Monday, June 30, 2014

Digha (1957-nagad)

This (below) is a prose-poem in Bangla (Bengali).  An English translation follows below the Bangla verses.
A brief explanation of the (phonetic) Roman transcription used here can be found at:

Bharot Xadhin
Digha used to be, in the 1950's, a small coastal town or fishing village in the southwestern Medinipur (Midnapore) district of Bengal, when it began to find favor, among the Bengali Babus of Calcutta, as a sea-side resort.  My paternal grandfather hailed from a small village in that district.  The more popular places, at the time, for those seeking the beaches, were further south, along the coast of Orissa (now Od'isha), with Puri and Gopalpur being common destinations.
Digha (1957-nagad)
Digha beach, Medinipur, W. Bengal -- fishermen with net 
 image source:

Mone po`re chot'o be`lar ko`tha,
go`romer chut'ir xuru –
t'hakurda, t'hakurmar xo`nge
t'rene base core, dokkhine bhro`mon...

Dupurer khat'a rode, po~uchulam Dighae.
Jinix-po`ttor nie, he~t'e he~t'e, elam
chot'o e`k barite, jekhane thakbo kichudin...

Bikele, amra chot'ora agrohe gelam

Xal-bone, bali-d'haka po`th.
Tai die hat'lam, edik-odik dekhe.
Boichilo, xito`l jolo haoa.
D'al-pata gaichilo gan...
Dure, xomudrer gobhir go`rjon...

Kromoxe barlo xei aoaj.
Chot'o buke, jaglo bho`e.
Hat dhore, t'ipi-t'ipi coli...

Xal-boner xexe, xada balir d'hipi.
Kothao-kothao, bono ghax,
balir theke u~ki mere ut'he,
dulche bataxe.

D'hipir opor core, ho`tat dekhlam, xamne
je`no e`k birat' lo`mba de-al...

Po`re bujhlam, xet'a
axole xomudro-digon`nto-akax.

Bixxo`e, cokh bo`r'o-bo`r'o kore,
cup hoe dekhlam amra to`khon
je drixxo dekhini ko`khono age –
bixal Bo`ngopoxagor...

Tar tire, bhangche d'heu...
Xamne, ublono xada phe`na...
Dure, xari-xari d'heuer rekha
coleche dur digo`nte.

Bho`e-bho`e egulam amra.
Paer nice bheja bali,
xamuker t'ukro...
Chott'o ka~kra chut'che bege –
d'ube ge`lo, mone holo, phe`nar nice...

Nil akaxer nice, xomudrer d'aker paxe,
darie roilam to`khon.  D'heuer opor
d'ana mele urchilo pakhi...
Xomudrer tibro haoa
boichilo, kapor-camra cepe...

Go`romer chut'ir xurute,
Kolkatar bhir-dho~a-dhulo-mo`ela theke,
xei bixal xomudrer tire exe,
pou~chulam je`no, ei groho chere,
kono-e`k xo`rgo-jo`gote...

30-e Jun, 2014
Bruklin, No`bo Io`rk

Digha (around 1957)

Digha beach, Medinipur, W. Bengal -- fishermen with net  
image source:

I remember childhood days –
at the start of the summer holidays –
traveling south, by train and bus,
with my grandad and grandma

on my father's side...

We reached Digha around noon, with the sun beating down.
Carrying our things, we walked till we reached
a small cottage, where we'd be staying for awhile...

Later, in the afternoon, we small ones
went looking, eagerly, for the sea...

We walked through the pine-woods –
along a sandy path, glancing all around.
A sea-breeze was blowing through the woods,
strumming on the branches and leaves, setting them to song.
In the distance, we heard the deep growling of the sea...

That ominous sound grew as we walked.
We felt afraid.
Holding hands, we tip-toed along...

At the end of the pine-woods – a dune of white sand.
Here and there, wild grasses,
peeking up from the sands,
dancing in the breeze...

Climbing up on the dune, we saw, of a sudden,
what appeared to be a great, long wall...

Later, we came to realize that this
was the sea, the horizon and the sky.

With eyes wide with amajement,
we silently looked out upon
what we had never seen before –
the vastness of the Bay of Bengal...

On its shore, the waves were breaking.

Near to us, the roiling white foam – 
In the rear, line upon line of waves,
reaching to the distant horizon...

Timidly, we walked towards the sea.
Below our feet
the wet sand,
pieces of sea-shells...

a tiny crab, racing along,
that seemed to drown beneath advancing foam...

We stood there on that beach,
beneath the sky, beside the calling sea,
as sea-birds spread their wings above the waves
and the strong sea-breeze blew against our clothes and skin.

At the start of the summer vacation,
escaping from the city's crowds, smoke, dust and filth,
arriving at the pristine shores of this vast sea,
it seemed that we had left our planet and
had reached a paradise.

2014, June 30th
Brooklyn, New York    

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer's Here

Summer's Here
The summer's here. The sky is bright and blue.
A sea-breeze blows through Brooklyn's sun-washed streets.
It sets the leaves a-shimmer.  Treetops wave,
And light and shade do dappled, dancing steps...

I stand beside a tree and watch that dance
In the leaves above and the shadow-play below.
The cooling breezes waft my sweat away 
And I rejoice that summer's here again.


A cup of coffee, from the corner store...
I’m greeted by a former student – worst
Among the ones I've had of late.  He shouts
To others, "Look, our Dr. Faggot's here!"

I quietly buy the coffee, quickly leave.
I hear, behind me, laughs and murmurs.  "Bye,"
One calls out, “Dr. F!”  I smile, because
It’s summer and I’m free – till summer ends.

2014  June 29th, Sun.
Brooklyn, New York

The End of June

The End of June
The summers here are altered states of mind.
The schools are closed, except for those who dare
Attending, teaching summer school. It's rough.
For those like me, ten months are long enough!

The questions rise, on which I now reflect:
Could I, without these summers, have survived?
How many summers past?  How few are left?
And what of those, of summer's balms bereft?

The end of June is near.  The summer's breath
Has greened the streets.  The trees are feathered full,
As prairies wave from squares that pavement guards,
And little jungles sprout from sunlit yards.

I walk the streets, awash with streaming light.
The whitewashed walls and brick are bright from sun.
I see, in window-glass – the summer sky...
I think – a few more days – and then, July...

In steamy days to come, we might regret
The passing of the spring and even pine
For winter – but the kids and teachers know
That if she'd hear, they'd say, to summer, “Slow!”

The summer passes swiftly, like the year.
It's only been a day since schools have closed.
We savor summer's sweets, we taste the sun.
But even so, we dread the ten-month run.

2014 June 28th, Sat.
(last two stanzas added 29th, Sun.)
Brooklyn, New York

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Theft of the Commons

The Theft of the Commons
We have a duty, in the public sphere,
To do what's right – the common good of all.
And it's our duty to defend this space
From those who seek to "own" it for their ends.

If "ownership" is what they seek, we say,
"What's public still is 'owned' by all of us.
It can't be sold or bought.  It's like the air,
The sun and all that we and others share."

And yet there's value in what's shared – from work
That citizens have done, from taxes paid
And from the value that we put on things
We hold as dear, as heirs with legacies.

So when the public tills are used as troughs
From which the lazy or the clever feed,
It's only right that some should raise a cry
And to such thieves, the public's trust deny.

But equally, when magnates seek to grow
Yet richer from the government's largesse,
Procured by tools the affluent can wield,
To such as these, should we, our treasures, yield?

What once was shared by all, the common space,
Is now partitioned, walled – and we are told
By hired guards that we have no access
Or only what is doled and limited.

What public labor built is cheaply bought.
It's sold and rented out as "property".
And so, across the world, the billionaires
Grow richer yet, with workers turned to serfs. 

Our years of work, the toils of those before
Are stolen, used to profit only some.
If foreign troops arrived to conquer, would
We then defend, what we have given up?

The light, the air, the water and the land
Are shared by all of life. Our sustenance
Is drawn from these. Who dares to "own" them or
Despoil, by thoughtless plunder, sanctity?

The burglar and the con-man are condemned,
And those who try to rob the banks are chased.
But who will rise and point towards the ones
Who steal our labor and our heritage?

2014 June 27th, Fri.

Monday, June 23, 2014


The Buddhists say that neither praise nor scorn
Should lift or sink the ships that we are on.
But just as sailors yearn for sailing winds
And fear the lulls and storms, we're tossed by words.

But when we think – that what we were before
Those words, we still remain – no less, no more,
We then can take the measure of the words
And use them or discard them, centered, strong.

But sticks and stones may break our bones –
And hard it is to heal them.
As sorrows such afflict our lives,
Should words and thoughts be burdens?

Yet words may wound and thoughts may plague
If these become possessions.
We breathe and watch our thoughts and so
We shed our dark obsessions.

2014 June 22nd Sun
(last stanza added 23rd Mon)
Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, June 21, 2014

With All the World Aflame

With All the World Aflame


The fires are burning and the sky
Is roiled with blacks and reds.
And yet, the fiddler fiddles on
And watches with delight.

But now the fire approaches and
He hears at last the screams.
And yet, oblivious, playing on,
He smiles and even laughs.

The fiddler fiddles in his robes
That speak of majesty,
For he's the emperor of Rome,
And all is travesty.

So even in our times, we see
This lunacy persists.
The powerful and rich, they play,
With all the world aflame.

2014 June 21st, Sat.
Brooklyn, New York


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kolikata (Kolkata)


Kolikata, mo`hano`gor,
Tumul be`stota.
Tari majhe jo`nmo amar,
Tari sriti aj.

Mone po`re ko`to drixxo,
Ko`to xo`bdo, ghran...
Haora brije t'anche bojha,
Manux-garir bo`l.

Dekhechilam, bhikirir cokhe,
Bo`rxa-kaler megh.
Bhor-be`late, culor dho~a,
Xixir-d'haka po`th.

Corui, xalik khujche khabar.
Kager do`ler d'ak.
Dupur be`lae, nil akaxe,
Ut'che ghure cil.

Bikel be`lae, murir xathe
Kichu chola, tel,
Lo`nka, lebu, pe~yaj, lo`bon...
Roilo baki ki?

Xei xo`hore jo`nom amar,
Xei xo`hore ghuri.
Jodio baxa onno dexe,
Nei jekhane muri.

Bo`ngo-bhumi, jahar buke
T'anche xixu, hae!
Ga~er-baxi, chere tomae,
Kolikatae jae.

Kolikata, mo`hanogor,
Ko`to ro`kom dha~dha.
Axlo sromik, kajer khoje,
Berie elo gadha.

Kolikata, mo`hano`gor,
Tumul bestota.
Tari majhe jo`nmo amar,
Tari sriti aj.

Chere elam dadu, dida,
Maxi, pixi, bon.
Chere elam bhai-bondhu,
Chere elam mon.

17-0i Jun, 2014 Kri.
Bruklin, No`bo Io`rk.


Calcutta, the big city,
busy with bustle –
I remember that city,
where I was born.

How many visions come to mind,
how many sounds and scents...
A scrawny man pulls a massive load
on a cow-cart, racing traffic up a bridge...

Reflected in a beggar's eyes,
the heavy clouds of the monsoons...
At dawn, the smoke from lighted stoves,
the dew-covered paths...

The sparrows and shaliks, looking for food,
the cawing of the crows...
At midday, the kite-hawks,
circling in the blue...

In the afternoon, with the sand-roasted rice –
some small roasted chick-peas, mustard oil,
sliced chili, onion, salt...
What else was needed?

In that city, I was born –
and there, I often wander,
although I live in another land,
where there is no roasted rice...

Ah, Bengal, at whose breast
a baby sucks –
the villager leaves you
for Calcutta.

Calcutta, the big city,
how many mazes, snares...
A man may enter, seeking work,
and exit as an ass.

Calcutta, the big city,
hustle and bustle...
I remember that city,
where I was born.

I left my grandpa, grandma,
my uncles, aunts and cousins.
I left behind my childhood friends,
I also left my mind...

2014 June 17th, Sat.
Brooklyn, New York


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cruelty is Zen

Cruelty is Zen
You can rail against the madness,
You can work yourself to death.
Until the workers wake up,
The lash is what you'll get.

Why butt your head in fervor,
Until you've brains no more?
The wall will never crumble
Until you're joined by more.

You can follow, quietly, conscience,
But beware that this is known.
When you're punished for your efforts,
You will find you're all alone.
There are those who value labor,
There are those who think it cheap.
There are those who value knowledge,
There are those who shun the deep.

When the conscience is extinguished,
When the wisdom has been lost,
Then what avails the worker,
Who's the one who pays the cost?

The mother does her nurture,
The father works his day.
And both of them are working
For the rent and bills they pay.

The teacher does her teaching.
But if, at this, she's caught,
She had better flee the system,
For her future, there, is fraught.
The banks have swelled with profits,
The hedge-funds daily soar.
And Bloomberg's gone, but Cuomo,  *
At us mice, can sit and roar. 

And now, he throws us morsels,
And we run to gather crumbs,
As our union-heads, say, "Listen!

Those who're voting no are dumbs."

Can a wolf become a rabbit?
Can their Andrew be our friend?
When his hand is further strengthened,
Will we ever see the end?

There's a culture of corruption
That is global in its scope.
And until we end that culture,
For a better, is there hope?

We can see the children troubled,
We can see the children spoiled.
But can we see the reason,
And why our labor's foiled?

The quick and easy answers
Are often not the truth.
The reasons may be simple,
But you've got to find the root.

For we adults, we are troubled,
And we adults, we are spoiled,
Though there's many, who may labor
And be saddened this is foiled.

The forces, strong, of commerce,
They have made, of virtue, vice –
And so, of vices, virtues.
So the city isn't nice.

Our values are degraded,
Our honesty is fled.
And lies – and those who're liars –
They're ruling us instead.

We are all in need of money,
But this surely can't be all.
For the simple act of nurture
Makes a culture rise or fall.

When we're racing for the money,
When we're harnessed, blinkered, then
The sanity is squandered
And the cruelty is "Zen".

I have labored and I've acted,
But the time is growing nigh,
With my strength and wisdom failing,
For retirement, with a sigh.

So I doff my hat to workers
Who have time to organize.
And I hope that they're successful,
And that some of them are wise.

Is there wisdom in acceptance?
Is there wisdom too in zeal?
It is heart and sight and conscience
That will tell you how I feel.

When the cheaters are the wise men,
When the zealots are in league,
When it's money that is speaking,
Does it matter, how we feel?

We are stranded in the shallows,
As the nonsense keeps us there.
Beware of what is peddled.
To challenge peddlers, dare.

We need wisdom, we need courage.
We must listen, we must speak.
We need action, where it matters,
As we steer towards the deep.
2014 June 15th, Sun.
Brooklyn, New York

* Michael Bloomberg, former three-term mayor of New York City, and Andrew Cuomo, current governor of New York State, moved strongly to curb whatever was left of union strength in New York, while maneuvering, fairly successfully, to keep compliant union leaders from coming out strongly against them. 

Bloomberg and Cuomo, along with the owned mainstream media, have worked to further the interests of the affluent and powerful elites of the financial institutions and other large corporations, with support from the federal (currently, Obama) government.  They also have the backing of the political right, the "center", and those who are on the left on "social" issues (such as gay rights) but not on issues that might lead to giving workers a voice.
Unfortunately, many workers have been brainwashed into divisions along ethnic, class and occupational lines.  Divisions have also been created between workers in the private and public sectors.  And so we have been conquered -- at least for now. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Vampires Are Our Lords

The Vampires Are Our Lords

You have reached to me for succor,
For a tune to soothe the heart.
Yet the only thing I offer
Is a great, resounding fart.

Should a toad be prized for beauty?
Should a murderer mind your child?
Will we gift the evil ogre
With a visage meek and mild?
You had asked me if the illness,
That we see afflicts our race,
Is a sign of human madness.
Are our rivets out of place?
I may try my best to answer,
In a manner long or terse.
Yet I cannot cure a cancer
Or a pox by writing verse.

Since there isn't goodness only,
Since there's much that's really bad,
There are men who wander lonely,
There are women driven mad.

If your conscience was awakened, 
If your duty beckoned you,
For the times that you have listened,
You'll have paid the tax that's due.

There are havens still of kindness
In a universe unkind.
There are shelters in the tempest.
These are places hard to find.

For the fortunate who've found them,
These are blessings from on high.
But the ones who are without them,
They will suffer till they die.

There is chance and there's endeavor. 
When we're lucky, these may join.
But our labor may be joyless, 
And our payin worthless coin.

There are those who shirk from effort,
There are those who labor long.

But the ones who are the winners
Are the ones who play along.

When we're trained to do what's honest,
Then we suffer, in our times.
We can shelter in religion.
We can soothe our wounds with rhymes.

We can choose to be unbending –
Or can sway as tempests blow.

We can do what conscience tells us 
Or can simply dance the show.

We can rail against injustice, 
We can fight for what is right.
But when we're not an army,
Is there victory in sight?

Where's the heart in one who's callous? 
Where's the water in a stone?
What we all must do together,
Can a loner do alone?

How many are the nations
That have gloried in their kings!
Of whom is it that Homer,
In his blindness, duly sings?

We have lifted up our brigands,
So the vampires are our lords.

The workers, we have humbled –
And have made, of devils, gods.

There are things that make us happy, 
But there's much that makes us sad.
We can try our bestest, chappy,

And be slowly driven  mad.

There are feeding chains we're part of.
It's time for you to see.
There are eaters, there are eaten

Including you and me.
2014 June 10th, Tue.
Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Bone-D'haka Po`the-বনে ঢাকা পথে-Walking in the Woods

The original in the Bengali script is followed by two Roman transcriptions and then by a translation into English.

Sunbeams on a Forest Pathway, Smoky Mountains, U.S.A.


