Monday, December 28, 2015

Beer and Wine

Beer and Wine

It is said that there are blessings
With an origin divine.
I’m not sure of where it came from,
But I’ve quaffed of Nature’s wine.

I have drunk of Nature’s beauty,
I have sipped her honeydew.
My spirit, parched and weary,
Those potions did renew.
Mere alcohol may serve awhile
To take away the pain,
But there’s an antidote that lasts
That’s served with sun and rain.
On the land and on the water,
There’s the softness that delights.
There’s the scent of early mornings,
There’s the fragrance of the nights.

There are visions, tastes and textures,
There’s the cold that shades to heat.
There are sounds of speech and music,
There’s the tune and there’s the beat.

And even in the silence,
In the darkness, all alone,
When I’m touched by wind or water
Or by earth, I’m not alone.

We have issued from the Mother.
To her flowing, we’ll return:—
When we’re buried in her tillage;
On her pyre, when we burn.

For as mother speaks to daughter
And as father speaks to son,
So do earth and air and water,
So do cloud and moon and sun.

So the starry night has spoken,
And the dawn has softly sung.
So I’ve hearkened to the noontime
And I’ve listened to the dusk.

There’s a grace that comes from heaven
And alights upon a few,
So I’ve read—but I have sensed this
When the heavens were in view.

I have savored Nature’s brewage,
I am tipsy from her beer.
But unlike when I was sober,
My mind and sight are clear.

2015 December 28th, Mon.
Brooklyn, New York
See also:  Nature's Wine )

Saturday, December 26, 2015

In the Gray

In the Gray
In the gray that marks the winters
Of the coastal polar climes,
I’ve wandered on deserted streets
And mouthed my dismal rhymes.

In the silences of holidays,
I’ve passed by windows lit,
Conversing with my lonesome self,
With remnants left of wit.

And so it is with exiles
And so it is with those
Who’re born to die in prisons
Or live in those they chose.

We humans are a social lot—
And wounded loners need
Some company to soothe their souls,
So healing can proceed.
How many days and weeks and months
And even scores of years
We humans bear, removed from those
For whom we shed our tears?

In the gray that marks the winters
Of the lands towards the poles,
The migrants gain their living, while
They slowly lose their souls.

There is light and there is darkness.
There is evil, there is good.
And then—there is the grayness
That blurs what’s understood.
So we wander in our limbos
In the foggy shades of gray
And we wonder how it happened
That we lost, alas, our way.

“...and deliver us from evil.” 
In the school that I attended,
We would say this in the morning
And again when classes ended.

But we never said a prayer
That said, “Save us from the gray.”
In my dotage, still in exile,
I should say this every day.

2015 December 26th, Sat. 12:51 am
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The City’s Trees

The City’s Trees
The city’s trees are beautiful.
They comfort, through the year,
The harried folk who’re passing by
And chance to stop and see.


In spring, their tender leaves appear
And some are lit by blooms.
In summer, dressed in richest greens,
They shimmer in the sun.

In autumn, as they shed their leaves,
They blaze in many hues.
In wintertime, they’re stripped and bare
And yet are clothed in grace.

We see their twisting symmetry—
The balance in the dance.
We marvel at their nudity
Beneath the winter sky.

That winter sky can be as gray
Or clear as mind and soul.
All winter long, the trees will stand
As clouds go floating by.
The clouds are changelings and we too
Are changing, day by day.
The trees are slower beings, yet
They dance, as humans age.

We wait for spring and so do they—
For spring will surely come.
And summer then will follow soon—
And autumn in its time.

The seasons come, the seasons go—
And in the city’s streets
The workers rush about—and some
Find comfort in the trees.

2015 December 19th, Sat.
Brooklyn, New York 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Sunbird

The Sunbird  

The Sunbird
Arjun Janah, 2015 Dec 15th 
It was sometime before sunset,
As the afternoon wore on,
That the sunbird had been spotted
As it flew above the clouds.

And we watched as it descended—
Those brave enough to stay,
While the others fled, some screaming
That we all should run away.

It spiraled, slowly sinking
As it spread its giant wings—
And its shadow crossed the ocean,
As the song primeval sings.

How many generations
Had it been since it had come,
I wondered, as I watched it,
And my heart began to drum.

Around me, men were running,
As the bravest feared and fled,
For the sky was changing color—
And it seemed to turn to red.

The sun was strangely yellow—
By the sunbird’s shadow dwarfed.
In fear, I started running,
As a madman cried and laughed.

It seemed it was the ending
That the prophets had foretold.
But I lived, and I’m recounting
What I saw—who now am old.
But I was then a young man,
And I did not know of fear—
Until I saw that sunbird,
With its talons, swooping near.

If you ever see the sunbird,
You should swiftly run and hide.
If you're prudent, then in hiding,
Till it passes, do abide!
For that madman and some others
Who had stayed, when we had run—
They were taken by that sunbird,
As it rose above the sun.
We could hear them faintly calling
As it carried them away.
I remember still their voices
As I near my ending day.
That’s the story of the sunbird
That I saw, with these my eyes.
But some others, who are younger—
They will say I’m full of lies.
Believe them, to your peril,
Or hark to what I say:
If you ever spot the sunbird,
You should wisely hide away.
Crimson Sunbird
2015 December 15th, Tue.
Brooklyn, New York

Sunday, December 13, 2015



“So tell me then, my father,
The reason you depart.
How long will you be staying
From all of us apart?”

“I am going now, my daughter,
To that land that’s over there—
To trade the things I’m taking
For the other things we need.

“I will climb upon those mountains
To that windswept pass on high,
And I’ll walk beside the glacier,
As the cloud goes streaming by.

“And I’ll follow then the streamlet
To the river’s gorge and hear
The roaring, rushing waters,
As they tumble cold and clear.

