One of the most pervasive images of acrobatic ability is of trapeze artists dangling from the crossbar, leaping and shining through the air, and eventually landing gracefully on a parallel crossbar. To train the body to perform such death-defying acts must batter the muscles, sinews, and bones of the artists. Such endurance is honed for those few moments of perfect grace and agility: when the hands connect to something solid and the crowd is on their feet. Nabaneeta Dev Sen’s poetry in Acrobat, available now from Archipelago Books, has that same leaping energy and agility in its imagination which demands not only the reader’s attention, but earns it.
Marco awoke with a muddled gasp. He was on his feet, midway between his study and the bedroom. The hall was dark, his throat dry. He put a hand against the wall and waited for the debilitating confusion to fade. Thankful he hadn’t tumbled down the stairwell, he plodded to the bathroom for a drink from the tap and slid back into bed beside Connie. He rubbed his eyes and was asleep within minutes.
Words show nothing. Out of nothing
Come the wondrous things.
Words are light, in the beginning:
There is awe in the silence of light.
Commune, at night, with your heart upon your bed,
And be still. Out of darkness
Come the wondrous things
Ex nihilo, out of the space
Of the slightly smiling expression
On the face of light.
Ironies of something
And nothing, goodness transforming,
That its joy may be made complete:
Acta Victoriana stands in solidarity with Palestine.
We’re all little people down here,
don’t pray with our hands.
Four-legged at the beginning/
you’re a winged-thing aren’t you?
Still scared of the dark,
we sleep under the sheets.
Father’s climbing up the ladder.
Nick the art kid
Who introduced me to whorehouses and cocaine
Showed me that hedonism was a sinless path
That pleasure was the only true pleasure
And that we live inside a dream
They mean climb the foothills of your hometown. The tallest one, where some teenage boys stuck one of their mothers gardening sticks into the summit, a torn jersey as a flag.
Sit there, dry mouthed, and think of the only boy who has made you feel safe, a kid who was always ashamed of the children around him, and himself.
I watch you Suzanne, in ways—with such depth—you will never know. Standing here, toes bare and soles blackened by the highway side with our thumbs pointing to the sun, I watch you. Inches away is your hair and its subtle mixture of ash and lilac sails into my nose. Step back Suzanne. Let your hips melt with mine as we watch the oncoming afternoon motorcade. Let your muted yellow poncho—which never ceases to render you angelic—scratch my skin. Gain an extra inch by standing upon my feet and add to our hope of hailing down a passerby; if you do, I’ll lace my hand within the pocket of your bellbottom jeans, holding you close. I’ll wait with you at this highway side until we reach our destination. I’ll wait; and sail and hold you close and feel your poncho scratch me; even if a thousand stars die before we make it. Suzanne, I watch you in ways, with such depth, I’ve never known before.
“I’m not lonely, baby, I am free,” sings Hayley Williams on her debut solo album, Petals for Armor, and her relief is palpable as she hums, “Finally.” She is singing of her home and of finding peace in her daily routines, which has taken on a new meaning since the pandemic has turned our homes into workplaces, classrooms, and the site of most of our everyday activity. Williams is known best as the lead singer of the American band Paramore, which has released five studio albums since 2005, but it took Williams until 2020 for her to strike out on her own (even as she reassured fans that her solo album did not spell the end for Paramore). It’s not that Paramore has ever held her back artistically; it is simply that now, Williams embraces the opportunity to dive into a narrative that is identifiably her own.