Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tutors Two

Tutors Two
There was a time, when I would daily go
To Gravesend Bay and run along the shore
To Caesar's Bay.  And there, I'd turn around
And race again to where the Verrazano Bridge
Makes giant arch to Staten Island.  Then
I'd jog, at times, or else I'd slow and walk
Towards the north, until I turned a bend
And saw the towers at Manhattan's edge.

On weekends, I would often venture more,
To pier jutting out at 65th,
And walking to that jetty's very end,
I'd watch the tide that heaved below, the gulls
That flew and dived – and all the ships that sailed
From far and near towards the waiting docks,
And those that traveled out towards the deep...

And then, refreshed, I would return to work
That even then would never seem to end,
But which, with naiveté and spirit's force,
I turned to sense and sequence – much as others,
In their endless daily labor, do.


Those days, alas, are passed, and though I live,
At present, nearer to the waiting bay,
It waits in vain for one, who rarely finds
The time or strength to walk across the bridge
That we pedestrians use to cross the flow
Of cars upon the parkway by the shore,
Or for that harried soul to find his way
By other routes to meet that ocean swell.

What vanity, to think an ocean waits
For ant like me to walk by it again!
But of such fantasy, are verses born,
And each of us imagines all the rest
Must wheel around the center that is us –
Delusion that persists, at times, till death...

And yet, how grateful is this ant, who knows
That he is nothing, though he oft forgets –
How grateful, for the grace that he received
From ocean's breath –  and vision of that sea
That stretches till it seems to meet the sky,
And so reminds us of our tiny place...

And so, I also thank that sky above,
By day illumined by the searing sun,
At times an ocean, blue and arcing wide,
At times, with clouds, like wondrous changelings, filled –
And then, at night, revealing all its deep,
As woman drops her veil and shows her eyes,
With all the universe contained within...

There is a sacred space within us all,
As much in trees as in the prophets past,
Where time is stilled and all is seen as one –
And sky and sea and land untouched by hands
Of ones demented call us back to that.

How tranquil is that feeling they evoke,
That sea, that sky, those beings full of change
And yet eternal, like imagined gods,
In mortals such as I, who walk the streets
Of city full of labor, rush and grime –
And yet beneath that sky, beside that sea,
Reminders, still, of what this life can be...


That we are part of such an universe,
In which our problems and our quests are naught,
Is knowledge earned in raptured silences
By such as I, who still presume to teach
The youngsters, eager or by cities burned,
By using voice and writing, all the tools
That fail, for lessons such as I have learned
From these, my tutors two, the sky and sea...

But in the children and in all of us
There is that sea, that never-ending deep
We call the sky, with all its burning stars,
And there's the land that also waits for those,
Who left its fields and slopes for city streets,
Forgetting much in our desire to learn.

We all must live, and jobs provide the cash
For sustenance and even for the tools
With which to write such verses as we do,
Be these composed of words or other things
For which we labor, purely out of love,
As some may do for children, aged or ill.

But jobs can eat away at being's core,
And sap the life that land and sea and sky
Have given us. To live and to enjoy
This little time we have is blessing true
And yet, we're made to squander it on things
That have no meaning, being webs of lies.

And woe!  We're caught within those iron webs,
And so must spin, like gears of engines made
For profit and for keeping us enslaved,
Compelled to do, and do at vicious speed,
Our virtues quelled or used for specious ends...

Yet some of us attempt to do what's right,
To do our jobs as conscience asks us to,
To bring some meaning back, where meaning's gone,
To bring some light again to eyes grown dull,
For our own satisfaction at the end
Of working day – and then of working life,
So we can say, “It wasn't all a waste.”


And what, I wonder, will our students do,
The ones who strive, with diligence, to learn?
Will they, in turn, be caught in spreading webs,
Be gears in engines, fated then to spin
And grind away their lives in senseless ways,
And only blessed by grace of ignorance?

If I had courage more, to students, I
Would say, “Leave all your books aside
And all those gadgets new that entertain.
Go walk a mile beside that ocean shore
And gaze at curving waves and arcing sky.
In silence, walk, to learn the lessons deep.
And treading softly on the hallowed ground
That gave you birth, reach down to touch its breast.