“Descending past the boulders,
Towards the valley—shaded, green,
I will view the river, coursing
Through the plains below, serene.

“To that land beyond the mountains,
I am going, through that pass—
But when I am returning,
I do not know, alas!

“But when I come from there, love,
I’ll come with things for you
And mom and all the others—
So be a good girl, do!”

“Go then, my dearest father.
Be careful on your way.
We’ll wait for you, our father,
And for your safety pray.”

Arjun Janah
2015 Dec 13th, Sun.
Brooklyn, New York

Please see also:  Departure

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Kothar Theke Sneho?—কোথার থেকে স্নেহ?—Whence Came Love?

For Roman transcriptions and a "free translation" into English, in tabular format, set side-by-side with the original in Bengali script, please see:

That site also has a literal translation that preserves the syntax of Bengali, and a link to an audio-recording.  That recording should be useful to those who do not know Bengali but are interested in at least knowing how it sounds, as well as to those who are learning the language. -- Arjun


কোথার থেকে স্নেহ?  

আকাশ থেকে জীবন এল,
মাটির থেকে—দেহ৷
জলের থেকে, হাওয়ার থেকে,
কোথার থেকে—স্নেহ?

যে সন্তান বেড়েছে মায়ের ভালবাসায়,
যে সন্তান রয়েছে এখনো তার আশায়—
দুজনেই বড় হয়ে পারবে কি দিতে,
শিশুরা না বলেও চাইবে যা নিতে?


কোথার থেকে আসে সেই ভালবাসা, বল্—
কোথার থেকে আসে—দয়া, মায়া, স্নেহ?
কোন দেবীর বুকের থেকে, মায়ের চোখে জল?
কোন ইশ্বর-আল্লা নেয় মর্ত মায়ের দেহ?

বল্ আমায়, কোথার থেকে এলি তুই কাল?
বল্ আমায়, কি কারণে পেলাম উপহার?
ছেড়ে যেতে চাই না তোকে—এখনো তুই ছোটো৷
এত দিন লড়ে, তাও মানব কি হার?

যে বাবা বৃদ্ধ হয়ে পরলোকে যায়,
যে বাবা শিশু ছেড়ে মৃত হ্য়, হায়—
দুজনের-ই নজরে আজ ধরে আছি ফিতে৷
ছিড়ে গেলে হারাব যা জন্মেছিলাম জিতে৷

আকাশ থেকে জীবন এল,
মাটির থেকে—দেহ৷
জলের থেকে, হাওয়ার থেকে,
কোথার থেকে—স্নেহ?
অর্জুন (বাবুই) জানা
বৃহস্পতিবার, ১০ই ডিসেম্বর, ২০১৫ খ্রি
ব্রুক্লিন, নিউয়র্ক


Please see/hear also:

Sunday, November 29, 2015


This is dedicated to the memory of my late friend, Dr. Kenneth E. Rich.  I think he would have appreciated some of the things I write about here.

Ken was the antithesis of the person shown in several of the images below.  (Some wiser folk are also depicted.)
Could these two--Kenneth Rich and Donald Trump--belong to the same species?  I am sure that questions such as this have arisen in the minds of other beings through the eons.
-- Arjun
There’s ignorance that comes from circumstance,
and then there’s ignorance from lack of caring or
from shutting out the things we neither know
nor want to know.  The first is curable,
by effort or by change of circumstance.
The other is, it seems, incurable,
unless there is a genuine change of heart.
Donald Trump, real estate heir and Republican Presidential front-runner, U.S.A., 2015
The ills that plague the “nations”—all the wars
they wage against the others or within,
and also all the conflicts in our lives,
arise, in part or totally, from this—
those darknesses which fate may serve to us
or those with which we choose to be content,
while damning all who dare to point towards light.

The senses, heart and mind can lead us each
to liberation or to bondage deep.
Gotama and so many others past had seen,
in quietude, the ills that work within.
And by observing these, they found that all
that rises also crests—and ebbs and fades,
unless we feed it, through our ignorance.

How easy it can be to fall in sin—
to add yet more and more to endless grief.
How hard it is to turn away from this—
to face the dreaded emptiness and be
aware of all that soils the space within
that only can be cleansed when we release
accumulations gathered through our lives.

The virtues old remain our virtues still—
compassion, courage, patience, honesty—
and all the vices that we celebrate
are still the vices that can lead to grief.
And chief among these vices still remains
that ignorance that blinds the heart and mind—
for which we even are content to kill.

Humility, when learned by those that pride
has led astray, can serve to check its reach.
But ignorance and hubris, hand in hand,
breed havoc, as they kiss and copulate.
The times we’re in, like others past, have carved
these two as idols, intertwined, to which
we sacrifice, while shouting foolishness.

When tossed upon the storms that roil the sea,
it seems that we are helpless.  Yet we find
that we can still observe our plight and breathe—
releasing, as we breathe, the pain we feel.
And knowing that the ones who wound have lost
that sight, for which we then may pray for them,
we might regain that calm and peace that is.

The wise have learned—how little, what they know,
how vast, that ocean dark of ignorance!
So when they find a piece of light, they smile
and hold it up to see, for just a while,
before they let it float upon its way.
The ignorant persist in ignorance,
insisting that the “others” go away.

To answer noise with noise, and violence
with violence, may seem the only way.
For see—the quiet ones are silent still,
and those who shied from arms are buried deep.
And yet, aggression—that of speech and deed,
and even in defense, can only lead
to more of this—and more of ignorance.

So let us pause, or slow, amidst the haste.
How many lives were saved by only this?
Defend yourself and others, who cannot
defend themselves—but know, that path can lead
to more and more and even more of grief.
So be aware of what you do, and see—
the one you strike has eyes and heart as you.

