Two New Poems


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1. SOLITUDE

I linger unperceived
in the labyrinth of solitude,
not knowing the onward path
or the path of my return
I see a flight of stairs
a portal to a past forgotten
the contours of shadows
create a landscape of dreams
something forgotten stirs,
a lost memory returns
from between somewhere and nowhere
seeking something nebulous
that is always out of reach

 

Copyright Tikuli

2. INSOMNIA 

two a.m. on Delhi’s post-rain Sunday
I try to wash away the sleepiness
from my insomnia laden eyes
pick a fresh sheet of paper
spread clean water till it sheens
like fresh snow on a sunny day
clean and load the brushes with colours
drop and watch in wonderment
as the colours bleed and waltz
into the white stillness
the ripe colours of autumn,
a drop of sea, the harvest fields,
the washes of sunsets layer after layer
and a moon laid on lake waters
a tender breath of green
a river filled with apparitions,
here now—then gone
wet roads winding around echoing hills
the crisp autumn breeze
floating across the valley
steam rising from a coffee left at the deck
my eyes closed I feel the calm glow
of lights at the water edge
the silent shadows
the peace of the submerged river banks
I dip my brush again as the pigeons rise
followed by the squirrel
and the upstairs neighbour
pounding fresh ginger for morning chai
the trees rise, the day rises
night slowly walks towards summer morning

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The Thought Fox by Ted Hughes


Edward James Hughes also known as Ted Hughes (1930-1998) was appointed the Poet laureate in 1984.
His work is rooted in nature and the animal metaphors he uses are brilliant. The poetry of Hughes is about survival of the fittest in animals as well as humans When I read Iron Man , I had no idea he wrote such excellent poems. Hawk Roosting and crow are my favorites. Here is one more that I really like


The Thought Fox

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Besides the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

-Ted Hughes

Two poems by Ogdan Nash


Ogden Nash (1902 – 1971 ) America’s Laureate of Light Verse

Candy is dandy,
but liquor is quicker — ON

I love his poems. It was a pleasure to discover some which I had not read before. Simple verses, sometimes humorous, insightful, whimsical, and sometimes nonsensical and immensely enjoyable. Even the titles of his poems are such fun for example ‘I Always Say a Good Saint Is No Worse Than a Bad Cold’. Nash’s poems contained some truth of human experience. His signature style used exaggeration, an element of surprise,and absurdity juxtaposed with the universal experience.

There are hundreds of his poems I can share but for now enjoy these two. 🙂

1. No, You Be A Lone Eagle

I find it very hard to be fair-minded
About people who go around being air-minded.
I just can’t see any fun
In soaring up up up into the sun
When the chances are still a fresh cool orchid to a paper geranium
That you’ll unsoar down down down onto your (to you) invaluable
cranium.
I know the constant refrain
About how safer up in God’s trafficless heaven than in an automobile
or a train
But …
My God, have you ever taken a good look at a strut?
Then that one about how you’re in Boston before you can say antidis-establishmentarianism
So that preferring to take five hours by rail is a pernicious example of
antiquarianism.
At least when I get on the Boston train I have a good chance of landing
in the South Station
And not in that part of the daily press which is reserved for victims of
aviation.
Then, despite the assurance that aeroplanes are terribly comfortable I notice that when you are railroading or automobiling
You don’t have to take a paper bag along just in case of a funny feeling.
It seems to me that no kind of depravity
Brings such speedy retribution as ignoring the law of gravity.
Therefore nobody could possibly indict me for perjury
When I swear that I wish the Wright brothers had gone in for silver
fox farming or tree surgery.

Ogden Nash

2 What Almost Every Woman Knows Sooner Or Later

Husbands are things that wives have to get used to putting up with.
And with whom they breakfast with and sup with.
They interfere with the discipline of nurseries,
And forget anniversaries,
And when they have been particularly remiss
They think they can cure everything with a great big kiss,
And when you tell them about something awful they have done they just
look unbearably patient and smile a superior smile,
And think, Oh she’ll get over it after a while.
And they always drink cocktails faster than they can assimilate them,
And if you look in their direction they act as if they were martyrs and
you were trying to sacrifice, or immolate them,
And when it’s a question of walking five miles to play golf they are very
energetic but if it’s doing anything useful around the house they are
very lethargic,
And then they tell you that women are unreasonable and don’t know
anything about logic,
And they never want to get up or go to bed at the same time as you do,
And when you perform some simple common or garden rite like putting
cold cream on your face or applying a touch of lipstick they seem to
think that you are up to some kind of black magic like a priestess of Voodoo.
And they are brave and calm and cool and collected about the ailments
of the person they have promised to honor and cherish,
But the minute they get a sniffle or a stomachache of their own, why
you’d think they were about to perish,
And when you are alone with them they ignore all the minor courtesies
and as for airs and graces, they uttlerly lack them,
But when there are a lot of people around they hand you so many chairs
and ashtrays and sandwiches and butter you with such bowings and
scrapings that you want to smack them.
Husbands are indeed an irritating form of life,
And yet through some quirk of Providence most of them are really very
deeply ensconced in the affection of their wife.

