Arts & Culture / The Reading Room / Vol. 2 No. 1-2

Cringe and other poems

Gopal Dagnogo, Chairs and sneakers

Image Credit: Gopal Dagnogo, Chairs and sneakers, 2018, 180 x 180cm, Courtesy of the artist


That’s how the earth wore you, bent,
Crushed by the sky, too,
As if the blue
Had always been too
Heavy with rain, scent
And chance, but not the chance
Of bargaining for few
Of these 30 years now,
Not since she’d left,
The one you’d danced
With who hadn’t been the one,
But became the one
By accidents of time’s miscreance.

Kilograms pressed flesh:
Your pound, ground to ground
Even though you’d wished
For wings
And gossamer
And had been light blue
On the wind, light-filled
(They called your disposition “sunny”).

So what had happened?
What happened?
What was always happening?
A press of days too dangerous to live
Because bound
By weary ways and cares
That carved at you
As if you were
A personal sculpture
And the chisel unaware
That you still lived,
Had feelings, suffered, longed
To die but couldn’t.
No, were forced by time to go on,
To march. To shuffle,
It became.

Your heavy head, bent,
Called no more billows from embers
No more eagerness from girls or women
Even though you remembered
Them wanting you, and bad,
And you sauntering
Because you hadn’t found
A way to care
And sort of never would.
No, not until
It was too late, far too late,
And swagger had become hunch,
Hunch a cringe at living.


Old women, soon to receive their lovers,
Groan, as if in birth, a first birth, unpreceded
By any unbearable pain or grasping having
Forgotten, blissfully, that memory resides
Inside musculature, within our bones and
What clings to them, having craned enough
With crooning, having outdone themselves,
In beauty’s pageant before and before,
But ready.

Old men, soon to receive them, pant, swell, want,
And then resist
Only to turn away, frightened, figuring they would do better
To bestow themselves to a scholarly sea, a tide surging
With the earth’s internal remembrance,
Another kind of memory
That knows nothing of the flight from past time,
Or the consciousness of longing,
And everything of rhythm, chance, abundance,
The swellings of the darkness.
The photo-electricity of waves of eternity.
It could swallow all of us without fathoming
A misdeed or a loss.

Old women, come dance before the porpoises,
Come frolic before the singing mermaids, strip
Yourselves quickly, the moon is rising. It’s time.
Old men, come sweating from your
Altars of sand and loam.

Come to these boundaries of the wine-dark sea
Who know how and why to draw, perpetually,
The line between chaos and order,
Darkness and light, beneath and above, mapping
Divisions: the unruled miracle of beginnings and endings
Where chaos and creation collide to make time.
The horizon knows you.

But come only if in the approach a new enchantment is born,
A new cascade falls to unheard music.

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