I saw a frog that sat beside a lake.
I looked at him and he looked back at me.
I’d heard him croaking.  Now that frog was mute.
I saw his muscles tense, as if to leap.
And so I froze—and breathing, looked at him.
We stayed there quite a while, that frog and I.
It seemed we talked—of truth and ignorance.

Does Wisdom Come With Age?
2015 November 29th, Sat.
Skyway dhaba, Bath Avenue
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Likhna To Hae Mera Rog—लिखना तो है मेरा रोग—Writing Is My Illness

Likhna To Hae Mera Rog
(Writing Is My Illness)
लिखना तो है मेरा रोग
لکھنا  تو ہے  میرا  روگ

I met once a poet of a caliber high,
A wordsmith of worth that none could deny.
I asked him, in English, the reason he wrote.
He replied in a tongue that was foreign. I quote:
“Badmaasho ne puuchhte hae – tum jaese log,
‘Likhte kyo~?’  Likhna to hae mera rog.”          \1

This was the answer he gave to my query,
With a look of disgust, in a tone that was weary.
And with my machine I recorded these sounds.
But what did they mean?  I have done since my rounds.
But no one can tell me their meaning, and so
I have learned now to mouth what I still do not know.
I now am a poet of a caliber low.
With my rhymes and my meters, I put out a show.
They ask me, to rile me, the reason I write.
I frown at them fiercely and say out of spite,
“The rascals like you have been asking me this.
It's an illness I have.  And my ass, you can kiss.”

2015 November 14th, Sat.
Brooklyn, New York

1.  It has been discovered that this is Hindi/Urdu for:  “Scoundrels like you ask me, ‘Why do you write?’  Writing is my illness.”

As these twin languages are not my own, corrections would be welcomed.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Pakistani

The Pakistani
My passport said I’m Indian,
But now it says I’m not.
Can a booklet, stamped, then change me?
Am I Indian still—or not?

I had met a man from Pakistan.
We had sat and talked awhile.
There was laughter and discussion,
And we’d parted with a smile.

But later, at the newsstand,
When I’d bought the Daily Star,
I chanced to read that India,
With his nation, was at war.

So was that man my enemy?
And was I his, as well?
I pondered on this thing a while,
But I did not, on it, dwell.

I’m a man who pinches pennies,
Being stingy to a fault.
That I’m not yet rich as Bloomberg,
I ascribe to Heaven’s vault.

So I wondered if his passport
Said he still was Pakistani.
If so, it stood to reason
That I didn’t owe him money.

For that man—he had insisted
On paying for my lunch—
Those kebabs of spicy chicken
On which I liked to munch.

If he chanced to be my enemy,
As the papers did portend,
Then I didn’t owe him anything—
As is the current trend.

I’ve heard it said a dozen times,
And probably yet more.
“You do not owe her anything!
She loved to do that chore.”

But being still an honest man,
As raised by aunts and uncles,
I still attempt to pay my debts,
Although this often rankles.

My miser says, “They told you so.
And yet you feel indebted!”
My upright one says. “Pay your debt,
Before your rear is dented!”

And so, in my conflicted self,
I mulled upon the matter.
And in my head, for quite a while,
I heard incessant chatter.

For pausing, I’d remembered this—
My passport—that it said
I was no longer Indian.  I
Was USA’n instead!

And so, it seemed I owed him,
That fellow, for that lunch—
Unless he was an agent
Of a nation we should crunch.

But I wondered if that remnant
Of an Indian, still in me,
Could claim, “He’s Pakistani!
And so that lunch was free!”

I slept and saw a chicken,
Who came to claim the cost.
“It’s me, whom you have eaten…”
But then, that dream was lost.


The laws can be our saviors.
They permit us men to kill
The chickens, in the peacetimes,
And in wars as well, at will.

As for humans, what is needed
(As delivered in the Star),
For dues to be dissolved is—
The starting of a war.

So debts can then be vanished
And lives are then forfeit.
And woe to those who claim then
That this is foul deceit!

There are always, with us, women,
And fellows too, who need
A whacking, so they’re silenced
As we focus on the deed.

There are reasons for our wars then—
For they free us of constraints.
When our interests are threatened,
Should we still proceed as saints?

I wondered if I’d meet him—
That man from Pakistan,
Who foolishly had treated me
As he might, a fellow man!

For since we both had remnants
If not more, of what we were,
I didn’t owe him anything—
As my logic could infer.

He had said, “We both are desis.”
If so, we were at war!
And if he would deny this,
I’d show him then the Star


A land can be divided,
And so can people be—
By the colors of their testicles
Or the side on which they sleep.

So though we both were desis,   \1
And the word he used was bhai,  \2
I hope I will not meet him,
And I’m sure you'll figure why.

2015 November 7th, Sat. 9:38 pm
Skyway (Pakistani dhaba),  Bath Avenue  \3
(Some stanzas added Nov. 8th Sun.)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Notes on some Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) words:  \4

1. desi:  countryman, from the word desh (land, country – as in Bangladesh, the land of Bengal).

This is similar in meaning to the Spanish paisano, but is used by expatriates from the northern parts of the subcontinent to refer to all subcontinentals, whatever be their nationalities—thus including Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Srilankans, Nepalis, Bhutanese...

2. bhai:  brother, from the Sanskrit bhrata, cognate to Farsi (Persian) barodar, German Brueder, Latin frater, etc.

Note also:  desi bhai and desi behen (brother-countryman and sister-countrywoman / subcontinental).

3. dhaba:  roadside teashop and eatery

4. Hindustani: from the land  near and to the east of the river Indus, as viewed from Fars (Persia, modern Iran), Afghanistan and Central Asia.  This is derived from the Persian word for land/country/region (Farsi stan, cognate to Sanskrit sthan) and the Persian name for the Indus (Farsi Hindu, cognate to Sanskrit Sindhu).

