Illumination is a sudden thing.
We can only think,
think and wait,
and all the while we move, touching this thing,
holding that paperweight,
running a hand through hair,
pulling chin, nose, ears,
biting lips, tapping feet,
I’d think, strange how I can touch
these and not god.
My skin then was hide,
felt nothing of god.
Or was it god’s skin
like an orange,
fragrant, pitted bitter peel
before the cool sweet god-juice?
A dark night passed and a hot day came,
heat like the horror
of a beggar on a white afternoon
eating at the public dustbin,
and dry, thick in the throat,
burning my feet through my shoes.
And a friend said
you must peel the orange—here, this way.
I followed her closely
and did the same, finding the flesh inside
touched each still dry lobe, in wonder
and bit at last, drank deeply.
This was my first taste of god.
Harbour Line, Mumbai
to Cotton Green,
with yellow eyes.
just a little down the line
at Currey Road,
they look for food
in the parked garbage trucks
to be washed.
To the years coming and going
Blessed, walked on stars and coals
mind a red-hot rose opened in the cold
was the story that I tell
not the king but Falstaff
jugs in hands, laughed
drank with fear, ate with dust
tongue a blade, everything and I could burst
ran for miles in bared teeth
so she and I could meet.
Come in this year, find a seat
a blessing cup. On the fire there is meat.
Poet Gavin Barrett is a Canadian immigrant poet of colour, born in Bombay (now Mumbai) to Anglo-Indian and Goan-East-African parents. He is the author of Understan (Mawenzi House, 2020), a CBC Books recommendation, and co-curator of The Tartan Turban Secret Readings, a literary reading series that promotes IBPOC voices in Canadian literature.
The poems that follow are powerful evidence that Poetry Speaks Back to Hunger!