Saturday, December 31, 2005

"Balance "         | 12

The sonnet had slipped away   while I were musing
he soon returned   he said he'd gone to see
a friend of his   whose poems were confusing
I wondered if he thought the same of me?

"Oh no" he said   he always knew my question
"your heart's confused   your poems though are clear
you state confusion clearly!   My suggestion
may I be frank?"   "I'm sure you may! Let's hear!"

"Let life unfold   a little bit more naturally
despite the fact   you love the manic mode
a certain sense of balance is especially
of value   for the sonnet or the ode"

he hinted thus   he too perhaps had needs
an ear that hears   becomes the heart that heeds

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"Strange elation"       | 11

The moment that he spoke that way of pain
the sound of pain   the cry of souls in grief
I wondered   if my life went down the drain
would this be good for poetry?   the thief

must ply a trade   quite different from the salesman
the artist's way   is not the politician's
each needs   a different medicine for what ails them
that's why   the world has numerous physicians

"And so"   I thought   "the aim of love   for poetry
might differ from   the aim of love for those
who fill the bill   of life's desire for progeny
or steady jobs   or lawns   & walls   & wills"

for poets   love's a singular occupation
where living death   gives rise to strange elation

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"The mesh"         | 10

"There is no cure   for beauty's complication
there is no end   to trouble in love's game
however sure may seem   life's information
the book of death   unsettles every claim

the petals on the river   drift in spring
the autumn leaves   are carried by the breeze
the joy of meeting   is no trifling thing
the pain of parting   tastes of bitter lees"

I thought these things   the sonnet nodded slowly
my thoughts perhaps were mildly banal?
at times   I can't distinguish high from lowly
the sonnet finally spoke   "Remember Pal

all thoughts exist   within a mesh of meaning
the mesh is all that matters   that   & keening"

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"She is the moon!"       | 9

O any girl could do   with such a friend there!
I'm sure I sound absurd   & rather strange
if the mountain is high   there'll be a slue of bends there
if the river is long   it's certain things will change

the one you love   is the one who seems to show
a mirror to   the heart you've not recovered
she borrows from your breast   her bonnie glow
her bees about your hidden flower have hovered

she is the moon!   the sun is in your eyes
her eyes reflect your eyes   & change the light
you might be foolish   & she might be wise
but it's hard to gauge the moon   on the page of night

these were thoughts that came to me   in a flash
the sonnet smiled & sighed   like flame & ash

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"Perhaps"         | 8

"Let's meet real soon" he said to me   my jaw dropped
I didn't suppose   this were our hour for parting
"In May or June?"   his question made my heart stop
my tongue now tied   my eyes were dazed & smarting

"I'm kidding friend" he softly said   embracing me
I sobbed into his shoulder   then I spoke
"I love you more than life   don't be erasing me"
my words   although ironic   weren't a joke

"Well David"   (what a joy!   he spoke my name!)
"today at least   Goliath isn't an issue"
he always liked to play some merry game
even when he were handing you a tissue

"if you can decide   which girl you'd care to woo
perhaps I can tarry a spell   & see this through"

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"His lens"         | 7

Perhaps that was his secret   after all
for he'd survived   much stronger than some others
each form of poetry had endured a fall
where once they'd sprung up bright   a band of brothers

the sonnet   some presumed a vain romancer
a liar   & a trafficker in whimsy
they only saw his outer form   a dancer
because their thoughts were thin   they deemed him flimsy

but this strange man   knew every season thoroughly
no hour of day or night   but he had been there
the seasons of the heart   for most  pass blurrily
with vague delight   or vapid sense of sin there

the sonnet puts his lens upon your vision
& everything has   suddenly   precision

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"A certain distance"       | 6

"Come live with me"   I said to him at last
"I need your help to figure out my heart"
"There used to be a time" he said   "long past
when I'd shack up with poets   wasn't smart

I've learned to keep a certain distance always"
the moment that he said it   I could feel it
"I heed the heart   when poets pace the hallways
I see their rapture   sometimes   I reveal it

but poets think they own me   far too easily
their rhymey-dimey mimicry is painful
I've had a problem century!   some queasily
have said I'm dead!" his look was so disdainful

I lost my thought in silence   deep & placid
the sonnet joined my silence   mute & tacit

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"Think about philosophy"     | 5

"I'd like to work with you"   he said this sweetly
"I don't say that to everyone"   he added
I realized now   he trusted me completely
his every word rang true   not one were padded

"I'd recommend   perhaps"   he said this slowly
"you think about philosophy a while"
a stillness filled the atmosphere   I   lowly
observed the sunset   neither of us smiled

"the sunset makes me want to weep"   I stammered
"I feel the same"   he said this soft & mournfully
"I spend my days confused!   I'm like one hammered
relentlessly by life!"   he frowned   half-scornfully

"you poets have your troubles   just for this
you long for what is not   and lose what is"

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"Like olden days"       | 4

"Her name begins with S or R or something"
that's more or less the line I sadly fed him
I knew at once it truly was a dumb thing
it surely looked as if I had misled him

but no   he laughed!   his laughter was delicious!
"Look here" he said   "at times I've done duplicity
but as you know   it's never been propitious"
"I realize that" I said   what was the bliss of me?

were I in love with both of them?   or what?
I hadn't thought this through   before I met him
if this had been a joke   I'd be the butt
perhaps I was!   but look   I'd not upset him

"It seems to me like olden days"   he smiled
this ancient guy   looked younger than a child

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"I always do"       | 3

The third time that we met   I felt embarrassed
the problem was   I knew I wanted to use him
we met this time in evening   on a terrace
it seemed absurd   I feared I might abuse him

"You know" I said (my voice a little bit halting)
"I sometimes dabble in poetry"     "I know"
he answered   in his voice no hint of faulting
I guess he knew what way this talk could go

"I'll tell you what"   he seemed extremely frank
I suddenly longed to hear whatever he'd say
"just speak her name" he said   my heart now sank
and yet it seemed   there was no other way

"I fear" I said "you'll fall in love   like me"
"I always do" he answered   "let it be"

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"He'd been   this guy"     | 2

The second time I met the olden geezer
a sense of with'ring hovered on his features
a hint of sniffles in his voice?   no sneezer
he was withal   no happiest of creatures

yet when he saw me   how his eyes grew bright!
(you'd think I were his favorite son or something)
"You know" he said "I thought of you last night"
I said "I thought of you"   it seemed a dumb thing

to utter   to this hero from the trenches
the battlefronts of love   & its relations
the field where men must bare their souls for wenches
and if they're lucky   shine in his creations

he'd been   this guy   a make-break impresario
a friend to both philosopher   & lothario

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"An olden sonnet"     | 1   [sonnet series]

I met an olden sonnet at the bar
(he drank that night his bourbon on the rocks)
"I was" he said "though long ago   a star"
(he seemed a bit resigned to fortune's shocks)

"O what affairs!   O what delights & pleasures
went pouring through my voice in liquid lines!
how stately were my cadences & measures!
how curious & rich my mystic signs!

The envelope   that carried my devices
each lover kissed! the one who sent   & she
receiving it (receiving me)   no vices
but I could turn to virtues!   what a spree!"

I didn't dare to ask him   what went wrong?
instead   I asked to hear again   his song

Back to FLAME & ASH.

"With vivid shout"     [new year's poem]

With vivid shout the newborn annum
cries in the phrase of the biting wind
she's coming out!   she's here by damn!
uncork the bottle!   let's begin!

Let rise upon     the raging air
the pull of joy   in oral scream!
for silence loves   to feel her hair
constrained by fresh   & vocal dream

This responds to (and argues with, and fairly follows the form of) Kaashyapeya (a.k.a. Arka Mukhopadhyay)'s worthy poem With dying breath the dying year.

will we be a-muse-d?       [e-periodical notice]

an email received

my literary confrere in Bangaluru, one Vasudev Murthy, tips me off not only to his rise to the heights of the humor elite (if not to say his election to the bureau of uproariousness); furthermore, his note (howsoever inadvertantly as such) draws my attention to the existence of a certain Muse India.

