November: River

November shall have been a sombre month
like breath fetched from the navel of the earth
to say a word of ending. November
shall be a solemn month, recipient
of sides dashed down by rainfall, human turf.
The grass lashes. Flames ascend. The ash bed
a patch beneath god-eyebrow sky collects
a lifetime like the water’s look. This month
nods its face downwards. This was November.
Someone has died. Who hardly knows this.

by Vahni Capildeo

© Vahni Capildeo, 2009

Vahni Capildeo was born in Trinidad in 1973, and has lived in the UK since 1991. She is a Contributing Editor and the UK agent and representative for the Caribbean Review of Books. She is also a Contributing Advisor to Black Box Manifold, the University of Sheffield e-zine, and a member of the International Advisory Board for the Journal of Indo-Caribbean Studies.

This poem is from a series entitled ‘Winter to Winter’, and appears in the collection Undraining Sea, which was published by Egg Box last month. A poem from this book was Highly Commended in the Forward Poetry Prize, 2009. A second collection by Vahni Capildeo, Dark & Unaccustomed Words, is due out from Egg Box in 2010. You can find out more about Capildeo here, and hear her read some of her poems here.

Egg Box is a small, independent poetry publisher based in Norwich, run by young poet Nathan Hamilton. It is rapidly establishing a strong reputation for its freshness of approach and keen eye for talented newcomers. Click here to visit Egg Box’s website.


I am sure I shouldn’t hate myself for feeling guilty! what can I do! Let me say it was a struggle to give up punctuation but we all have to make sacrifices not everybody has such a lot of punctuation these days better not have any just to be quite fair but there are some things I can’t quite give up it’s wicked I know it’s the apostrophes that get me I could never resist a well-placed apostrophe dinky things when you come to think about it wriggling there like the fish and the hook all in one sometimes I wake up with such a craving for a semicolon they say those are the worst bring you to a halt sooner than anything else and abolish your vitals like a dissolving fire so I just remind myself you’ve got to talk to people at work today no punctuation at all till after six p.m. then you can put your feet up and snuggle on the sofa in an Argos fleece throw with a mug of hot chocolate and a dash or so as a little pressie to yourself and watch The Bill is it wrong to wish sometimes I wish I were back in Europe it was grand that summer over there I would get up with a real thirst hold off till about ten in the morning then sit in that café in the cool with a tall glass of fizzing vitamins and brilliant punctuation there were real people from Europe at that café and you know what they had been at it since breakfast as far as I could tell big dignified people happy as children with crystal and stoneware brackets and suspensions properly placed you could see how they liked it they thought the rules were fun though I am sure they must have had their sacrifices somewhere just like us yet the funny old things weren’t self-conscious at all go figure.


by Vahni Capildeo

from Person Animal Figure by Vahni Capildeo
Copyright © Vahni Capildeo

Person Animal Figure is a long poem in three voices, represented by three different kinds of prose poetry. Here, the voice which seems to represent ‘Person’ reflects upon her own unpunctuated thoughts as she sets them down, characteristically drifting off into memories of comfort and pleasure. The ‘Yes!’ that ends the paragraph is perhaps an acknowledgment of a literary ancestor for this shrewd vulgarian: Molly Bloom, whose stream-of-consciousness concludes James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Vahni Capildeo was born in 1973, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. She came to England in 1991. Her first book, No Traveller Returns, was published by Salt in 2003.

Landfill Press was founded in Norwich in 2004 as a publisher of contemporary poetic sequences.