Culture: poetry, prose, review

A Song for Mars

And Other Selected Works

by Divya M. Persaud

Photo by Arielle Bobb-Willis

Photo by Arielle Bobb-Willis

a song for Mars for voice and Martian lithophones, not to be performed

Lithophones: locate Mars rover drill holes (e.g., those generated by the Mars Science Laboratory or Mars 2020 missions). Cover the tops of these holes with a thin covering of goat or synthetic skin. Secure these skins by whatever available means. Each performer must have access to a container filled with local, silt- to sand-sized sediment and be assigned to an individual drum. Employ as many performers as possible given the availability and accessibility of drill holes. Do not prioritize proximity. Wear appropriate gear to prevent inhalation of regolith.

Performance: this piece must be performed on Mars, and nowhere else. The performer will cover their drum with a thin layer of sediment and slowly clear the sediment off the surface with a single palm as the vocalist recites the text. The piece is complete once the vocalist has completed the recitation. The duration of recitation is at the discretion of the vocalist.


No one could have predicted this but now I am free


invocation of the muse rewritten from an anonymous poem from 1893

Oh, coolie girl, my eyes with wonder
beg thine thoughtful brow and lips; confess
I have seen your thoughts so plundered,
have known where your heart doth rest.

Coolie girl of that valley Indus,
sing the Demerara’s demure wave—
give to me that sacred whisper
of the kala pani’s blackwater grave;

we have not ever seen those lands;
this Western world thus claims our birth.
Sing to me from where your life you draw,
your thoughts of joy—your themes of mirth.

This house of mud has been our home.
Each breath we take, a natal breath;
a womb of mud—not doomed to be
a land that shall hold our dust at death,

but a foreign sun, it so strange
it eats the East and prostrates the West,
births itself in the dusk haze;
so grant me what I cannot guess.


pickle of thirty-eight mangoes

did you hear? she, yes, no, when? I’m going in the morning; I made daal yes he dead uh huh. no she’s at school oh my god! who? I will come cook don’t worry oh boy yes yes no she gone. is hot could do with uh huh, I remember we had a neighbor who, really? he not speaking to me. he will take you to the doctor, she okay, we can’t come, sorry, yes, wow! na man, me de, want, oh, no, yes! the wedding july, already, is long from now, you eat? when you coming home where are you what do you see, oh? me make roti she still alive? have you heard from oh she’s not. oh me wonder what happen na she didn’t tell what you cooking? me got fresh mango pickle


a sonnet for the sublime

to love you was never noble,
but the expression of whispers
I once cultivated over
fields where hades had kissed her:

persephone, queen of sublime fortitude,
that strength we smell in
the wind beyond the cliffs; her kind
destined to die and be reaped when

he showered her face in sunbeams
and recast the sea to the earth
so she could harvest her own leaves–
for only she could know her worth;

these soil altars at which I kneel
swallow me and make me real.


eternal youth

she kissed me – the mountains,
dawn clinging to her nose,
vesper wreath, shining plumage;

we are only these collisions,
the pawn of shifting earth and
whisper of tired cloud–

see this tectonic setting,
raw down and aged stone,
rasp grown old in divinity:

you will not see us again