Said journal may prove of interest to the Esteemed Readers hereof. Hence this item.

For anecdotal, documentary & incidental purposes, I hereby repreduce the text of Vasudev's missive:
OK, I have been elevated to the High Office of Humour Editor for Museindia. You might enjoy the A-muse-d section at
Wishing you a charming New Year!

Indeed & forsooth, & likewise!

Are we amused? Really, I await the next issue of the 'zine, when (one presumes) Vasudev's full influence will be brought to bear. Meanwhile, other facets of the publication merit attention.

It's an ejournal per se. Quoth the current issue's editorial:
You are browsing through the first Anniversary issue of Muse India that was launched early in 2005. A year has flown by and we hardly realized it ... seeing our ideas take wings and soar off the ground....
...we rededicate ourselves to the path we have chosen -- to showcase the best of Indian writings in English and in English translations of our rich regional literatures, to the world at large through the medium of Internet.

mythology — vignette no. 1   [boomerang]

Time had a whim to stop!   but had simply forgotten how!
the trees had grown more cautions     they declined to say

the birds?   they'd all flown south   (a wind had whispered "sough!")
well & as for the rivers     still they pretended to   wend their way!

it became (in fine)  a non-event!   (though an allmost-was)
time gradually drained itself in thought     could this allow

these pellucid beings to feel some     lift     of a blissful buzz?
had time really hankered to stop?     but failed to remember how?

"stand-in players"       [boomerang]

While the personalities figured   as stand-in players
the names had been changed   to obscure the long-deceased

this had happened a million times     in a myriad layers
had we noticed the repetition?   yes     twice at least

the dough were forevermore rising   with some fresh yeast
the dawns would appear!   the dusks would die!   were our prayers

now performed in the south & north?   or the west & east?
while the personalities figured   as stand-in players

Blogospherification     I'm imaginging now . . .

. . . a story, let's say a novel. It might have a small collection of principal characters (needn't nec. have a single protagonist). Anyway, this little group (we're just a few years into the future, and a few layers thicker into the Blogospherification of the Internet and the Internettification of the Globe) -- this group comprises a few insanely acute artist/writers who've completely abandoned interest in / aspiration toward "publishing" as (erstwhile) conventionally understood in the Pre-Internet Period (PIP = all of human history prior to 1992 or something, though in publishing-history context, more particularly signifying a mere couple centuries. [Strictly speaking, PIP in some circles was opined to signify "Proto-" rather than "Pre-": a micro-philosophical distinction that need not detain us].)

Let's allow this group, first of all, has cut the Profit Motive tether. For arguably complicated reasons (in themselves interesting, but we won't be delving into that history [nor its para-histories] right now), the wind of can-one-make-a-living-from-this? lucre-ambition had long since died away from the sails, for this brood of artists. This freed them up to get down & serious, of course. They plied their dayjobs (as waiters, taxicab drivers, musicians, stockbrokers, librarians, etc.) and let die the imagination of Money Thru Art or Riches Via Writing. They pursued art for its proverbial own sake, and they practiced & espoused the rich cultivation of a perspicuous blogospheric acre as the embodiment of human aims & activities self-evidently flooded with worth & utility. This utility (they were sort of postpostmod retro-Emersonians -- a few were furthermore retro-PreRaphelites, though that's anther issue & belongs in a later chapter; {for this -- you know -- could simultaneously be a description & a chapter! -- & if the latter, presumably an (or, come to that, the) initial one; but back to my story or, I suppose, argument} -- this utility (I was saying) was, for these bloggonauts, the human per se utility (intellectual & esthetic, literary & post-literary, in some respects possibly even spiritual) -- the human utility, then, of all such cultural life, ultimately: a focus-point for the mind to find iteslf (as in a mirror); a sphere for thoughts to soar (as in a sky), a branch for leaves, a trellis, a breeze. Happiness.

But the interesting thing I want to imagine more fully (& grasp more complexly) in this tale, is the divorce (& its consequences) between blog-writing (by arguably, in PIP terms, "publishable" writers) and the "desire to publish" (again, in PIP terms). This "untethering" (as said above) or "divorce" (as said here) freed blogging from any direct association with the realm of books, as it were, as likewise from the concerns of lucre. Career ambition, here, was sheerly artistic ambition; it lacked the money-hook that erstwhile (since perhaps the 18th Century or so) had insinuated itself into the notion of the writing life as a form of endeavor.

Blogging, here, was not for sake of getting an entre to the world of publishing, nor for flogging one's wares hailing from that world, nor any other such situation of blogo-compromise. Far from it. Blogging itself (pure & simple) was now publishing per se. Publishing (in the old PIP sense -- in the erst PP sense) was seen as a misconstruction, a ludicrous misstep of thought, at best an archaic stepping-stone phase, charming & childish
. A wisty bluster of vagrom, vestigal meanings, long gone (now) w/ the wind.

The story would need development. That's the merest sketch of it.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Year end ing / epigram ing   [boomerang]

While innocence persists
thought hesitates unclear
where reticence subsists
hope teeter-tots with fear
love manifests as growth
clouds formalize the mists
if beauty laughs at troth
yet innocence persists

"...some reason"       [ghazal]

The world exists     apparently for some reason
each life persists   apparently for some reason

while the seasons' cycle reveals     such enormous design
little storms & shifts   can apparently hide   some reason

the orchestra tuned   the movements will form   in a series
some slow   some swift     all apparently for   some reason

do love & trouble   both lurk in the wings?     & clockwork-like
must the curtain now lift?       apparently for   some reason?

if all of existence     finally leads   to delight
life's painfull rifts   apparently follow   some reason

Ardeo observes   time's mandala   far too vaguely
can't his fuzzy "what if"s   ever focus   into clear reason?

does the sea lie far below   all the hills we've trudged?
if we clamber down cliffs   it's apparently for some reason

if love were hiding behind     false veils of desire
could penury's thrifts wear down   their impeding reason?

where a child declares   he'll see your bet   & raise you
do you catch any whiffs?   it's apparently for some reason

who plays with us   in this masquerade?   who woos us?
do the piques & tiffs   apparently hide   some reason?

love's dust   implies     a hundred disperate logics!
the gold-panner sifts     apparently for   some reason

the beloved is everywhere!   (claim the saints & sages)
if the lover is nowhere   his riffs   could betray the reason

it's as if I were lost on a bus   while years simply passed!
though the landscape shifts   I've apparently lost the reason

if alas! unmethodically mad       grows our friend Ardeo?
yet his grins & drifts   & groans   might appear for a reason

Contagion's Dangers     [a responsive pleasantry]

"happiness is virulent"   she said
"it seems you've got the illness"   I answered

"might you share a little?"   I inquired
"can you bear the symptoms?"   she countered

this continued   for a slue of lines
in the end   anyway   she kissed me

intellectually worsted   by her comity
I rashly   hurtled caution to the winds

[The above pleasantry was composed by way of reply to a verse that had appeared on a literary forum. Said original verse may be found on the blog of its author, Asmita Sinha. Needless to say, responsibility for the pleasantry's interpretation (or misinterpretation) of the originating verse, resides with the present blogger.]

