Three Musical Poems – Anis Mojgani

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I pretty much am always listening to music when I write. It stirs and softens. More I guess it lulls whatever in me that I want to be made known of to step closer, to come outside and smell more of the fragrance that is wafting in towards it. Very often what will happen is that once I find myself in a groove, whatever song it is that has clicked me into place, that has enticed the beast out into the night garden, I feel I have to keep playing it in order to keep it there. So, a song finishes and I play it again. And again. And again. Sometimes I will listen to that same song for an hour. Strangely, it is rare for me to just put the song on repeat, or at least not for the first 20 listens. Like I don’t want to commit to just this one sound, or like there needs to be this pause of brief reawakening “oh. that sweet sound is finished..could we listen to it once more?”

The three pieces here all sprung from situations like this, where I just kept cycling through the same piece of music. All three are from different years––2011, 2013, & 2015––and three very different periods of life I was going through. Much of the art I make, comes to fruition by making something, tearing that something up and making something truer out of the pieces. There’s something I love about creating an environment that pushes my brain to think differently, to make it so that it has to think creatively about what surrounds it. This aspect of creation, deconstruction, reconstruction, deconstruction, reconstruction, repeat, helps enable and perpetuate this for me. And what I like about not just putting a song on repeat but having to click it back to the start every time it finishes is that it kind of contributes to the above. It doesn’t lull me down the river, it makes me get back out at the same place downstream, head back to where I jumped in and repeat, mirroring the repetition of the re-/de-/reconstruction aspect of my process.

And oddly enough I think that it also helps with bringing myself closer to the truth of the things inside of me I’m trying to understand or get out of my dark and into my light. That it’s a process of trimming off as much fat as possible, or rather getting it boiled down to the most of its essence. Which enables the work (I hope) to really connect with my self, while also being able to walk around in a shape very far removed from my life, thus becoming more connective with other (I hope more). The music I listen to assists with this. As if that which is in me is naked, is more than naked, is naked of skin and body, and is only vaguely of color. And tries on different songs to see what is fitting the shape of its shadow, and when it finds one that fits right, or well enough, it tries it on, walks around in it, learns what it means to have bones and eyelids. And the shape and story of the song works its way into whatever it is I’m writing and becomes something that I would not have necessarily been able to explore or discover just on my own.

 

Second Person. Ana ana ana ana nashki oti besof haolam/Please please please please kiss me at the end of the world

