African Writers’ Corner
Overheard Over S.E. Asia
Shailja Patel and Denise Levertov
2009-01-15, Issue 415
Drawing parallels with Israel’s current action in Gaza, Shailja Patel introduces the poem Overheard Over S.E. Asia by the British poet Denise Levertov. Published in her 1972 collection entitled Footprints, Levertov’s poem concerns the US’s use of white phosphorus during the Vietnam war.
"White phosphorus, white phosphorus,
where are you falling?"
"I am falling impartially on roads and roofs,
on bamboo thickets, on people.
My name recalls rich seas on rainy nights,
each drop that hits the surface eliciting
luminous response from a million algae.
My name is a whisper of sequins. Ha!
Each of them is a disk of fire,
I am the snow that burns.
wherever men send me to fall–
but I prefer flesh, so smooth, so dense:
I decorate it in black, and seek
* Denise Levertov was a British poet strongly opposed to the Vietnam war.
* Shailja Patel is a Kenyan poet, playwright and theatre artist, whose blog can be found here.
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