    Don't touch me
    You, too, will be tainted
    Happiness is infectious

in regard to John       [misreadings # 2]

With his permission, I am posting this in regard to John ______ [a poet-friend]. He is moving into a lamp to go on that table an apt. in a couple of days and has absolutely nothing but an easy chair
      [from a mutual acquaintance]

    When John moves into a lamp
    and the lamp requires a table
    are they both in a postage stamp?
    (how much is sure and stable?)
    put the lamp by an easychair
    and the easychair by a lawn
    John's lamp lives happily there
    and in the lamp lives John

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Govinda speaks     [some lines from Vinod R]

    I promised you I would come
    and here I am...
    waiting for you..
    I play with the long Kusha grass blades
    And watch the voyeur moon
    But where are you?

The full poem ("I promised you I would come") can be found at twisted humor inc.

"all folded"           [boomerang]

    So this was all folded   in the seed-of-me?
that I would grow old   & then find these friends?

    strange   is the heart   & the need of me
with murky   beginnings   & middles & ends

with rare   the occasion   of lucid perception
    & frequent   the moment   when reedily

some yonder thought   wafting   (as in my direction)
    sighs   this was all folded   in the seed-of-me?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

" vain"       [ghazal]

I sought you for a thousand years   in vain
I wept for you a thousand tears   in vain

I held for you a thousand tender hopes
& sometimes felt a thousand fears   in vain

when I learned you could show your face in a pristine facet
did I polish the dust from a thousand mirrors   in vain?

believing one's apt to meet you   in some tavern
mightn't faith & wine both disappear     in vain?

even a dimwit   sometimes reached   your levee!
while sheer geniuses downed a thousand beers   in vain

does everyone join you nightly   deep in slumberland?
or do boats approach a thousand piers     in vain?

your hide & seek grows more surreal each moment
I ask the taxicab who steers?   in vain

no sooner you draw my card   let me call your bet
for I've played a thousand solitaires   in vain

if I've lost the thought of finding you   what I seek now
is absurdity     with a thousand cheers   in vain

the strings that pulled us left & right   were occluded
while we asked about the puppeteers     in vain!

the pen seems fine!   but the ink could be running low
even poetry finally just disappears       in vain?

the belovėd absented herself     yet the talk rolled on!
boasting gold (her joy)   & pearls (her tears)   in vain

could a thousand days pass rapidly   in pain's desert?
but Majnùn requested five volunteers     in vain

if all rivers were seeking the sea   yet where did the sea go?
was the cloud absurd?     were its precious tears   in vain?

if Ardeo   were driven to seek   but failed to see you
did night hear   the bluster of chanticleers   in vain?

what if finally you're minded to buy   the heart of Ardeo?
go & ask   a thousand auctioneers     in vain

an unsolicited offer   [misreadings # 1]

I'd thought it said
magical sounds from
Harry Partch

alas!   it was merely
Harry Potter

      (I'd be happy
      had it has been
      Sally Potter

or even old

"winter's resolution"       [ghazal]

Is it only spring that could satisfy       winter's resolution?
were it only the sun that might clarify   winter's resolution?

I wasn't shopping for winter!   don't think I sought out pain!
I desired a change   so I qualified       (winter's resolution)

winter came looking for me   in all the right places   too
my neck & my tosies could verify     winter's resolution

the happiness of spring   is described by gardens & bowers!
but austerity is what can satisfy       winter's resolution

did the snowflakes seem a mere afterthought?   they knew their stuff
like some perfect lie     how they beautify   winter's resolution!

I wasn't born amid winter!         I come from merry May!
yet December desired my friendship   why?   winter's resolution?

when winter went quietly weeping   we were stunned   then nervous
now her icy knives seek to dignify       winter's resolution?

yes they're making their resolutions now     nigh to hibernation
do the bears expound how the fish might try   winter's resolution?

when the spring resolved to make summer's fruit   was it seeking you?
when the autumn was longing for cold   did it tie   winter's resolution?

your eyes weren't dangling question marks   they'd applied exclamations
did their hauter desire to revivify     winter's resolution?

your lips hold the answer!   O let me ask them   all of my questions
I'll interrogate     till they nullify     winter's resolution

when Ardeo first glimpsed your cheek   he seemingly lost his nerve
could such summer gold     finally fructify     winter's resolution?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"surprise"       [ghazal]

Can both joy & sadness bring     the same surprise?
what's the root of everything?         inane surprise
fluttering free in thought   is the butterfly's pastime!
but who of clay-wraught wings     sustains surprise?
to approach the edge of forebearance   limns a beginning
beyond that line   abide kings who attain surprise
the bee is industrious!           & the rose is salubrious!
that both of these might sting   were a strange surprise
it never had crossed my mind   I could fade on a footbridge
even granting         I'd failed to bring   a mundane surprise
when Ardeo perceived   he were lost in a darkling forest
he felt he might pluck some string     to exclaim surprise
do you listen indeed     for a song Ardeo could sing?
to remember you       is a thing   of arcane surprise

S o u n d s   o f   r a i n

Sounds of rain
tell things new
even indoors when
I don't see rain

    even in solitude
    thoughts of you
    come to me like
    sounds of rain

sounds of rain
what else can do?
nearly nothing
maybe a drain

    even in solitude
    no   is it true?
    you come to me
    in sounds of rain

An amiable bogger styled ((for reasons I don't fully grasp, but no matter)) Enemy of the Republic some weeks ago launched a group blog (essentially [or at least functionally analagous to] what we used to call, in print days, a "small magazine" -- & reminiscent (at least to me, in spirit & form) of those olden, nice-anarchistic-ish little xerox poetry journals of yore [actually, maybe still extant for that matter] that evoke a certain nostalgia for the low-concept / lo-tech / low-pressure / slow lane / low key: but I digress), the aforesaid blog being styled ((for reasons sorta-ditto, but no matter)) spilled to bloodlessness. This said amiable blogger (whom I've unofficially nicnamed En) amiably invited me (if so disposed) to join the little cabal, stable, coven, or brood [as case may be] and contrib. an occasional something. I suppose my old (sometime, & half-remembered at this point) principle about "publishing" had (at some point mentally, even if not-quite-consistently) been along lines of: better to be invited than to ask; better to send to those who request, than to flog unsolicited; etc. So: reviving the concept, I joined & sent. In fine: this poem-item (it was rainy yesterday) comprised my first contrib. to the said e-zine [as it might be loosely dubbed]. Hat-tips to all concerned.

p.s. (tangentially recalled): truth to tell, I'd wandered to the e-zine in search of unseen writings by the estimable Shilpa Bhatnagar (to no immediate avail, but no matter: her poss. contrib. [as she's on the writers-roster] is apt to appear at some seasonable moment). Networks of bloggers are a bit like wandering droves of art-gallery-browsers, who -- however -- are half the time browsing, half the time busy painting (& forever hanging their mini-canvases in handy, cavernous hallways); proliferous virtual lanes are idly spangled (not to say paved) w/ their stray, spont & various jottings & blottings. The blog era is at present encouraging creative musing (wed w/ self-publication) in ways that seem (speaking overall & in general) culturally salubrious (meseems). May a thousand blogs bloom, as the gone Chairman might've said (& hopefully not insta-retracted).

Monday, December 26, 2005

singing soft in dark corners   [ghazal]

If all efforts in life turn to mush     will something survive?
if no word's yet emerged from the hush   has something survived?

we went searching for you all our days! you were worse than obscure!
did you deem us excessively rushed?       we but tried to survive

you're our oxygen!     it's bizarre we still breathe   after years
you're diffused in the sky & the brush?   that's how we've survived?

I came down from the hills     to join the parade of the blind
though I'm secretly doubtful if such   will long let me survive

you'd promised a rose!     & forgot to make mention of thorns
I'm enjoying your thorns   but what's with the rose?   she survived?

it's shameful incompetence   keeps me from dancing more gracefully
though I fall on my face in a blush         you help me survive

singing soft in dark corners inanely         brings joy to Ardeo
do they bellow in bright tapestries lush?   our night may survive

Thinking about Ecphrasis

1. Vivid description; using details to place an object, person, or event before the listeners' eyes (= hypotyposis or evidentia). See also enargia.

