Darkness into Darkness, sightless to the end –
When all are competitors, then who can be a friend?
Darkness into darkness, turned away from light –
When all we see is darkness, what use to us is sight?
Dark and deep the river, ceaseless in its flow –
When everyone is racing, then who can dare to slow?
Dark and deep the river, feel it swirl and rage –
When all around is madness, who listens to the sage?
Darkness into darkness, blindness cannot see –
When all that's good is dying, who wishes then to be?
Darkness into darkness, callous till the end –
When what you do is heartless, how can you be a friend?
How wondrous is a living tree,
Resplendent in its leaves...
In summertime, it spreads its shade
And from that sun relieves,
On which it feeds, eschewing what
We animals must do,
Devouring naught that lives, unlike
The likes of me and you...
How beauteous, a living tree,
With branches spreading high...
How varied are its greens, when lit
By light of laughing sky...
How sweet, the scent of blooms, to those,
Who pass by it in spring...
How succulent, its fruits, for those,
Who light on it on wing...
How beauteous, the tree remains,
When standing in the nude...
How sensuous and strong, those limbs
In frozen interlude...
How poignant is the tree in death,
Majestic as it falls...
And even when it's dead, it speaks,
As little bird that calls...
It was evening. I was walking towards the sunset in the west.
The light of day was ebbing but the heavens were alight.
The air was still and humid and the trees were silent, dark.
The rain had kissed the streets and washed the city's grime away –
And water, clear, in curbside pools, reflected sky and clouds...
I walked in silence, breathing in the moisture in the air.
The schools and work had ended, freeing me, awhile, of care...
I walked towards a funeral home. Another one had died...
I asked the clouds who next would leave. But none of them replied...
So summer starts – and freedom brings awareness and release.
And yet, I hear, in solitude, the clamor of the crowd.
So little fishes in a pool, beside a waterfall,
Might hear the ceaseless roar – and sense, perhaps, their transience...
And so might soldiers question clouds, expecting no reply...
The rain clouds – they have gathered and they've blotted out the sun.
The rain clouds – they are gathered but the rain has not begun.
It is warm and it is humid, and the cloying air is still.
So the breezes are not blowing – but we hope that soon they will.
We wait in expectation of the breeze that ruffles leaves,
We wait with skin that's fevered and with mind that still believes.
We wait in meditation for the rain that's coming soon.
We wait, with perspiration, on this torrid afternoon.
Will the god of thunder, lightning bless the city with his rain?
Will our hopes and our beseeching be regarded – or in vain?
Will the tempest shake the branches, will the heavens break and pour?
Will we only sweat and suffer, unrequited, even more?
So the maiden waits for lover, who is tardy in his love.
So the shaman does his rain-dance, for the being up above.
Yet the leaves are still in silence, and the tempest is deferred,
As throughout these heated islands, all our prayers go unheard.
Will he hurry to his Radha, who is waiting for his touch?
Will he answer adoration? Is she asking for too much?
She is parched and she is fevered. She is restless and in pain.
Will her quencher, who is Krishna, be her jilter yet again?
You can hear the flute he's playing, in the distance, in the dark...
To the tune that he is playing, with his Radha, we can hark...
But alas, she is uncoupled – and she waits for him in vain.
He has found another gopi. There is little to explain.
It is summer – and we swelter, here in Brooklyn, in the Bronx,
In Manhattan, Staten Island and in Queens – as do the monks,
Who will suffer and be silent, as they offer of their hurts,
While we suffer as did Radha – as we offer of our words.
Will I write you a poem, now that you're gone?
Will I write you a poem, although it's too late?
Will I write for my father, who is ashes today?
Will I write for my father, who is taken by fate?
I will write you a poem, although you are gone,
I will write you a poem, for it's never too late.
I will write for my father, for the man that he was,
I will write for my father, for the man and his cause...
I will write for my father, who had traveled his land,
I will write for my father, for the skill in his hand,
I will write for my father, who had only one eye,
I will write for my father, for the light in that eye...
You are gone, oh my father, and yet you are here...
You are dead, oh my father, and my mother so dear...
You are gone, oh my parents, and you'll never return...
You are dead, oh my parents, and I saw you both burn...
I will go, oh my father, in my time, I will go.
I will go, oh my mother, and you never will know.
But I live, oh my father, and I'll live for awhile,
And I'll think of my parents and I'll weep and I'll smile.
I will think of my sister, who has gone on her way,
I will think of my sister, as I wake, every day.
I will think of my father, as I'm walking to work,
I will think of my mother, whenever I shirk...
You are gone, oh my parents, my sister and more...
You have walked through that exit, that portal, that door...
I will call you by name, but you never will know.
I will call you in silence, till I pass through that door...