2015

“Odisea” – Vaadat Charigim

It was a different life. she left you for someone with a motorcycle. and you locked yourself in a hotel room in another country. to drink a new life into your heart. when you woke up in another body you hopped a plane for the soot and leaves of the middle east. carried only a change of clothes on your back. in tel aviv you bought a scooter from a boy that looked like your brother. drove through the city. asked where to find a bar that played rock n roll music. borrowed someone’s guitar and played onstage. screaming into the loud hum of the lights you kicked a bottle. took one of its shards and cut a line across your forehead. the audience lapped it up. a girl doing a deborah harry impersonation licked the blood from your face. in the alley outside she pushed her tongue across your teeth and you reached under her skirt put your fingers inside her. the two of you smashed your bodies against each other like two bricks trying to break themselves. climbed out of the cracks between the buildings. sat on her rooftop. watched the owls come home to sleep. watched the blue sky birth a sun from under a lampshade. the sharp skyline looked like it was rising out of an arthurian lake. by the time the traffic was roaring you were both out of the city heading towards the sea. when you ran into the tree neither of you were hurt but the scooter was bent and smoking. yall caught a ride in the back of a truck. she fell asleep on your shoulder. you could see down her shirt, her body seemed a perfect softness to not let go of. it had been months since your heart had stopped. most nights were spent beating your chest trying to wake it back up. you wanted to try every knife on for size. you prayed for an alien race to make itself known to you. to remove your memories. to put new flowers into your dirt. nothing came out of the stars. you refused to talk to your mother. smelled a little longer the sweetness of those knives. wanted their taste across your throat spilling it open. you looked for the men she had in secret given her nakedness to. the ones who held her in other cities. the one she held in your own bed. you wanted to open their stomachs. to break the noses of all the boys from texas. to tell their mothers the horrors they had birthed. to tell her mother the same thing. to break your wifes heart by breaking her mothers.man and animal once lived in the same world, speaking the same tongue until man walked out of the grass and the beasts kept talking waiting for an answer to be given as it once was. you wanted to find that field so badly. to have the pieces of the tongues flickering in your ear to make sense. to find the doorways into the underworld and walk through them. but you didn’t know if you even wanted another universe. the constellations tasted like kissing a mouth after a cigarette. winter had never before felt this foreign and familiar. friend became the most important word. regret, the worst––anything she didn’t believe in was a lie. anything she believed in you wanted the opposite of. turning over stones. running hard. with a train in your chest pumping smoke but just sitting on the tracks. somewhere between two stations that had closed seasons ago. this was where you were when debbie was asleep on your shoulder. the truck carried the two of you far as the sea. you hit the side of the truck and got out. found yourselves at the water’s edge. took your shoes off. closed your eyes. debbie was saying something to you. you weren’t listening. she talked louder. started screaming. you opened your eyes just as the rocket kissed the water. just as the explosion kissed the sky and pulled the water into the air, you thought of your wifes back. and not wanting your last thought be hers you wondered just before the wave came crashing down swallowing both you and debbie where the moon will go once the earth splits? and noticed how the heavy mascara on debbies eyes had bled and dried in the shapes of the birch leaves your mother always carried into the house.

•••

Third Person. She carries her face to the market place and bets it on the opening race

2013

“Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel” – Townes Van Zandt

Today. An upright piano. Sitting on the wood floor of an old New York city apartment building. An iron warehouse-like building of lofts and dust and quiet. Empty and waiting with a piano inside. And a man with youth and a beard and hands wider than an octave sits upon its bench with a heart in his chest sitting like a fist of bees trying to be petals in the water, writing a poem about a woman as far away as the moon. No one but the daylight and the sky watch him, both peeking through the tall windows. At his feet are stacks of his love’s sheet music. He misses her. She pulls at the East Atlantic. Writes the ocean with her body. Waxing and waning the phases of her embraces. A library where nothing is allowed to be checked out. Nothing allowed to be pulled from the shelves. When inside her, walking the rows she has organized, he touches the spines of books as he passes them, trying to read them with the tips of his fingers. Her rafters are tense without her realizing this. The birds sneak in and quietly, sit above, watching him. The books are filled with whispers and smiles when alone. He sits on the floor waiting for the moon to rise outside, hoping to see himself in these reflections of her. All this he writes down, while outside of her, sitting at his piano, wishing he had the knowledge to unearth its garden of music into the air. But all he has are the hands for it and a song that sits on the soft grass that grows inside her, just on the other side of her stones, as he listens trying to find the words to put this music down with.

He flips through an old magazine he picks off the floor. There is a story about a prince in India whose bride dies and he is told of an ancient lotus that grows once every hundred years. The lotus is believed to be the blossom that Chandra the moon god carries in his hands and is believed to have magic qualities, that it can cause strangers to fall in love with one another, that it can give a man the power to see his future, that it can bring the dead back to life. The prince learns that it is almost the time when the flower will blossom. It grows at the top of a mighty peak, is alive for all of one day, blooming and dying at midnight. The prince sets out to get the flower and after a perilous trek upon the mountain, he reaches the spot where the flower grows. It is almost midnight, Chandra has dipped down toward the top of the mountain, to soon return the flower to his palm. The prince sees the quiet whiteness of the lotus, and picks it like it was a sleeping bird, before realizing he will not have time to carry the blossom back down the mountain and to the palace where his betrothed lays. 