2. The Greek term for the progymnasmata exercise called description: a "composition bringing the subject clearly before the eyes." Like the encomium, the subjects may be persons, actions, times, places, animals, and growing things.

3. Ecphrasis has another more restricted definition: the literary description of a work of art. Philostratus Lemnius helped to fix this more restricted sense of this term in the second century in his Imagines.

Such anyway is an academic, classical definition of ecphrasis.

[ side-note / tangent:
The Latin word imagines is the plural of imago. Imagines were used in funeral processions to show the status of one's ancestors. The imago was a wax mask of an ancestor. Only the senatorial class was allowed to have imagines. ]

Some modern writers employ ecphrasis to denote a literary practice involving fabulating a narrative (poem or story) based on contemplation of a photographic image -- an exercise more of imagination than description.

Ashish Gorde, who shot this photo at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, submitted the image to a network of writers for an ecphrasis exercise. (My particular response to the procedure can be seen here on the present blog.)

A few weeks later, Ashish voiced questions about the practice per se -- titling his post, "What's the big deal with ecphrasis anyway??"

He seemed to be trying to make sense of the exercise: its objective, the relationship between writing and image, the integrity of the original image (sans writing), etc.

I composed the following rumination by way of a reply to that line of inquiry.

Well, a photograph is one thing -- its esthetic scope, within its own sphere, is what it is. It is perceived directly by the eyes. The mind, then, must make of it what it will.

Any narrative the image might contain or imply, is nascent, latent, unexpressed, undeveloped, in seed-form. The eye perceives, the mind (potentially) interprets. Interpretation can vary widely.

A specimen of writing is another thing. It has its own materials (words rather than pixels or gradations of tint) and gives rise to its own mode of operation. It's a constructive process (both the writing and the reading), in the sense that the text unfolds in a linear fashion, beginning with a first word and ending with a last word -- and building something along the way.

a time-based
a series
(graphically recorded)
that only
make sense
when replayed
(read) in the
Thus, an "experience" in decidedly linear (sequential) terms.

The photograph mediates between the physical world as it exists at a particular moment and place, and the perceptual experience of a viewer who may look at the photo, somewhere else -- that bygone moment recorded, that condition of light and space and physical matter now abstracted into a representation, a 2-dimensional image. The image can be read "linearly" somewhat, perhaps -- but for the most part no. For the most part, the image is taken in as a whole. It has various elements (spatially arrayed); and the eye, roving over these elements, does so in time: so there is (possibly) a time process involved, but if so, it's significnatly less directed, less orchestrated, less predictable, less definable even, than is the time process (the clearly fixed sequence of first this word, then that word, phrase after phrase) which a reader perforce experiences when reading a text.

Any plurality of thoughts latent in the image are unlikely to be reeled out in some specific sequential form. (For that kind of thing, you need a sequence of images. This takes us in the direction of film.) The photographic image in itself might contain much information. But it lacks a directional "reading order." To the degree the mind (on some occasion) spins out a story from the image, one could say the observer is in that case undergoing a "natural ecphrasis experience": he is "reading" meanings into the image, or anyway thinking about it, perhaps even in a sequence of thoughts. This could involve either analysis or imagination. Either way, the image remains static. Despite the roving of the eye over its surface, despite some range of thoughts it might arouse, the picture lays flat on page or screen, presenting a sense of stillness, and an overall sense of unbroken unity, an integrated whole. [That I've broken up this image for display here, cuts against the grain of this last remark. In breaking up the image, I'm altering the standard way of seeing it, perhaps allowing for a sense of "reading" it, though this sense seems rudimentary, somewhat like a silent movie.]

Writing, as noted, is overtly sequential (as it proceeds to be read). The writing, however, once it has been read, is now a thing lodged in memory. After one has read the [story/poem/paragraph],
perhaps its linearity "goes out of focus," and its wholeness can begin to come into focus. The response (intellectual, esthetic, emotional, ideational) to this wholeness would seem to be the overall response of the reader to the text. The overall response is perhaps the essential response.

The reader responds to individual words, and to sentences, and finally, to the whole story.

Here -- in the overall response of the reader (listener) -- the writing (the story) finally attains its unity.

If the writing makes an impact, isn't that impact analogous to the visual impact of a photograph? It exists in parts (words / sentences); but it seeks to convey a meaning beyond the individual words: a transcendent unity: a unity analogous to the unity of the photograph. Hence one could say, the story desires to be a photo.

But doesn't the photograph seek to be a piece of writing? -- to be developed, sprouted out of seed-form into the multiple facets of its potential life? Illuminated in all the diversity of its details and implications? Doesn't it want to be savored in a sequence of observations?, to have its overload of all-at-once information meted out piecemeal, inch by inch, element by element? It exists in the heavens (unity), but desires the joy of diversity (earth). It wants all its details delineated -- as in the lineation, the linearity, the line-liness, of the story. It already has wholeness; what it lacks is sequence.

Doesn't the photograph silently yearn to find itserlf appreciated in detail, recognized with particularity, granularly exploded into a thousand smithereens -- then gracefully reassembled as a vivid, vocal story? The plotline might stand in (on the path toward a new unity) -- stand in for the old unity of its beginning. A river might reflect the sky (its original oneness), but broken up now by tress, shadows, jumping animals, and traveled by boats.

I've emphasized the unity of the photograph. But there's another side to this story!

The photograph is a still memory. But memory remembers something. What? motion! The motion of the story from which it was lifted. So its origin, in this sense, is from the world of story (the world of motion). It's been caught and delivered into a timeless suspension. Its direction -- if this frozen stillness should somehow thaw -- would be (again) toward change, sequence, what we might call drama. Activity, rather than repose, would be its direction.


Ecphrasis, I posit, seeks to satisfy these two desires:

the photo's to be a story,

the story's to be a picture.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Religion of Blogging       [ghazal]

If I sought my religion in blogging         I found no salvation
what I lacked were concision in blogging   I had no vacation

here I'd repair       & beings would emerge   from the void!
is there marvelous vision in blogging?   or tacit damnation?

the rites & observances   seem     without structure or plan?
but ah!   as you fish into blogging       you catch inspiration

the beings who blog         have bodies   & families   & homes
yet while they're imprisioned in blogging   they're lost to creation

some blog only fact?     some blog from a fictional plane?     no!
can a person who's given to blogging   distinguish those stations?

was your blogging   a work in itself?     or merely a scaffold?
sighed a novelist who wished he were blogging "I lack high vocation!"

at the outset   she blogged with decorum   (a Sunday observance)
her acute intuition   in blogging       relieved life's frustration

the prodigy was blogging at four   by the time she were nine
web-surfing's cognition drove blogging   beyond expectation

were bloggers from Asia & Africa     flooding the market?
there's a natural attrition in blogging   from any location

blog to live   were a motto some tried to lend currency     yet
live to blog's the ambition for a blogophile's core transformation

who tells you the blogger does nothing but blog?   a gross rumor!
though the pizza commission found bloggers   a fine population

one day I had failed to blog             & fell   into slumber
I awoke with a frisson of blogging!   & a weird reputation

he blogged till the day he keeled over   & then he blogged more!
his astral perdition of blogging       had gripping persuasion

do the afterworld blogs     pertain to both   paradise & hell?
with the peri's permission   his blogging felt heaven's relation

sometimes I'd return to the real world   how quaint with surprise!
though it lacks the precision of blogging   what rich complication!

before there was blogging   it's said there were theatres & malls
but I'm sunk in the mission of blogging     with no extripation

to blog may at first appear trifling     so easy & spont!
till you glimpse the divisions of blogging   O hid information

the blogger discovered   the flow of his writing seemed endless
this is called acquisition in blogging   it's a strange fascination

thirty birds had assembled   they yearned to attain inner knowing
alas for the pigeon of blogging!   it required medication

the truth about blogging   involves a hard irony of language
in the deep recognition of blogging   there's no innovation!

