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


James Kramer said...

I love this!
You are a wonder! I love every inch of your literature.
Stay well,

Arjun Janah said...

Hi Jim!

Thanks for reading and for the kind remarks. I'm glad you liked this. Best regards to you, Dina, Helene, Ken and others. I am nearing the end of my teaching years. I hope I can make it to retirement.

James Kramer said...

I just reread this poem. I cannot express adequately in words how much it touches my heart and gives me ease and pleasure.
Few works of verse have ever touched my heart and soul so.
I love it! I love it! I love this poem more than any " classic" poem printed in any anthology or schoolbook that I ever came accoss.
You have touched something in me and made me feel a little nostalgic, but very happy.

Thank you.

Stay well AND please continue your writing.

Regards to Weisin.

Your friend,

Arjun Janah said...

Thanks again, Jim! What can I say? I have no words.

I am glad that the lines found some resonance in you and gave you some connection.

We are all branches of the same tree. And I don't mean just all humans, but all life.

If an orangutan or a pig could speak and we could understand, what tales we might hear, coming from a being whose experiences were in some ways so different from our own, that we could still comprehend--as they would be tales of life, with its joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, hope and despair, wonder and grief...

This orang-pig will try to speak at times, knowing some like you might hear and understand. Ken Rich is gone, and Gerry long before, with your friend Florence in-between. Surely, our turns will come. Let us hope we will have some bright times in the time remaining.