This word is used, among other things, for the language that was (and still is) the lingua franca of the northern subcontinent, as well as of certain parts much further south.

Urdu and Hindi are two of the more formal, "literate" versions of Hindustani.  Urdu is usually written in a modified Persian script (itself a modification of the Arabic script) and is often full of  words borrowed from Arabic and Persian. Hindi is usually written in the native Devanagari script (also used for Sanskrit in much of northern India) and has increasingly become full of Sanskrit borrowings.

However, Urdu and Hindi, when used by common folk for everyday matters, are not only mutually completely intelligible, they are in fact identical in grammar, syntax and base vocabulary.  Croatian (written in the Roman script) and Serbian (written in a Cyrillic script) are the Balkan counterparts of Urdu and Hindi.  Just as one refers to the spoken language as Serbo-Croatian, so also one should perhaps refer to the common spoken language of the cities and more of the northern subcontinent as Hindi-Urdu or Hindustani.

Just as in the Balkans, the divide between the two formal languages stems in large part from religious divides (which in both cases arose from the histories of the regions, including that of the socio-economic systems and empires that rose and fell in each).  However, although Urdu is the national language of Islamic Pakistan, and Hindi is a national language of (increasingly less) secular India, in which Hindus dominate, there are millions of Muslims who are fluent in Hindi and probably also millions of Hindus whose Urdu is decent.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

He Steps Over Cracks—for Kenneth E. Rich, by Isis Phoenix, with a preface by Tal Nuriel, plus images from friends and a video of Ken by Allus Frank

I've met a lot of people in my life, and I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that Kenneth E. Rich was the kindest, most gentle human being I've ever met. It's hard to understand how something so awful can happen to someone so kind. I'm glad to see the outpouring of love for Ken. I have no doubt that Ken made a true and lasting impact on thousands of people while he was alive and that his memory and spirit will live on for a long long time through all of his good deeds and through all of the people that he touched.

--Tal Nuriel
(posted on Ken's Facebook page, October 11, 2015, at 1:24 pm)

A poem for my dear friend, Kenneth E. Rich. 
Rest well, dear one. 

-- Isis Phoenix

He Steps Over Cracks 

for Ken, by Isis

Dr. Kenneth E. Rich
posted on Facebook by Narisara Vanichanan
photograph: Lynne Goldfarb Leung?
October 11 2015, 8:21 am
He steps over cracks in the sidewalk
on the lower east side.
His feet shuffle a little in his tattered brown shoes,
one of the laces always undone or broken.
He steps, some steps coupled shorter
and others almost imperceptibly longer
to avoid his foot falling into a crack and oblivion?
Or worse
hurting that which births and sustains life,
his mother
and perhaps the divine one.
His fingernails are caked
and a bit jagged from the bits of trash
and sidewalk debris he gathers
as he walks. What others discard
he takes responsibility
for picking up the broken bottles and cigarette butts
Food wrappers of disownment.
He cares.
It is a quiet gesture.
He does it even though at times he is embarrassed to do it
He does it because something much larger moves through him
Picking up people’s trash.
Taking responsibility.
Seeing what others do not allow themselves to care enough to see.
He walks over cracks
And always carries a large re-usable bag
with a collection of things inside…books,
cliff bars he gives to the homeless,
receipts and bits of paper with scrawl only he understands,
maybe a sweater, a notebook …
an ipad.
He is, at times, manic, driven,
others somber and still.
He bows to people as he passes and there is
a deep quiet that rests in his system
that others perceive and are affected by
a humility, a quiet beauty like a still pond.
He is the Buddha
walking down the streets of the lower east side.
Stepping over cracks
to honor the Great Mother.

Isis Phoenix
posted on Ken's Facebook page
October 11 at 3:02am 

Kenneth E. Rich -- younger days
collage posted on Ken's Facebook page by Sonnie Hirsch Carpenter 

Kenneth E. Rich -- Senior Prom, 1982
posted by Ellen Limburg Santistevan on Ken's Facebook page, October 11, 2015, 9:05 am 

Dr. Kenneth E. Rich, with Rev-Amma Niradhari Mari,
probably at a building of the NYU (or Columbia U?) Medical Center
posted by her at Ken's Facebook page, October 10, 2015, 11:27 pm

The following is a note and a video of Ken, posted by AllUs Frank at Ken's Facebook page on October 21, 2015 at 3:38 pm.  (I have not included her invitation to join in a celebration of Ken's life October 21-27 in Brooklyn.)

Dearest Beloved Kenneth E. Rich who left his body a week ago, speaks so delicately in this video, upon reading the script of OPEN: a film about UNIAMORY .

Ken was to play the character, ' Gerald. ' He played it profoundly, and I will soo miss his doing so for all of You. I offered him the role an hour into knowing him. Uncannily perfect. Still gleeful in his saying Y E S .

Thank you,
s w e e t love .

Note:  Ken's speech is soft, labored and hesitant in this video, more than usual with him.  He is trying to speak thoughtfully, honestly and from the heart about things that are at the heart of our existence.  But the speech was difficult to follow on my computer.  If you want a child's far louder, more emphatic version of some, at least, of what Ken was struggling to express, here it is:

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Kaker Gan—কাকের গান—The Cawing of the Crows


The late poet of Bengal, Kazi Nazrul Islam, had written:

Hinduism and Muslimism can be borne.  But their topknotism and beardism are unbearable, for these lead to violence.  Topknotism is not Hinduism, perhaps it is punditism/brahminism.  So also, beardism is not Islam, it is mullahism.  It is about these two clumps of hair, marked with their “isms” , that we have, today, so much of hair-pulling.  The violent conflict that has started now is also a fight between topknotism and beardism.  It is not a fight between Hindus and Muslims...  Humans do not quarrel over light.  But they do so over cows and goats.