pray how many lifetimes of blogging   do souls pass for penance?
weren't Dante's derision of blogging     ironically fashioned?

though blog is not cognate to build   yet the bloggers are makers
is the Trouvère's commission in blogging   sublime fabrication?

since fifty years gone   the television brought news   to the eyes
now the TV's position re: blogging     could face   degradation

the ears were oblivious to blogging   they slept in their hammock
while fingers were viciously blogging   like a Southern plantation

to sustain the near-twentyfour/seven   he'd get web-design gigs
his desktop had a window marked blogging & another marked ration

when he'd sought to join Bloggers Anon   it were late in the game
till a lucky remission in blogging     staved off depredation

my blog was arrested   the real world was throwing the book!
when I cut an incision in blogging   they granted probation

while I strove to abandon this web     its net held me tighter
if you seek for what isn't in blogging   do you find aberration?

now I walk on a physical sidewalk!   a sun's toward the west!
like every decision in blogging     it floats with elation

Ardeo logged off & walked out!     would he visit the movies?
not unlike the condition of blogging   they're seducing the nation

While the use of overstatement in some of these verses might be apparent, and although it could seem superfluous to mutter caveats along the lines of "the opinions expressed are not necessarily my own," yet one verse I find a bit too embarassing to let pass un-annotated, is the live to blog one. In fact of course, all creative artists and writers (and hence, bloggers) might be said to inhabit a shifty terrain regarding the varying demands of art and life. I would go so far as to allow that no single formulation is likely to do any thorough justice to this interestingly problematical subject matter. (That the particularity of blogging may be understood to stand in for the generality of art, might be inferred from the above.)

A shifty terrain, I said? Not in a seismic sense; the notion is more Borges, less tsunami. The ground in question is a ground of consciousness. If the focus that at times art-making seems to exact, is not ultimately divorced from the broader purposes percolating through the dark, ground matter of social nicety, economic obligation, interpersonal relation, societal enrichment, individual responsibility, psychological growth, fellow-feeling, or collective endeavor widely construed, along with such various other essential & tangential particles as might together comprise the complex coffee of life, well then, drink up, whatever the cup. In short, such motto-formulations could seem ludicrous on their face (proving tantamont to the charmingly insufferable). Though I suppose mottos are not the issue. The problem about robbing Peter and paying Paul, is that Paul, in the next round, tends to get his comeuppance. And (at times), a further quandary for the artist is, he has typically lost track of rounds, rings, scorecards, and perchance several other karmic necessities. He's either in a pickle or a stew (or more probably both), and had best look sharp, whether minding Ps or Qs. Furthermore, there are taxes, faxes, and the occasional telegram. One must make concessions (Caesar and so forth). I hope I have now made my position clear!

(ps: on 2nd thought, I guess the explanation is much worse than the couplet, ah well)

thirty birds : alludes to Fariduddin Attar's allegorical narrative poem The Conference of the Birds, a classic of Persian literature.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Luftmensch           [etymology note]

Curious as to the exact meaning of Mensch, I looked it up.

For more detailed etymology, I was pointed to Luftmensch.

Which proved an interesting word all its own.

Anyway, then I wrote this:

    it's a matter noted in general
          that where there's a bench
          there's need of a mensch

    in similar sooth perennial
          a placid bench
          could suit a wench

          both wench & mench
          could use a bench
    a certitude millenial

A bench in Bangalore         [photo & ditty]

If I sat on this bench
without a trench-
coat nor a hat
would I get fat?

still as a cat
but still a mensch
note-book & pen
(possibly that)

when would this be?
seemingly winter
who is the me?
not Harold Pinter!

[Lalbagh Botanical Gardens]
photo-credit: Anita Bora (borrowed with thanks).

I am a Xmas Pudding   [sonnet impromptu 7]

Short though the night   in solitude passing
wakefully writing   line upon line
long in the thought   vague in the guessing
high is the hill!   hid is the sign!

short though the night   writing & reading
deep in the dark   winterly brooding
idly thinking   happily heeding
traces of graces   lately including

pleasantries passing (electrically shared)
winterish hinterland-dwelling a while
not up for caroling   scarcely exuding

Christmas demeanor   (barely prepared
for social engagement)   yet in a style
buoyantly blissful   & rich as a pudding

"Tenebrous notions"   [sonnet impromptu 6]

chabuk ki chumban     the kiss of the whip
aagosh hai yeh paash     this embrace is a noose
while I were dithering   with caper & quip
darkly   the river's own laughter   produced

sochti hun, kaash     I wish you were not
tum na hote malik...     my ruler (of dreams)
rakt se lathpath     bloodily fraught
adharon ka chumban   your kissing     it seems

my idle production   of squiggles   on screen
my tenebrous notions   of poesy's   play
find echo in quarters   beyond   & unseen
deeply nocturnal   or lost   in the day

a baby were babbling   on the bank of a stream
was somebody listening?     maybe in dream

Hindustani lines borrowed (w/ thanks) from Ishqa -- whose arresting comment finds reply (or at least comment) in this sonnet. Ishqa's poem (in the original) is seen on her blog here.

Friday, December 23, 2005

"Dangerous"     [sonnet impromptu 5]

The manic is at best   a strained amusement
vatic   is too orotund & high
these days   I dwell too much in word-enthusement!
though but a passing phase   I wonder why?

I'd taken to the habit   from my youth
it comes & goes   the custom of expression
the weft of words is dubious   in truth!
& even more so   blather & confession

a single word   perhaps should long suffice
a simple word like  
maybe or   pell-mell
of course   such words as contumely are nice
but don't they cast   a dangerous kind of spell?
all lovey-dovey nonsense   is excessive!
so sensible's my poem   it's depressive

"Winter's gelid circumstance" [sonnet impromptu 4]

It's possible   I've something here to say
it's plausible   I'm merely sounding vowels
the sun becomes   a figure for the day
the moon at times   is friendly with the owls

the pine is meanwhile   lost in contemplation
the spruce behaves with   stateliness & charm
the trees   of the deciduous   persuasion
are ladies bare & naked     there's no harm

in such a   yes     indelicate position
they're anyway in slumber   likely dreaming
of vernal days     their sleep is an elision
of winter's gelid circumstance     redeeming
this poem's drifty signature   remember
I love you both in April   & December

With incidental hattips to the eponymous Canadian rock band, suffice to say this poem need not be construed as any form of music critique (seeming reference to barenaked ladies notwithstanding). Resemblence to non-tree persons is coincidental.

"My happiness"   [sonnet impromptu 3]

My happiness   is speaking to your ear
perhaps   I could accept this strange condition
it's not as if   there's circumstance for fear
mere poetry's insufficient   for perdition

(inshallah)     hey   conversing   is a pleasure
we're anyway     adult   & intellectual
in poetry   the meaning weds the measure
that's why   betimes     it's seemingly   effectual

or is it?   take for instance this expression
it says   or this or that   but where's the motive?
it's laden   with impromptu   & digression
it's vocative   or casual   or votive
devotion   is a current in the deep
where shallowly   I probe the river's sweep

"In semblance"   [sonnet impromptu 2]

Whatever's been entrusted to us is ours
in semblenace   for a certain modest span
the flower feels its flowering for some hours
or days & weeks       it happens from a plan

the seasonal succession's so instructive
& yet   its lessons's endlessly banal
or infinite?     life's anyway   productive
from swaddling cloth to wrapping perishing's pall

we're always wrapped in something!   always wrapt
in watching what unfolds before the view
my thoughts are wandering   yet the words are apt
a little bit?     well   how about with you?
where flows your voice   along the languid scale
of   sa   re   ga   ma   pa   da   ni's   sweet veil?

