Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Turning Point

A Turning Point

To bed at eve, to rise at dawn,
Has been our simian custom long,
That’s so entwined with body-mind
That no one sane had deemed it wrong.

But then we had the burning branch
That warmed us in the colder clime,
And even when the sky grew dark,
Could light an hour of waking time.

And then, with lamps of wax and oil,
And next, with lightning run through wire
Or gas that glowed and more, we learned
To sleep and wake in ways that tire.

And so with me.  On weekends and
On holidays, my cycles shift:
I sleep at dawn; on afternoons,
I rise.  I drop, when I should lift.

I stare at glowing screens at night.
I blink in daylight’s sudden glare.
And mouthing verses in the park,
I shiver in the midnight air.

But this has left me tired and weak—
And more and more, I realize
That such nocturnal episodes,
Repeated, might be far from wise.


And recently there came a night,
In which it seemed I’d lost my mind.
And yet it was a turning point,
The kind we seek—but rarely find.

Throughout the night, the storm winds blew—
And yet the rain was scattered, scant.
At dawn, the sun—and shining dew—
Had made me pause, amidst my rant.
For there were voices in my mind—
And conflicts, till I saw that sight.
And then, a silence fell—a peace,
As one should feel at start of night.

I then resolved to change my ways—
To go to bed at eve and wake
At dawn—on weekends, holidays—
For sanity’s and mercy’s sake.

So now, I’ll sight the morning star
And dim my lights at eventide.
I’ll surely struggle still, but then
I’ll have those rhythms on my side.

They’ll give me back the strength I’ve lost.
They’ll give me rest and sanity.
I hope I'll view the world anew,
With more of faith and charity.

2016 September 29th, Thu.
Brooklyn, New York

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Girl and her Mom and her Green Balloon

Single-click on the image for a larger and clearer view. Click on the white X (at the top right of the dark background) to return to this post.

This is best viewed on a regular computer screen (rather than on a mobile phone). 

Thanks to Kirrin and Thierry for permission to use this wonderful image for this post.

The Girl and her Mom and her Green Balloon

Maeve and Kirrin, Valença, Portugal, 2016.  Photograph by Thierry

the girl and her mom and her green balloon,
and the slanting sun in the afternoon,
and the land and the lake and the town and the hills
and the golden light on the bricks and the sills,
and the one that knows on the grass that grows
and the smiles and the eyes and the nose that glows

2016 September 28th, Thu.
Brooklyn, New York 

Monday, September 26, 2016



When the sweetness drains away,
and all that’s left is bitterness,
when we’re beaten down, alone,
our labors turned to blowing dust,
when we’ve lost our confidence,
stretched and broken on the rack,
then our minds are full of fears,
our hearts and bodies crushed.

When hope has yielded to despair
and courage changed to cowardice,
when we’ve lost our discipline
and wasted so our hours and years,
with wits and strengths, convictions drained
and ardor turned to helplessness,
then all our light has waned and left,
and darkness rules our lives.


But in that bitterness, we seek
the flavor, then, of truth,
and in the midst of darkness, there
might be again a spark,
so feeling still the weight of life,
with all its lightness gone,
we still can grope until the end,
unyielding, in the dark.

When life has lost its meaning
and death is our release,
then what remains for us to give,
except our very selves—
until we pause and see that we
have more to suffer yet—
and so remain—to still remit
our dues, before we leave.

2016 September 25th, Sat.
(3rd stanza added Sep. 26th)

Brooklyn, New York

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sick at Heart

Sick at Heart

When we’re young, we might not know of death
Or even sorrow, till the circumstance,
That brings these to our viewing, struts on stage—
And when its scene is done, we then might find
Another and another take their turns.

There comes a time, in every life, at which
We’re sick at heart from all that we have seen—
The hurt, injustice, death and misery.
And some may bow to gods—or Fortune’s will,
But others, at their deaths, are hurting still.

So tell us then the cure for this disease—
This sickness of the heart that clouds the mind
And weakens will and body.  Can we thrive
When robbed of meaning, living day to day,
Awaiting death—that hope for our release?

Or could it be that this is what is real—
That all the dreams of youth were merely dreams?
At dawn, we’re filled with hope; at sunset, dread.
Is there an in-between, in which to live
To do what needs be done—until we’re dead?
We might be sick in body and despair,
But later we might once again be well.
So also with the sickness of the heart—
We need to bear it till it goes away.
We walk, in darkness, towards the hope of day.

