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 http://journals.aol.com/sjanah/dailypoet/entries/832 .)
Arjun Janah < firstname.lastname@example.org >
2006 Feb. 4 Sat.
Brooklyn, New York.