Friday, 1 February 2013

Sudden Prose Reprints: "Coke and Other Lies" by Shazea Quraishi

Coke and Other Lies

When I look in the mirror I see the wrong face. 

My sister’s hair shines like a summer lake with swans.  And when she speaks, it’s like those gusts of air you get in the spring, smelling of green.

Since he left, Mom’s lips have no colour and she reminds me of that albino kid who packs groceries at Doug’s Mini Mart.  She cries on the foldout couch.  I stroke her hair.  There, there. 

My sister wraps her hair around Coke cans when it’s wet, so when she takes it out, it looks like in the movies.  Mom says she’s wasting her time. 

You know the man who sweeps up after the show?  He said my eyes were the green of the pond at the end of his garden.  He said, Come, see.

Shazea Quraishi
first published in Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics

Shazea Quraishi is a poet, translator and creative writing tutor whose poems have appeared in The Financial Times, Poetry Review, and Modern Poetry in Translation, among others. She works with English PEN's Readers & Writers programme in refugee centres and prisons, and also teaches Improving English through Creativity at a refuge for south Asian women. Quraishi is presently adapting The Courtesans Reply, a long poem sequence published as pamphlet by flipped eye publishing in 2012, as a play.


Sophie Lyons said...

This is different from most prose poems as it's cut into very short sections. It took a few re-reads for me to understand the relationship between the Mum, sister, and narrator. It suggests the family is broken and the two daughters are unsure how to comfort their mum out of her despondency. This is particularly reflected within the sister as she tries to pursue a life of glamour. The brokenness is represented within the many section breaks of the poem. Imagery is always stronger when about the narrator's sister, suggesting she is the one who draws the most attention from outsiders. The poem ends when the narrator meets a man, hinting at the possibility of somebody actually walking into the families life and making a positive difference.

Arika Crotty said...

Whilst Ouraishi is more traditional punctuated than some prose poems, the imagery she evokes is quite surreal and successfully symbolically imbued, making this quite a pleasing prose poem. Whilst a constant use of similes and metaphors can often hinder a piece of poetry, Ouraichi manages to avoid this by providing strong juxtapositioning between the first and second half of the poem. At once describing things quite naturalistic, and in likeness with Classicism, then moving on to paint a more contemporary and troublesome picture. The contrast between swan and the spring and the coke and the minimart is powerful. Another thing that makes this a successful prose poem is that it does not tell us a story with a constant or ‘straight’ narrative voice and plot devices, rather it very effectively evokes a story whilst inhabiting one idea and a collection of images.

Laura Hill said...

I feel Quraishi has create a very thought provoking piece of prose poetry. Though not necessarily traditional to the format as Quraishi has use short and separated segments to form her poem. She has managed to keep focus, while introducing a mixture of personalities and images. The narrator of this piece gives the reader a brief insight into a broken family as well as how the narrator views her own self and her mother and sister. I think the focus has been achieved by the very direct first line; ‘When I look in the mirror I see the wrong face.’ I think this could have so many different meanings for so many people but it allows the reader to understand that this prose poem is focused on the narrator’s discomfort with her own self-image and suggests that maybe her mother and sister are partly to blame for this. I think the poetic description combined with the strong structure of each sentence are what make this a successful prose poem.