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.


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