What happens next he doesn’t know.

The rest of the story has been torn out or eaten by a fish. The magazine picks up on the last two pages of a story about Antarctica and apparently a city that lies under it. A French explorer of some sort, his crew dead and gone, has exploded his way out of the walls of a lost city, and the city’s ancient race of inhabitants have given chase, spilling after him into the freezing waters of the Great Southern Ocean. They drown but our hero has fashioned some sort of life jacket which upon the pulling of several strings expands, allowing him to leave the struggling bodies of his pursuers behind. He floats to the surface, popping up into the night. The summer sun is still in the sky but he can see stars appearing in the curving expanse of the heavens. While cold, the temperature is only just below freezing and he is bundled in many layers of thick hides, his only two hopes that the hides will keep his body insulated long enough to be found before getting soaked through, and that he will be found. 

As the tale ends, he notices a liner in the distance, and he pulls out a flare he has packaged to keep dry, lights and launches it into the sky, the smoke and sparks catching on to the passing wind and showering into the water.

He spends the whole day beside the piano, reading this strange hybrid tale which begins with a heartbroken Indian prince learning of a heavenly flower that will revive his dead bride and ends with a Frenchman floating in the waters of Antarctica. He reads it over and over again. Eventually the prince and the explorer become the same person and his heart fills the space between their two chapters. He finds himself bleeding into everything around him. Or the other way around. Today he is the upright piano. The dust on its lid. The mouseprints in the dust. The stone and iron building he sits in. The sunlight putting its hands all over the shadows. The stacks of sheet music and waterlogged magazines. The Indian prince and the French explorer. The lonesome powerful mountaintop lotus blossom. A race of ancient drowning people. The wind as well even. Catching the fires of the flaregun, carrying the embers across a night the southern sun blooms across and to the hands of a not-too-distant boat waiting, to become the deliverer of someone waiting to be delivered.

•••

First Person. The stillness signaling the breaking of the dawn 

2011

“Lonely Are The Free” – Steve Earle

The air is cold this morning. The rain Texas has been thirsting for came yesterday. The storm rolled in while we were at the coast. In Port Aransas, we watched the water come down in heavy sheets, felt the fat drops while running for the car. On the ferry we stared out the cars windows.. At the pelican’s ancient blue beak. Watched a band of them rise up in unison and catch the green and salted wind. On the drive home to Austin the sky cleared, the clouds parted, the curtains of a dark stage pulled to the corners, to let the sun come through, lifting a silver dress off his yellow ankles stepping down towards the ground. Pushing the gas through the machine, we drove past the fields lifting themselves into the heavens. Offering up the returning greenness of their thin wavering bodies. In places like this, a prayer, a sacrifice, and a small mercy somehow merge into one. On the far side of the world threshing itself to itself, the clouds lowered themselves in a line, like a wave at attention on the ocean, the light rising up behind them, catching the plate in a young boy’s hand, to shine that which is bright across the polished breasts that are not. Valhalla riding horses on the other side. We listened to rap songs, rolled down the windows, and while the hills caressed the car, let the evening wind caress our arms. Watched the cattle moving through the grass, and though it had already passed, towards the rain. Followed its wake all the way back into town. As the earth breathed night into its body, we watched its chest rise, filled with the soft darkness. And cloaked in a welcomed coolness opened the door to our small house. In taking the trash out to the can this morning, it felt like autumn in the northwest. Gray. Alive. Open and inviting. It will be good to ride a bicycle today. The rainwater shook on the lid and the dirt in the backyard, having hungered so long, sat dark with water.

 

 

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About Anis Mojgani

Anis Mojgani is a two time National Poetry Slam Champion, winner of the International World Cup Poetry Slam, and TEDx speaker. The author of three poetry collections, Anis' fourth collection The Pocketknife Bible, comes out this fall. Originally from New Orleans, Anis currently lives in Portland, OR. View all posts by Anis Mojgani

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