Passage to Exile

This entry is part 1 of 20 in the series Highgate Cemetery Poems


Al Haidari

at the grave of Buland al-Haidari
Highgate Cemetery, London

We are used to blurriness here
in the temperate regions.
When the air is too clear, I walk like a drunk,
hesitating & veering around sharp-edged shadows
that come alive when they move.
Too bald a truth appalls us.
I can’t remember the last time I spoke
unironically of love. It’s best to be circumspect.
We are used to being watched by paraplegic angels
over closed-circuit TV.
Our children play hangman with blackboard and chalk.
Listen, if we hate poets here, it’s only because
they brandish empty wash tubs instead of roses
& remind us we’re all in exile from our dreams.

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11 Replies to “Passage to Exile”

  1. Listen, if we hate poets here, it’s only because/ they brandish empty wash tubs instead of roses/ & remind us we’re all in exile from our dreams.


    Love sans irony. It sticks on the craw sometimes
    when you least expect the nuance of sincerity.

    Have we learned then to obfuscate what we seek
    to reveal like the primrose creating claw-like shadows?

    We do live in a bleary quonset that is inhospitable
    to the clear and transparent, we create our shadows.

    There are Babel towers in every ramshackle cottage,
    the dumb and the weary are with us to the bitter end.

    When this masquerade is over, when the periphrastic
    shackles of language are all shorn off our tongues,

    we doff our hoods, tear off our masks, and speak
    of the feelings we cloak with opaque figures, symbols

    of bondage we promised to overcome, speak with the rare
    and liquid tongues of angels who call washtubs basins

    and flowers simply flowers for the living not the dead,
    and like the honchos at the Bronx call a spade a shovel.

    Perhaps, then, they would not remind us of how long
    we really have languished in our exile from our dreams.

    —Albert B. Casuga

  2. Three times exiled, forced to flee – Telegraph obit – what does that do to a psyche? Today the rain falls straight and hard from the low sky. His bucket must be brimming, shedding a saltless stream.

      1. I’ve seen that Albert often responds with a comment that’s a proper fully-formed poem (unlike mine which was more of a reverential brain-fart).

        Albert, I wonder whether it would be worth setting up a poetry blog to feature your work and then leaving a comment linking to a particular work on that blog if something moves you to composition. That way your work wouldn’t exist in the shade of a comments box but would have a proper home all of its own!

        And if you left a link here people would be able to follow it and see not only the specific poetic response but also its place in your oeuvre!

        1. I do have a regularly maintained literary blog which includes my poems (including those I write in response to The Morning Porch and Via Negativa). You are welcome to leave your responses in its Comment link, or cue me to the link where I could follow your own response. It’s at

          or simply click on the Albert B. Casuga says tag (in blue) of these blogs and you’ll get there.
          Thanks for your interest and suggestion.

  3. That’s great Albert! Thanks so much for letting me know. So if you leave a link in the comments here I can go straight over to see all your poetry. But which blog is the better of the two? which blog are you going to use to respond to Via Negativa and leave links to here? or do you have particular sorts of poem on one blog and a different category on the other? As a non-poet I find these arrangements fascinating.

    (But maybe we should have this discussion at your blog since we’re hijacking Dave’s comments here – sorry Dave!)

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