Maria After the Concert

Back home after a quiet week at work
When she opened the door I leaned over
To touch a speck of pixie glitter on her collar
Bone. After dinner her blood pressure rose
And she needed a rub on her shoulder
Before she could breathe properly. It was Friday.
We changed into pink night clothes
A kind of foreplay before a series of open
Heart surgeries. On TV, experts were analyzing
Japanese bush warbler songs and how the city
Birds with more complex song structure
Were guaranteed better sex and longer lives.
This was followed by images of Salman Abedi.
Bobbies on Brandt Street, talking.
Briana Grande pooching at cameras before
The Manchester concert. All of this while she lay
Curled on my thighs like a piece of cashmere.
The bronze skin of her nape, red from absentminded
Stroking of my fingers. All of a sudden
She started dissolving in a pool of tears. First her head
Then face, then the armsreflecting the darkness.
When she came back in form, she was charging around
The breadth of the rooma wretched half
Demon as if just out from radiationfearing
She will be told they failed to take the tumor off her throat.
She almost knocked the TV where the topic had changed
And they were discussing benefits of donkey milk soap.
I tried coaxing her into the shower,
Washing her head. Fixing a drink.
Forgetting won’t change a thing she said.

Questions and Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

I was in grade eleven when I felt confident for the first time about sharing a piece of writing with Mr. Walsh, our high school Creative Writing teacher. It was a short poem about New Year’s Eve seen through the eyes of a cotton-fluffer yelling out his services on the streets of Calcutta, where I was at. Weeks passed without a word. When Mr. Walsh did revert, the margins of the sheet I had handed, came back crammed with comments and edits, written in long hand with a red pen. It was a moment of contradiction and realization. At one level, judging by the close attention he had accorded the piece, it appeared to me that there was likely something about the piece he found worthy. At the more obvious level it appeared as well, that the writing itself had fallen far short of his idea of what it needed to be. To me that moment was key in defining what and how I would write: it put me on a path, made the end goal somewhat clear and visible and at the same time, seemed to affirm, maybe, maybe, all one needed were legs to make a run for it.

How/where do you find inspiration today?

For me, I find inspiration usually when I am visiting a strange town inhabited by complete strangers; chatting up cab drivers, bartenders, hotel clerks, and people sat on park benches waiting for the next snatch of conversation while watching the world go by.

Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. books, films, art, websites, etc.)?

Books, films, art, blogs, rivers, hills, elks, and the wilderness all help, but the one thing that has helped me more than anything is the occasional lapse into a frame of mind where I am unwilling to let anything go unobserved.

As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

Being able to write every day matters way more than anything else; yes, way more than being published.

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

The horror, absurdity, and anguish I saw in the eyes of someone I happened to be with when the concert bombing incident unfolded in Manchester, UK.

What poetic techniques did you use in this poem? How much attention do you pay to form and metre?

To me the most important aspect of technique in crafting this piece was to be able to convey the horror unfolding slowly at a distance and the absurdity of the aftermath taking over completely. In order to evoke the situational irony, it was important for me to focus on the tone, choice of images, figures, and metaphors; and make the whole thing come out as almost unreal, almost allegory.

This poem “Maria After the Concert” originally appeared in House, Home, Hospitality Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 237 (2019): 46.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.