Monday, October 30, 2006

New Season

Note added, 2013 October:   Please see also New Season -- revised  
( )


New Season

The air has cooled, and still the ardent sun
Retains his strength, though leaves turn red and fall.
Now comes November, yet, here by the coast,
It is as if we waited for fair May.

The maples now are mottled, green and red,
And lighter, warmer shades can now be seen
Mixed in with greens on coastal slope and hills,
But though, beyond those hills, and east to sea,

For full three thousand miles, the trees stand bare,
Save for the evergreens, here maples, oaks,
And their deciduous kin still wear the clothes
Of early fall, that lasts here into spring.

What paradise was this, by nature wrought,
Until we came and drove our freeways through!
Now shopping malls deface this sun-washed coast,
And rushing cars disturb those sleeping hills.

And yet the conifers rise up to hilltop ridge,
And little birds perch on the cables strung
Between the poles that are as straight and tall
As when they grew in forests dark and deep...

All this shall pass, like storm that lays about,
And then is gone. So newborn grass will spring
From asphalt cracks, and rust will eat at bridge,
And trees will conquer houses, as they’ve done

Since Olmec, Maya, Inca, Aztec built
Their monuments and left, as Khmer had done
In forests far across the globe, reclaimed
By plants, and all the life that they sustain.

But wait, perhaps this time it will turn out
Quite different, as we have stressed this whole,
Of earth, sea, air, beyond her breaking point,
So she may not recover, and so life

Will never be the same upon this globe.
Or if we do not curb our weapons dread,
That we now hoard, life may be banished yet
From this blue planet, till it starts again,

From seed arrived from distant orb that's sent
Ejecta forth to find a home and spread.
All this goes through one's mind, on tranquil day
When all seems changeless, still, amidst the flow.

Perhaps we need this little respite from
The changing seasons of this globe, and man,
So we can note the changes that portend
Of seasons yet to come, whose depth and length

Exceed, by far, those of the yearly round.

Babui Jana (Arjun Janah)
2006 October 29th, Sun.
Berkeley, California

Note added, 2013 October:   Please see also New Season -- revised  
( )

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Watcher

The Watcher

I met a man by the marina,
Shirtless in September sun.
He had a pendant on his chest,
With symbol that resembled gun.

Upon his face, there grew a beard,
Quite scraggly, and an orange-red
That matched what hair he still had left
That grew as wild upon his head.

His nails were long like claws, with dirt
Compacted into crescents black,
And yet of wit and wisdom he
Did not, we found, completely lack.

He'd wandered by this western sea,
For many years, and knew the planes
That flew above, and could, by sound
Of cabin horn, distinguish trains.

"See -- that's the plane from New York City,
Coming in to land, and -- hark!
That's the train from Sacramento,
Emerging from the tunnel's dark!"

"See there, across the Bay, the fog
Retreating past the Golden Gate...
Today it will be warm and calm,
But winter may be long, though late..."

So all the life around the Bay
Had entered him, and there he was,
Quite shirtless that September day,
A witness to what is or was.

The gulls and squirrels knew this man,
With dirty nails and gnarled hands,
That pendant on his chest that shone,
As sun beat down on brownish pants.

He was familiar, like the sea
That lay becalmed, as boaters tried
To catch what little wind they could,
And far away, the Amtrak cried...

"Look there!", he said, "Right by that house
You'll see it run, if eyes are good!"
And sure enough, the silver sped
Right by that house, into the wood...

He'd been in Vietnam, had relished
Fighting for imagined cause;
But now, he said, "With age I'm wiser,
This war's for oil, and not for laws!"       *

He'd worked at jobs of all descriptions,
Adding to the labor force;
He'd wandered over lands and oceans,
And learned what's fine and what is coarse.

And now he sat by the marina,
Watching all the world unfold,
In the role of he who listens,
As the tale of life is told.

Babui Jana (Arjun Janah)
2006 September 17th, Sun.
Berkeley, California

* "this war" is the war in Iraq, begun by the U.S. in 2003 -- and still ongoing in 2006.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Immersion in the Ganges

