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2022 Miriam Rachimi Micro Chapbook Prize

Second Place Winner
"Extracting Epipihany" 
by Gurupeet K. Khalsa

I Take It Upon Myself


I shape my hands to mudras,

stroke the celestial theremin,

make music of serenity,

pacify false and frenzied warnings.

My threads are anchored. I will not

fly off into misalignment, nor 

grate against the grain of time.

I have called down the powers 

to brush my lips

with the sweet jam 

of days to come.


Temporary, a tap, like the clicked toe

of Fred Astaire, or a not-quite-

blind woman’s cane checking for smoothness,

direction. Resistance and retraction;

alternate tunnel: which 

will be fruitful?

The alternative, to hunch in place,

wait for a string, perhaps miraculous,

perhaps by design, to come snaking 

through a fractured future burrow,

to snag and pull, beckon,

or a tone, a light, a sign, a song.


We shape ourselves into an embrace

to travel the days:

trees will still leaf tomorrow,

birds will still trill tomorrow,

rain will come and the sun,

that flatfooted plodder,

calming the revenants,

will tread its rounds,

shining on best and worst

without judgment.

At the edge of perception

a spring daffodil presses up

through the warm earth.



Candle Flame on a Windless Plain

A Gigan          


Drifting sideways, flopping in pools, dropped or bowed by awe,

seeing and holding breaks down, enforcing entropy;


God the sophisticated data miner tracking spending –

slot machine cost: three stars like coins from a groove,

a channel, and the door opening to somewhere else.


To somewhere else: astonished illumination on its side

refusing to straighten like a bright sunburst


until all lines head down mountains,

stretched beyond concave and drooping,


whistling ahead of thought point and still shifting;

drifting sideways, flopping in pools, dropped or bowed by awe,


to somewhere else: astonished illumination on its side

more a galaxy: a brilliant pinpoint pings in synapse,

reminiscing to bud through laser-beam shooting stars,


part of song and flower, to calibrate, converge,

extracting epiphany, a small flame in infinite darkness.



Like Dusty Treasures in a Pawn Shop


lost hopes

relics wrested from remembrance

shards of shattered

raw centuries


a braver question

sticks in recalcitrant throat

eliciting hasty detachment

from bitter challenges


necessary ingredients

of every fortune

stubborn messages

rescued from rubbish


like cracking open

drab geodes

to find brilliant

illumination


folded light delivering

inevitability of truth

refracted off jagged

beginning boundaries



All I See and Know, Suspended


Because all I see and know I believe to have its main purport in what will yet be supplied.” 

 --Walt Whitman, Thoughts


But who can tell when we escape/ from life and death?”

--Ch’Ang Yu, A Ringing Bell (c. 810), tr. Kenneth Rexroth


A Gigan


As I walk into my center,

folding back each layer of meaning


drums my rhythm, fires my heartbeat

where the core emits its bonfire,

unborn particles of starfire:


there its treasures, golden fibers

circling each to each, electric


consciousness of dual electrons,

all I see and know, electric


intersecting, smoldering, sparking

as I walk into my center:


there its treasures, golden fibers

living inside scriptures, nimbus

blazes in my soul’s long journey.


Time recedes amidst the firing

and the path continues inward.



A Tendril Hangs from the Sky


A wasp buzzes against a window, caught in repeated

anxious and futile hope for release;

a possum startles when I pass, innocent eyes alarmed.

I tell him, “Be at peace, my friend,”

and ask, “Where goes the path?”


Wandering in confusion, deluded by doubt,

missing ciphers in waterfalls of clanging chaos,

helpless panic as anchors break loose,

broken coils of burden collapsing

with nothing to attach to: star stuff, god stuff,

an intercessor, a sign, a sigh, a hero.


An old man with clouded eyes,

clutching a sad stained cushion, remarks,

“Those days are gone and it is foolish

to wish otherwise.”


A tendril dangles from pink-tinted sunrise,

the world painted with impressionist daubs.

I take a running leap, catch it in electric grip,

kick off to glide above white tigers

padding in silence through trackless woods.


I swing back across oceans with surface sapphires

and diamonds, swish my toes in silky waves,

a glimmering moment caught in my throat,

a brush of silk against my breast,

softest song wraps me in its wish,

mockingbird warbling tomorrow’s assurance.



Ode to Going and Coming Without Error

(I Ching, 24th hexagram)


Decision looms when change is imminent:

the breath of karma hissing subtle shade

as you elect to reach, or stay, such trade

to guess what error grows, although well-meant.


When you decide that steps cannot retrace

a dead-end path, you lift your brow in quest

to seek forgiveness; error stays, compressed

in crystal cave that shelters sin, some place


not in the book, inglorious plunge, a drop

beyond the edge of time. Return, to reach

the powerful light that comes when you beseech

the mind of heaven and earth, no cause to stop


as you decide to lift your wings and bend

into the storm, no need for sorrow; know

that peace is possible in evening’s glow.

Imagine how your lengthy road will end.



My Life is Tight, Controlled


until I attempt to fold a fitted sheet at which time

the metaphor for a disheveled existence –

pandemics,

war,

buried under snow,

washed away in floods,

scorched forests,

seasons askew,

hospitals full –

speaks with authority:


wrinkled bubbles of fabric, of light and time,

leak out between folds, surrender to lumpy

preposterousness.


Ah world, what lessons you prepare for us.


In escalation, a bit of icy fog burrows

under my eyelids; iridescent landscapes

bloom behind withered stumps of time

as the world deconstructs into fail after fail.


Yet in limpid stillness, Amaterasu smiles,

Usha raises her orange head above the horizon:

dark imperfection of impermeable truths

relegated to far pastures while a horse

(he is horses)

gallops in joyous abandon across waves of prairie;

a temple beckons, a blue breeze appeases.


I inhale, clench the cloth of the moment

fixed against unraveling,

and with careful intent

form a symmetrical bundle

to lay precise in its cupboard.


14Mary Oliver, Starlings in Winter

17T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

19Shinto goddess of the sun

20Dawn goddess of Vedic pantheon



Isabel Dances the Lace


I heard today our universe is a neural network.

I could have told you this: I knew it

long ago when the pink

sunrise lit upon the filament of a lady

spider, among the scent of apples.

That’s what God is, of course: Isabel in her pink

leotard and little bowed ballet shoes

dances sugar plums, while the lady

in a flowered hat, perhaps my

grandmother, perhaps not, brings

pies made of apples.

You thought maybe the filament wasn’t you,

or you forgot our house on the hill,

a tree laden with pink lady apples.



A Gouging of Memory


Black-winged night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of darkness.”

Aristophanes, The Birds


My freckled fingers press upon your days,

my thumb gouging a hole in memory

as the earth whacks me away with a fierce wind


like swatting a mosquito drilling into skin.

Thunder spools in the distance, acorns drop

on the metal roof in disjointed syncopation,


inner ear collecting round balloons of sound,

sending them like boulders

bludgeoning into neurons,


crashing contents of mind cabinets

into rudely glistening fragments

scattered in unrecognizable unpatterns.


A soft blanket, fogged, white,

smothering weight bears down

on the electricity of thought,


muffling spaces, suffocating laser vision,

clouding flow of words, deepening mind

crevasses, stuffing cottony wads into fissures.


A slow panic builds, arms wave,

frantic to capture popping bubbles;

iridescence flattens into oily puddles.


A breath: I wrap you in a patterned quilt,

a shimmer of stars spins, remembering our eons,

cleaving to recollection in twisted galaxies.



A Thousand Firecrackers Pop and Sizzle

An Oulipo Poem


I

am

my own

personal magnetar, torqued

grid of shuddering ley lines:

magnetism, a subterranean pull through ancient buried tomes.

Tell me, what is the nature of attraction, such secrets of which performed

with sudden emphasis, sforzando, dizzying an arithmetical memory,

settle into jagged topography, occupants

changing sparked shadows,

illuminating possibility

set

afire.