Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kosrof Chantikian: On Death

Click here for the audio clip of the poem On Death read by Lola Koundakjian.

a few days ago
at dinner
you confessed your uncertainties

your fear
the doubts you still have
the feeling that erodes your face

that look you get when your eyes tremble
as if someone
has tried to murder the air

by stepping on it
by spitting at the sun
as if to put it out

you wonder if poets know anything
about dying
you would like to know

what it’s like
how to approach it
carefully you think

because you want this event
this transaction
(that you believe proves
the contingency of the world)

you want it to be like
a slow brushing of your teeth
something you are accustomed to doing

something you can finish with easily
like dinner

that will have a definitive end
so you can get up from the table
or leave the restaurant
something you can renounce
or nullify at will

something definable
under your control

like a poem
because you believe

poems are made like houses
where each word is not any more miraculous
than a brick or a piece of plywood

& that all it takes
is to put the stones & wood together

& is a poem
you wonder —
the building of it —
any different

or anyone’s life
any different than
stones or wood or glue

isn’t it,
what you call life,
a putting together of winters & spring

this is what you believe

you want death to be the same
you want to be able to spit at it
to compress it
to lock it inside your baggy pants

to crush it
with your heavy wallet

you think now
that death
ought to be asking

you for permission
making at least
an appointment to see you

on a Saturday morning
you will be ready
you will have all the arguments
typed memorized
ready to shout them if need be

you’ll begin with mountains
& then move on to literature

pretend to philosophize
as professors still do

demonstrate that death could not exist
because it is only the bad dreams we have

still it might be well
just in case
To see what poets know—

“what is death really like
have you any information for me?

a booklet perhaps
a sketch of what to expect
anything will do—

but I must have something
something that tells me
what to expect

you see—
I have an important appointment

& I must be prepared
I must show
what I know”

This poem has previously appeared in the 2008 issue of Ginosko Literary Journal

Kosrof Chantikian is the author of two earlier works of poems – Prophecies &
Transformations and Imaginations & Self-Discoveries. He is editor of Octavio Paz:
Homage to the Poet, and The Other Shore: 100 Poems by Rafael Alberti. In 1979-80,
1980-81, and 1981-82 he was poet-in-residence at the San Francisco Public Library.
He edited KOSMOS: A Journal of Poetry from 1976-1983, and from 1980 to 2001, was
general editor of the KOSMOS Modern Poets in Translation Series. He has received
grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, and the
San Francisco Foundation. His poems and prose have appeared in Amerus, Ararat,
Arete, Bleb, Blue Unicorn, California Quarterly, Green House, KOSMOS, and Margins.
He lives in Larkspur, CA with his family.

1 comment:

suzannemasksglobal said...

Oh dear Kosrof, I've been thinking of you - and looked you up on Google. What a superb poem and poet your are (always were). Sending you lots of love,
Suzanne Benton