Immersion in the Ganges
Now she has passed away – she now is past.
What’s left is memory that dims with time.
And soon this too will pass – it cannot last,
Although we honor her with rite and rhyme.
She fades, she fades – she fades – and then is gone.
Of her, what still remains – what does, what does?
Like the soft dawn she came, like day she shone,
Then evening turned to night – and then she was.
Oh sun of this bright day, may you grow dim,
But let me not forget her, who is gone –
Gone away forever, leaving those
Who knew her, loved her – blank, and woebegone,
Bereaved, bereft, bewildered, broken, bare –
But still alive – in body, mind, still there,
While she is now destroyed – is emptied, drained,
Is burnt to ashes, dust – and then cast here,
Into this river, born of ice unchained
From mountain prisons by this tropic sun –
The sun that saw her birth, the sun she loved,
With memories still of youth, in every one
That’s gathered here, recalledas ashes, strewn
In Ganga’s waters, through my fingers run.
Here, she will mingle with the mud, and flow
Past fields and palms and forests to that one –
That Ocean, with its many, many names…
And as the Brahmin sings the Sanskrit chants,
And I repeat, not knowing what they mean,
There is this thing that each one understands,
Who’re here, assembled, at this ancient scene – 
That she, whose name we utter and invoke,
Is gone, where rites and chants can never reach –
In such a slumber now, as never woke
A mortal from, despite what scriptures teach…
Although we claim that these are for her soul,
These rituals truly comfort only those
Who’re still alive – not her, who isn’t whole,
Whose ashes go where this, the river, flows –
To sink, to scatter, into that deep sea,
Never to regather and return, alas,
To rise again with early dawn to be
The woman that she was …was …was.
So each of us will pass, and all regret
Is vain, except that it inform and change
How each may view the other. We forget
That midst this flow, some things will never change…
When you were live, we often did neglect
Your self, who is now past neglect.  Remorse
Cannot undo, nor love, too late, repair
The wreckage done.  So each must steer his course.
So go then to the sea, and in it dwell;
From it, we all have come, and will return.
I watch your ashes sink within the swell –
And we are left with but your empty urn…
You were a light, that now has fallen dark,
A song, whose lilt we shall not hear again.
In vain, we now will look, and search, and hark;
For you are gone – and free, from all your pain.
Babui (Arjun) Janah  
2006 July 1st, Sat.
Staten Island, New York. 
(lightly edited 2015 January 18th, Sun.)
In Memoriam
Monua Janah


Monday, April 17, 2006

Chess in the Park

Chess in the Park


Bundled up, in winter dress,

In the park, they play at chess.

Most are quiet, one shouts out.

Concentrate, or risk a rout,


That's the nature of the game,

Played for pleasure, or for fame.

Here they meet, 'most every day,

Working hard, but not for pay


That would help meet rent or bill.

Yet they seem to have their fill,

Not of dollars, but of joys,

Like a child who plays with toys.


The words they speak, I cannot ken –    

The Slavic speech of migrant men,

Far from their lands, ruled once by Tsars,

And mangled, next, by commissars.


Here they gather, to play chess,

And to speak, some more, some less,

Of the lands they left behind,

And new problems that they find,


In this, the promised land of West,

Where each must strive to do his best,

Forself, or fear one day to find

That they, too, have been left behind.



Arjun (Babui) Janah, < >

Bensonhurst Park, Brooklyn, New York.

2006.04.17th Mon.

By New York Bay

Gentle readers, be not alarmed at the sentiments expressed below.

Rush not to rash conclusions. ‘Tis but a poem, a fiction, and no more.



By New York Bay



At set of sun, and end of day,

I wander lonely by the bay.

My thoughts are darkening, like the sea;

This life is spent, it seems to me.


There was a time when I was born,

And now, a time to be unborn.

I look up at the vast dark sky,

Preparing, in my mind, to die.


I see three little stars come out,

As, in the west, the blue fades out.

Resplendent, like a mountain ridge,

Shines the Verrazzano Bridge,


With strings of lights that clearly trace

Its flowing catenary grace.

The lights of Coney Island blink,

As if reminding me to think.


Like shining planets in the sky,

Great aeroplanes now slowly fly

Towards this shore, across the sea,

Shrunk into points of brilliancy.


Amidst all this, I stand transfixed,

‘Twixt life and death, and land and sea.

I feel, in hands, the cold rail fixed;

I hear the slap, on rock, of sea.


In the sky, there is no moon;

The tide has ebbed, and will rise soon.

Great ships move out on New York Bay,

Or anchored, wait for the new day.




This day was filled with signs of Spring.

I heard small birds on branches sing;

Saw trees adorned with springtime bloom;

And, on Belt Parkway, autos zoom.


Saw couples strolling, hand in hand,

And women heading towards the sand;

Wrote out, with thought, three birthday cards,

And, from friend’s death, picked up the shards.




When I was young, I’d often run

Right from the Bridge to Caesar’s Bay,

And back again; it was great fun

To fight and work, and breathe and play.


Now I am aged, and tired of strife;

I’ve worked too hard for this dog’s life.

How hard it is to fight the flow,

To do what’s right, when all let go.


Each one must feel some basic worth,

Some cause to justify their birth,

Some hope that they can be of use,

Before they’re tossed in the refuse.


So now, I hear the call of death

Ring out for me, and I am met,

Between the traffic and the surf,

By phantom strong, outside my turf.




“Oh, get thee hence!” I call out loud,

“I have no time to stay a lout!

Duties strong call me to life.

I have two parents, and a wife!”


“I too must live out my own fate,

Or else I’d go with thee, my mate!

Abide thou still a little while,

Till I complete allotted mile!”




Releasing the cold rail from hand,

I turn from sea towards the land.

I hear the Parkway traffic’s roar,

And slowly walk towards my door.




Babui (Arjun) Janah < >

Lower New York Bay, Brooklyn, New York.

2006.04.16th Sun.





We shrink, nowadays, from slightest stress.  

But sadness need not cause distress.

The dark is background for the bright,

Whilst shallowness doth drain one’s might.


To be human, one must know --
Both heights and depths, so one can grow.
I trust that this shall give thee strength,
And add some depth to girth and length!






Here comes Baisakh! Another spring and year \1

Moves through the land we left behind us then. \2

And people celebrate, and cast off fear,

In old Iran's Nov-ruz, since who knows when! \3


As Holi goes, with color, from our land, \4

The Jews at Pesach seders meet all 'round, \5

And Christians hold the oblong eggs in hand,

To dainty patterns paint, that were around,


When Druids in Europe gathered in the spring, \6

And, in Greek isles, sweet bacchanals were thrown:

By olive grove, folks danced in a great ring;

And wine and song did flow, all quite home grown!


In all those parts, where winter yields to spring,

Folk gathered 'round, the fresh green growth to greet;

And amorous youths did flirt, and all did sing,

Of this new birth, when cold gives way to heat!



Babui (Arjun) Janah

< >

Brooklyn, New York.

2006.04.16th Sun.




1.   Baisakh is the second month of spring, and of the new year, in the Hindu calendar.


2.   The “land” referred to here is the subcontinent, and “then” to thirty years ago.


3.   Nov-ruz, or “New Day” is the Iranian new year. After the Islamic revolution, It’s ritual observance was discouraged by conservative mullahs. Some now celebrate it as a way of defying them.


4.   Holi, celebrated in March, is the Spring festival in India, in which people sprinkle colored powders or spray colored water on each other.


5.   Pesach is the Jewish commemoration of Passover.


6.  The eggs of Easter date from pre-Christian fertility rituals associated with spring.


Strange Encounter

Strange Encounter

I met an old man in the park the other night,
And talked with him about the current news.
He listened, as I told him of the newest fright,
And then revealed his own unusual views.

“The greatest danger, you and I at present face,”
He whispered, as I strained to listen too,
“Is not from others joining in the nuclear race,
But from ourselves, from what we think and do.”

I scratched my head at this, and asked him to explain
What sense could hide in this bizarre surmise.
“Wake up, and see the world, with all its joy and pain!
Take off the comfort myths, for bare surprise.”

“Forget your wants and lies, and try, for once, to bear
With others as they speak. And listen well!
A bully gets his way a while, by being unfair,
But not respect, and may drag all to hell!”

All this he said, in voice grown weak and hoarse with age.
I listened, feeling anger swiftly mount.
“Why should we do these things?” I asked, with open rage,
“Are we not strong?  All that, on what account?”

“And even if we were to buy your crazy plan,
And risk being bombed and overrun by Huns,
How should we go about it, pray, old stupid man?
D’you want us to use smiles instead of guns?”

He listened gravely, by my rage a bit perturbed,
And softly answered, “Yes, you have it right.
You shake your fist at me and shout – you’re quite disturbed.
Indeed, young man, you gave me quite a fright.”

“But these are just the questions, don’t you see,
You’ve got to think about – for brain, not might,
Is needed – and a heart!  But now, I’ve got to pee.
I’m old!” he said, and walked into the night.


Arjun (Babui) Janah < >
Bensonhurst Park, Brooklyn, New York.
2006.04.14th Fri.

Arjun’s Poems (incomplete):
Note added: These two links above are no longer functional, being retained for here record-keeping purposes.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Evening Dirge

Evening Dirge

A sad lament from a mournful heart
Now drifts upon the seas.
What wound did so much pain impart
That this attempts to ease?

At eventide, when the sun goes down,
Our spirits also sink
To mellowness or deep despair,
As men do inwards think.

And just, as at dawn, our thoughts move out
To meet the bright new day,
So too, at eve, our minds turn in
To join, remember, pray...

Like the yang and the yin of the Orient,
And the bop and the blues of the West,
The moods of morn and evéning
Do call, to rise and rest,

That energy of mind and heart
That waxes and then wanes--
Just as the rising, sinking moons
Do swell or ebb the waves.
We each are subject to the tides
That pull upon the seas
That rage within our arteries
Or lull our minds to ease...
The sun of dawn sweeps out the stars,
And chases thoughts away
That cling to sorrows of the past,
As we brace for the coming day.

At sunset, older memories,
By day, obscured from sight,
Can come to our minds, just as the skies
Are cleared for the stars of night.

And so, at dusk, on waters dark,
The boatman wails of loss,
As ancient stars emerge to link
The present to the past.

And thus our days fade into nights,
'Twixt the full and the absent moon:
The spaces of eternity,
And the brief bright light of noon.
Babui (Arjun) Janah
< >
2006.04.09 Sun.

Gravesend Bay
Brooklyn, New York

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Gerald Goldstein -- in Memoriam

Gerald Goldstein -- in Memoriam
Now he is gone, we know not where,
Much as we knew not whence he came.
He spent his final years in fear;
Perhaps we too will do the same.