-- [Rudra Mangal (Rudro Mo`ngol), Written Works, Volume 1, p.707]

The verses below, in the traditional Bengali  script, are  followed by two transcriptions into Roman letters.  After  these, there is a loose translation into English. 
কাকের গান
টিকি ও দাড়ির লড়াই,
আলোর থেকে ঘুরে,
আজো চলেছে, তাই
শুদ্ধি রয়েছে দূরে৷

সাতাল্লিশে দুই –
ভারত, পাকিস্তান৷
একাত্তরে  তিন৷
তাও ত কাকের গান৷

তাও ত টিকি নরে,
তাও ত দাড়ির ঝোঁক৷
চুলোচুলির ফলে,
খুনোখুনির শোক৷

জানি না নজরুল নাকি,
লিখেছিল কেঁদে কাল:
যতদিন চুলের কানুন,
ততদিন মাটিতে লাল৷

শোনেনি, শোনেনি তারা,
ব্যথিত মানুষের ডাক
মোল্লা, পণ্ডিত যারা,
রয়েছে এখনো কাক৷
রবিবার, ১লা নভেম্বর, ২৹১৫ খ্রি
ব্রুক্লিন, নিউয়র্ক
Kaker Gan   (transcription 1: follows standard pronunciation)
For a summary of the transcription scheme used here, please see the the preface to the post at  Bharot Xadhin (India Free)

T’iki o dar’ir lo`r’ai,
alor theke ghure,
ajo coleche, tai
xuddhi roeche dure.

Xatallixe dui – 
Bharot, Pakistan.
E`kattore tin.
Tao to kaker gan.
Tao to t’iki no`re,
tao to dar’ir jho~k.
Culaculir pho`le,
khunankunir xok.
Jani na nojrul naki,
likhechilo ke~de kal:
Jo`todin culer kanun,
to`todin mat’ite lal.

Xoneni, xoneni tara,
be`thito manuxer d’ak.
Molla, pon’d’it jara,
roeche e`khono kak.
1-la No`bhembo`r, 2015 Khri.
Bruklin, Niu Io`rk

Kākēr Gān   (transcription 2: follows traditional spelling)
This is the "machine transcription" for Bengali that is available 
(along with "machine translations" that are not yet palatable) at .  I have edited that transcription lightly 

to remove those"a" letters (usually at the ends of words) that are silent 
in current spoken Bengali. These are implicit in the traditional syllabic 
script but are made explicit in the machine transcription.  I have also 
added periods (full stops), along with capitalization in the English style.
Tiki ō dāṛir laṛā'i,
ālōr thēkē ghurē,
ājō calēchē, tā'i
śud'dhi raẏēchē dūrē.

Sātālliśē du'i --
Bhārat, Pākistān.
Ēkāttarē tin.
Tā'ō ta kākēr gān.

Tā'ō ta ṭiki narē,
tā'ō ta dāṛir jhōm̐k.
Culāculir phalē,
khunākhunir śōk.

Jāni nā najrul nāki,
likhēchilō kēm̐dē kāl:
Yatadin culēr kānun,
tatadin māṭitē lāl.

Śōnēni, śōnēni tārā,
byathit mānuṣēr ḍāk.
Mōllā, paṇḍit yārā,
raẏēchē ēkhanō kāk.

1-lā Nabhēmbar, 2015 Khri.
Bruklin, Ni'uẏark
The Crows’ Song  (The Cawing of the Crows)

The beards’ and top-knots’ battles,
Retreating from the light,
Are raging still.  And sadly
Correction’s not in sight.
In two, and then in three bits,
As pyres and graveyards fill,
The land has been divided.
Yet crows are cawing still.

And still the top-knot wiggles,
And still the beard’s the trend.
The fashions change with seasons,
But when will slaughters end?

Was it Nazrul then who wept once
And penned these lines in dread?
“As long as hairstyles rule us,
The ground is wet with red.”
They did not, would not hear then
The cries of those in pain
Those mullahs, pundits, others,
Who still, as crows, remain.

2015 November 1st, Sun.
Brooklyn, New York

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Harder Road

This is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Kenneth E. Rich, a saint who 
walked among us. 
 Ken's life was taken by a drunken driver earlier this month. 

I first met Ken in the 1990's, when he was, just briefly, a teacher at the 
school I was teaching in.  Over the decades,  he took pains to remain 
in touch with me and others whom he had  met at the school.  I would 
visit a colleague in a hospital, or attend a  funeral, and Ken would be 
there.  I would post a poem, in a particularly dejected or elated mood, 
and I would get an e-mailed note from him.  And at least once a year,
before we used e-mail much, I would get a call from him.  He knew that
I was going through much.

It turns out that this was what he did, not only for those whom he had

met at our school, but also for many others whose paths he had crossed. 
This included not only members of our species, but also those who could 
neither talk nor read nor write. So they needed more than an e-mail or
a telephone call.  

When I met him once, Ken apologized because he was in a hurry.  I found 
out he needed to drive upstate in time to feed some kittens he had found 
being tended to by a hard-pressed mother cat, near to where his parents 

Whatever he did for others, Ken preferred to do unobtrusively, even 

anonymously.  For the past several years, I have received, annually by
mail, a packet of goji-berries or some other such gift.  Who has been 
sending me these yearly gifts, I still do not know. But it could well be 
Ken, for that was how he was.  
Although Ken was an MD, he believed in minimizing the use of 
pharmaceuticals, preferring natural alternatives.

These verses were not written with Ken consciously in mind. But I 
realized, afterwards, that they could have been written for him.