Your were famous, my father, and your fame may persist,
But the labors you offered, I hardly can list.
You were famous, my father, if for only a while,
But you were also my father, who had made a boy smile...
You are gone, oh my mother, who was precious to all,
And the horrors you suffered, we still can recall...
You are gone, oh my mother, and we saw you depart.
You are gone, oh my mother, with the love in your heart...
You are gone, oh my sister, and your nurse, whom you loved,
You are gone, oh my sister, and so many beloved...
For we come and we go and we meet and we part,
And we each try to do, what we're asked by our hearts...
I will write you a poem, oh my father, I said,
But I wrote only this, that I'm writing, instead.
Be at peace, oh my parents, my sister and all...
Like the waves in the ocean, we rise and we fall...
Like the waves in the ocean, we are one and the same.
And yet we have quarrels, and we try to put blame...
You rose from the ocean, the ones that I loved...
You rest in that ocean, and you still are beloved.
I have written a poem that you never will see...
I have written a poem, and I'll let it now be...
What use is a poem, now that you're dead?
I write it for others, who are living, instead...
2013 June 24th, Mon. Brooklyn dedicated to the memory of:
1918, April 17th – 2012, June 21st
Sobha Janah (born Sobha Dutt),
1929, April 18th – 2012, May 18th,
1959, August 16th – 2004 January 18th
“You can see that you'll be dying,” said the spider to her prey,
As spirit looked at spirit in the eye,
“But it's out of love I do this, to be one with you in body
As in essence – as you know you can't deny.”
“Money makes the world go 'round,
Money makes it go.
Remember, dear, when you are grown,
Your mother told you so...
“So you’d better find your money, dear,
And sock your stash away.
For then you’ll never have to fear
That you’ve no cash to pay.”
Eat and be eaten, for that's how it is
As you're climbing the ladder of life.
A lifetime of sorrow, for a moment of bliss,
And your birth in this vortex of strife...
There's the worker who's fired and the one who's retired,
And they both have no income today.
There's the child who is dying and the mother who's crying,
For where is the money to pay?
I was walking and dreaming and heard, in my dream,
A sound that I'd heard in the past –
The sound of a kite as I stood on a roof
With a string that was reeling out fast.
I could hark to the sound of the kite in the wind,
I could feel how it tugged on the string.
I could pull and release, I could see the kite dive,
I could see it then rise and take wing.
On a zephyr it drifted, on a westerly wind,
And it floated and sank in the east.
But when the wind freshened, it rose on an arc,
That kite – and the heart in this beast.
There's a heart in this beast and a beast in that heart,
And that beast has a story to tell.
But that beast cannot speak – it can smile, it can weep,
And there's nothing it wishes to sell.
For the beast in our hearts is a kindlier beast
Than the beasts that are governed by mind.
Like the kite, it can soar, like the kite, it can dive.
It's a sensitive beast – you will find.
I captured and 'prisoned a dark little mouse,
In a jar with a lid that had holes.
And it leaped to escape and it injured its nose
On the sharps of that lid that had holes.
I went, with the mouse in that jar, to a field,
Where the grasses were waving in wind.
And I saw the mouse run, but it limped as it ran
And I knew that its captor had sinned.
I dreamed that I witnessed a kite-flying rat
That had weights, on its back, as a load.
And yet, with a gust, it was torn from its perch
And fell to its death on the road.
I dreamed that I knelt and I gentled that rat
That twitched as it struggled to die.
And as it was dying I took off its load
And left it unfettered to lie.
I dreamed that a hound was pursuing a deer –
And I saw the hound leap at the deer.
I saw the deer struggle and I saw the deer die –
And I saw its eyes widened in fear...
But the hound, with its fangs – it had love in its heart...
It knew little of music or math...
And yet, it had feeling – and feeling sans art –
Like the deer and the mouse and the rat...
I saw that a peasant was tilling the field
With the rays of the sun on his head.
I saw that a worker was limping, at dusk,
To sleep for awhile on his bed.
And the face of the worker was darkened with grime,
From his chin to the gray of his locks...
And the brow of the peasant was furrowed by woe,
As he struggled with plow and with ox...
I walked by the ocean, when the sun had gone down
And the stars had appeared in the sky.
I walked by the ocean and I heard the waves roar,
And I asked of the spirit, “Oh why?”
I walked by the ocean, with the stars in the sky,
And I saw, in the waters, a light.
In the darkness it flashed, with a glow that was green,
In the dark of the ocean at night.
I can still hear the sound of the wind on the kite,
I can see it dive down and then soar.
I can see how it climbs to the clouds up on high,
I can hear, in the silence, its roar.
There's the wave and the wind and the kite-flying rat
And the body that lies on the road.