“Awake at dawn.  Inhale the morning mist,
The scent of grass...  Anoint your temples with
That dew, the tranquil essence of the sea,
That sky has brought in silence to the land.
And in that silence, look in others' eyes
And sense what currents run within that deep.
And if you can, from window, roof or street,
Observe the starry sky, the changing moon,
For they will teach you what I cannot teach.”

2012 December 27th, Thu.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

How Beautiful

How Beautiful

How beautiful, that evening sky,
In pastel shades aglow,
With clouds that streamed from west to east
In dark processions swift...

I watched that sky this evening, as
Those pastels faded, slow.
The winter winds were biting, but
I felt my spirits lift...

Ah, beauty, how you cure the heart
That's sickened by the rush...
You still the worker's fevered thoughts,
His altercations hush...

And yet, he writes these verses that
Are echoes of that quiet,
That beauty that he saw displayed
That soothed his own disquiet...

He watched the sky this evening, as
His tide was ebbing, slow.
His body-mind was aching yet
He felt his spirits lift...

How transient, that field above,
In softest tints aglow,
With horses dark that raced across
In long processions swift...

2012 December 22, Sat.

Thursday, November 22, 2012



Let's give our thanks to spirits dispossessed
Of bodies and of their ancestral lands.
When they had minds to think, they never thought
They owned the prairies or the shifting sands...
But they were linked to that, which gave them birth –
The sky, the sea and this maternal earth...

The turkey gobbles, then we gobble it.
But men give thanks to that paternal god
That let the slaughter last in Jericho
And gave, to “cleansings” past and now, the nod.
Oh Yahweh-Allah, when addressed as Bohg
Or Deus, you remain the selfsame rogue!


We saw the Pujas come and go and there
We worshiped Durga with our pageantry.
And those, who'd drunk of bhang, at riverside
Did whirl and dance, of all their worries free...
We saw her slide into the waters dark –
And heard the dogs, that feed on corpses, bark...

But see, some worship still the buffalo-god,
Who's now the demon that our Durga slays,
Resplendent, fierce, upon her lion-steed
That bites the dying “demon” as he lays
His body, pierced by Durga's thrusting lance,
Upon that ground, on which her peasants dance...


The Lord of Dance lies comatose on earth
As Kali strides upon his ashen chest.
So Shakti rides on Shiva, who's prostrate,
As woman lays man's mortal myth  to rest.
So male is vanquished – and we suffer woes,
As “yes” of past is turned to echoed “no's”...

How bright, the threads that such as Gotam' wove,
How dark, the ones that these have overgrown!
How much of blood did Aztecs give to gods
Before they were, by fortune, overthrown!
We hear the medicine man, who stomps and wails...
The didgeridoo replies – as reason fails...

2012 November 22nd, Thurs.
(Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.A.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012



The face of sorrow is the same for all,
For stricken Arab and for grieving Jew.
The tribes of men are humbled down to one,
As enemies are bound by common woe.

The mother weeps, the father's face is stone
That shatters as we watch or look away.
The child, the sibling and the spouse have tears.
The women wail. There's nothing friends can say.

How primal is the birth that gives us life,
How final is that ending that is death.
For life is gone and never will return,
And so is hope, for we have lost the bet.

How many years it takes to raise a child,
How quickly vital breath can pass away...
How many tears – of joy and then of grief,
How long the night, how brief, the passing day...


There's death that comes in time to ease our pain,
A blessing bright, in darkest cloak disguised.
There's death that is inflicted, full of woe,
Of violence and horrors stark comprised.

There is a calculus of human pain,
A logic dark in all our “leaders” do.
The mob enraged, the bomber in the sky,
Are figured in – and also me and you.

How vain, revenge that brings yet more of death.
How childishly we feed each other's fears!
And what can compensate for loss of life,
When all that's left are memories and tears?

We call for justice, but we call in vain.
There are no gods that watch from arcing sky.
And if there were, they would not care a fig
When ants are crushed – or when our children die.

But when our anger leads to hatred, death,
To forces dark, we then give shameful birth.
And looking in the mirror, then, we see
That there are devils here, upon this Earth.

The one with strength is he, who should forbear.
In humbling foe, he makes it all too clear
That he, in turn, his humbling, too, will bear.
Who deals in death, will pay in wages dear.

The one, who's weaker, only can appeal
To better nature of the one, who's strong.
The weak are crushed, as others look away,
For might is right – until we say it's wrong.

How much of pain, of horrors, screams that mute
Our voices, dulling orphaned children's eyes?
How much of pain, until our hearts refute
These conflicts, born of treachery and lies?
2012 November 13th, Tue.

Background information on operation "Cast Lead", 2009

Restless Breed

Restless Breed

We come and go, like leaves upon a tree,
By births imprisoned and by deaths set free.
Our labor, which, in living, knows no end,
For some, is joy.  But others disagree.

We flow like water towards the waiting sea,
From whence we came before we learned to be,
Illusion brief – and cause of all our grief,
As droplets bearing names like “you” and “me”.

How many suns have taken birth and died,
How many orphans, for their parents, cried?
And yet the cycles turn relentlessly,
Until we learn that our creator lied.

Why worship one who claims perfection, yet
Has needs that clearly were and are unmet?
From restlessness was born our restless breed.
His starting sin, he'd rather we forget.

We rise and fall, like waves upon the sea,
By tempest pulled from nothingness to be.
For some, the storm's an awesome, wondrous dance.
But others pray for blesst tranquility.
2012 November 13th, Tue.

The Sea + Woman

The Sea

The sea, becalmed – a placid, tranquil lake, 
But vast – a mirror stretched from land to sky, 
Reflecting both – a giant, languid eye... 

The sea, now rippled by a rising breeze – 
A woman, wakened by her lover's tease, 
Aroused, with moon reflected in the tide... 

The sea, in fury – thrashing in the throes 
Of passions roused – and thrusting for release, 
By spasms rocked – towards her bless-ed ease...
2012 November 5th, Mon. 

A woman's told that she's the weaker sex,
For she can be the size of half a man;
Yet all, a man can do, a woman can.

And she gives birth, as only she can do,
In nature grounded, tied to sea and moon,
Connected to the earth, as man is not.

As boats may sail upon an ocean wide,
So men may float upon the surging tide
Of woman, roused to tempest in her deep.

And as a woman may, to some appear,
So, to sailors, does the ocean seem.
What lends us life, can also that redeem...

As Durga rides the lion, slays the demon,
And Kali strides on Shiva, so does woman
Conquer man, when she connects with earth.

And men must turn to gods residing high,
On mountain top or watching from the sky,
As they are torn by fear and by desire...

And when the women copy now the men,
And so wear pants, while men do not wear skirts,
They only copy weakness – that which hurts.

For man is insecure and torn from earth.
The weaker sex is he, who's not at ease.
So men make war – as women wait for peace.
2012 November 6th, Tue.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

To My Father

To My Father

You will not die, my father, you will live.
My mother, she has gone, my sister too.
But they, like you, were never mine to keep...

I now am far, although I would be near.
What's happened in the past, we can't reverse...
By worldly shackles, I am now constrained.

But live, dear father, live -- and see again,
Although the pain of loss may be acute,
And that of living too you do endure,
The story is not done. 

And I would wait
And so might you, if fortune so permits,
So we can meet again -- and be, perhaps,
A father with his son again...

And if, perchance, our meeting be delayed,
Then live -- for those who've given you their love,
And find the strength to walk -- and work again...

And if, by fortune's hand, you take your leave
Or I, before we ever meet again,
Then know that you were loved -- and that you gave
Not knowing it, perhaps, what gives me now
And others, sustenance...

We are but two among the multitude,
And all that we have suffered, others have
And others will, as is the mortal lot...

And yet, we weep at prospect of our loss
And at the losses that we each endure.
So weeps the world -- and yet it smiles again,
And so it was before we trod this Earth,
As it will be when we are memories...

But live, my father, live, for you have yet
So much that's left -- do live, for better days...
The ones who tend you now, the ones afar,
Beseech you that you live -- and rise again.

2012 June 20th, 1:11 a.m.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Cheerful Note

A Cheerful Note

How many dirges should I sing before
You bid me stop -- or do to me much worse?
Is there a reason you should bear yet more
Of dismal gloom and whining, set in verse?