"In solitude"   [sonnet impromptu]

The morning lates   I'm woken by the phone
a credit card requires prompt attention
I read the screen in solitude   alone
(a redundanty?   I've little apprehension

anent redundancy per se   repeating
as Gertrude Stein uniquely seemed to show us
holds possibilities   for freshly meeting
a meaning hidden   petal-like   below us)

why do I write?   (whom do I dream I'm kidding?)
have I arrived at last   at the conclusion
of fantasy?   what were existence bidding
in ego's auction?   where's my root confusion?
it's Friday   love!     tomorrow's Christmas eve!
we'll celebrate?   while winter's cold   why grieve?

I should not wish to limit the association of Gertrude Stein (nor for that matter, her apparent ideas about repetition) merely to her most famous utterance. But the Wikipedia treatment of that latter turns out to be quite good (hence the hyperlink & this note).

Mechanic Bird in Journey   [Euro-sonnet]

I'd held quixotic hope I yet could find you
while you perchance for me were less than looking?
how ought such scenes shake out? (id est what's cooking?)
superfluous might it seem to to so remind you

I mute & blind   (& powerless O to bind you)
I'd kept a votive candle toward your visage
my poems could some gist convey for message
if you'd not left such nostrums far behind you?

the journey might connote a pearlsome passage
of marvel-miles!   a scope swoon-souls were brooking
canoe-wise   or in birdly mode!       rewind you

fate's finger may?       mechanic bird!   soft courage
your happiness   (where destined wiring's hooking)
fond-carries yon     beyond   what erst confined you

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Escalator   [decade-old blank verse sonnet]

[May 12, 1995]:

The winter of my 38th year having passed
it's once again May   & again one may sit
in morning with mint in a cup & a book
& the warmth of the sun & a semblance of leisure

but here where I stand   in artificial light
as the daily commuters rush forward to work
here on hexagonal tiles of red
with wind from the tunnel & sound of the coins

the click of the heels   the cough of a throat
the screeching of wheels & the tones of the subway
(a descending third   to signify the imminent
close of a metal electrical door)
the notion of spring   is muted & odd
till one glimpses the sky from the rise of the stair

Over the past couple decades, it has been my ideosyncratic, irregular custom occasionally to scrawl a poem in the outer leaves of a published book (not, needless to say, my own, though one that I do own) -- a sometime-habit that owes something to sheer convenience [if one wants a nice blank area of paper, well there it is at hand, if one haps to have a book in hand] and something, too, perhaps, to a sense of equality among writers (so to say), and something, as well, to a notion of the oddity of the historical moment, if not, even, the quiddity of the materials (book, whatever it be, and one's thoughts/words, whatever they my amount to) assembled in one time & place by, for want of a better phrase, the great whim of the world.

At some point in recent days, walking thru the literal garage area that amounts to the anteroom of my (sort of) 2-room basement studio, I knocked over a box of books, and a little pile of them spilled out on the floor. For some days, I walked past this pile. This morning, I picked up one of its constituents. The book in question proved to be poetry: Galway Kinnell's Imperfect Thirst (1994). I was delighted to read the epigraph (from which the volume's title derives) -- a sher from none other than the distinguished Sufi ancient Sohrawardi. Worth quoting:

If your eyes are not deceived by the mirage
Do not be proud of the sharpness of your understanding;
It may be your freedom from this optical illusion
Is due to the imperfectness of your thirst.
I don't see that Kinnell anywyhere identifies the translator. For all I know, it was translated by a friend of his.

This reminds me of running across this poet, Galway Kinnell, one summer in the woods in Vermont. It wasn't quite as impromptu as that may sound. I had driven -- along with Janet Fine and Carol Tuynman (and a friend of Janet's from India -- a sort of curious Hindu philosopher-character known as Doctor Daran, seemingly 80 or so years old) to see the Bread & Puppet Circus pageant.
We had the fun of crashing at the summer forest hut (an archetypal rustic hermitage) of the notable experimental violinist Malcolm Goldstein (though I seem to recall Dr. Daran slept in Carol's car). And we did make it to the festive site that the Bread & Puppet Theatre maintains as their rural home base, and would open to the public annually for this country pageant -- a weekend of entertainment (offered sans admission charge) in Glover, Vermont. [Google informs me this long tradition came to a close in 1998.]
The Circus included both a main show (which we didn't necessarily pay full mind to) as well as an array of side-show performances (which I wandered around watching). [The Bread & Puppet Theatre, incidentally, oftentimes use huge-scale puppets for their dramas -- maybe my memory's wrong, but what I picture are mamouth figures some 20 or 25 feet tall. I did also glimpse them in Manhattan at some point, possibly in a parade? But here I digress from my story. Back to the side-shows.] One of these was, it turned out (to my pleasant-enough surprise), a poetry reading amid the trees. (A suprb setting for such.) Galway Kinnell was there; I believe he was amidst holding forth as I arrived.... (He lives in Vermont, though teaching at NYU. His companion Sharon Olds likewise read from her work.) Galway shared a sequence I enjoyed -- work later included in an eponymous book, When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone (1990). I imagine this excursion of ours was in the summer of '89.

This book of Kinnell's (Imperfect Thirst) I purchased circa 1994-95: consider publication date ('94) and date of my poem ('95). I bought it at Chapters Bookstore in Washington, DC (back when they were still located on K Street). The book includes a few ghazals Kinnell essayed to write -- spurred on toward this (I'm fairly sure) by the (now) late Agha Shahid Ali (who around that time was button-holing a bevy of poets to venture the exercise); -- though come to think of it, I've an idea Kinnell had himself lived in Tehran at one time. (Is it so? Where does this thought come from?) At any rate, I'll not turn attention to his ghazal efforts here (beyond noting their existence). Rather, my rambling note but serves to explain how it is I came to have at hand my 14-line poem inscribed above. It was found in the book I carried with me to work this morning, written out clear enough to be still decipherable. I'd not put in breaks between stanzas (seen above), but am certain I'd intended it as a species of sonnet.

Elvin Antecedents   [ditty]

He'd blogged since long before there were an internet
his blogging took the form of quiet thinking
instead of surfing   well   he favored drinking
his networking was more a kind of kinder-net
a seeking out of children like himself
I'm not sure if I mentioned he's an elf

Bohemiate!   [ghazal]

I really think there are too many distractions for the average poet these days. Used to be a poet would hole up in some garret and bohemiate. Now there's blogging, workshopping, reviewing, your own promotional web site, and if you're an academic -- oh, yes, teaching and publishing. There are too many other things connected to poetry besides reading and writing it.

      -- Rachel Dacus, Rocket Kids

Let nor web nor blog impede       bohemiate!
damn the torpedoes (& screw the greed)   bohemiate!

time was   you would gaze for days   out literal windows!
it used to be   one could run to seed       & bohemiate

the sullen streets   wax buoyant               in wan memory
as smoke-filled cafès bloomed bittersweet   we'd bohemiate

with readings!   (literal readings         not effete postings!)
your insouciant heart could express its need   to bohemiate

the game of chess   amid ambient space   on a literal board?
with a physical newspaper (smudged indeed)     bohemiate

non-digital : acoustic : pre-proto-rap : Ur "spoken word"!
offline : offphone : offcolor : offcreed         bohemiate!

