Leaving Fingerprints

I know this frosted landscape
better than it knows itself, its layers
a busy clock of history, still ticking.

Under my feet I feel the trail of the slug,
the snail, the earth’s deep squirm
around an anklet or an amulet, a broken cup.

Lost, the names of the ones
whose fingers made and used
and threw away these things,

written and rewritten in the calligraphy
of roots. The worm’s heave
and turn delivers messages up,

scribbled in folds of soil and mud, afterthoughts
that grow to trees, trunks with arms,
branches with fingers, twigs with nails,

scratches on air, tear
after tear on a white page.
These names have given their artefacts away

to be sparse as winter. Here I am, they say.
Here and here for you to see,
fingerprinted on the sky.

by Imtiaz Dharker

© Imtiaz Dharker, 2009

Imtiaz Dharker was born in Pakistan, grew up in Glasgow, and now divides her time between Bombay and London. Her main themes are drawn from a life of transitions: childhood, exile, journeying, home, displacement, religious strife and terror. She is also an accomplished artist, and all her collections are illustrated with her drawings. Leaving Fingerprints, the title poem of which is printed above, is her fourth book from Bloodaxe.

In these poems, the only thing that is never lost is the Bombay tiffin-box. All the other things which are missing or about to go missing speak to each other – a person, a place, a recipe, a language, a talisman. Whether or not they want to be identified or found, they still send each other messages, scattering a trail of clues, leaving fingerprints.

You can watch Imtiaz Dharker read two of her poems here, and find out more about her and her work here.

Founded in Newcastle in 1978, Bloodaxe Books is one of Britain’s leading independent poetry publishers. Internationally renowned for quality in literature and excellence in book design, its authors and books have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry. Details of all Bloodaxe’s publications, plus sample video and audio clips of poets reading their work, can be found here.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.