More, perhaps, than anyone I have known, Ken walked the harder road 
of conscience.  He was gentle, kind, caring and humble to a fault, within 
himself and to all beings he encountered.  

May such as he be blessed, wherever they are, for they are blessings to 
all of us, whose lives they chance to touch.  

Blessed be those who bore him and reared him to be who he was.

Kenneth E. Rich -- a picture posted by one of his friends
on Ken's Facebook page after his passing
The Harder Road  

There is a thing that’s known as trust.  So children, elders need
The ones they trust to do what’s right.  And friends and kin, who’re trusted,
Should know that trust is like respect—for when, in speech or deed,
These things are violated, they are then forever busted.
Yet teachers bow to orders and so let their students down.
And elders often aren’t treated with respect that’s due.
To tell the truth is difficult.  It’s easier to lie.
And yet the truth is better far, for all—and me and you.
A lie can never substitute, whatever our intent,
For truth.  By sticking to the truth, we take the harder way.
A fact might cause discomfort, but that’s better than deceit.
Humility requires the truth.  Let gods, to falsehoods, stray.
The hubris that promotes the lie, so life becomes deception,
Was practiced by the kings and priests.  The masses then were tamed.
So to this day, “God save the king!” is shouted out with fervor,
And those who so salute the brigand breed are not ashamed.

As those who questioned lies were punished, often being killed,
We humans came to tolerate the lies our masters spoke.
And in our turn, we turned to lies. We cheated and we stole.
So humans were corrupted by the lie as by the yoke.

But those who seek in mathematics and those who search in science,
Yet falsify, are looked upon with wonder and contempt.
For these are ways of seeking truth, of sorting true from false.
And in this search, no falsehood small can ever be exempt.

But in the cities we can see that falsehoods run our lives,
For people often can be fooled, and for the longest while.
Expedience and truth are rarely partners. So we see
The profiteers and politicians lie and quietly smile.

By going on the liars’ way, we are ourselves corrupted.
And so we find there’s less of trust and more and more suspicion.
The ones who lie and cheat and steal are seen to be ascendant,
And those who trust are seen as fools and treated with derision.
So marriages can fall apart, and families be torn.
So soldiers might be sent to war, to battle and to die,
By those that they have trusted, who have treated them with scorn.
And nations whole might be consumed, proceeding from a lie.

We might then hope that we would learn, from all our past mistakes—
That we would not begin a war, or violate a trust.
And yet we see that, all around, our hopes for this are dashed.
So people suffer needlessly, from punishments unjust.

The worker who is diligent, the teacher working hard,
The parent doing what is right, the soldier in the battle—
These are not the ones who’re praised, or even left alone.
The Bloombergs and the Trumps can herd, and all the rest are cattle.

Kenneth E. Rich -- another picture posted by a friend
on Ken's Facebook page after his death

So will we ever taste the truth that’s hard to take for those
Who swallow down the easy lies in sugar coated pills?
Its bitter taste might put us off, but truth has this as value—
It’s needed, if we do desire to rid ourselves of ills.

We might believe in Hindutva, the glory of Islam,
The sought-for Christian paradise or the ancient promised land,
Or not believe in anything, as skeptics often do.
There still remain the facts.  The truth is left to understand.

In mathematics and in science, it’s easier to find
What’s true and what is not.  In politics and history,
We’re sold what we are taught.  But if we bear this sale in mind,
We know that what we buy is dear.  The price is liberty.

So how can we discern the truth, and sift the facts from fictions?
We cannot visit what is past, we only know the present.
And what goes on in places far, the real reasons for a war,
Are rarely known to the soldier or the worker or the peasant…

And even those with education, lighted with degrees,
Are often in the dark themselves and even more befuddled.
And yet they often think they know, and speak as if they do.
And so the lies can propagate, as myths and facts are muddled.

We might attempt to read in books.  But books are not the truth.
We might attend to prophets. Yet the prophets might be false.
And so, in searching, we’re misled, mistaking branch for root.
The nightingale is silent, while the cuckoo loudly calls.
So in the end it’s instinct, and the opening of mind
And also of the heart—that comes from listening, in quiet.
And when we take the time to do this, slowly, we will find,
The truth is taking form, beneath the falsehoods running riot.

For others may bestir the mind, with prejudice and hate.
And they might to seek to cow us or to lead us on a dance.
But we ourselves can clear the mind, until it’s like a lake
Through which the bottom is revealed, dispelling then the trance.

To do this thing is difficult, for those who’re stressed and caught
Within the mills they’re wanted in, to endlessly “produce”.
But when we get the chance to try, we then should quietly listen.
We might regain our tie to truth, which offers no excuse.

But seeing then this truth, we can’t be serfs again to Mammon,
Or be as Pollyannas who refuse to see the evil.
So then we each can take our turns to choose the road we travel,
And take the harder one to God, or the easier to the Devil.

Let’s listen to that conscience that might speak in softer tones.
Let’s beware of easy answers and of laziness of mind.
Let’s seek what others knew or know, and let us range afar,
And yet remember still to speak the truth—and to be kind.
2015 October 25th, Sun., 4:47 pm (final eleven stanzas, after the break)
(first eleven stanzas, before the break, added Oct. 26th, Mon.)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dine O Rate—দিনে ও রাতে—Day and Night

The verses in the beautiful, traditional Bengali script
are followed by two transcriptions into Roman letters.
After these, there is a translation into English.
দিনে ও রাতে
বসিয়া বসিয়া ভাবি, কি করিব হায়!
বুকের মাঝে আতঙ্ক, চারি দিকে ভয়৷
দেখিতে দেখিতে আসিল সন্ধ্যা প্রায়৷
আকাশে, ক্রমশ দিনের আলোর ক্ষয়৷