Ardeo!   has Dacus now thrown down the gauntlet?       go!
where's your lorn beret? & your flute of reed?     bohmeiate

dashed-off declaratives   [boomerang]

Raw longing wants refinement
sheer patience has its uses
the planets in alignment
ameliorate excuses
all trains require cabooses
all sales are on consignment
you sing   but who produces?
raw longing wants refinement

Low-technology   [sonnet]

What is it I presume I might be seeking?
the joy of meeting   or the pain of absence?
the universe conceivably in presence
is grounded   but it's not as if we're peeking

behind the famous screen   (opaque & deep)
whereon the film's projected   low-technology
by what perverse (indeed macabre) ecology
our little life is rounded with a sleep

the body we embue with daily waking
this instrument for focusing the vast
entirety of everything at last
we loll about & feed it   are we making

    full use of   so preposterous a tool?
    a lens for wise   a haversack for fool?

Our little life... (The Tempest, Act IV, Scene 1)
Not wishing to limit reading of the word, I'll nonetheless point to the haversack definition noted in a certain quaint Civil War Pictionary.
[This is my Sonnet #2 cross-posted to the Shakespeare & Company blog]

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tra-la-la!   [song]

Tra-la-la!       amid the world I live
tra-la-la!       it lends me what I give
        the world is pain & pleasure
        a trouble & a treasure

Tra-la-la!       I find & lose my way
tra-la-la!       my way I lose & find
        if things appear uncertain
        is certainty a'flirtin'?

Tra-la-la!       my patience nestles deep
tra-la-la!       my soul is still asleep
        I'm but a lump of clay
        a'changing every day

Tra-la-la!       the horse before the cart
tra-la-la!       the fortitude of art
        does stuggle seem unending?
        the river's ocean-wending

Then, the singer wheels his cart a little ways along the road
(onstage) [admittedly there's no horse, but poetic license is
granted this work of operatic whimsy], and the story proceeds.

Enters stage left: a child, perhaps age 8, with a top in hand ...

"Imagination brings the world "   [boomerang]

Imagination brings the world to me
    the world that draws your image in my eye

your tender image gently curled in me
    the world of you to which I find reply

    my answer is the feeling you arouse

whose banner (with its breeze) unfurled in me

    becomes a private creed I might espouse --
imagination brings the world to me

"The darker side"   [classico-boomerang]

The hour grows late   I sit before the screen
I kill the lights   the words appear in lines

the poem wants   a cadence   slow serene
the ear requires   a music   plain refined

the simpler grows   the sentence that I write

the clearer proves   the meaning that I've seen

how lovely rests   the darker side of night!
the hour grows late   I sit before the screen

[For Alankrita Pandey -- written with the aim of drawing a bit closer in form & spirit to such a poem's classical Chinese antecedents. I expound on this form at some length here.]

"The brook"   [boomerang]

"I think I have   a thing or two to share"
    he said   speaking at some imagined table
where was this conversation?   in the air?
    or in a film   they played late night on cable?
"I'm listening" she answered   & the care
    with which she spoke   encouraged him to babble
    the brook when running   polishes a pebble

it surely has   a thing or two to share

Wintery Paradox   [sonnet]

For you alone     my mouth is filled with words
for you alone     my mind's aflood with thought
my tree desires nothing     but your birds
whose music is my happiness     the naught

that winter brings   (when birds & flowers flee)
the absence     now occasioned by the cold --
this principally   brings no concern to me
except to the degree   it serves to hold

your absence   implicated in this closing
your silence   in the swirl of all this dark --
as if you too   were subject to (supposing
you mortal)   winter's stealth & deathly mark

      my heart cannot accept   the visual lie
      my empty branches murmur   to the sky

[Posted this morning as a first contribution to the Shakespeare & Company blog]

"Not yet"   [boomerang]

Not yet have I begun my song for you
    that's what the poet wrote   & he were wise
    what is it in your eyes I recognize?

all things are transcient as the morning dew
    what seek you out the window?   scrutinize
the barren branch   the winter yard?   who knew
    how swiftly fruitful summer meets demise?
not yet have I begun my song for you

"The lyre is tuned!"   [boomerang]

The lyre is tuned!   the evening has begun!
    the children are attentive   & the elders
    the trademen & the farmers   & the welders

the printers & the scholars   everyone
    is listening   all the milkmaids & the builders
are caught within the coils!   strike the drum!
    how music flows from dream   it's time to tell this!
the lyre is tuned!   the evening has begun!

"Charade"   [boomerang]

There's more than meets the eye   in this charade
    you've got to ponder carefully   the gestures
for instance   when the rill ran through the glade
    or kine were wandering   amid the pastures?
the trees perchance   with portent then were lade!
    the landscape hides   a hundred subtle features
    and human life?   though ludicrous those creatures

there's more than meets the eye   in this charade

"Serenity"   [boomerang]

What hearts desire   minds can fail to grasp
    our emptiness were possibly endemic?
    I would not want in poetry   polemic

my voice were anyway   a broken rasp
my heart became (as well)   a busted clasp

    the Buddha mentioned   dukham as systemic?
    for poetry   serenity (not panic)

what hearts desire   minds can fail to grasp

dukham : suffering (e.g. the teaching sarvo dukham = "all is suffering")

"Honey"   [boomerang]

I only have a little song to sing!
    I'm never told the meaning of the words!
I've practiced every syllable!   I bring
    my melodies direct from vernal birds!
    the rhythms come from watching droves & herds

& fishes!   honeybees can have a sting!
    yet honey is superb with cottage curds!
I only have a little song to sing!

"Something"   [boomerang]

They came to tell us something   but what is it?
    let's watch the slow progression   of the stars
too slow to even see!   I wonder   does it
    describe our own progression?   rapid cars
    run faster than a river!   even ours

our life (too hasty)   seems a hurried visit
    remind me   of the seven Avatars
they came to tell us something   but what is it?

"A lullaby"   [boomerang]

I'll sing perhaps a lullaby   come listen!
    you're welcome (if you'd like)   to play the drum
remember how in spring   the leaves would glisten?
    how summer grew redundant   with the sun?
and recollect how autumn   gave admission
    to beauty's balcony?   the play's not done!
    in truth   the second act has but begun!

I'll sing perhaps a lullaby   come listen!

"The little corner"   [boomerang]

I'd sought the little corner of the poem
    the day as yet were young   what did I know?
'ere long   I'd wandered far away from home
    so many people passing to & fro!
were you among them?   or was I alone?
    I couldn't grasp the meaning of the show
    & now the western sun were dipping low

I'd sought the little corner of the poem

"Replenish"   [boomerang]

Allow me to replenish now your cup
    I notice that the line of wine is low
    the moon is waxing!   worry not for snow!

relax!   the winter landscape needn't stop
    your glow of happiness   your human glow
as lovely as the moon   the twirling top
    of fortune   is a boat one cannot row
allow me to replenish now your cup

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"The merry-go-round"   [boomerang]

The night appears   the day appears   it's endless!
    the merry-go-round   is twirling all the time!
in such a swirl   the soul should not be friendless
    the line of thought   is rounded with a rhyme
    a moment seeking stillness   were no crime!

if I'm a pensive letter   where to send this?
    perchance the world is theatre   told in mime?
the night appears   the day appears   it's endless!

"The world (as an idea)"   [boomerang]

The world (as an idea) remains unclear
    I've yet to grasp what makes the cosmos tick
    I'm slow that way (the world is rather quick)

we're deep into December of the year
    am I confused or crazy? (take your pick)
unfazed by such a quandary   lost in cheer
    'twere best if I to simple problems stick?
the world (as an idea) remains unclear

"O winter bird"  

O winter bird!    do you bear some message?
      or are you simply being   in your own world?
I gather from your glimpse   a naked courage
      you seem to live alone   in such a lone world

      I recognize   it's not a hold-the-phone world

            yet you (like I)   subscribe to voice-religion
            who are you anyway?   some lonesome pigeon?

      you're black as night   amid a charcoal-tone world

Photograph gratefully borrowed from Akshay's "Trivial Matters" photo-blog.