And we wonder at this, the world we are in,
And we ask, why we carry this load.
There's the mouse that is limping, with blood on her nose,
And she's searching for those that she left.
There's the little ones squeaking, for mother that's gone.
There's a world, that's of pity, bereft.
There's the hound with the deer and the deer with her child
And the hound with her puppies that cry.
There's the white of the eye in the deer that will die,
And the beast that is crying out, “Why?”
There's the lord of the land, with his mansion so grand,
And the peasant who swears as he tills.
There's the worker who toils, who is blackened with oils
As he slaves for the man with the mills.
There's the one who's retired and the worker who's fired
And neither has income today.
There's the mother who's dying and the child who is crying,
For who has the money to pay?
Eat and be eaten, for that is the way,
The way of the world and of life.
Abandon your shame, as you're playing the game,
The game of the dollar and knife.
“Money makes the world go 'round,
Money makes it go.
Remember, dear, when I am gone,
Your mother told you so...
“What happened to your money, dear,
The money that you earned?”
“It’s mostly gone to bankers, mom,
And some of it, I burned.”
“I see that you are dying,” said the predator to prey,
As each of them saw other in the eye,
“But know, you will be living, oh my spirit, in this flesh.
So fear not – for I'll eat you, as you die.”
2013 June 16th, Sun. (with additions during the week) Brooklyn
Said a 'Ghandi' to a 'Ghurka',
“Our names have been misspelled.
It's a pity that we suffer as
These myths are not dispelled.
“For the eitches are not bidden
To be followers of gees.
There are eitches that are after kays
And eitches after dees.”
“So it's 'Gandhi' and its 'Gurkha',
And that's the written truth.
It's the way that we are spoken,
And our spelling follows suit.
“For their English isn't English
As it used to be before
Their Empire had included
The Indians and more.
“So their eitches may be silent
When they follow after gees.
But they'd better not be quiet
When they follow kays and dees.
“So it's 'Dhaka' now, not 'Dacca',
And it was always 'Noakhali'.
And the 'Khalistan' that wasn't
Was not named for goddess Kali.
“And if they were to travel
To the Ghats of east or west,
If they left their “Gats” behind them,
Thay would find it would be best.
“For the eitches that are standing
After gees may be announced,
As they once were done in English
That was thoroughly pronounced.
Said the Gurkha who'd been silent,
To the Gandhi who was not.
“I've a khukri here to silence
All the ones, who hear you not.
“For I know there was a Gandhi
Who was all for that ahimsa,
But when it comes to using eitches,
We are calling for some himsa!
“For we're sure that there'd be riots
If the Scots were robbed of lochs.
So should Gurkhas then be mangled,
Or be packaged in a box?
"Yes we know their ears can't hear it,
But they still should write it right.
For if they continue this,
We'll be looking for a fight!
“For we're sure they wouldn't like it
If we wrote the Thames as 'Tamhes',
Although the eitch is silent,
As it also is in 'Tomhas'.
“And if we wrote 'a bhoroug'
Or we wrote of 'gosths and goulhs',
Then some might laugh, but others
Would tell us, 'There are rules!'
“There's a gherkin, but we're Gurkhas,
So they'd better learn to spell –
Or they'll be joining all the murkhas
Who've a special place in hell!”
2013 June 15th, Sat. Brooklyn
The Gurkhas are an ethnic group in Nepal and adjoining parts of India. They earned a reputation as fierce warriors in the British Indian Army, being used in in WW2 against the Germans in North Africa and in savage battles against the Japanese in Asia. The Gurkha soldiers were allowed to carry a traditional weapon, the sturdy, curved machete called the khukri. (This is pronounced, by most Nepalese, either as spelled here or, more often, as "khukuri". Unfortunately, it is usually spelled as kukri in English texts.)
The Sanskrit word ahimsa (usually pronounced “ahingsha”) has been rather loosely translated as “non-violence” but is more accurately a state of mind, with himsa (“hingsha”) being its opposite – being the state of mind that harbors or nurtures highly negative emotions and thoughts against others. Such a state of mind may be conducive to unkind words and acts and may even result in unnecessary violence.
The Eastern and Western Ghats (literally, “steps”) are the coastal hill ranges of peninsular India.
Dhaka (once spelled 'Dacca') is, of course, the populous capital of Bangladesh. Noakhali is a southern, riverine district of that country.
Secessionist Sikhs in India were once calling (and fighting) for a “Khalistan” in the Indian half of the Punjab ( the land of five rivers -- Panj-ab -- in Persian). This was conceived of as a “pure land” for the Sikhs. (The Farsi word ab is cognate to the Latin aqua, as panj is to the Greek penta.)
