Quantum Subversion Ghazal Beginning with the Violence of Rice and Moving on to a Never Ending Rise by heidi andrea restrepo rhodes

(after Tarfia Faizullah; for the Disappeared)


Rice? That is what we are expected to sing about, and beans,
corn and cumbias, motherhands perched to watch the bread horizon.

Where now is the word for such compliance? I sense its remnant urgencies,
but there are deeper graves to excavate, a stretched canvas of dark forgetting, no horizon.

I remind you: amidst the absence of bodies numbered as stars, we lose words. But
“open a window” and “let the rolling head vociferate” are other ways to say horizon.

I write down the names, dropped like smallest stones from helicopters
into the sea. Fed to caimans. Do we forget the faces setting past the horizon

of our familiar? All I can bury in ritual are questions. All that is offered for claims
of missing is a bag of rice. We ride the bus anyway, nightmares fueled to the horizon:

the air is ripe with wailing. Denunciation dissipated in the desert by guncut
still breaks silence, sets a name, a word, a hum, miraged on the horizon.

How else to sound the key? By art or flame? When Stephen Hawking says there are
“regimes from which light can’t escape to infinity”—he speaks of absence, event horizon,

black holes. Fascism’s incessance. An unmapped field in which I fight gravitational
collapse is both a killing horizon, and apparent horizon. These are both a kind of narrow horizon.

Astrophysics has much to say about finite distances. Appearance. Tidal forces. As do
torture manuals. Still, the last gasp of liberty protests the quit of the horizon.

The thing about finite distances is that they are no match for the latitudes
of the grief-laden. Still, life gives, as to the ear in all its width, its aural horizon:

the night and day, crickets and canaries, hammers, turbines, barks, showers, and so tender
the voice of beloveds. You become my joy, crumbled earth who saturates her eyes in

light, rises in spite of the sky’s premonitions. Between two worlds you hover, a general
haunting on the verge, a dawn emerging, ever-stirring, you make morning, give horizon.


*Quantum Subversion Ghazal Beginning with Rice and Moving on to a Never Ending Rise is written after Tarfia Faizullah’s “Infinity Ghazal Beginning with Lice and Never Ending with Lies”, and admittedly, breaks the rules of traditional ghazals. The poem sources and alters material from my own research and interviews with family members of the disappeared in Colombia; human rights documentation on disappearance in Chile; the work of Stephen Hawking; a song title, “Open Window”, by Victor Jara who was disappeared and killed by the Pinochet Regime; quotes by Thomas Paine, Karl Marx, and Lord Byron; and lyrics from Violeta Parra’s song of the Nueva Canción movement, titled, “Gracias a la Vida.” Thank you to KJ Cerankowski for the suggestion of the homophonic use of “her eyes in.”


heidi andrea restrepo rhodes is a queer, disabled, brown/Colombian poet, scholar, and cultural worker. Her collection The Inheritance of Haunting (University of Notre Dame Press, 2019) won the 2018 Letras Latinas Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. Most recently, she was a spring 2021 Mellon Arts Fellow at Yale’s Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration. Her work has been published in Poetry, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Nat. Brut, Foglifter, and Waxwing, among other places.