Without the darkness, would we know of light?
Without the hunger, would the food have worth?
Without what's cruel, would we feel what's kind?
We need our sorrows, like we need our joys.
From woe and weakness, let us grow in strength.
2016 September 18th, Sun, 7:44 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Autumn Afternoon

Autumn Afternoon

The summer should have ended. It is now mid-September, but the warmth remains. It’s only in the early mornings that we feel at times the season’s warning chill.

The memory of winter, faded through the year, revives. The laxness of the summer’s days is now replaced by tightening. The reaper comes, although the trees and all resist.

An autumn afternoon, within the park: the sun is slanting through the leafy trees; it could be summer, but the heat is gone, the shorts are scarce—and the grounds are strewn with leaves.

The adults and the children stroll and play—as elders, on the benches, contemplate. The sky is bright, although the sun swings low. The grass has faded from the lack of rain.

A breeze stirs up the dust. It’s lit by sun that falls, in shafts, upon the yellowed grass beneath the trees. Those trees are mostly green, with just a few that now are losing leaves.
The days have shortened. Soon, the sun will set. Then all the lamps that line the path around the central lawn will glow, as dusk descends—and children leave the park to those like me.

2016 September 17th, Sat., 6:20 pm
Bensonhurst Park, Brooklyn, New York 
(2nd & 4th stanzas added Sep. 18th)

Gabhir Xad—গাভীর স্বাদ—The Taste of Cow

Note:  The English translation of the Bengali verses is at the bottom of the post, followed by a link to a brief, disturbing video from an Assamese site.

Note added 9/24/16:  An audio recording of the Bengali has been added, just above the preface to that translation.
I found this "advertisement" in a Facebook post.

On seeing this, I penned some lines in Bengali in response, which you will find, lettered in a large font in the traditional script, right below this preface.

Below that is Google's machine-transcription, which follows the spelling used in the Bengali script.  I have added capitalization at the starts of sentences and proper names. \1

After that, there is another Roman transcription.  This follows the standard Bengali pronunciation, rather than the traditional spelling (which is no longer phonetic). \2
Finally, at the bottom of this post, there is a fairly literal translation into English, titled The Taste of Cow.

Note added 9/24/16:  An audio recording of the Bengali has been added, just below the second transcription (and so just above the preface to the English translation).
— Arjun
1. The service used for the first transcription (which follows the traditional spelling)  is available at  That machine-transcription appears below the data-entry panel on the left at that site, whereas the machine-translation—which leaves much to be desired—appears in the panel on the right.
 2. A brief summary of the phonetic, pronunciation-based scheme used for the second transcription can be found in the preface to the blog post Bharot Xadhin (India, Free).

গাভীর স্বাদ

চেখে দেখ্ তো এটা, কাঙ্গাল,
ছোটো জাতের পো! 
কি জাতের মাংস এতে?
আছে কি এতে গো?

গরুর চিহ্ন পাস যদি,
ডাকব পুলিশ-গুণ্ডা৷
সাজা-শাস্তি পাবে খ্রিষ্টান,
মুসলমান, ডোম, মুণ্ডা!

গাভীর স্বাদ তো জানি না গো,
তাই তো তোর এই কাজ৷
বখশিশ পাবি, শালা, যদি
ধরাস কাকেও আজ৷
শনিবার, ১০ই সেপ্টেম্বর, ২০১৬ খ্রি
ব্রুক্লিন, নিউয়র্ক
Gābhīra Sbāda

Cēkhē dēkh tō ēṭā, kāṅgāla,
chōṭō jātēra pō!
Ki jātēra mānsa ētē?
Āchē ki ētē gō?

Garura cihna pāsa yadi,
ḍākaba puliśa-guṇḍā.
Sājā-śāsti pābē khriṣṭāna,
Musalamāna, ḍōma, Muṇḍā!

Gābhīra sbāda tō jāni nā gō,
tā'i tō tōra ē'i kāja.
Bakhaśiśa pābi, śālā, yadi
dharāsa kākē'ō āja.

