This past October I participated in Dead Poets Remembrance Day, an annual reading series organized by Walter Skold of Dedgar.org. Walter is on a mission to host tribute readings at all the graves of notable poets in the U.S. He is working on a documentary that will incorporate video of these readings and other anecdotes of the poets’ lives.
I live across the street from a historic cemetery where Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali is buried. Ali, who was a beloved professor at U Mass Amherst, introduced American writers to the classical Indo-Islamic poetic form known as the ghazal. On the afternoon of my reading, there was a torrential rainstorm, which was the perfect (if noisy) backdrop for two poems from Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals: “Even the Rain” and “After You”.
We are left mute and so much is left unnamed after you–
No one is left in this world to be blamed after you.
Someone has disappeared after christening Bertha–
Shahid, will a hurricane ever be named after you?
Now from Miami to Boston Bertha is breaking her bones–
I find her in the parking lot. She says, “I’m blamed after you.”
The Deluge would happen–it was claimed–after you
But the world did go on, unashamed, after you
ANDREW BERTHA CHARLES DAVID ELLA FLOYD GEORGE
but S comes so late in the alphabet that although
SHAHID DEVASTATES FLORIDA is your dream headline,
no hurricane will ever be named after you.