Lent 20: Psoriasis

The cover of Sarah Maguire’s fourth collection, The Pomegranates of Kandahar, is striking: a collection of explosive devices at what I assume is a young boy’s feet. The titular Kandahar is the second largest city in Afghanistan, once the famous producer of the largest pomegranates grown anywhere in the world, more recently associated with Al-Qaida, land mines in place of fruits. It is this image, and the similarity of the pomegranate to a bomb, that inspires the poem ‘The Pomegranates of Kandahar’.

Maguire’s third collection was called The Florist’s at Midnight, and she edited Flora Poetica: The Chatto Book of Botanical Verse, both of which indicate we’re in for more of that nature malarkey – but luckily for me, while flowers reappear in this collection (“Here, even in winter, the hibiscus blooms burn, / scarlet, cerise, tangerine”)

As the only (living) English-language poet (as at Summer 2007 at least!) with a book in print in Arabic, you would rightly expect there to be much of an influence in her poetry from that part of the world. You won’t be disappointed – even when the poem is physically set in London, she’s dreaming of “whole, bitter, baby brinjal, curried with dahl, / and disks, dusted with spices, grilled al-sudani. There is much here of travel, all over the world.

The poem I’m sharing, though, is much more domestic (to me, anyway – I guess it’s actually fairly universal).

     Psoriasis

     If a red rose lies at the heart of me,
     it cannot bloom.

     Speechless, unknown –
     but for this roseate

     plague on my knuckles
     and knees,

     shedding its bastard pollen
     in my sheets;

     colourless,
     the wrong pain.

See the intro/roundup.

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