I see him as I saw him first;
With time, I came to know him well.
For odd details, he had a thirst;
He gathered things he would not sell.

He picked up items from the road;
And never learned to say, “Enough!”
His house was packed, fit to explode;
He rented space to store his stuff.

With odd device, of every sort,
He grew enamored; but, being tight,
To Radio Shack he would resort,
Its dumpster-day his week’s delight.

Though Brooklyn born, and Brooklyn bred,
His diction showed no sign of that.
By heart and reason, he was led
To treasure what, to us, seemed flat,

But which, to him, had twist and bend
That needed gentle, loving care;
For to preserve, and gently tend,
What needed it, was his affair.

With this, he whiled his life away,
In gentle fascination ‘tranced
With how things worked, and why we say
What we don’t mean, but leave unparsed.

For he had gone from Science to Law,
And studied nights to earn degrees;
But found he lacked the drive and jaw
Demanded of New York J.D.’s.

A Juris Doctor, that was he,
Left physics for legality;
And so, he never did feel free
To loosely speak like you and me.

And yet, he never used his skills
To put in place, or poke a hole.
He shied away from fights and kills.
His was a kind and gentle soul.

He did not envy, hold a grudge;
Nor did he speak of others ill.
Where others pushed, he’d gently nudge;
His simple needs he did fulfill.

And so, contented, free of strife,
He tried to live a quiet life.
When all around was heat and hurry,
Slow and measured moved our Gerry.

His speech was clear, and quite precise;
He loved the pun and subtle joke.
His hands were golden, he could splice
What none could fix, with one deft stroke.

He paid attention to what’s dead.
His patience now is out of style.
Through the eye, he’d pass the thread;
And yet, he was quite free of guile.

His clothes were clean, but clearly worn.
He had no airs, and bothered none.
He went where others had not gone.
Of such as he, there was but one.

Those shallow, judged him by his shell.
To all our fads, he’d not conform.
But those who looked, could clearly tell,
Here was a man outside the norm.
What others did, he did not do.
What others thought, he did not heed.
He did, what he did have to do.
He heeded, what he thought worth heed.

He did not push, nor did he let
Himself be pushed, or pulled away,
From what, he felt, we oft forget,
Which is, to live a decent day.
To ailing mom, he was devoted.
He offered help when it was needed.
He did not waste, his word he kept.
With guiltless heart, he nightly slept.

This was the Gerry that I knew.
But still there is much more to tell.
He cared for mom, until she flew,
And life became a living hell.

For every ailment, known to man,
Seemed to strike him down with pain.
He found himself without a plan.
He could not lift his head again.

And yet there was a saint who cared,
A saint with faults, like he himself.
Much worse, indeed, he would have fared,
If he were by his lonesome self.

He lived afraid she too would flee,
And leave him, like his mother dear.
The comfort, that she now would be,
Was edged, always, with this great fear.

For those, with whom he’d worked his life,
Had gone their ways, and left him lone.
Such is this world, where each has strife,
And lone ones wait by quiet phone.

So Gerry lived, and did his job.
He did it well, as I’ll attest.
Then he suffered, much like Job.
God likes to put us to the test.

Well God, I’ll kick you in your rear!
In Brooklyn, you were out of league.
You picked on one, who’d gamely bear
Your insults without fuss or pique.

How can I capture, with my arts,
A man in full complexity?
He was a man of many parts;
This sketch is mere simplicity.

Now he is gone, and we are left.
A man’s a man, not Turk or French!
All my prattle has no heft.
When all is said, he was a mensch!
Arjun (Babui) Janah
< >
Brooklyn, New York
2006.04.12 Wed.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Manhattan Trees

Manhattan Trees on an April evening


All winter long the trees stood stripped and bare,

Like naked dancers frozen in mid-whirls,

With limbs upthrust into the frigid air,

And joints and fingers splayed in balanced twirls.


Or look again, and see inverted lungs,

With trunk as windpipe, branches branching till

They end in tiny twigs, a thousand tongues,

By winter parched, that wait to drink their fill


Of sunshine, and of air, so that the dance

Can once again resume, and lungs respire.

All winter long they’ve waited for the chance

To breathe, and dance again, in full attire,


Their slow, primeval waltz of balanced growth

Toward sun and earth, and the directions four,

While all around the citizens go forth,

In sundry, hurried tasks, from door to door,


Until short lives are spent, and then make room

For others to emerge, and scurry round

Those giant ones who wait and care not whom

They drop their leaves upon, close to the ground.


Now April. Winter’s stark and barren trees

Are slowly putting forth new leaf and bloom.

Upon each branch, each puny twig, one sees

Those tiny little buds appear, that zoom


Forth into newborn leaves, or else explode

Into great clouds of bloom, that grace with light

Dark city streets, in winter-weary mode,

Whose canyon walls ascend to moonlit night.



Arjun (Babui) Janah < >

2006.04.08 Sat.

Brooklyn, New York.


Monday, April 3, 2006

Morning Song

Morning Song

A song, that wells from a joyful heart,
Now wafts up from the street;
What creature is this, that sings like a bird,
With words of human speech?

This morn, I rose with a downcast heart,
By sorrows sapped of might--
Until I heard this song of man
Rise up, in winged delight.

How sweet this song of happiness,
Sung by a mortal man.
All nature seems to join in rhyme,
With a song that says, “We can!”

How sweet indeed, and yet so sad,
That this in turn must pass--
Both song and singer fade away,
Like scent and bloom, alas!

But as the lilt and cadence fade,
This heart is not the same
As when this hearer had not heard
That song that had no name.

From the city street, there rose this morn
That song of pure delight.
The happiness the singer felt
Did fill his heart with light.

And like a flame that leaps to touch
A leaf it sets alight,
So too that song did light my heart
With hope and sudden sight.

And so perhaps one day I’ll sing
And lift another’s heart--
Just as this minstrel of the street
Did, of him, leave me part.

Arjun (Babui) Janah  < >
Brooklyn, New York
2006.04.03 Mon.

Older, defunct websites:

The Daily Poet:
Arjun's Website:

Newer, extant websites:

The Daily Poet:
Arjun's Website:


Thursday, March 9, 2006

Kathy McGunigle

Kathy McGunigle

I - Remembrance

I knew a woman once, whom I can see,
In my mind's eye, as she appeared when I
First met her, two decades ago, almost --
A little woman, frail with age and cares,

A teacher, just like me, in public school,
In Brooklyn, close by Queens, near water's edge,
But nearing, unlike me, retirement age,
With body worn, but spirit still aglow --

A teachers' teacher, she, whose little frame
Grew energized, when, chalk in hand, she taught
That  subject that she loved, that Chemistry
That she had slowly learned, and mastered, now

To pass it on, with reverence and zest
And knowledge gleaned, through years of teaching kids,
Of all their strengths and weaknesses, and where
They most were prone to stumble, falter, or progress

In their own paths through this, her chosen field...

~ ~ ~

II - Names

She was a teacher in a public school,
Her name was Kathy McGunigle.
The teachers called her by her given name,
The students by her last, her married one.

In deference to age, I called her first
Mrs. McGunigle, and then, with time,
Just Kathy, but for many years she would
Persist in calling me by name not mine,

But of another, younger man, by far --
A bearded, turbaned Sikh, Long Island reared,
Kuljeet Singh Ahluwalia, K-J
For short, of sharper, and more vital mien

Than mine; yet she confused us two for years,
A foible I let pass, in deference
Again to age, and to her virtues strong --
Her friendliness and humble ways, her work,

Her staying late, like me, to finish up,
What in the rush of teaching classes five,
As we both did, with voice and chalkboard filled,
There ne'er was time to tend to or complete.

And in her failing with my name, I saw
A kindred spirit, for, although a face
I'd not forget, a name I sometimes would.
And so, with smile, to “Ahluwalia”,

I did, when called by Kathy, oft respond,
Reminding her, at times, I was not he
Whose name she called, but rather whom she meant,
At which, she would express her great regret.

III - Conversations and Summers 

And we would then converse, on many things
That to us held import, both teacherly
And matters of her family and mine:
Her daughters and their kids, whom she held dear;

Our students rude and pleasant; Malcolm X,
The movie, and the kids' response to it;
Of vectors, and of Kepler's Laws; and how
They managed, other teachers, at school's end,

To rush off home, or pick up kids, or go
To classes, or to other work, so prompt.
"I don't see how they do it.", she would say,
While peering out the windows at the street,

For sign of husband's car, her ride back home
To Rockaway, across the Flatbush bridge,
Where in the summers by the beach she'd stroll
With her grandkids in tow, that sweet respite

From grading, prep and classes that we'd earn
By toiling through ten months of that, to find
Two summer months fly by, so sweet and yet
So fast that we were back again at work

As if it were a dream, that interlude;
And dust of chalk, and lack of sleep and all
That teaching was, as every hour we looked
At sixty eyes anew, and did our best

To keep the brightness of those eyes aglow,
While passing on to them what they must know,
Did keep us in a state as far removed
From summer's lazy days as arctic cold.

< to be continued >

Arjun Janah < >
Brooklyn, New York
2006 March 5, Sun.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Four Avas and One Holly

The two poems below were inspired by real women, Ava and Holly, whom I knew and admired from a distance.
I have put the two poems together here, because both were born rather spontaneously, and both have persisted for a long time in my mind. When I wrote them, it seemed to me that the poems already existed, in a platonic, non-material sense, and that I was but the vehicle, by  happenstance, for their materialization. Yet, no doubt, both “Ava” and “Holly” were examples of my own unconscious mind at work, with the language and sentimentality reflecting my own limitations. 



Lonely Holly, sad-eyed Holly,
Share with me your melancholy.
Speak no words -- but let your eyes
Speak to me and make me wise.

Arjun Janah <  >
College Park, Maryland, 1970’s


The four lines that make up "Holly", above, entered my mind one day --  almost readymade, as it were, in the 1970's.  The lines seem to have been jingling quietly inside my head ever since, since I had no difficulty, today, recalling the words, written almost thirty years ago.

Arjun Janah < >
Brooklyn, New York. 2006 March 4.

Below is a poem, "Ava", that has been rearranged into four parts.  These four parts were originally one poem, entitled “Doggerel for Ava”, written around 1991.
At that time, a colleague, Ava, and I came to have a friendship, almost as if of cousins. Between us, there was a connection, or recognition, that both of us acknowledged, but could not explain.

The spirit of the poem below, if not the actual language, seemed to come from this temporary, shared connection to something beyond our temporal selves.  As is clear in the poem, a memory seems to have been awakened -- a memory that was not of our present conscious lifetimes.  Was it an unconscious fantasy, a memory of a dream, deja vu, or something else?  I do not know.

Ava, Part 1 -- Recollection

On what forgotten planet,
‘Neath what forgotten stars,
Did I first hear your footsteps,
Approaching in the dark?

At dawn, up on the mountain,
In the mist you passed me by,
I saw the wind lift up your headdress,
And your eyes were like the sky.

That morning, on the meadow,
Whose feet, so wet with dew?
I lifted up my eyes and saw
That selfsame, smiling you.

At noontime, in the forest,
I felt your presence near.
You turned your head and saw me,
And startled like a deer.

In the silence of the desert,
I saw you from afar;
And lost you in the shimmer
Of sand and heated air.

At sunset, by the river,
With waters turned to gold –
The sun was on your skin and hair,
Your eyes were laughing bold.

On what forgotten planet,
‘Neath what forgotten stars,
Did I first hear your footsteps,
Approaching in the dark?


Ava, Part 2 -- Presumption

Were you once a priestess,
At an ancient shrine?
Did I come to you to ask
If you would be mine?

Did I ever kiss you?
Did I hear you sigh?
Did I hold you in my arms?
Did you watch me die?

On what forgotten planet,
‘Neath what forgotten stars,
Did I first hear your footsteps,
Approaching in the dark?


Ava, Part 3 -- Longing

Summers come and summers go,
Autumn winds and winter snow
Yield to springtime’s gentle rain.
Will I see my love again?

Will I see you once again,
And look into your eyes?
Will I see you smile again,
And see back into time?

On what forgotten planet,
‘Neath what forgotten stars,
Did I first hear your footsteps,
Approaching in the dark?


Ava, Part 4 -- Faith

Yes, I shall see you yet again,
And look into your eyes.
My heart will stop, then beat again.
And I shall see you smile.

Arjun Janah < >
Brooklyn, New York, circa 1991



The only poetry that I can recall writing prior to "Ava"  are:  (a) the four line piece called “Holly”, which I wrote in the 1970’s; and (b) a few things that I wrote during my first summer in New York, in 1988, while recovering from my first year of teaching in the public schools. These last appear to be lost, and I cannot remember them fully.

One evening,  in or around 1991, after returning home from work, the whole of what I have now called Ava 1, above, and parts of what I have now separated out, and called Ava, II - IV, came to me, quite out of the blue.  I wrote it down,  quickly and effortlessly --  in one sitting, almost as if taking dictation.  Later that evening  (or it could have been the next day), I added small pieces to the end of “Ava”.  This I did more deliberately.

It is now 2006 – about fifteen years later.  I no longer have any records at hand of the Ava poem.  But its first few quatrains have run through my head periodically.

Years after writing it, I remember e-mailing “Ava” to my sister, Monua, after she had moved from New York to California. I did this in response to a wonderful poem that she had composed and e-mailed to us.   Unfortunately, both Monua's computer and mine went through crashes subsequently.  After Monua's passing in January of 2004, I inherited her last laptop, and began using it about a year later.  But there is no trace left in it of either poem. 

Remarkably, as I sat down at Monua’s laptop, today, to type out the poem that I had written fifteen years ago, it all seemed to come back – even the pieces I had added subsequent to the initial “revelation”.  

I decided to separate these added pieces, plus the end-part of what I wrote at first sitting, into three other parts that follow the first;  and  have done this above.   I have tried to tie what are now the first three parts of the Ava poem together, by repeating the first stanza of  Ava 1 at the end of each of Avas 2 - 3.   I do not know, however, if this artifice does more harm than good.

Arjun Janah < > Brooklyn, New York, 2006 March 4.


Friday, March 3, 2006



What is left of man or mountain
When their centers have collapsed?

What is left of truth or trusting
When the faith has been betrayed?

What is left of hope or humor
When the promise can’t be kept?

Yet the mantra, and the manner,
Must be said – and must be glad!


What is left of strength or striving
When the lungs and heart are stopped?

What is left of brains or beauty
When the skull and face are crushed?

What is left of grace or gaiety
When the limbs contorted lie?

Yet the deal, and yet the dollar,
Must be made – and must be had!


What is left of song or sadness
When the spirit is departed?

What is left of love or laughter
When the life has crept away?

What is left of faith or fountain
When their waters are dried up?

