Today’s Throwback Thursday pick is, “Josiah", a poem from Dilruba Ahmed. The poem was originally published in issue 291.2, Spring 2006. The poem was an honorable mention in the James Hearst Poetry Prize. She has revised the poem since the publication and would like us to share the new version which appears in her collection, Dhaka Dust.
Notes from the author: While living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I heard from an old friend back on the East Coast who had suffered a devastating loss. As I wrote “Josiah,” I struggled to convey how tenuous our relationships can be during our lifetimes, and how many of us seem to be haunted by other lives or other possibilities. I also wanted, I suppose, to express how grief has the capacity to both separate people and unite them. This poem arose from my attempt to understand and ease my friend’s suffering, when truly, no words, explanation, or gestures seemed adequate. The poem comes to a close with a deep desire for some way to make meaning of loss—a wish to understand whether and how the afterlife, if it exists, can provide comfort for the dead and their grieving loved ones.
Didn’t want to see his tiny body,
the perfect pearls of toes, but
you needed to reveal the photo,
to say he was mine. I carry him
with me now as I watch a couple
walk in the rain, how the man pinches
loose cloth at her elbow, not holding
her hand, or when a boy sits
at the next table, his reflection in the glass
so solid and resolute that
for long moments I cannot place
him, neither here under lamps with
a mug of steam, nor there on the street
where teenagers walk
through him, spinning their umbrellas,
the dome of town hall
a painted egg, muted shades of blue
and gold. Tulips, wet newspaper,
school kids with cell phones.
Now that he’s gone
I want to believe in a place
of light, fat fists
to hold him beyond
the tooth of his
gravestone, where dogwood
trees will soon turn
to snow, handfuls of white
petals framed by the window.
— Dilruba Ahmed, revised version , Dhaka Dust collection.
Illustrations by Clay Rodery, an illustrator who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Clay’s illustrations have been featured in the North American Review, the most recent was in our bicentennial issue 300.3, Summer 2015 which is shown above.