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The Dirt Will Wash Us Clean: Poems by Hari Alluri

‘We do not want to hover like a line of fog, a river’s shadow, but slower: shadows in conversation, gentle only when we don’t bother expecting to be heard.’

By Hari Alluri


A Pavement Sweeper’s Quarry



This street is a moneylender’s duty crowned in smoke. And skin
remembers to cherish its own noise. The creaking earth might be a
thing to hear.

Avoid the knees of things, I say, they kick.


Here, on the morning ride to work, I’m jealous at the trolley doors:
they get to yawn. I would say the city is only mouth if it didn’t hear:
we want to stay.

And here, we bury the summer of ourselves—in traffic jam. A single
glance at rearview, and headlights gawk for hours, a headlight

We do not want to hover like a line of fog, a river’s shadow, but
slower: shadows in conversation, gentle only when we don’t bother
expecting to be heard.


Let me tell you of the gentleness my aspirations keep me from.
I want to reminisce how my sister called the dryer fighting fighting,
but it always ends with the labour of folding. We’re all of us mules
for history, loading it on our backs. History, that merchant of itself.
That clothing dryer.


Stay. Marrow me. Marrow what I am, skin too. The bones of my
speech hide me from the meat my teeth have stripped.

Whatever is hungry to be eaten, offer a dustpan’s life.

Meanwhile, our daily waste: stipend to a rat. Succulent evergreen
deciduous grass: we harvest. To earth, we give the dignity of the
stepped-upon. We want to stay. To airsong, we give flinch—

No Language

can ever be enough, I say, only the dirt
will wash us clean. The way it must sound.
And I cling to the languages, the dirt, I’ve lost
with the one that clings to me.


I speak rock I speak cemetery fossil speak runaway I speak idling
land I speak imperfect pool game sex on the beach in kitchen at
movies on the floor in flight raccoons in the basement speak elbow
work to free from a cast iron skillet kleenex pushing toes apart
nailpolish toppling those insects who walk on water super soaker
ceremony discord lucha libre speak manifesto speak guilt speak filth
steel girder fly trap onilé capsfull of one-fifty-one speak
peaty scotch imbibe a slurp of cola fur pelts and sneering watches
orthodox speak rendition om nama shit sun all of them joined
at the same speech in the silence dirt bahala na surrendering silence.


But your combination of treble
and consonant engages the start of my blood
into blood—a turn on image into image—
seduction by image. We haven’t always gilded
like this. Regardless.
We cling to the languages we’ve lost the ones that cling to we.

“No Language” was originally published in The Flayed City out from Kaya Press in March 2017, and is reprinted here with permission from the publisher.