Carolina Caycedo, This Land is a Poem of Ten Rivers Healing, 2022 © 2022. Photo: readsreads.info.

all time

In this newly commissioned poem, Pratyusha engages with the calls, voices and worlds of the Back to Earth exhibition.

How can we commune with rivers and think of them as persons – perhaps as both our ancestors and descendants? Can we understand the pain of the land as our own pain, and act to heal it along with ourselves? The Back to Earth exhibition at Serpentine North brings together such questions from artists, designers, researchers, and thinkers around the world. As part of Serpentine’s ongoing Back to Earth project addressing the climate emergency, the exhibition doesn’t aim to offer solutions, but to instead make space for diverse responses and emotions.

We invited Pratyusha – a poet, editor and critic whose work often expresses ecological thinking and the sensations of the living world – to explore the show through writing. The polyvocal poem that she shares here winds between prosepoetry and an irregular form of verse, resonating with the exhibition through the textures, positions and places that surface, and echoing its sense of multiplicity in an uncertain time.

all time

 

[there is a silence]
[an open mouth of silence announces candles]
[there is a garden]
[of dry colourless herbs fragrancing brick]
[there are shards of yellow]
[piercing the green of your eyes, the green of the trees]
[you open the map]
[the rivers flood your mouth]
[irrigate, irrigate, irrigate]
[say goodbye to them now]
[I want them to flood my mouth]
[who are these rivers?]
[where were they born?]

 

[my rivers]

 

they are still out there. their white bones mimic these trees. I lost my sister among these trees one day. her soul slipped between the thrown batteries. I caught a glimpse for a brief second. I called out.

 

I see the surface glitching

 

we chose this: the blue sky, the undergrowth, these hands. we did not choose this: an exterior perspective, caught within film and mirror. the only mirror is the water I touch. my face splinters, washed away into the future. someone will find it someday, caught within the film of the water. I don’t like to answer questions, but I ask them, hearing echoes drift.

 

I see the banks of the river caving in

 

hello, good morning, my ancestors did not plant this river. but this river grows in circles. here I’ve seen them again and again. generally when I look inside the river. I notice that it mirrors me. I notice that it mirrors my ancestors. I notice those who took them away. there is algae in this river that shimmers in the morning light. there is ash in the river from those who fled. once we lit a candle that destroyed the forest. once we trusted the people who destroyed this paradise.

 

it is a walled enclosure. it keeps us in

it keeps you out

I see the surface glitching

 

[the rivers are our ancestors]
[what will this garden become?]
[see: paradise; ˈparədʌɪs]
[all time is the same time]
[the garden grows in circles]
[all time is the same time]
[the herbs smell of fire, then ash]
[all time is the same time]
[block the river’s path]
[block your memory’s course]
[block what your mouth announces]
[block the candle’s annunciation]

 

[who will flood them now?]

Pratyusha is an Indo-Swiss writer and Ledbury Critic based in London. Her latest pamphlet, Bulbul Calling, was published with Bitter Melon Press in 2020. She co-edits amberflora, and writes poetry, prose and reviews.

 

Tabita Rezaire/AMAKABA and Yussef Agbo-Ola/OLANIYI STUDIO, IKUM: Drying Temple, 2022. © 2022. Photo: readsreads.info.
Carolina Caycedo, This Land is a Poem of Ten Rivers Healing, 2022 © 2022. Photo: readsreads.info.

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