Three poems by Vahni Capildeo
THE CHOMSKY BEQUEST: TOWARDS A GRAMMAR FROM EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY GLASS
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.
from SOME THINGS
For Maya Chowdhry
SEED, FOR MAYA
I. the voice of the seed
II. you said
III. as yet it has no voice
IV. the seed
V. a star, a trap, a tropism, a keep,
a wrinkle, a tide; these voiced weirds;(k)not
so sweet stone, so liquid seed
MOSS, FOR MAYA
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.