Monsoon on the Fingers of God by Sasenarine Persaud
Toronto, Ontario. Mawenzi House. 2018. 112 pages.
Reading Sasenarine Persaud’s newest collection, Monsoon on the Fingers of God, is like stepping inside a clock and running a thumb along each gear and dial in order to better understand time. These poems open with tenderness, as petals unfurl after rain—a rain that finds the speaker everywhere, from Hadrian’s Wall to the internet, gathering pieces of myth and history from all corners of the world to stage an inquiry into identity, language, and empire.
With the 2014 Scottish Referendum as an impetus, Persaud calls upon both Lord and Lady Macbeth alongside “SheshaNarayana / serpent god and serpent king kundalini / keeper and guardian,” finding common ground within the fraught history between India and England, Scotland and England:
We will never make it to India, you
we are different—our heart is painted
and yours Britannic, our liver Scoti,
we know the bile of a thousand years.
dreaming of Mecca—except when
we touch arms
and our eyes sing: never let me go,
never let me go.
Readers never know, leaping from one poem to the next, in which century they might end up, speaking what language in what poetic form, to whose deity. Yet what prevails in each moment is the tenderness that is Persaud’s perspective, whether writing about the invention of the airplane as connected to 9/11 or remembering nameless women in the killing fields of Sri Lanka. Persaud somehow balances righteous anger with grief and heartbreak in each poem, dodging deftly from era to era to demonstrate just how closely history repeats itself. After reading this book, readers will not return to their own cities in their own present moments unchanged. “Even with a stone, or a broken tusk dipped in blood / would we still ink our names on an inch of eternity.”
Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello