‘a holy whirlpool spins in your river’ —Enheduanna
I enlist this river's mineral bed; whose damp air manipulates bone-body shape, whose discharged oracle once roughly bled a shrieking carpet of dust, rolled swiftly out, reconfiguring motes its water-shade laid in fire-glyphs seared on the river's parched mud. When Alexander sucked the poison root, pleading to know if his tongue wrinkled stone, sweating in semi-precious types of light, he faced the whirlpool's voice-clot - found it mute; circling earthy patterns of thoughtful doubt, looping the river's underwritten knot. How brightly the dust-wet whirlpool flares, half-immersed in halo-bone. Many faces drawn, disperse, whose deeds of kindness, are water-written. I lift the river to my mouth—find it bitter— I weep, rivers dry: when I rise, rivers rise, their fierce burns refreshing my flame-filled eyes. Astonishments of fire, astonishments of blood. Where Woolf's softening skull blunders dim rock thud; turning on her shoeless heel, dead Li Po, whose eyes roll black to blue, staring in moon-sunk glow: self-possessed of sleep in flame, river-thrown in burning water, where all poets drown.
Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 The Verb in 2019 for programme ‘Along the River’ and subsequently published in Blackwell’s Poetry No. 1, 2020.
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