2 poems / Gavin Barrett

Konkan

Fish, Indian Oil Sardine, Sardinella Longiceps

The rain is no god of mercy
for the koli fishmonger,
her sari tucked between her legs

her pomfrets in her basket flashing
silver praise for the downpour
while she fears for her husband.

The shore is jet and foam,
the black-skinned basalt swollen
people breaking on the tide

of monsoon funerals
the church bells tolling
death and death and dying.

Light the candles, cloak names
in smoke, in lace veil incense,
begin the litany of disease,

jaundice,
encephalitis,
malaria. Waves.

At the spray’s edge I stare
at the storms my father sails for me—
but soutaned boys know little of death,

just friends at whose funerals
they served, swinging the censer,
lighting the air with bells

Monsoon Burial

the mud
red slip clay clot, the foot’s
sodden
drop.

the rain has a sobber’s
stutter, the gasp for
air
choked by liquid

wailing, seemless
grab
at wall of muck collapsing
like a rushing bore

the diggers’ shovels
fly like winds and bladed
wings
the soil is severed

from its weeping head
and the trees
knock shade
senseless

in the lightning.
come to say the
prayers
your father taught you

your breath his
his breath
gone,
his eyes shut for the crossing.

It is a surge of slop
that stops our graveside
standing
and harvests red sorrow’s crop.

Gavin Barrett is a poet and author of Understan (Mawenzi House, 2020), a CBC Books recommendation. He is founder and co-curator of The Tartan Turban Secret Readings, a literary reading series that promotes BIPOC voices in Canadian literature.

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