The Sikhs, being monotheists, are usually far from being followers of the Hindu goddess Kali, who is still worshiped widely in Bengal and adjoining regions of eastern India – as well as in places elsewhere, being an ancient, pre-Aryan deity, as was Shiva. Both were assimilated, to some degree, into the Hindu-Aryan pantheon, with Kali/Durga being central to the Shaktas and Shiva to the Shaivites.
The two are seen interlocked in mithuna (coitus) as Shiva-Shakti in some temple sculptures.
Similar figures, often of much fiercer mien, may be seen in the metal sculptures of the Tantric form of Buddhism that found its way to Tibet.
Kali may have possible connections to the “Black Madonna” of the Mediterranean region, still worshiped furtively by a next-door neighbor of mine (an aged southern-Italian woman) in the Bensonhurst area of Brooklyn, New York, where I have lived for close to thirty years.
The Sanskrit word murkha is loosely used to mean “fool/idiot/moron/imbecile/unlettered”. But its proper meaning may be “ignorant, unlearned, unwise”.
Said the miser to the river,
“How beautiful you are!
I will keep you in my basement,
To look at, in a jar.”
Said the river to the miser,
“You can watch me as I flow.
If you try to catch and keep me,
There'll be nothing left to show.”
Said the scholar to the flower,
“I like the way you look.
Allow me now to pluck you
And to put you in my book.”
Said the flower to the scholar,
“You can look at me, my friend.
But if you try to pluck me,
Then our friendship's at an end.”
The worlds of suits and ties and those
Of workers rarely mingle.
But “Data-Driven Supervision”
Is suited for a jingle.
How many ways to make men work,
How many ways to lie...
But rather than be docile slaves,
It's better, far, to die...
Said the bosses to the workers,
Who were toiling at the schools,
“You will work for less and faster.
We will measure you with rules.”
Said the workers to the bosses,
“All your rules make little sense.
If you think that we are asses,
Then let's stop with this pretense.”
You can write upon the water,
You can try to net the air,
You can measure love and caring.
You can ask us if we care.
You can supervise the infant
Or the boy who's running wild.
But if you rule the adult,
You will make, of him, a child.
2013 June 6th, Thu. * New Utrecht High School Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY * formerly “Brooklyn-Queens Day”, but now “Staff Professional Development Day for Schools in Brooklyn and Queens”,for the New York City Department of Education
How peaceful are the shades of blue above, With streaks of white that arc across the deep... How glorious, the greens in slanting sun, How restful, those in shadows cool below... How comforting, the reds and browns of bricks... The city seems at peace as sunset comes...
And soon enough, it will be dark again, As blues give way to indigos and blacks. And far from city lights, a villager Will see, afar, the myriad burning suns...
How beautiful, this world, in which we are, How wonderful, this fleeting chance to see...
Returning home, from frenzied place of work, With no one home, to whom to hurry to, A little time is found, for breathing free, A little time, to lift the head and see, Remembering the ones that are no more, With sorrow – yet with gratitude to be...
2013, June 4th Tue. Brooklyn --------------------------------------------------------------- Bradley's Way
How peaceful seem those shades of blue above, Until they see those streaks of white appear, Those villagers, who scatter if they can, Who seek the shadows where the elders hide, Uncomforted. And then, the dreaded blasts That shred the children, who were on their way...
How further, this pretense that cannot last, This city, driven wild by Mammon's lust, Where children go to school to be the tools Of those that wage those wars that have no end?
And in those growing children's eyes, we see The kindled fires of that insanity...
And when will soldiers sent abroad return, And those, that fly the drones, from horrors, turn, To see, with eyes renewed, the sky, the trees, To watch their elders and the setting sun, To lift their children in their arms and say, “No more of sin. We walk on Bradley's way.”?
It's raining now in Brooklyn as the sky is lit in grays. It's raining now in Brooklyn as the trees are glowing green. It's raining now in Brooklyn as the congregation prays. It's raining now in Brooklyn on this evening so serene. It's raining now in Brooklyn as the day is ending slow. It's raining now in Brooklyn as I slowly homeward go.
It will rain tonight in Brooklyn as the water slowly seeps. It will rain tonight in Brooklyn as the cars are whooshing by. It will rain tonight in Brooklyn as the tired city sleeps. It will rain tonight in Brooklyn as the clouds become the sky. It will rain tonight in Brooklyn as the world is turning slow. It will rain tonight in Brooklyn and the dreams will come and go.
It will rain tomorrow morning and through all of Saturday. It will rain tomorrow evening, as the skies grow dark again. It will rain till it is dawning, when I will wake and I will say, “The rain has finally ended. And there's nothing to explain.” And I will rise to walk in Brooklyn as the sun is rising slow, I will rise to walk in Brooklyn as I've nowhere else to go.