Monday, December 19, 2005

"Circumscribed"   [boomerang lullaby]

Among the sounds & thoughts   that one might think to utter
    what array presents a picture   that could please her heart?
    if merely words are given me   perchance my part

in life's already circumscribed?   one can but mutter
    or sing or sigh   or tra-la-la   or horse-&-cart
the erstwhile cart-&-horse!   or maybe bread the butter?
    (where bread were formerly buttered)   as we say   with art
how many might be the sounds & thoughts   one thinks to utter?

Mona Lisa's Ghazal

. . . The result showed the painting's famous subject was 83 percent happy, 9 percent disgusted, 6 percent fearful and 2 percent angry. She was less than 1 percent neutral, and not at all surprised.
    -- "Scientists Figure Out
        Why Mona Lisa Smiles

I'm thrilled to see you dear!   though not at all surprised
with barely a smidge of fear       I'm not at all surprised

at times (might I concede?)     you seem a tad disgusting!
but that won't impede my cheer!   I'm not at all surprised

remember when you whispered   "I love you" seven times?
I'm eight-tenths happy here!     while not at all surprised

what critic called me "neutral"?   for half a sec I'm miffed!
but let's make one thing clear   I'm not at all surprised

if down the lane they're gossipping   I'm pregnant?   let 'em talk!
I deem them all my children   (really     not am I surprised)

mia vita! how you capture me!   (after these endless sittings)
Leo! you're beyond all peer!     but well   no   I'm not surprised

the river (in my background)   it's from hills (outside my frame)
hey you brought a jar of beer?       that's cool!   (unsurprised)

when Mona confided how     she might desire you       as her painter
her happiness became clear?   & you weren't (sweet doll) surprised?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Desolation Street   [ghazal]

I came to desolation street         not even knowing its name
its ambience at first seemed sweet   not even knowing its name

all others in my world appear       contented with their lot!
contentment I so rarely meet   not even knowing its name

in winter   still the sun proved bright   the snow were crying quietly
who senses spring might yet repeat     not even knowing its name?

so many years seemed desolation street   a dim abstraction
but now my ear discerns its beat   not even knowing its name

conceitedly   I sought her image     in my self-wraught mirror
her ruse of absence grew complete   not even knowing its name

sometimes   her sense of hovering on the brink of human-kindness?
sometimes   her high disdain so fleet   not even knowing its name?

love's beauty could seem troublesome   it wounds the while it heals
its pathway seek your lonesome feet   not even knowing its name

my course of love required       a sea of distance & decline!
my schooner led a ragged fleet   not even knowing its name

all tried to treat me kindly       while love's malady consumed me
the moth can burn through simple heat   not even knowing its name

Ardeo's hope (through paradox)   was growing by leaps & bounds!
could victory traverse defeat           not even knowing its name?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

from atop the Sinhagad hill [lowkey-travellogue]

Belatedly (or, a month after-the-event), I've had the pleasure of viewing some snapshots from the November 12/13th campout & "read-meet" in Pune, attendance at which happily filled my first night in India. This was a group excursion by denizens of the Pune contingent of Caferati, joined in the instance by a number who'd driven in from Mumbai (including for example the redoubtable Peter Griffin, who, in the turn of things, would tend the campfire). I myself had caught the train from Mumbai, greeted by an indefatigable elf known as Max Babi, whom (thanks to cellphone technology) I managed to locate amid the teeming throngs of Pune's Saturday evening train station.

We managed to meet up with some half-dozen of the Mumbains, who'd been long ensconsed at an obscure rural teashop awaiting us (myself, Max, and Max's wife Nino) -- others from the group having meanwhile already hit the mountain trail, trekking up to the hilltop destination.

We drove to a parking lot some ways up the hill, but there remained what might've amounted to a couple km. of trekking for us anyway. I was (foolishly) burdened with laptop computer+gear (a nice laptop, but heavy; Toshiba -- fully fitted out for video editing & DVD burning), on a theory I might get some chance to attend to a bit of work [whose deadline impinged: this, another tale I'll pass over].
No such occasion seemed to suggest itself; the read-meet continued all night, I eventually retiring (beyond 4am) for perhaps 2-3 hours of sleep. The room to which I repaired for this was a very dharmashala-ish affair; I'm sure some half dozen others must've eventually crashed there as well, I didn't keep track of goings & comings. The beautifully spare accommodations (including some perhaps 20 blankets & pillows in this one room; there were a couple rooms, -- these old stone buildings, not perhaps part of Shivaji's fort itself, but wraught from kindred materials) were part of the charm of the whole gestalt. Ditto the superb repast that was spread for us by the quiet & attentive serving staff (the outlandishly -- by American standards -- inexpensive group deal including a lavish meal plus use of the premises, -- in the instance including the campfire -- site of which [fire long gone] is noted at top above [by the plastic chairs, the latter looking pedestrian in light of day, but servicable in deep of night: though I'd opted for sitting on ground, and eventually (during an ultimate, classic Hindi-filmsongs phase of the nocturnal evolution (Suniti Joshi proved a superb singer, among others)) -- reclining on the congenial earth] -- around which (um, said fire) we gathered, circa midnight (post-dinner), for poems, stories, songs. (The campfire proceedings in fact commenced w/ my own solo singing: a couple of my old Tagore song-settings, -- things I rarely pull out of mothballs, but did a couple of times in my India wanderings. Later, I'd sing from my Ghalib settings for the Ustad in Panvel, by way of self-introduction -- another late night 2 days later. But I digress.)

I'll put in a few other photos -- these are all courtesy of Alaka Yeravadekar -- without much more comment.

This Sinhagad ["Lion-fort"] is familiar in annals of Maharashtran history, it having been taken over by Shivaji's forces (the 17th century hero presumably lived up there for some time) at some point in the martial saga of his campaign (essentially protecting this region of India for rule by locals rather than by would-be conquestors). I'd need to go back and read the comic book again for all particulars. ;-)

The significance of Shivaji in Meher Baba's construction of historical cycles (Shivaji having been identified as a "minor Avatar" whose work served as preparation for / prelude to Meher Baba's own, in the same region) will be familiar to a few readers of this space.

It proved a memorable pleasure to have passed so enjoyable a literary night at this naturally-beautiful & historically-evocative location.

Thanks to Alaka for the images.

Perhaps on some other occasion I might recall a few details of the reading itself. (Typing this at 3:45 of a Saturday morning, I feel lazily inclined to let the photos tell their own story.)

ps & After-the-fact: I see I've gotten name of the hill wrong! Well, at least Twisted Humor (Vinod) gives it as Simhagarh. Ms and Ns, Ds and RHs -- let's not call the whole thing off. I've meanwhile posted / circulated this item with current (mis)title; & since change of title kills the link, so Singhagad [sic] it remains here (for the moment).

The M/N question aside, various roadside signs did seem to favor the "D" transliteration. Max had explained about the gradual loss of the aspiration ("DH") in local forms of it. The coils of Marathi/Hindi/whatnot (poss. related to this) I've (in)conveniently forgotten. Happy to've been there, however it's spelled. [nb: okay, finally fixed the title]

Ah but come to think of it, I was mentally confuting Singh with Simha -- my bad. I suppose they're cognate; but Simha (the Lion) is Simha. The tale of the naming is worth mention, since we've gone down this road. News of the battle at this location was (it's said in legend) tersely relayed to Shivaji: "The Fort is taken, but the Lion is lost." A construction that naturally called to mind another such from martial history (British in the instance): "We've lost the battle, but won the war." However, mightn't you agree that
the fort has been taken
but the lion has been lost
evokes a deeper elegaic (and wistful) quality, no? A slender strand of history, encapsulated into a sentence inevitably recalled by centuries-later visitors.

"The Lion" was evidently Shivaji Maharaj's nicname for a particularly well-loved general of his, killed in that battle.