Purvi Shah's Terrain Tracks

I just finished off Purvi Shah's book of poetry Terrain Tracks this morning.



I love the title of this collection with its "t" and "r" sounds, rough, and its play with the idea of trains, terrains, and tracks. As it suggests, the poems trace out metaphors of travel, transportation (including trains), geographies, and landscapes in addition to other things. Flowers and the female body are central figures in many poems as well. The natural world, in particular the weather and rains, pervades the lives of the people. The poems are largely lyrical and focused on moments of poetic transformation -- where mundane or extraordinary things take on the special quality of language. The poems often overlap -- make palimpsests of -- worlds in India and in the United States. For example, a summer storms in NYC echo monsoons or days spent in a Brooklyn park take on memories of time spent in India.

Here is one of my favorites:

If Pandora had patience

Your birthday gift comes late
by three weeks and four days.
The clear Mason jar contains
crystal water, a single aspen
leaf, brown, suspended from
decay. The iron clasps beckon
rotation. I nearly break
the seal, but read
your scribbles first. You offer

me reason: I wanted water
from a storm
. The weather
may have relent to comply, yet
our relationship isn't flowered
from storms, the wild thunder
of electric outburst, the drenched
passion that paralyzes all other desires, sustains
merely a short while. Our love

is a little quieter, all adoration,
a land where it keeps drizzle, so much
so it goes unabsorbed. Don't I want
to consume this? Yes
-- I swallow;
hesitant, the leaf floating
in the jar, contained, the deepest
part of you. My hands circle its outside,
grasping. The distended fingers frame
an image of me through
your eyes, part mirror, pure distortion.

The taste of water lies untouched,
a lone leaf lingering in a glass sea.


(Full disclosure: Purvi Shah is a friend of mine.)
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