By Zubair Ahmed
McSweeney’s Books, $20.00, 75 pages
Most poems in the handsome, slim hardbound book City of Rivers by Zubair Ahmed are short. What is the point of reading a poem? To see ourselves and our feelings written into a landscape, to overcome stagnation with motion no matter the situation. Ahmed mingles his internal and external worlds, mainly in a process of decay. He draws us in to the often dreary but hopeful world of shades and hues, lines and creatures, and lots of kin. We all have the idea of homeland, or were once at home with an idea that we recognize is past, gone. Shall we chase the line, chase the belief?
“I Once Believed I was a Man of Science” by Zubair Ahmed
Were do you think such beliefs go
After they’re abandoned?
The line I drew
Has become a horse
In some other world.
A gray horse
The exact shade of my grandfather’s hair.
Reading City of Rivers allows the reader to chase or stand alongside the poet, even in the first person singular – with one exception in this book, Ahmed always uses “I” or “We.” This choice lends youthfulness to settings that are otherwise ragged or eternal. Sometimes the narrator is a shell and sometimes a vessel, but always an observer of details wherever he is at the moment: “I could sit here all night,/and chances are I will.”
Reviewed by Sarah Alibabaie