ঝিমিয়া ঝিমিযা, শুইয়া পড়ি খাটে৷
ঘুমের স্রোতে, ভাসিয়া চলিয়া যাই৷
জানি না, কি পড়িলাম, সপ্নর পাঠে,
তরঙ্গ পার হইয়া, কোন ঘাটে পাইলাম ঠাই৷

দাঁড়াইয়া উঠি যখন, রাতের নিশিতে,
শিহরিয়া শুনি তখন শৃগালের ডাক৷
রাতের শীতল হাওয়া বহিছে বাহিরে৷
জানালা দিয়া দেখি, তারার ঝাঁক৷

কুটির হইতে, রাতের রাস্তা দিয়া চলি৷
দিগন্তে ডুবিতেছে চাঁদ, রক্তমাখা৷
গাছের পাতার, পায়ের আওয়াজ শুনি৷
আসি শেষে নদীর তীরে, কুয়াশায় ঢাকা৷

দাঁড়াইয়া শুনি নদীর গুপ্ত বহন৷
মনে হয় যেন জিবনের গতি৷
ফিরে চলি বাড়ির দিকে যখন,
ভিজা পাতায় দেখি দুরের তারার জ্যোতি৷

শনিবার, ১০ই অক্টোবর, ২০১৫ খ্রি
ব্রুক্লিন, নিউয়র্ক

Dine O Rate  (transcription 1: follows pronunciation)
(For a summary of the transcription scheme used here, please see the the preface to the post at  Bharot Xadhin (India Free). )
Boxia boxia bhabi, ki koribo hae!
Buker majhe atonko, cari dike bho`e.
Dekhite dekhite, axilo xondha prae.
Akaxe, kromoxo diner alor kho`e.

Jhimia jhimia, xuia pori khat’e.
Ghumer srote, bhaxia colia jai.
Jani na ki por’ilam xo`pner pat’he,
to`ro`ngo par hoia, kon ghat`e pailam t’hai.

Dar’ia ut’hi jo`khon, rater nixite,
Xihoria to`khon xuni srigaler dak.
Rater xito`l haoa bohiche bahire.
Janala dia dekhi, tarar jha~k.

Kut’ir hoite, rater rasta dia coli.
Digo`nte d’ubiteche ca~d, ro`kto-makha.
Gacher patar, paer aoaj xuni.
Axi xexe nodir tire, ku~axae-d’haka.

Dar’aia xuni nodir gupto bo`hon.
Mone ho`e je`no jibo`ner goti.
Phire coli bar’ir dike jo`khon,
Bhija patae dekhi durer tarar joti.
Xonibar, 10-oi O`kt’obar, 2015 khri.
Bruklin, Niu Io`rk

Dinē ō Rātē  (transcription 2: follows traditional spelling)

This is the "machine transcription" for Bengali that is available 
(along with "machine translations" that are not yet palatable) at .  I have edited that lightly to remove 
the "a" letters that are silent in current spoken Bengali. These are 
implicit in the traditional script but are made explicit in the machine 
transcription.  I have also added periods (full stops).

Basiẏā basiẏā bhābi, ki kariba hāẏ!
Bukēr mājhē ātaṅka, cāri dikē bhaẏ.
Dēkhitē dēkhitē āsila sandhyā prāẏ.
Ākāśē, kramaśa dinēra ālōra kṣaẏ.

Jhimiẏā jhimiyā, śuiẏā paṛi khāṭē.
Ghumēr srōtē, bhāsiẏā caliẏā yā'i.
Jāni nā, ki paṛilām, sapnar pāṭhē,
taraṅga pār ha'iẏā, kōn ghāṭē pā'ilām ṭhā'i

Dām̐ṛā'iẏā uṭhi yakhan, rātēr niśitē,
śihariẏā śuni takhan śr̥gālēr ḍāk.
Rātēr śītal hā'ōẏā bahichē bāhirē.
Jānālā diẏā dēkhi, tārār jhām̐k.

Kuṭir ha'itē, rātēr rāstā diẏā cali
Digantē ḍubitēchē cām̐d, raktamākhā
Gāchēr pātār, pāẏēra ā'ōẏāja śuni.
Āsi śēṣē nadīr tīrē, kuẏāśāẏ ḍhākā.

Dām̐ṛā'iẏā śuni nadīr gupta bahan.
Manē haẏ yēna jibanēr gati.
Phirē cali bāṛir dikē yakhan,
bhijā pātāẏ dēkhi durēr tārār jyōti.

Śanibār, 10i Akṭōbar, 2015 khri
Bruklin, Ni'uẏark
Day and Night  (translation into English)

Dine O Rate (literally: in the day and in the night)

I sit and ponder. What to do?
There's fear within and all around.
The evening comes apace.
The sky is drained of light.

I doze and lie down on the bed.
I am carried away on the stream of sleep.
I do not know what I read in the book of dreams,
What shore I reach on crossing over the waves.

On rising up, in the dark of the night,
I shiver and hear the jackals' call.
The cold wind is blowing through the night.
I see, through the window, a swarm of stars.

I leave the house to walk the road of night.
I see the setting of the bloodstained moon.
I hear the sounds of footfalls and of leaves,
And come at last to the mist-draped river's shore.

I stand and hear the river's hidden flow.
It seems to be the rushing course of life.
On walking back towards my home, I see
The starlight on the dark and dew-clad leaves.

Saturday, 10th October, 2015 
Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, October 3, 2015

How Beautiful—III

How Beautiful—III
How beautiful this world is,
in which we chance to live—
the blues and greens of sky and plants,
the warmer hues of earth,
the flowers dancing in the breeze,
the wondrous forms of beasts,
the sounds of water and of air—
the tinkle, rustle, swoosh,
the drumming of the raindrops,
the roars of waves and storms,
the scents of rose and jasmine,
of fruits and musks and earth,
the light that’s always changing—
the wonder of the dawn,
the clouds that soar and tumble,
the brilliance of noon,
the starry skies of midnight,
the phases of the moon…


I have heard the children laughing,
I have watched the puppies play.
I have seen the mother smiling
at the infant she had borne.

I have seen the sad, the evil,
the horrors of this world.
and yet, when I’m despairing,
I see its wonder still.
And so, when I’m departing,
despite the pain I’ve borne,
I’ll leave this place in gratitude,
and bless the ones that live.

To those who have departed
and those who're still unborn,
I'll send my silent greetings,
before I leave this world.

2014 September 24th, Thu.
(last 4 stanzas added Oct 3rd, Sat., along
with lines 4 to 7 from end of 1st stanza)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Two earlier poems with the same title:

 *   How Beautiful—II  

Monday, September 14, 2015


When I get up in the morning,
And I totter from my bed,
I remember then my father,
Who’s been only three years dead.

And then looking in the mirror,
Since I’ve shaved away my beard,
I can see my father’s visage
And no longer think that’s weird.

The grunt I make on rising,
The downturn of my mouth,
Remind me that I’m aging,
For my parts are going south.

And I see and hear my father
And my uncles, grandpas, more—
That lineage, male, of elders
Who walked this way before.

So I go about my business,
But suddenly I laugh,
Remembering a gem-like grain
My father picked from chaff.
He had an eye and ear for it.
I hear, as I grow old,
His mild remarks that made one smile,
The stories that he told...

But when I see a stranger
And I see that stranger smile,
I know my mother’s in me
And will remain a while.

For that was how they greeted
My mother, who had eyes
That looked on them with kindness,
As each would then surmise.

And so it is with puppies
And even dogs when grown—
Except it’s me who’s smiling,
As if they were my own.

She had a way with animals,
As she also had with us.
Her instincts, of the kinder sort,
She acted on—sans fuss.

So though she was a mortal
And so had faults like all,
It seemed she was an angel,
Who’d chanced, by us, to fall.

And so my aunts and grandmas,
And that widow, with a will,
Who mothered so my sister,
Are each within me still.

I see my sister walking
Within a region hallowed.
She went her way before me.
I often wish I’d followed.

I call to her, “I’m coming.”
She doesn’t seem to hear.
I stand and watch my sister—
So distant, yet so near.

In everything she tried to do,
It seemed that she was gifted.
And yet, with so much left to do,
Her soul, from Earth, was lifted.

I read the pages of the book
She’d written with such grace.
And as I read, she lives again,
And I can read her face.

I also see the others—
From the villages and towns—
To whom I sat and listened—
The sages and the clowns…

My cousins, older, younger,
The friends I made at school,
And those who once were neighbors—
Are still within this fool.

For a fool is what I’ve turned to,
Upon my downward arc.
And so, to all that brightness,
I turn to, in the dark.

Our childhoods might be wretched,
But even those have light.
The hurts are healed and hidden,
The blessings stay in sight.

We circle, in our journeys
From birth to death, so when
We near our mortal endings,
We’re back where we began.

And where was my beginning,
Except where I was born?
So there I'll be returning
To mend the fabric torn.

I will see again the rivers
And the fields of gold and green,
So even in my misery
A breeze will blow, serene.

Village River, by Samiran Sarkar, 2011

I will hear the city’s bustle;
I will see the city’s skies.
I will squint up at the cloudscape;
I will watch the kite that flies.

I will hear the tongues my kinsfolk spoke.
I will hear the dialects’ speech.
I will savor, as I’m dying,
The flavor that’s in each.

The languages of childhood,
Of the land that gave me birth,
Their timbres and their cadences,
I’ll hear, when leaving Earth.


The aged are often treated
With disrespect and worse.
The scoldings are repeated,
With orders sharp and terse.

There are echoes from our childhoods
That we hear through all our lives.
And among these there are voices
That can help us bear the jibes.

There are voices past of wisdom,
There are voices that are sweet.
There are voices that are sterner
That can help us bear defeat.

Chaos and Perception

I’ve traveled, in my journeys,
Across the theaters grand.
I’ve met the proud and humble
And grasped the offered hand.

But when I’m near my ending
And racked by grief and pain,
The proud will be forgotten;
The humble might remain.

But surely those, that childhood
Had seen with a widened eye,
And those, to whom I bonded,
Will haunt me, as I die.

So when my hearing’s faded,
I will hear those echoes weak—
I will hear my parents talking,
I will hear my sister speak.

2015 September 12th, Sat., 10:20 pm
Skyway Restaurant, Bath Avenue
(some stanzas added Sept. 14th, Sun.)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Murmuration

The Murmuration

I saw the starlings in the sky.
They wheeled and arced and seemed to weave
a giant form of sentience.

I stood transfixed and watched with awe
the flowing shapes that being took
that twisted, turned, dispersed, condensed…

And as I watched, I heard the sound,
the murmur of the beating wings—
a hundred thousand pairs of wings.

I heard it rise from a whisper, surge
and fade and rise and ebb again—
like waves within an aerial sea.

And all at once the cloud grew dark
and swiftly plunged across the trees,
as one by one they settled down...

A giant bird is created out of a starling murmuration in Scotland.
I wondered whether starlings had
their schools, in which they taught their young,
and whether tuition there was free.

And did the students there have tests
and were the teachers graded too?
Did Danielson hit starlings too?

I shook my head.  I’d seen and heard
the murmuration on a screen,
as schools were just about to start.

I thank you, Diane Ravitch and
the one who sent this, Susan Schwartz,
and Dylan Winter for the clip.

But most of all, I thank the birds,
who fly across the heavens, free,
as  humans were—and still could be.

2015 September 6th, Sun, 12:26 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York