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Untangling the Knots: Poems by Buffy Aakaash (Review)

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Untangling the Knots: Poems by Buffy Aakaash

Untangling the Knots is a manual for life. In this cohesive collection of “How To” poems Buffy Aakaash guides us through a beautiful, logical progression, starting disengaging tangled threads--a seemingly simple and concrete prospect, until when warned to “Ignore the growing turmoil” we realize that what we do with the string in our junk drawer may have larger import. The poems move through relationships (human and animal) into the wide natural world of mountains, rivers and ocean, and on to face our own mortality in How to Die and How to Stay Alive.

Authenticity, kindness, and thoughtfulness resonate throughout these poems, bringing fresh perspective to the mundane and a sense of sacred to the profane. For example, while poets have addressed the persona of our belovèd in a hundred thousand ways, Aakaash invokes the other in How to Be Real with a transcendental voice, equally simple and profound:

And I don’t mean rather you in the flesh

because this is not about flesh

This is about the indescribable you

that lingers bewitching beneath the skin

and whispers after you’re gone saying

Here I am in glorious imperfection

my foibles and indulgent incantations

Here I am take me or leave me as I am

without question unlike any other

In How to Milk a Goat, Aakaash acknowledges the agency and intelligence of this taken-for-granted creature (“She knows where you stand”) while in How to Pet a Cat, Aakaash encapsulates the precious gift of contact by which pets can ease the ragged edges of holes in our lives:

In loneliness

you already feel the longing

before this object of so many affections

appears with caution in his eyes.

How to Look at the Stars reminds us “how our lives shower down/from a single shooting comet”. That life as Aakaash sees it is imbued with gratitude. How to Swim in the Ocean takes us back to the natal waters, grateful for life itself:

Suddenly as at birth

naked infants we are

saltwater and sand pressed

wet between our fledgling toes

sea-misted breeze

glazing our cheeks

emblazoned with gratitude.

This gratitude even rings through deepest grief. “My father left behind so many miracles,” Aakaash writes in How to Die. “...from a life graciously arranged in time/a plotting of loving deeds done in earnest."

These are poems that run deep and ring true, gently applying structure with light, deft strokes alliteration, consonance, and intuitive rhythm. It is the kind of comforting volume to be read over again, read aloud, and shared from the heart with those you care about.

Aakaash, Buffy. Untangling the Knot. Kelsay Books, 2022.

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