After listening to a BBC interview with Imtiaz Dharker in February, I ordered her latest book. The poet read several poems from Leaving Fingerprints, including “Spire.” I love how it builds a metaphor for poetry and breath itself. Dharker describes herself as a “cultural mongrel” – “a Scottish Muslim Calvinist, brought up in a Lahori household in Glasgow.” She says poetry is a moment “when everything else falls away.”
Spire by Imtiaz Dharker
Start with mud. Move it,
excavate with any tools you have,
trowel, spade, hands, fingernails.
Then find stone, dynamite it
out of the quarry, hack or chisel
patiently. Pull it all
on carts and creaking wheels,
drag it down dirt tracks and trails
or haul it on trucks
over miles of highway.
Axe on wood, hammer, nails,
the measured thud of taking,
This is how, in a minute calculation
of inches and angles, you let the spire
break through to upper air.
This is how you teach stone to lift
its head to the sky.
This is how, out of clumsy earth,
with daily labour, you set free whatever
it is that you call god.
This is how you draw your human breath
in one pure line across an empty page.
Read/listen to more of her poetry.