So now, before you hit again "delete",
Let me reward forbearance you have shown.
I now shall try to strike a cheerful note,
That thing, for which, you know, I'm widely known!


I heard a bird sing out the other day.
A year ago, perhaps, I heard it sing...
And cheery was that song I think I heard.
It had, you know, a joyful kind of zing...

Ah yes!  I also saw a puppy, out at play.
Upon the grass it ran, in circles tight.
That too was quite some time ago.
It seemed to show, in running, great delight...

Is that enough?  The moon!  I saw that too.
In phases full and gibbous, crescent and
In new-moon phase, when it had vanished quite.
And all of that was -- really kind of grand...

And I saw stars -- or were they planets?  Both!
I even saw the sun, but not for long,
As it was bright and tried to hurt my eyes.
I saw the sun, and found its light was strong...

I saw some trees, oh just the other day...
I noticed it was spring, with winter gone.
And some of them were pretty, so it seemed.
I still had eyes -- and things to look upon...

But when my eyes are gone.... Oh no!  Not now!
A cheerful note is what it's all about!
So back to that.  How wonderful are eyes!
And I have ears -- and voice.  So here's a shout!

Let's see...  I still can feel -- the cold and warmth, the pain...
Not that.  Ignore that last.  It's pleasure that I feel!
There's food -- and sex -- at least the thought of that,
And sleep -- though troubled.  Scat!  Let's turn the wheel
Ah!  Waking!  What a pleasure, no?
Well, sometimes not... Ignore that too.  
And people!  Family!  And friends!  But where?
Oh here and there, afar, the ones like you...

Is that enough?  It seems that "cheerful note"
Is hard to find and seems to turn to sour...
No matter!  There!  I've tried!  Now you can vote
And hit "delete" again -- with all your power.

Still there?  Your stomach must be truly strong!
With friends like you, a poet should reform.
No more of  doleful stuff or rantings mad...
But cheerful things -- and those that do inform...

The bird, the puppy and the waving trees...
The sun and moon and shining planets/stars...
The pleasures left, the family and friends,
The eyes and ears -- and all the news of wars....

Oh drat!  Not "wars".  No war stuff here.  Omit!
It's "peace"...  How wonderful is peace...
That peace that comes when we're about to die...
What?  Death!  Not that!  Let's hit "release"...

So there's my cheerful note -- or notes of cheer.
I hope I leave you somewhat satisfied...
Forbearance has borne fruit, I hope of taste
That's sweeter than what verses past supplied...

Enjoy the sweetness, let it last awhile...
Some say that honey should be laid on thick...
Now I shall leave, lest bitterness and bile
Return.  There!  Swallowing's the trick!

Babui / Arjun
2012 May 13th, Sun.

Friday, March 23, 2012



She came at the end of the class and the day, and handed me the book I’d given her soon after the start of the term, almost seven months ago.

“But why?” I asked.

“I'm going to New Orleans.” she said—this quiet girl, who had worked these months without complaint—or even word.

Her voice was shaking and her eyes had tears.

“How long, Lan Fang,” I asked, “have you been here?”

“Two years.” she said.

Two years: a language, barely learned; a refuge, here at school, in this far land; a friend or two, perhaps—by chance or earned through effort; and progress—halting, slow—with books like the one that she now was dutifully returning.

How many nights were spent upon that book, deciphering the blur of foreign words?  How few— yet precious—her new friends and teachers...

And now, she would lose them, as she had lost the ones before.

How could I take that book?  Yet take it, I must.

I opened the book and saw another's name, whose visage floated up—a student gone and yet remembered, as a teacher does...

I shook my head and sighed.

 “Your parents too?” I asked.  She nodded yes.

“That’s good.” I said.  “I too will be with you.”

She stood quietly.

“Will you be here on Monday?”

 “No.” she said, and now more tears welled up.  Her voice was faint.

I searched and gave her tissues.  She took one, returned the other, bowed her head and left.

I strode towards the door and called, “Do write!  And let me know.  I will write, for you, a recommendation, when you’re needing one.”
She looked at me and slowly walked away.
Babui / Arjun
2012  March 23rd, Friday
(changed to prose form on 2015 Dec. 14th, Mon.)
Please see also:  Departure-II