Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 8: Kat Zemmel

Today's Poem is by Kat Zemmel:

Dushanbe: Return After Exodus

When I asked my father to
tell me his story, he could
only express it in third person.

Arriving in the city, he noted
difference of air—pressure
smell, viscosity, how air poured
into lungs, filled body, thoughts,
the very rhythm of life. He was
unsure if the air was more humid,
or dust-filled—too solid for 500
meters above sea level.
Sounds easily reflected from buildings
and asphalt cracked from heat.

Three years after exodus, he returned
to obtain passports for our family,
compulsory tickets to safety.


Lucretius believed in free-will
swerve of atoms as they fall,
fortuitous impact of the unseen;
he thought that contact
coerced everything into being.
Atom, with its nucleus
inciting motion; human heart
signaling mind, mind—limbs,
limbs moving in air, and air
adjusting to movement—maybe
then, then it was that much easier
to breathe, not when despair
subsumed my father, thrust him into
the tides of air from a derelict city.

He spoke of breathing: back and forth
of being filled and empty;
the city crouched in his mind
like a peach-stone in pocket—
grooved token of sweetness.
Our former home, a twelve-story
sarcophagus. He saw the pissed-in elevator,
smashed stairs, familiar floor-plan:
room facing east where daily
I had woken to dust-swirls,
sturdy sunlight, when I opened curtains
to squint at a new day.


Kat Zemmel was born in Tajikistan, which her family had to flee in 1990 due to increasing civil unrest. After failing to receive permission to live in Belarus, they were helped by missionaries, and moved to the United States.

Her writing attempts to reconcile the political, temporal, and geographical divides between her childhood and present residence. She is currently a graduate student at the University of Tennessee, working to attain a master's degree in literature with a focus in creative writing.

I thank her sincerely for participating in the Tattooed Poets Project project. See one of Kat's tattoos and read about it over on Tattoosday.

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