Friday, February 28, 2014

This Winter of Pain

    
This Winter of Pain
   
There is dark in this winter, and it robs me of sight,
For the skies have been drained of their color and light.
There is pain in this winter, and it robs me of peace,
For my rest, it is troubled, and my work does not cease.

What happens, in winter, to the sap of the tree,
Has happened, perhaps, to that spirit in me
That whispered those verses that I would then write,
In springtime and summer and fall, with delight.

Like the leaves of the trees when the winter has come,
The lines that I wrote in the past have become.
They have withered and faded and fallen away.
The winds of December took remnants of May.

******
 
If I last through the winter and I witness the spring,
To the muses of diction, my notebook, I’ll bring.
If I then am admitted to pleasures, I’ll write,
As the wardens of winter are fading from sight.

Then the sap will be flowing again in the tree,
From its exile returning – from its prison, set free.
And the lines that I write will be fluid again,
As I’m freed of this winter, this winter of pain.

Then the leaflets and petals will open to light,
And the birds, in the morning, will chirp in delight.
Then the spirit will whisper to me in my dreams,
And I shall write stanzas with iambs in reams.

******
 
But that season, so fruitful, is imagined at best,
And my reason insists that these fancies, I test
With a touchstone of winter – an icicle clear –
That tells me – that season I crave is not near.

My muses have vanished, and I’m left with the snow.
My sight, it has faded, and I’ve nowhere to go.
In the grayness of winter, in this season of cold,
In the pain and the darkness, I am weary and old.

And if I am pitied, then what of the one
Who sits on the street, where the winter is fun –
Or even of her, who has shelter in walls,
But no heat for the winter – as the poorer befalls?

******

But if I should come to the ending with this,
I might rob you, myself, of your remnant of bliss.
So I’ll end this – not that way – but instead with a poke:
My moaning for self – it was mostly a joke!

For who but a child, who’s been spoiled by its mother,
Would cry out in furor, creating a bother,
When its mother had left it alone, for a minute?
So know, though I’m bawling, there’s little that’s in it.

For I’ll live through this winter, harsh though it is –
And in snow that is sullied, find crystals of bliss.
And even in winter, in the pain and the dark,
I shall call like the mythical bulbul and lark.                \1

******
 
To the reader, dear reader, whose patience I test: –
I wish for you – pleasure that is truly the best,
The pleasure that has in it essence of joy –
The thrill that the muses of diction enjoy.

For the muses find pleasure, where others find pain.
And this is what poets and women explain...
But the poets, they prattle, while the women are still.
For the women are sane, while the poets are ill.

But if, as may happen, a poet’s a dame,
Then all that I’ve written will appear to be lame.
And further on this, in the cold and the snow,
Would weary the reader – so I’ll bow and I’ll go.

2014 February 28th, Fri.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
 

   
1.  Although the bulbul and the lark are real families of songbirds, their symbolic uses in Persian and English poetry, respectively, may perhaps justify the reference to their poetic incarnations as "mythical" – at least for those of us who have never seen or heard the real birds in their natural habitats.  

Some other word, such as "acclaimed" or "legendary", might have been more appropriate, but I could not find one to fit the meter.  (For those interested in such things, the beat used here is tetrameter in the anapaest -- although some of the lines begin with an iamb.)
   
The birds referred to as bulbuls in English are found over much of Asia and  northern Africa.  However, in Arabic and so also in its borrowers, such as Farsi (Persian) and Urdu, the word bulbul is used for what, in English, would be the nightingale.  
  
The larks are spread over Europe, Asia and proximal parts of Australia (with one species in North America).  
 
All of the birds mentioned so far are passerines, thus being members of the largest order of birds.  This order includes many of the aves that even city-dwellers know by sight and sound, including the common ground sparrow.
                          
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   
I would like to thank the reader for her/his patience in reading so far.  For making the footnote possible, I would also like to thank the anonymous ones who labor, unpaid, on Wikipedia articles.  
  
While I'm at it, let me express my gratitude to the parents, teachers and others, often equally bereft of acknowledgement, who spend long hours, over many years, on thankless duties that sustain so many of us, even in the harshest of seasons.  -- Arjun / Babui
 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Xo`pne De`kha Je (Who Can It Be?)

    
Xo`pne De`kha Je

Jo`ler paxe, gacher chaeae,
gaiche e`khon ke?
Rater majhe exechilo,
xo`pne de`kha je.

xombar, 24e phebruari, 2014 kri.
bruklin, niu io`rk
-----------------------------------------------------------
   
Who Can It Be?


There by the water, by the shade of the tree,
The one that is singing, who can it be?
The more that I wonder, the stranger it seems.
Could that be the being I saw in my dreams?

2014 Feb. 24, Mon.
Brooklyn
 
-----------------------------------------------------------
   
Wie Kan Dit Wees?

    
Daar naby die water, in die skaduwee van die boom,
Die een wat sing, wie kan dit wees?
Hoe meer dat ek wonder, hoe meer vreemde dit lyk.
Kan dit wees om die wese wat ek gesien het in my drome?


Maandag, Februarie 24, 2014
Brooklyn   

 

Poverty


Poverty

Can humans, who have lived, through all their time
As humans as we know ourselves to be
And even longer as the apes we are,
In little groups, with others by our side,
With whom we bonded and with whom we shared
Whatever we had found on which to live –
Can humans now survive, amongst the crowds –
And yet alone, as we have never been?

Within our houses and apartments, we
May live with luxuries we never had
Or still be poor and live from day to day –
Or know we'll end as paupers on the street.
But whether rich or poor or in-between,
We're sentenced now to abject poverty –
The poverty of utter loneliness,
In prison cells that we ourselves have built.

2014 February 24th, Mon.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fiber Left


Fiber Left

In extremis, racked or crushed, when death
Appears to be the only portal left,
We still might find, within, that strong resolve
That will not yield as long as life remains.

And so the body may be failing, weak
And hope for self and all that once was dear
Expressed like juice from sugar cane--and yet
The pulp, discarded, still has fiber left.

2014 February 22nd, Sat.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
   

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Malice in the Dark

   
Malice in the Dark  
 
There's malice in the hearts of men.
It lies there like a snake.
And in the darkness, it uncoils,
And does its thirsting slake

****** 
 
I walked beneath a pallid moon,
Upon a winter's eve.
The trees were standing, skeletal –
And watching, I believe.

The sky was masked by curdled clouds,
The moon shone wanly through,
And I was striding through the gloom,
Resolved on what to do.

The snow lay glowing on the ground,
The air was cloying cold.
And there was malice in my heart,
A malice that was old

I reached the place and started then
To shovel out the snow.
And though the work was slow and hard,
I labored more and more.

And when at end I'd finished, I
With satisfaction saw
The places I had needed clear
Were cleared, as per the Law.

And then I turned and noted, with
A dark and evil glee –
The entrance from the road, I'd blocked
For neighbor's misery.

Of neighbors, we had two – and one
Was aged, while the other
Was youngand would, with autumn leaves
And winter snow, not bother.

  So I would rake and sweep each year
And shovel in my turn,
And though I did this for them both,
I never saw return.

And so, in this, a winter harsh,
My labor, I'd decided
To lighten, doing less, for him
Whose youth did not deserve it.

For her, who now was aged, I
Had shoveled, as for us.
For him, who was her tenant, I
Refused to further fuss.

I'd cleared, for her, her sidewalk and
I'd shoveled 'round her bins,
I'd salted as I always did,
Been free, in this, of sins.

But as for him, who had a van
 A van he'd park at night,
Compressing all the snow, I thought:
This wrong, it's time to right.

For once, I thought, let the lordling, who
Deserved the title, "jerk",
Before he parked his van, do just
A little bit of work!

For though there was a garage he
Could use if he so wanted,
He left for me the clearing of
The snow, to his advantage.

And though I did not have a car,
And neither did the elder,
He lazily would park his van
So others could not enter.

So when my in-laws came, they'd find
The driveway entrance blocked,
And so would drive for blocks to park,
At the tenant's rudeness shocked.

And though we'd asked him kindly, he
Persisted in his practice,
And if, by chance, my in-laws parked,
Recruited goons and nasties.

And so, although I'd done my deed
And so had satisfaction,
At what would happen in the morn,
I felt some trepidation.

I looked then at that pallid moon,
That darkly curdled sky,
Those trees that stood in ghostly rows,
That snow I'd piled on high.

And furtively, I looked around –
And seeing not a soul,
I turned to the moon and clouds and trees,
With eyes like burning coal.

“Behold, oh Children of the Dark,
This labor that I've done!
And be you mute, or you shall be
As snow that melts in sun!”

And one by one, they promised me,
In stillness, in the night,
Their silence.  So I took their leave
And left, in dark delight.

But when the midnight hour was there,
I stealthily stole back,
And saw the knave, in his van of black,
That snow, with force, attack.

But only with his van!  The fool
Got stuck for quite a while –
And then drove off – as in the dark,
This evil one did smile.

******
 
I later learned, he'd parked his van
Beside the nearby school.
He did not have to shovel, so
I wondered, “Who's the fool?”
 
2014 February 18th, Tue.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
  

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Pirate's Motive

  
The Pirate's Motive
      
I asked you kindly.  You replied,
“I love you not, so leave me be.”
And so, despairing, I departed.
Now I sail upon the sea.

I sail with pirates – and the flag
They hoist when they have looted is
The skull and crossbones that are feared
By those who flee from ships like this.

And when, to England, I return,
If I survive this piracy,
I'll come to you again and ask
If you, at last, would marry me.

Methinks my poverty had led
To your rejection of my suit.
If so, with remedy in hand,
I shall resume that dear pursuit.

For though you said you love me not,
My love for you burns steadily.
I seek to raise myself for this –
That you may find some worth in me.

And though I gain in wealth from this,
By bloody slaughter if need be,
The gain I truly seek is bliss,
When you finally heed my plea.

And if I'm slaughtered in my turn –
Then you'll know, from this my brief,
The reason why I don't return.
For love is all my reason's thief.

2014 February 17th, Mon. 8:30 am
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York 
 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

On Poetry

   
On Poetry
   
The prudent or the wise may mull on things
but seldom speak – until the time is ripe.
The foolish spout whatever comes to mind
in thoughtless speech that rarely edifies.

******
   
And there are things that novices might say,
with confidence, that make the weary smile –
or wince.  And yet, each fresh new eye reveals
a pebble or a current that was missed.

And so, although I hesitate at this,
I'll venture now to set my thoughts to print.
And in this age, the ones to whom I send
my musings might be reading them today.

******
  
When life's a daily battle with the world –
or cares lie heavy on our shoulders, then
we rarely have the luxury of time
in which to read – and ponder – lines that rhyme.

For just as writing verses is a task
that concentrates the mind and taps the heart,
so also, reading poetry demands
a focus – and a pause, amidst the rush.

If verses have their rhyme and meter, then
the reading may be easier for some.
But with these or without, a poem casts
A spell upon the reader who responds.

For more than prose, a poem concentrates
experience.  The reader reads the lines –
and mouthing them or reading them aloud,
becomes the one who wrote – by magic art.

******
  
But it's not always so – from the writer's fault
or by the reader's, who, distracted, scans.
The music of the words, the images
may strike, at times, a chord – and stir the heart.

Or often, they may not.  What someone sees
as a sparkling gem – or full of meaning, seems
to another, comic, dull – or meaningless.
The incantation doesn't always work.

Some poems serve the palates of the world,
while others are like local meals that some
find comfort in from childhood, though their tastes
may seem, to others, strangely bland or harsh.

But being a novice, these – my thoughts, na├»ve,
on poetry might make but little sense.
So many things conspire to make or break
a poem – or the act of reading it.

******
   
Returning then to those who're harried or
have work or worry that consumes their time,
I still would recommend, as medicine,
a draft, at times, of verse – and even rhyme.

For poetry can give, to grayness, more
of light and shadow, sharper grain and depth.
And yet, with subtleties that waken sense,
may help us see the many shades between.

Writing, reading verses – both take time –
indeed, demand that time's demands be stilled.
But this is so with eating, making love –
and paying mind to children, elders, friends...

And each of us needs time for just ourselves –
and some may seek this depth in poetry.
Because our times distract and try our souls,
the words that call us back can heal and soothe.

******
   
But poetry can also light a flame –
or call attention towards the things neglected.
So verses can disturb, annoy, enrage –
But if this gives us depth, then all is well.

Can words be substitutes for action?  No.
So do not look to poetry for this.
But action, thought and speech are interlinked.
The poem speaks – and we are listening.

******
 
I've had my say, which might be foolishness.
And yet I'll send it out for you to read.
And though you may correct this blog-post, I
should still ask pardon for my impudence.

2014 February 15th, Sat.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
  

Intercourse

          
Intercourse
  
I've loved the dawn, when sky and earth appear
As lovers waking from a sweet embrace,
From night of loving and of sleep refreshed,
With hope within their hearts for a bright new day.

I've cherished evenings, when the sun appears
To kiss and penetrate the land or sea –
The father and the mother of us all,
Rejoined, in a little death, so all can be...

******
 
And though these are but our illusions grand,
As the planet spins about its axis, yet
The more that we, with reason, understand,
The less, it seems, our inner eyes can see...

So there are times when we should pause to hear
The music of the land and sky and sea,
And join again in that primordial dance,
So we can sense, what it is like, to be...

******

I've sat in summer in the tropic sun,
At noontime, soaking in the radiance,
With such a flush upon my baking skin
As women feel, who then have languor sweet.

At midnight, walking underneath the stars,
In the crystal air of a northern winter night,
I've shivered from the bitter cold and yet
Have then exhaled, with a sweet and deep delight.

2014 February 15th, Saturday, 5:30 am
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Reflections on a Tree

   
Reflections on a Tree
  
While slowly walking home this evening, I
Observed a tree that reached towards the sky.
It stood, with all its myriad fingers splayed,
And to a winter moon, in silence prayed.

I wondered if that still and silent tree
Was linked, by consciousness, to you and me.
It stood, beneath the sun and moon and stars,
A witness to our lives and loves and wars.

And surely it cared little for our kind,
That prides itself on nimbleness of mind,
While knowing more, of light and earth and air,
Than you or I could ever know or care.

But if in truth, of mind there is but one,
It shared with us, who hither, thither run,
That same awareness, but of aspect slowed,
While standing still, beside a city road.

2014 February 14th, Fri. 7:54 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
   

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Snow

     
Snow
  
It's winter and the snow is all around.
It's heaped like powdered sugar on the ground.
It drifted down like manna from above
And now it's here – for us to hate or love.

And on the prairie, on a moonlit night,
The silent snow is like an ocean white.
But in the city, in the light of day,
The snow is soot – and chocolate and gray.

Within the gutter, underneath the ice,
The slush is hiding, like a secret vice.
But in the parks, beneath the sullied snow,
The dormant grass awaits its chance to grow.

2014 February 12th, Wed.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Lion Dance


Lion Dance
  
I hear the distant pulsing of the drums.
And as I near, the sound grows louder.  Soon,
I find that I, along with prancing kids
Who strain at mothers’ hands and skid on ice,
Have synchronized my steps.  I glide along –
And even climbing ice-hills at the curbs
Is effortless.  It seems we gain in strength,
When martials make us dance – or march to war.

The young man strikes the drum with rhythmic force.
The leather, taut, responds to every blow.
In music, there is often scent of sex,
Which we, as children, did not care to know.
But being male, and so of warrior-gene,
The pipes and drums beguiled me as a boy,
When every year, upon a certain day,
I heard the fascists marching up the street...

I pass the drummer and the dancer and
I enter in the Chinese restaurant.
And soon enough, they’re there. The drummer stays
And beats his drum outside, upon the street.
The lion enters, dancing, with his back
And tail supported by his trailing friend.
No room for two to be the lion’s legs –
The place is busy, with the tables filled.

They stay awhile beside me, near the door.
The tail instructs the lion, who’s half-blind,
To walk towards the gods, in an alcove red,
With plastic lights in lieu of votive lamps.
 And there, the lion bows to the bearded ones
And towards the goddess of compassion too.
And when the bows are done, he walks the floor
And then returns, to bow to gods again.

I glimpse his face, with glasses, grimacing
From all his effort, walking weighted, bowed.
His mouth is open wide, as if in pain,
And though it’s cold, I know his sweat runs wet.
The Han enjoy their new-year's lion-dance
And dance-of-dragon too.  In China, they’ve
A fortnight off – but in Hong Kong, three days…
And here, they work – or take a day sans pay.

And when I ask, I’m told this dance – and all
The bows the lion-boy did, while bending deep,
Towards the gods and goddess – these will bring
The owners fortune, luck, prosperity…
And so it is, that every year, we hear
The drums that rouse the streets – and see
The lion and the dragon bow and dance,
As Montreal or Rome becomes Canton.
  
2014 February 9th, Sun.,
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Bharot Xadhin (India, Free)

    
The poem in Bangla (Bengali) is followed by a rather free translation into English.
  
Vowels in Bangla are usually intermediate in length (duration) between what would be considered long and short for English vowels.  The stress accent in Bangla is much weaker than in English, and is generally on the first syllable.

In the Roman transcription I have used here for Bangla, the vowels a, e, i, o, u are as in Latin (or Italian & Spanish). 
 
Two vowels have been added:  e` and o`, with sounds roughly like those of the vowels in (the noun or the stressed verb) can and (standard British English) hot
 
These two added vowels are more "open" versions of e and o, respectively.  Note that the o` is still a rounded vowel, unlike the o in the usual U.S. pronunciation of hot.

 
The ~ following a vowel indicates a (faint) nasalization.

The consonants t and d are, as in the Latin languages, dentals – pronounced by touching the tongue-tip to the back of the upper teeth. 
  
The t' and d' are alveolar (not circumflex as in  many other Indian languages).  They are pronounced by touching the tongue-tip to the gum ridge of the upper teeth, roughly as in English.

The h after a consonant indicates added aspiration (an unvoiced puff of air, as in the English h).  A consonant that is not followed by an h is unaspirated – and so should not be followed by that extra puff of air.  For speakers of English and most other languages that are not Indic (Indo-Aryan), this distinction may be difficult to hear and reproduce.
  
I have used x to represent the sound of the sh cluster of written English, so as not to create an exception to the use of h as an aspirant.

The letter c is used for the cluster ch in English chum, without the aspiration that is more evident in English chin. The aspirated version is written ch.

All other consonant letters used have values that are roughly the same as in their most common usage in English.

  
========================================
    
Bharot Xadhin

Ko`to din bade, e dexer theke
Bidexer bahinir jaoa!
Akaxe bataxe, ureche bhore
Xadhin Bharoter haoa!

Ki kore boli xediner ko`tha,
Dirgho kahini aj?
Chokher jo`le, bhaxie dilam
Ei Bharoter laj.

Elo Ingrej, korlo do`khol,
Roilo pracin bhar.
Ge`lo Ingrej, tao ki khajna
Caibe jomidar?

Elo Ingrej.  Karkhana-ko`le
Sromiker do`l khat’e.
Ge`lo Ingrej.  Ho`be ki jo`ma
Sromiker bo`l mat’he?

Notun juge, xo`hore, ga~e
Axbe ki khalax xexe?
Purono dukkher kapor chere,
Ut’hbe ki Bharot hexe?

Xonibar, 8-oi Phebruari, 2014
Bruklin, Niu Io`rk

========================================

India, Free

The foreign troops depart at last
And end our long despair.
The dawn is breaking, as we breathe
Of freedom’s heady air.
 
But how can we recount the tale –
That story long of sorrow?
Our tears now wash away that shame.
We look to India’s morrow.

The British came and lorded, took
Their tax – as brigands do.
The British leave.  Will "landlords" still
Demand their share as due?

The British came – and workers toiled
To death in mine and mill.
The British leave.  Will workers now
Have strength to show their will?

In this new age, to village, town,
Will freedom come, at last?
Will India rise and smile as she
Casts off her painful past?

2014 Feb. 8th, Sat.
Brooklyn, New York

   

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cud


Cud

A woman, in her passion, cries
Out not for god or lover –
For though she mouths the names of both,
They only serve as cover.

The patient, in his agony,
He moans – but not for others.
His groaning is his comfort, bare.
So pain and lust are brothers.

And when a poet recreates,
On paper, hurt or passion,
His inner space, he ventilates
By channels of tradition.

******

For every poet sane, you’ll find
A dozen more, demented.
To sanity, I lost my claim
And never have regained it.

So do not search, within my verse,
For reason past the rhyme –
For madness is this inmate’s curse
And so he does his time.

And though a writer may have hope
His work will find some favor
In those who read him when he’s gone,
For now alone, I labor.

******
  
This poem that I’m writing is
A cloud that’s floating by.
I’ll watch it till I lose it in
The ever-changing sky.

The stanzas that I write are like
The leaves upon a tree.
They flutter in the breeze and then
They wither, falling free.
 
The verses that I scribble are
As waves upon the sea.
They’re born – and undulate a while –
And then they cease to be.

******  

I taste the grass of verity
And chew it like a cow.
Some write for a posterity,
I savor here and now.

So some of what I’ve written is
The sound of satisfaction –
The feel and scent and taste of grass –
In bovine stupefaction.

But when the cow has lost her calf,
She calls for it, in pain.
We hear her lowing in the dark
And know – it is in vain.

******
  
When tempests come, they bend the trees
And make the branches cry.
And in the midst of wars, you hear
A grieving mother’s sigh.

So some of what I’ve written is,
In essence, just a wail.
You’ll hear it rise and ululate –
And lose it in the gale.

For every leaf that withers, there’s
Another, in the bud.
For every poet, gone his way,
Another, chewing cud.

2014 February 6th, Thu
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Snow on City Trees


Snow on City Trees
    
In every region of the Earth, we see
That Nature teaches men humility.

The nations of the northwest rule the planet –
A source of pride for every John and Janet.

Then winter scowls and shows the northern tribe
It can't be stopped by force or bought by bribe.

The polar vortex whirls, as gutters freeze
And blizzards drape, with snows, the city's trees.

It snowed all day – but now at night it thaws.
And as I walk, I see the trees and pause.

They stand unmoving, yet they seem to fight,
With darkened forms, against their burdens white.

The evergreens are bent with powder-loads
That slide and scatter on the snow-plowed roads.

The trees that spread and arc appear in flower,
As if to mock this blustering season's power.

A skeletal tree is limned in dark and white.
Bereft of leaves, it still gives stark delight.

With tracery of twigs against the sky,
It does the winter, with aplomb, defy.

The trees are comfort for my weary eyes.
Their patience lives, when all our hubris dies.

I thought they're fighting.  Now, I see they're not.
With snows, they're dancing – at a leisured trot.

If men, like trees, would dance with Nature too,
It might be pleasanter for me and you.

2014 February 3rd, Mon.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sex

    
Sex
   
A woman said,
“There have been times, that often stretched through years,
when sex, though still in consciousness, was like
the distant moon.  And there were other times,
when the act was like the sun that penetrates
and lights again the lamp that’s called desire.”
   
A man replied,
“Since puberty – and even from before,
when sex was like a scent I did not know,
it’s been with me, an ever-smoldering fire
that dims and brightens, rising up in flames.
It never truly dies, but waxes, wanes.”

Another said,
“This varies so, from man to man – and more
between the women – that to speak as if
it is the same, by gender, may be wrong.
The sexes, they are different – but so
is each from other – and from self by age.”

And yet another,
“You speak of sex, while some have such distress
that this is furthest from their minds, besieged…
Who thinks of sex in famines or in wars,
or when we're caring for the old, the sick,
the children and their messes?  Mating’s out.”

So each described this elemental urge,
as each might talk about the restless sea.
And some described the waves and others, tides –
and others spoke of variant presences…
And yet, its essence stayed, for all their talk,
for each of them, a thing of mystery.

2014 February 2nd, Sun.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn