Clara A. B. Joseph

Clara Joseph’s poetry has appeared in the Toronto Review, Mother Earth International, Prosopisia: An International Journal of Poetry & Creative Writing, Canadian Women’s Studies, the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Transnational Literature, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and Literature and Aesthetics. Her debut book of poetry, The Face of the Other (A Long Poem) (2016), was published by Interactive Publications, Brisbane. Joseph is the author of several academic articles and book chapters. Her book, The Agent in the Margin: Nayantara Sahgal’s Gandhian Fiction (Wilfred Laurier UP, 2008), was nominated by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta for the Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction Prize. It also won a national Aid to Scholarly Publications Program, Canada. Her edited books include, Global Fissures: Postcolonial Fusions (Rodopi, 2006), Theology and Literature: Rethinking Reader Responsibility (Palgrave Macmillan 2006), and special issues of the journal World Literature Written in English – The Postcolonial and Globalisation (2002) and Rethinking the Postcolonial and Globalisation (2002). She has a PhD in English from York University and is an associate professor of English and an adjunct associate professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary.


Research Gate

The Face of the Other


Nothing Outside
Il n’y a rien hors du texte.
– Jacques Derrida

There is nothing outside,
Absolutely nothing

Noticeable outside;
Nothing standing, there,

Looking back from the outside;
No one coming, none disappearing;

No sun hidden within
A shadow;

No one bending, not
One sitting,

None moving as if to

No rancid corpse

To be eaten;

No whiff of wolves prowling, no cursing serpent

None there to quickly strike
A heel,

Or steal;
None camouflaged out there,

No one to lay
A hand,

Nor one who can redeem;

Nothing whatsoever

Descartes’ Lover
Cogito ergo sum.
– Rene Descartes

The lover caresses her own rising
womb, and displays the twitching nerve’s
rhythmic pulse to her determining will;
and dreams lap in the dark.
She too is caught
in a hushed presence.

She puts one foot forward, releases
the other of the burden
in an unerring balancing act
of a sailor treading on sea. Exhausted
she becomes salt, forever
beckoning her beloved.

The one who looks is never transformed
into stone; the hero’s mirror will be smashed
into smithereens by her love. She is a goddess
sweating a river. She is you
and me, turning transparent
into water. The wave that dashes, sprinkles
a thousand drops, scatters,
dazzles; captures the rainbow shuddering
in each tiny tear that she gathers
into a single tsunami. She is black
Saraswati, pretty with a book and a guitar

rolling toward him
with the gentle
swish of thoughts draped
over one shoulder, revealing
the cleavage of her soul;
she is the one who rushes seismic
to him with nerves, with
eyes and hands.

Metaphysics for Derrida
The center is not a fixed locus but a function, a sort of non-locus in which an infinite number of sign-substitutions came into play.
– Jacques Derrida

This space bustling
With men, women, and children
Gathered to hear, they said, a ghazal.
what? I asked, then came with them,
Came along to see such performance

(to know what I did not know
knowing not what they knew).

Derrida began with a salaam,
Met with deafening applause
From men, women, children,
Continued on a deep note

Sustained to its dire end,
While I twisted and turned,
My poor legs threatening to go
To sleep, and I myself followed.

I startled awake to Wah! Wah!
And heavy thumping on my back.
I challenged him then and there,
To which my neighbor quoted,
in a trance:

“The center is not the center!”

Followed with yet another Wah!
Where did the center go? I asked,
Struggling to wake my legs.
The crow stole it, offered his son,

The one who had been watching
Me dream-up their performance.
Sshh! his mother said,

You know there is no crow.
Wow! I said, Wow! Wow! Wow!

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