Anis Shivani’s poems appear in Threepenny Review, Iowa Review, North American Review, Harvard Review, Poetry Northwest, Fiddlehead, Meanjin, Washington Square, Verse, Stand, Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere. A debut book of criticism, Against the Workshop: Provocations, Polemics, Controversies, will appear in July 2011, and a second collection of short fiction, The Fifth Lash and Other Stories, will appear later in 2011.


The Death of Li Po

Li Yang-ping, preserve my poems. The emperors,
on whose behalf I wandered, are jealous like wives.

To travel a thousand rivers upstream or down, in a
moon’s half cycle, is only to deliver one’s true debts.

In Ch’ang-an, the winehouses gave me a special name
I both abhorred and loved at the same time:

Banished Immortal, meaning he who imagines life
as a continuation of the mountain’s other side.

Long ago, in the gibbons’ shrieks I heard in K’uei-chou,
a passage of sorts was enacted. I lost my strangeness.

Now, on this river that beckons to the civilization
still remnant in the shrunken land, land of half-sight,

I embrace the moon, its diffuse wavy pattern, its
silken bodice, its talkative-silent recital – a poem

inherited among the thousands I most love,
to live through the tough interrogation ahead.

Li Yang-ping, preserve my poems. If I drown,
in the brown depths the poet’s only disguise flutters.


To Orhan Pamuk

You have the hüzün, the melancholy
of undying empires piled on each other,
the intrigue of the word-defying holy,
the torture-games of brother by brother.
You strand the Bosphorus on feet of clay,
an Istanbullu fifty years on the same street,
seeing the Golden Horn as on the first day,
nodding to the names behind the retreat.
We, loud exiles and immigrants, toss-offs
and runaways, our good parents’ heartbreak,
dig for first and last names in the old troughs,
defend to the death our identifying stake.
Your loneliness is spared the daily death.
We, the free, delineate each new breath.


Dear Paul Muldoon

Barricade the America behind the Princeton
oaks, behind the New Yorker’s gates, in a-technical
language of your aged-youth, steeped in the tragedy of
loaves and laughing sciences and lush O’Casey;
barricade it from the striptease of hidden views
familiar from publishing’s megacelebrities touring
the country in birdcages lined with squawk;
barricade America’s broken highways and silenced
cancer wars with ribbons of your faltering
precious dialogue with Heaney and his forefathers
and theirs, buried deep in the potato fields from
whence no man emigrates sans soul in a coffin box;
barricade America whose gift to herself is platitude,
toward blue Eden, soaked with irony,
a flatulent brig staggering onward to foggy coasts
borrowed from other continents, land masses
whose shape resembles fractured skulls.