Vahni Capildeo

•   November 05 2014 // poetry   •

Three poems by Vahni Capildeo

For Helen Macdonald

Opaque-twist rival stems home supersubtly.
Clarion teardrop minnows spiral heavily.
Strokable dancing ponds recline pastorally.
Expensive delicate kundalinis amaze unironically.
Triple annular knops preside reticently.
Borderline armed arches lull ruinously.
Diamond-point square afterthoughts quaff piratically.
Milky skippy vignettes land militantly.
Flammable wheeling sisters grave triumphantly.
Colourless green ideals double readily.
Rich fragile blues yellow desirably.
Convex concave shapes flow transparently,
substantially, between pure & empty, between thine & thee.


For Maya Chowdhry


I.           the voice of the seed

II.          you said

III.        as yet it has no voice

IV.        the seed
             perhaps ever

V.         a star, a trap, a tropism, a keep,
             a wrinkle, a tide; these voiced weirds;(k)not
             so sweet stone, so liquid seed



I.           A child left alone can befriend moss. Its bright green, enticing to the eye as a lemon
             lolly behind the teeth, makes moss seem to shine in the darkness under lizard-
             haunted ixora bushes & on the killing patch of concrete that disaffected workmen
             splashed on earth that had been alive with wet-combed roots, as if extermination
             were necessary for human habitation, & moss an infiltrator.

II.         Moss has not tiny tongues, nor little fingers, nor flames fine as watchmakers’ tools,
             nor an elfin semaphore system. Moss is not-lickable, not-glossolalia, not in-the-way-
             on-the-way. Moss is myriad, simply many & one. Moss absorbs.

III.        For the benefit of giants, fourteen kinds of Icelandic moss were exhibited under
             glass, including the static flicker of a moss named for its resemblance to white
             worms, a name mistranslatable as ‘pale dragons’. It must have been plucked from the
             cooled flowing lava fields that look like nothing, yet where detail thrives – clumps of
             pink carnivorous daisies, trapping zippy insect life.

IV.        The life cycle of moss is momentous. Any given colony of moss could have been
             there since whichever chosen beginning, while changing at a rate that puts mammals’
             eyes to shame.

V.         Don’t slip. Grab the balustrade. Don’t slip. She’s broken her arm. Don’t scrape too
             much off. It’s beautiful. Bleach it all off. It’s a risk. Coexist. Moss exists. Our stone
             selves roll on different tracks, unmatchably cracked. We cling. Resist. Shape to our
             ends whatever is. Not this. Moss induces words in us because, grave & new,
             we sentence things; whereas moss carpets, respires, pulls back, is.


Vahni Capildeo is a Trinidadian writer of poetry and prose. Her recent work includes: Utter (Peepal Tree, 2013) and Measures of Expatriation (forthcoming Carcanet 2016). Current projects are: Dante reworkings for Peter Hughes’s Oystercatcher Press; a sequence, Simple Complex Shapes; and collaborations on Euripides’ Bacchae. She is the Judith E. Wilson Visiting Fellow in Poetry 2014 at the University of Cambridge.