tadpoles – John Peterson

-for devon

last night the pond was the size of a small hat

ten or fifteen of you holding on enough water

only to cover your back and keep the sun off

foot prints of coon and coyote dog and deer

and small bird circling down from reed covered

banks across cracked mud and soggy bottom

you squirm hoping against time and biology that

legs will sprout in time a race against summer sun

large and small creatures an eternity of narrow chances

one of you moves from runny mud back legs

near strong enough unsure that this is the time

but choices going fast as noon day

feeble hop out of dwindling mud toward

parched landscape that may offer escape

from the certainty of diminished water

you will make it if time and biology

                                     cross           precisely


Shadab Hashmi’s new book of poetry KOHL & CHALK


“These poems ring with clarity, restraint and humanity. My admiration for Shadab Zeest Hashmi’s poetry continues to grow.”
— Sam Hamill

Shadab’s poetry does what some commentators over the years say is impossible; to write extraordinary poetry while making a political statement. Shadab does this and more. Her poetry is beautiful, there is no doubt about that, go to any page:
from Swat page 52

I would have bottled the tingle in birdsong
eaten the coconut-white river
climbed the far end of the ladder

and it is full of subtle and not so subtle political insight:
from The Road page 54

The sirens of her police escort
will neatly bury
the cacophony
of the explosion
in the mosque

but mostly she brings the two together, not to make the political beautiful, not to make the horrible beautiful but to do as Gandhi said in a quote I once saw on a high school teachers wall. ” It has always been about beauty, always!”
from U.S. Air Strikes page 68

Just when I finished rinsing the carafe,
a whole city was under cement dust and smoke,
and I thought I heard screaming behind walls of fire
in the kettle’s sharp whistle,
just when I added the cloves,
the last green lime.

You see she will not let you collapse into horror, she will demand that beauty stays with you and heals you as she shows you what we do in each others name. What we do and what we must not do, she shows us what in truth we must do, we must always be about beauty.

You really must read all of this book.
John Peterson, publisher

About the book

“The bride who contemplates her half paralyzed face on the eve of marriage (in the opening poem “Facial Palsy”) is emblematic of the larger story of Pakistan: an ancient culture fractured by new and divergent identities. The poet, like the bride whose face is divided into “lit” and “dim” halves, gazes into the mirrors of history and politics to make sense of the disjunctive parts that refuse to come together as a whole. The very multiplicities of culture that the poet celebrates (“Socrates/mangoes cut in cubes,” “Iqbal’s poems on marble construction paper,” “rouge from Paris, coconut oil from Orissa”) are also the cause of dissonance (“War cries of the Greeks/ in plume red/Mongols/ in horse-leather red,” “Gunga Din’s ghost lifted from the tennis courts/of Peshawar Club”)— dissonance that is further amplified in the post-9/11 wars to which a Pakistani-American response in poetry has thus far been absent. Kohl & Chalk is that response in the voice of a daughter, a mother, a global citizen.”