Mudlark Poster No. 111 (2013)

Six Soraya Sonnets
by Anis Shivani

Author’s Note: These sonnets are part of a recently completed book of 100 sonnets by the same title. Soraya is an experiment in the baroque possibilities of language, juxtaposing the archaic and the techno-contemporary in the same sonnet, counterposing Eastern and Western terms of reference, mashing together scientific and medieval worldviews to observe the sweet confusion of unforeseen competition. I see the book as an attempt to explode the rhetoric of poetry in its many disguises, conspiring against it at every technical level in order to see what is forcefully ejected during the controlled demolition. I wanted Soraya to be a statement about the degree to which excess is underestimated as a factor in aesthetic beauty, how excess can escalate vocabulary to a level of articulate comprehension that moderation and balance and restraint actually seem to hinder. In Soraya I wanted to let the dynamics of baroque sound push me toward an awakening of positive historical sensibility, as I tried to expose the ways in which surrealism keeps betraying its anchoring in the revolutionary future.


Novena inferno, Soraya, pessimism bound
in linguistics’ lingam style, incunabulum
overlaid with blocks of Serb program code,
reed organs reeking of cancerous reflexes,
while the ronds de jambe our Rontgen new-
borns perform to livid Roman candles awake
tetralogies of higher criticism: Dada, daddy
dactyls, Daedalus’s volcanic dab hands.
Dacha in Dachau, Soraya, the experimental
four hundred migrating to the forty-ninth
parallel, loaded with founder effects, jolies
ladies speaking Ladino to knock me up,
while the mahdis of mahayana mail-bomb
paralegals inhabiting hippy dippy paradors.


The day you tricked out my big garden of
primate marigolds, Soraya, prime mover 
among pricks and eyelids, your priestcraft
like the inductors of Indore, I, combat-
fatigued, broadbrushed britzka seating
broken arrows and the tenants of Bronte,
announced the brotherhood of dorados, doting upon dormouse douanes.
Max passed the ball back at the coffee
klatch, Soraya, look-alike to St. Bernards,
sake in hired porcelain, exoskeletons
worthy as exit polls, ex libris Cosimo de
Medici, Cecil B. de Mille, Bette Davis,
all who hindered the Hindenburg Line.


Strange full-mouthed ladies tweet Fulani
to destroy the Mata Hari fulcrum, Soraya, 
full employment ever the fugato of bores,
punji sticks killing novice homosexual
punks required to observe purist purda,
while pundits of the Punic Wars exert
their fortunes in Sedona’s sepoy mutiny,
seraglios draped in stations of the cross.
Serape you wear, Soraya, buttoning your
lips, nets ayurvedic Ayeshas whose 
axis of pain in the afterlife is illegal 
even on the left bank. Left-footed legatees
embark on jelly phaetons toward petting 
zoos, play dates with platinum blondes.


Chauffeuse, vetchling, chatelaine in the
baggage check area, your castanets ring,
Soraya, like Cassius during assassination. 
I cast lots with your mind’s routers, bow-
sprit slowing the vessel down, bacchant
who invaded Babur from Oxus to Patna,
those arrhythmic arrière pensée you know
like the arthroscope recently in my preen
gland. Ventricals formed in Venn diagrams,
or cerclage binding Cerberus to centrist 
historiography, hodiernal hobbyists in 
hobble skirts, ourselves, Soraya, halving
the other half, otaku hiding in the house,
Oudh’s oubliettes rained out for readers.


Cortes, whose coruscant cortex cosmographs
denote fiercely among the Comanche, come 
down from the combustion chamber, Soraya 
awaits with caffe latte, caftans from Cairo, 
PTA abiding by Parkinson’s law, parfait 
approved by communal parishad. Parergon 
roles misconduct Valkyries toward valets
curtsying to bring down the curtain on trans-
lation. Bon voyage, Soraya, bonesetter
to the booboisie, gather your bonobos to 
match the small purse: Arabists, like turista,
involving hot air or steam, tunnel visioned,
my thirty-one day zip codes to the zodiac,
jumping through downloaded dove trees. 


Farouche dream, farthingale around mungo,
dream of fartlek disabling the dash of fasces, 
Soraya, peyote buttons fall in love with your 
stepson, leaving behind black swan letters: 
phallic pews, Petrarchan weeknights, chirpy 
chlamydia, bezique bhangra, road-worthy 
jury, we recently scored the genre’s first hit.
(Our kairos needs Karbala in kangaroo courts.)
Childproof cove, blank check when we cherish
chevaliers brittle like Broca’s area, or band
of aphasia, Soraya unmake us, nihilist nikah 
nonexistent. Nil desperandum! The nineteenth
hole in Nineveh flowers in late October, like
daisies fluffy for white clouds in flugelhorns.

Anis Shivani’s debut book of poetry, My Tranquil War and Other Poems, has recently been published by NYQ Books. His second story collection, The Fifth Lash and Other Stories, is just out from C&R Press, and his novel Karachi Raj is forthcoming in October 2013. His other books include Anatolia and Other Stories (2009) and Against the Workshop (2011). Currently he is working on a new poetry book called Empire, a novel called Abruzzi, 1936, and a new book of criticism called Plastic Realism: Neoliberal Discourse in the New American Novel. His work appears in Southwest Review, Boston Review, Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, Agni, Epoch, Fence, Boulevard, Pleiades, Denver Quarterly, Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Antioch Review, Harvard Review, Subtropics, Colorado Review, Quarterly West, and many other journals.

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