Purvi Shah


Loafe with me on the grass . . . . loose the stop from your throat,
Not words, not music or rhyme I want . . . . not custom or lecture, not even the best,
Only the lull I like, the hum of your valved voice.
— Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Before there were sprouts, there grew absence:
visions of the barren road ahead, pockets of grass.
Somewhere along the journey, a song
was lost within a song.
Across distance what is tangible? My hair brushes
my face, the wind brushes the grass, you brush
against air, music rubs against silence.
How does it feel to hold
a blade, to run palm across
a face, to lift a downturned hand
and run the thumb up from soil to throat,
the passage of songburst?
You give me a container, tell me to raise
the grass from tin. The container asserts
a 78 to 80% guarantee of growth. The recipe list
is succinct: sun, soil, water – routine – and yet where this grows, no one
can be sure. My morning journey
is walking from bed to window, cupping
the tin, sprinkling over with dashes
of water. Repeat
in the evening before bed.
The shoots grow quick – it shocks us all.
I wonder: what costs more, love or its expression?
Of so much I am unsure: can you sing
at night’s edge and lift a stranger’s heart?
Can you peer through thunder without drawing
the gaze of light? When you walk through mist,
can you climb over trees and see the stretch of bliss?
When you crack open a shell, do you discover
a heart or a mock window, the reflection of one’s imagination?
Shoots wither, but can hearts survive human errors or dry heat?
Can song turn hay to gold?
Between us we share the grass: it stretches
across the land, an overground railroad,
one that the ghost of Harriet Tubman would wade
beyond, pulling others in her quest.
Your voice stretches as a verdant blanket but where do I catch the hum within?
In my slumber, I imagine we press
against the grass and you sing
out the constellations: broken sparrow’s
wing, centipede sporting new sneakers,
zebra deported by authorities, wandering
far from home.
When one looks at an individual piece of grass, you can see the inside
of a face, the moistness of transformation.
I spy the first picture: smiling, you and me. On second glance,
more accurate: not quite you, not quite me. How is it
that a face can look like two, that Janus can show both
manifestations and neither can show the song inside the song,
the voice inside the clamor? With the face, and with the heart,
there is no guarantee.
Desire is a slow simmer. Who is to say where it brims?
You are not yet curious how the finger feels
when it traces an arch of a foot – route of lips
journeying over sea-stung brows.
A bed, a backbone.
When they ask me how, I would say entranced
by song.
When you ask me what I seek, I list:
the hum of the hidden heart, the one
that bursts beneath the beaten breast
to connect the song from throat to heart, valve to valve
not the copy, the plagiarism – but the throb within the core
not language but a sonic string: timid, trepidation,
murmur, restless, rustle, rupture, grass,

Purvi Shah
“Songburst” is from Terrain Tracks (New Rivers Press, 2006).