. Volcanic. Oceanic. The breaking
required for a constellation shaped of missing names: we carry your joy
in the practice of mourning: remember the circle all around us to begin.

 

 

 

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