Four Poems by Kazim Ali


dear God of blankness I pray to dear unerasable

how could I live without You if I were ever given answers

the summer thickens with lostness

lovers who will not touch each other but look out into space

thinking I do not belong in the world

news always travels inland but how can this storm

be undone or the treacherous rain unravel or the train

arriving one street over and all night long

on an island at the end of islands a foresworn vow

a river blasted through and another river filled in

dear afternoon God dear evening God my lonely world

the circles of water and wanton violence

dear utterly unmistakable ether

dear Lostness your careless supplicant drops everything

and rakes over me on his way to an implacable place

"Sleep Door"

a light knocking on the sleep door
like the sound of a rope striking the side of a boat

heard underwater
boats pulling up alongside each other

beneath the surface we rub up against each other
will we capsize in

the surge and silence
of waking from sleep

you are a lost canoe, navigating by me
I am the star map tonight

all the failed echoes
don’t matter

the painted over murals
don’t matter

you can find your way to me
by the faint star-lamp

we are a fleet now
our prows zeroing in

praying in the wind
to spin like haywire compasses

toward whichever direction
will have us


for DBQ

He slips between the pages
into depth

Is this what was written
on the body’s blank

Who you’re praying to
is perhaps

A castaway: lost in publication,

The boats mount their
horizonward search

I do not want to drown or
be lost

In blue smoke, a sound of
oars working 

My name being


A jigsaw of nothing but sky
Three pieces next to one another
A clamor, a lull, an official complaint
No map provides for sore spots or depths
Not an ounce of white in sight
You’re unlocatable
Three different versions of downpour
A trembling instrument
When the wait was empty
Music came out of the woods
Not what you expected
An empty place and no piece to match
How could you turn into blue
What in the world were you doing
When the picture was shown
You receive no image or instruction
What you seek to fit into will not cease