Śanibāra, 10i Sēpṭēmbara, 2016 Khri
Bruklina, Ni'uẏarka
Gabhir Xad

Cekhe de`kh to et'a, kangal,
chot'o jater po!
Ki jater mangxo ete?
Ache ki ete go?

Gorur cihnno pax jodi,
d’akbo pulix-gun’d’a.
Xaja-xasti pabe Krixt'an,
Muxulman, D’om, Mun'd’a!

Gabhir xad to jani na go,
tai to tor ei kaj.
Bokhxix pabi, xala, jodi
dho`rax kakeo aj.

Xonibar, 10i Sept’embo`r, 2016 Khri
Bruklin, Niu Io`rk
Audio:  Click on the arrow on the right in the green area below to hear an audio recording.

Vocaroo audio and voice recording service>>
In Google's Chrome browser, you might have to click on the right arrow again.   Please also adjust your speaker volume.
Unfortunately, the rhythm, the rhyme, the cultural context and other nuances in the Bengali original above could not be properly conveyed in the English translation below.

The Taste of  Cow

Taste this, you pauper,
you low-breed’s spawn!
What meat is in this?
Does it have beef?

If you find a trace of beef,
we’ll call the goons—the cops.
They’ll get their dues—those Muslims,
Christians, Mundas, Doms!

We do not know the taste of cow;
that’s why you’ve got this job.
You’ll get your tips, you bastard, if
you help us catch some scum.

Saturday, 10th September, 2016 
Brooklyn, New York
Meanwhile, one can observe supply, demand and devilish primate ingenuity at work:  

I am not sure of the where, when and why of the events shown in this brief video clip, although I could guess at each.  The whispered snatches of conversation, where I could follow them, appeared to be either in a dialect of 
Bangla (Bengali) or in a neighboring sister language.

Fortunately, the involuntary migrants appeared to be none the worse—at least for the moment—for their brief, but excruciating, crossing.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

I Wish That I Were Free Again

I Wish That I Were Free Again
I wish that I were free again
to climb up on the roof again
to try to fly my kite again
to see it dip and dive and then
to see it climb towards the sky,
to see the soaring clouds on high,
to watch the kite-hawks wheel and dive,
to watch the thunderstorm arrive,
to see the lightning flash and then
to hear the thunder crash and then
to see the birds go flying by,
to feel that wind from regions high,
to see my kite go down and die,
to reel the broken string and then
to flee the lightning and the rain—
I wish that I were free again
to climb up on the roof again
to feel that downdraft—bracing, cool,
to learn the things not taught at school
that I remember to this day
and will until I fade away—
to see the changing of the light,
to marvel at that eerie sight,
to see the storm approaching fast,
to dare to stay and be the last
to leave the roofs as lightning flashed
and roaring loud the thunder crashed,
to hear the sound of drumming rain
on roofs of tile and tin again,
to see the palm trees dance and sway,
to see how night was made from day,
to feel the rain, upon my skin,
that washed away this world of sin,
to leap in lashing, pouring rain,
to live that childhood once again,
I wish that I were free again—
but then I think of those not free
to climb up on the roofs like me,
who slept on pavements till the rain
came down upon them yet again,
who huddled then in misery,
and then I wake—from fantasy.

2016 September 2, Fri.
Brooklyn, New York

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Bit of Peace

A Bit of Peace

The rain had ended when I reached the house.
I entered then the paved and fenced-in yard—
a little rectangle, before the stairs,
that then was strewn with wet and yellowed leaves.
And there, upon a wooden bench that still
was damp from rain, I sat and ate my lunch—
my store-bought sandwich halves of bread and cheese,
while sipping coffee from a paper cup,
my dollars paid—for just a bit of peace.

The fence was low and made of bars and curves
of iron, painted black but rusted through.
It offered no obstruction to the view
of houses and a street with lines of trees
that then were shedding leaves as fall approached
but still were clothed in waving foliage.
They soared in all their grace and majesty,
as shades of gray and white and hues of blue
were backdrops to the dances of the trees.

The tree across the pavement from the yard
rose up and arced against the clearing sky.
It seemed to be as old as me—or more.
And if the storms and humans spared it, then
it surely would outlive my span—and so
another, after I am gone, might sit
and eat his lunch and gaze at tree and sky,
upon this bench or on the stairs, at peace,
and like me, wonder—whither, whence and why.

2016 September 1st, Thu.
Brooklyn, New York