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: