Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Poetry’s Lament

For Zardasht Osman


Who has died?

Not from the sharp angles of my succinct metaphors
nor the poisonous shimmering of my images.

But from the brutal blade of silver
slicing through muscle.

A copper-nickel bullet plowing its path,
piercing the pulmonary.

A white-knuckled fist wrenching
fragile flesh.

Violence is not metaphorical or lyrical.

There is no song to it,
no rhyme nor clever meter.

Only the low guttural groan of sudden
grief, then howling a keening loss.

Violence speaks its own language
babbling nonsense to the living.


Who has died but from my absence?

From a failure to connect
words to the act of living,
to connect living with meaning.

In Northern Iraq, a man is murdered
for writing
a poem.

What stitched his heart to rhythm?
What rhyme rasped from his throat’s final breath?

Surely not regret for sense and sound
but perhaps a lament for the empty
hands sweeping over the burning
sands. Perhaps a sighing for his kin
before he took flight over his homeland.


I have lived on lips,
died on tongues.

My words wend through speaking
breath—inhaling, exhaling the desire
to be heard, sounding out the syllables
of living, blocking out grief’s moan.

I cannot stop gruesome death,
only speak of it.

And poet’s die,
not from my melodies
or tenor, but
from my lack.

©Ami Mattison

Flickr photo courtesy of e3000


  1. Lots to like in this, Ami, beginning with sounds (alliteration, assonance, consonance) and those utterly realistic images ("silver/slicing through muscle", "copper-nickel bullet plowing its path", "white-knuckled fist") that lead into that wonderful line "Violence is not metaphorical or lyrical." I like particularly "What stitched his heart to rhythm?" and "I have lived on lips,/died on tongues".
    Would enjoy seeing you perform this!

  2. wow. i think as poets we have to use the voice we have been given for to be silent we might as well be dead.

  3. this is beautifully sure and lyrical. I think my favorite of yours thus far, although the power of your voice comes through so consistently. xxj

  4. wow ami - this was amazing...I have lived on lips,
    died on tongues... wow - would love to hear you read this

  5. Interesting point you make about the futility of poetry as enough, yet the need for it anyway. And if there is no power to it, why must someone die for writing a poem? Thoughtful and thought-provoking piece.

  6. My words wend through speaking
    breath—inhaling, exhaling the desire
    to be heard, sounding out the syllables
    of living, blocking out grief’s moan.

    Including the first part of the poem, these lines are my favourite. Amazing work Ami. Perhaps you should have an audio link for your poems. I would love hear you read them...

  7. Exemplary use of spartan line breaks, mood, word choice. Perfect.

  8. Dear Amy Mattison

    What a wonderful poetry.. and your words like ...
    'I have lived on lips,
    died on tongues.'
    ... makes it more enjoyable and unique. I liked it so much... and as you say, "poets die... for the lack of it" Perfect. I enjoyed it very much...
    Thanks for sharing..

    ॐ नमः शिवाय
    Om Namah Shivaya