বনে ঢাকা পথে 

বনে ঢাকা পাহাড়ী পথে,
হেঁটে হেঁটে দেখি
পাতার ফাঁক দিয়ে পড়েছে আলো,
স্বর্গ থেকে যেন এসেছে দূত৷

চুপ করে দেখলাম কিছুক্ষণ৷
শ্বাস ফেলে, খুশি মনে চললাম আবার,
গঙ্গার স্রোতে চান করে, যে ভাবে
কোনো ক্লান্ত পাপী খালাস পেয়ে ওঠে৷

মঙ্গলবার, ৩রা জুন, ২০১৪ খ্রি
ব্রুক্লিন, নিউয়র্ক
Banē Ḍhākā Pathē

Banē ḍhākā pāhāṛī pathē,
hēm̐ṭē hēm̐ṭē dēkhi
pātāra phām̐ka diẏē paṛēchē ālō,
sbarga thēkē yēna ēsēchē dūta.

Cupa karē dēkhalāma kichukṣaṇa.
Śbāsa phēlē, khuśi manē calalāma ābāra,
Gaṅgāra srōtē cāna karē, yē bhābē
kōnō klānta pāpī khālāsa pēẏē ōṭhē.

Maṅgalabāra, 3rā Juna, 2014 Khri
Bruklina, Ni'uẏarka

Bone-D'haka Po`the
Bone-d'haka pahar'i po`the,
he~t'e he~t'e dekhi
patar pha~k die por'eche alo,
xo`rgo theke je`no exeche dut.

Cup kore dekhlam kichukkhon.
Xax phele, khuxi mone collam abar,
Go`ngar srote can kore, je bhabe,
kono klanto papi khalax pe-e ot'he.

Mongolbar, 3ra Jun, 2014 Khri.
Bruklin, Niu Io`rk

Walking in the Woods
Walking in the woods, I saw
the sunbeams shafting down,
like messengers from paradise.

I watched the silent show awhile,
and walked away in grace,
as might a weary sinner, who
has bathed in holy waters.

2014 June 7th, Sat.
Brooklyn, New York


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ripples--Part II

Ripples--Part II
There is, we sense, a mind, to which our minds
Are tiny windows – wavelets on the sea.

We're of that ocean – and will always be –
No matter that our minds and bodies burn.

From where we came, to there we each will go.
And there we are, although we might not know.

The nature, true, of mind, is emptiness.
From no-thing born, to no-thing we return.

The madness that we’ve made obscures the truth.
In moments calm, we glimpse it once again.

A ripple runs across the placid lake,
A shiver runs across the body-mind.

And many ripples run and cross, reflect.
So all is busy – till it’s calm again.

And each of us is but a ripple, yet
We’re caught in fancies, so we each forget.

Let’s face our fear and our tormentors too,
With peace within our hearts, as endings near.

From all entrapment and enslavement free,
Our inmost selves, we each can gently be.

And so, amidst the violence around,
We watch ourselves, as sailors watch the sea.

We see the anger rising – or the fear.
We watch it rise and crest and disappear.

We know that we are passing through today.
Tomorrow will not see our presence here.

And knowing this, we each can choose to love,
Forgiving those content to blindly walk.

For vision shows us suffering and pain.
And yet there’s joy – and love that seeks no gain.

2014, June 3, Tue
Home, Brooklyn

Ripples--Part I

Ripples -- Part I
Could meditation help us when we’re burned alive?
Perhaps it might permit a peaceful death.

And could that be, when flame is burning flesh?
Or when a body, charred, is filled with pain?

Who'd wish to try this horror on himself?
So should we ask the ones that we have bombed?

We've also seen the images of monks,
Who sit in lotus pose amidst the flames.

And who are we to judge?  And yet we ask,
Can violence to self prevent or heal?

Perhaps the act's a shout to call awake
The consciences we've stilled or lulled asleep.

Yet knowing mind might help us deal with pain –
If “knowing” means we're growing whole again.

For how can mind know mind, except by this –
By letting go of conflict, discontent?

For only then can mind begin to see
Its nature true – unclouded emptiness.

We see a star or ant, we hear a bird –
But who is it that sees and hears and feels?

Of our awareness, we can be aware –
Too often, briefly, in a patch of calm.

And then, we’re like a lake reflecting sky –
Until the wind picks up and ripples run.

But ripples too are ripples of the mind,
As clouds and storms are faces of the sky.

So being mindful, we are one with mind.
We sense a calming, while we breathe and be.

And when we’re tortured and afflicted, then
We might remember that we’re born of mind. 
2014 June 3rd, Tue.
Common Core Examinations Day
New Utrecht High School