Yet the play, and so the player,
Must be played – and must be mad!


2005 November 6.
Brooklyn, New York.
Arjun Janah  < >

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Jupiter Rising

Jupiter, Rising at Nightfall              /1

The sun is gone, the seabirds call;
Red sky is fled, and all's in thrall.
From the west, cold zephyrs hasten;     /2
Seamen, sails and lashings fasten.

O'er the sea, the storm cloud gathers;
Darkest green, the heaving ocean,
Moves to winds that fleck with foam
Waves that chase the seagulls home.

Westward, forkéd lightning flashes;
Thunder follows, deeply growling.
Eastward, see, a lantern rises --
Jove's great planet, brightly shining.

Deus omnipotens, deus pater!
Almighty god, of gods the father!
Lord of lightning, lord of thunder!
He who splits the skies asunder!

Sudden, fearsome lightning blazes;
All around, Jove's thunder crashes!
Swirling dark, the storm is here,
Beckoned by Great Jupiter!             /3

Arjun Janah < >
Brooklyn, New York
January 2004


1.  This came to mind during a walk, after sunset, by the bay
in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.  A bright star was rising over the
darkening, wind-tossed  waters. Storm clouds were gathering
over land and sea, and there were flashes of lightning in the distance.

2.  In English literary usage, a zephyr is a light breeze. But in Greek,
Zephyros was, specifically, the wind from the west.

3.   In India, where we were born, the first monsoon thunderstorm
delighted our hearts. But here, as the cold winds blew and the
storm approached, I had a foreboding of impending violence.

It had been been but two years since the attacks on the towers
in Manhattan.

A few days later, my sister Monua, who had moved from New York
to the west coast, died there, at age 44.


Monday, February 27, 2006



Much as a swimmer keen does test     /1  
His skills against the breaking wave,
So did I boldly trust my strength
To plunge myself in venture brave...

Neglecting weakness at my core,
That should have been my work on shore,
And blinded, by my battle lust,
To what, untended, turns to dust;

Neglecting what I had to mend,
Forgetting that which I should tend,
In joy at work that did fulfill
Much I had hoped for, wanted still...

Neglecting family and friends,
Who did perceive a man, obsessed
With vainly fighting present trends...
Whose faith in me, in time, grew stressed...

Far from the shore I swam, to parts
Unknown to men of caution, bound
By ties and fears and drives, mundane,
That keep both mind and body sound.

~ ~

But as I swam, the tide did turn,
And foolishly, I fought, in vain,
That current strong, that sweeps men out
Towards great sorrow, and great pain,

Who battle it,  as I did learn,
When, to my sad astonishment,
I found myself in briny deep,
No land in sight, no nourishment,

For mind or body, dull, fatigued;
Watched day to night transform, 
Jove's planet rising in the East,
And in the west, the storm

It beckoned, thundering, with giant
Crashing wave that swept out far to sea
Beyond my reach, beyond all reach...
My sister dear, whom I had left on shore,

Whose call for help I did not heed,
But left her, ailing, on her own,
For though she ailed, she did not need
My help as yet, I wrongly thought,

Still confident that she was bold,
And strong enough, and wise,
To guard my parents, both  grown old...
Yet, snatched before their eyes,

She now was gone, into the deep,
Not quietly, in blessed peace,
But torn apart, in mind, in heart,
In lonely pain that did not cease..

Until the time she breathed her last,
And sank beneath the wave...
And left us only with the past,
To try, in vain, to save...

~ ~

But cruel Jove would not our souls'
Torment, with this, let cease...
But showed us, how our tenderness
Could turn to hate, with ease...

As I did swim in circles round,
By currents of attachments bound,
Between two coasts, twixt parents, wife...
And death did pull, and so did life...

Three thousand miles did separate
My duties and attachments fine,
My Brooklyn life, my job, my wife...
My parents' hopes and grief, and  mine...

These duties, strong and separate,
I could not reconcile,
Save I did split myself in two,
In body, or in mind;

Nor could I, in my heart, forgive
What grief had thrust aside,
But time had brought again to fore,
And did my heart divide...

And so, in time, a longing grew
To find again the sand,
Beneath my feet, and walk again,
On firm, familiar land...


1.  This poem  describes:  this  immigrant’s quixotic preoccupation with a teaching vocation; his consequent neglect of his birth family, from which he was  separated by great distance;   the terrible consequence of this neglect;  subsequent tribulations from irreconcilable  loyalties, also compounded by distance;  his descent towards despair; and his longing for sanity.

All of this is done using an aquatic allegory -- I know not why. 

This had, at first,  been inserted  into "Cafeteria in the Sky", but was later removed from there, and left to stand on its own.
(For "Cafeteria..." see the second of the 2006 Jan. 25 entries below, following "Teachers' Lounge", or at  .)

Arjun Janah < >
2006 Feb. 4 Sat.
Brooklyn, New York.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Silver starlight sings and dreams
The Song of Many and of One
And webs of Singing and of Dreaming
Dance and Weave
the Tapestry of Worlds...

Sparks of Green on rock and earth
Coalesced from Light and Wind,
Ever reaching toward the sun,
Embrace the deep...
and so a Leaf unfurls.
Helen, Maryland,
2006 Jan. 29.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Hmmph! + Conscience

Waves :


Oh what a waste of time this is!

Are you a fool, or physics wiz,

As you once claimed, for if you were,

You'd spend, instead, more time with her,

Your wife, I mean, that Mrs. Li

That you've forgotten -- I mean me!

-- your disgruntled wife!!!

Wai-Sin Li,  NY. Jan. 29, 2006.


The short piece above, "Waves -- Hmmph", was written, not by Wai-Sin, but by me, a day after writing "Waves".   Over a month later, on a Saturday, with Wai-Sin not home, I had the time and privacy to write the piece below, which I present here in partial reparation for the earlier deceit.

Arjun (Babui) Janah.  2006, March 11.

Li Wai-Sin -- Conscience.

"I am not complicated, " you once said,
When I was cross at you, by anger led
To question how you differed then from me.
"I'm simple -- just," you said, "like one- two-three."

And so you were, my true and simple love,
As I found out, as years were counted out,
And you held true, amidst the pull and shove
Of wordly things, to that which does not shout

But whispers, soft, the simple, quiet truth
That we ignore at peril to our soul;
Because the strength to face and follow through
This truth, by habit formed, does keep us whole;

And when we do forget, or put aside
This listening, by complications led
Astray, from hard and narrow to the wide
And easy road, we weaken, and grow dead.

For a dead heart is what you do not have,
When those around avert their eyes or sleep,
And you, awake, must see, with pain, and choose
The path you tread, though weariness be deep.

For pain must come with love, and love with pain.
This is a truth we face, or cowards be;
From you, my love, I came to learn again,
That duty clear, that we need hearts to see.

And though you are, like me, a human, frail,
When you and I are gone, with our travail
Then past, and those who still remain do wail,
And then move on, I hope that those prevail

Who see the humor of  it all, and laugh;
And drink a toast to you, my angel half!
While in their hearts a blossom opens up,
That gives them strength to see, yet not give up!

Arjun (Babui) Janah.
Brooklyn, New York, 2006 March 11.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Waves -- of Duality

Some nations rise, some nations fall,
Some nations never rise at all.
Some lie low, while some stand tall,
And slay and preach, until they fall.

As raindrops fall, so vapors rise;
As clouds depart, to leave blue skies,
So clouds arrive, before our eyes;
As empires fall, so empires rise.

Nations rise, and nations fall;
Why so, we do not know at all.
What's born, must die, and this is so,
What ups, must down, yes this we know.

As ocean wave has crest and trough,
And each, by self, is not enough,
So good and evil, clear and mist,
And light and dark must coexist.

 ~ ~ ~

Life and death, and night and day,
Are but One, that seems as two;
And yet, we claim, "It must be true,
Death is not life, nor is night day!"

It's true, each one the other needs,
But still, we say, "No -- we must cleave
What's One, in twain, just as a sieve
Must separate the stones and seeds!"

For to confuse the right with wrong,
Or false with true, or prose with song,
Would leave us dulled, beclouded quite,
Bereft of form, and drained of might.

For we are creatures, built of form;
And form was born, out of Unformed,
By that same act, of cleavage sharp,
That brought forth light, and brought forth dark.

 ~ ~ ~

So nations fall, and nations rise;
A child is born, an old man dies.
The Water moves, from crest to trough,
And back again, from down to up.

The clouds ascend, the rain descends;
And day and night do cycle through.
Upon what's right, the wrong depends;
Without the false, there is no true.

So nations rise, and nations fall;
Peace turns to war, war yields to peace.
Why so, we do not know at all;
Save that it's so, and without cease.

 ~ ~ ~

Pain and pleasure, love and hate,
Sorrow, joy, esteem, contempt,
Peace and turmoil, lust and sate,
Hope, despair, to quit, attempt,

Desire, aversion, tiredness, zest...
These are but poles, 'twixt which we sway,
But just as east turns into west,
So also yes gives way to nay.

Waves of being, leaves of form,
Circled round a central Corm,
In time and space do us embed.
Where the start, and when the end?

 ~ ~ ~

What the Center, what the Germ?
Is It real, is It firm?
Is It fluid, sharp or dull?
Can we grasp It, is It Null?

It is  not that, it is not this.
Not that, not this -- then what is It?
It is not here, It is not there.
Not here, not there -- then where is It?

It must be All, and must be Naught,
Because It lacks all qualities,
That do arise, as we forget
That that which is, is also not.

It must be here, and must be there;
And yet is neither here nor there.
It is Quiet, It is Peace...
Worlds in conflict, without cease!

We cannot grasp It, yet can see
What It is not, though It is All;
For we are caught, although we're free,
By twins that hold us quite in thrall.

 ~ ~ ~

Arjun (Babui) Janah,
Home, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn,
2006 Jan 28 Sat.