Poetry - Issue 14 | February 2012

Two poems by Ken Turner


Crossing the Border Near Lahore

It’s the absence of sound that startles.
Punjabi blackbirds chatter like jackals
but even they fall silent at this gap,
the only way to get there from here
unless by air, like the phantoms
that flicker on a million TV screens
or the missiles scudding
through thin Kashmiri clouds.

The birds must know
the history of this place, red
weddings and henna, the common
fields of mustard and wheat, how lines
penciled on drawing-room maps
surgically severed
what once was shared earth.
How rivers clogged, the villages darkened with smoke
as ghost trains groaned through the border
leaking their loads on the rails.

Years on, decades, and still a shudder:
our palates dry as this earth,
our battered luggage disarmed. Other lines
come to mind, other passages—Berlin,
Mason-Dixon, the bright beaches
of Haifa—places once rinsed
in animal sweat, where fear
swelled like a corpse in the sun.

The roads to this place ran hot that summer.
The customs hall is cool and empty now
in a time of no traffic. It smells
of disinfectant. We exit under scrutiny,
crows dark as bruises huddled in the trees.

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About the author

Ken Turner has been working, writing, and running overseas for eighteen years. He has taught in Congo, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Venezuela, and currently, China. Memorable runs include ones along the Nile in Cairo, through a market in Luang Prabang, and away from a mob of protesters in Abidjan. You can find his poetry in Atlanta Review, Fine Madness, Southern Poetry Review, and several anthologies.

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