Ogden Nash

Lover’s Gifts by Rabindranath Tagore


“When the voice of the Silent touches my words. I know him and therefore know myself.” Tagore

Everyone knows about this great poet, song writer, painter and story teller. Gurudev has been an inspiration for me since childhood. Every poem, every story has left a deep impression. His poems are spiritual, sublime, simple and timeless at the same time.

He was awarded Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

I will be posting more of his work later.

Enjoy these beautiful gems from his collection ‘Lover’s Gifts’.

Lover’s Gifts LIV: In the Beginning of Time

In the beginning of time, there rose from the churning of God’s
dream two women. One is the dancer at the court of paradise, the
desired of men, she who laughs and plucks the minds of the wise
from their cold meditations and of fools from their emptiness; and
scatters them like seeds with careless hands in the extravagant winds of March, in the flowering frenzy of May.

The other is the crowned queen of heaven, the mother, throned
on the fullness of golden autumn; she who in the harvest-time
brings straying hearts to the smile sweet as tears, the beauty deep
as the sea of silence, -brings them to the temple of the Unknown,
at the holy confluence of Life and Death.

Lover’s Gifts XIII: Last Night in the Garden

Last night in the garden I offered you my youth’s foaming wine. You lifted the cup to your lips, you shut your eyes and smiled while
I raised your veil, unbound your tresses, drawing down upon my
breast your face sweet with its silence, last night when the moon’s
dream overflowed the world of slumber.

To-day in the dew-cooled calm of the dawn you are walking to
God’s temple, bathed and robed in white, with a basket full of
flowers in your hand. I stand aside in the shade under the tree,
with my head bent, in the calm of the dawn by the lonely road to
the temple.

Lover’s Gifts XLVIII: I Traveled the Old Road

I traveled the old road every day, I took my fruits to the market,
my cattle to the meadows, I ferried my boat across the stream and
all the ways were well known to me.
One morning my basket was heavy with wares. Men were busy in
the fields, the pastures crowded with cattle; the breast of earth
heaved with the mirth of ripening rice.
Suddenly there was a tremor in the air, and the sky seemed to
kiss me on my forehead. My mind started up like the morning out of
mist.

I forgot to follow the track. I stepped a few paces from the
path, and my familiar world appeared strange to me, like a flower
I had only known in bud.
My everyday wisdom was ashamed. I went astray in the fairyland
of things. It was the best luck of my life that I lost my path that
morning, and found my eternal childhood.

Lover’s Gifts XXVIII: I Dreamt

I dreamt that she sat by my head, tenderly ruffling my hair with
her fingers, playing the melody of her touch. I looked at her face
and struggled with my tears, till the agony of unspoken words burst
my sleep like a bubble.
I sat up and saw the glow of the Milky Way above my window,
like a world of silence on fire, and I wondered if at this moment
she had a dream that rhymed with mine.

George Gray by Edgar Lee Masters


George Gray is part of The Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950). What an unconventional book both in style and content. voices of the dead .. never read anything like this before. Each dead citizen has a story to tell and the free verse narration is awesome. I am still reading the book and enjoying every bit of it. Thanks Mike and Kris for recommending it. Each poem is a gem and a learning..

I will be posting some more poems later.

George Gray

I have studied many times

The marble which was chiseled for me—

A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.

In truth it pictures not my destination

But my life.

For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;

Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;

Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.

Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.

And now I know that we must lift the sail

And catch the winds of destiny

Wherever they drive the boat.

To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,

But life without meaning is the torture

Of restlessness and vague desire—

It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.

Edgar Lee Masters

Night of the Scorpion by Nissim Ezekiel


This is one of my favorites among many of the Ezeliel poems. For some reason It stayed with me since I read it as a teenager. For a Jew poet in post independent India, he was a lonsome figure. I love his tight rhymed quatrians and the Indianness in his poetry written in English. Something about his work captivates the reader for a long time. I also love his poem, ‘Poet, Lover and Birdwatcher’.

Night of the Scorpion

“I remember the night my mother was stung by a scorpion.
Ten hours of steady rain had driven him to crawl beneath a sack of rice.
Parting with his poison — flash of diabolic tail in the dark room — he risked the rain again.
The peasants came like swarms of flies and buzzed the Name of God a hundred times to paralyse the Evil One.
With candles and with lanterns throwing giant scorpion shadows
on the sun-baked walls they searched for him; he was not found.
They clicked their tongues. With every movement the scorpion made his poison moved in Mother’s blood, they said.
May he sit still, they said.
May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.
May your suffering decrease
the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
May the sum of evil balanced in this unreal world against the sum of good become diminished by your pain.
May the poison purify your flesh of desire, and your spirit of ambition, they said, and they sat around on the floor with my mother in the centre.
The peace of understanding on each face.
More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours, more insects and the endless rain.
My mother twisted through and through groaning on a mat.
My father, sceptic, rationalist, trying every curse and blessing, powder, mixture, herb, and hybrid. He even poured a little paraffin upon the bitten toes and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with incantation.
After twenty hours it lost its sting.”
“My mother only said:
Thank God the scorpion picked on me and spared my children.”

Nissim Ezekiel
(1924-2004)

The Evening Cloud by John Wilson


This is such a beautiful celebration of nature.


The Evening Cloud

A cloud lay cradled near the setting sun,

A gleam of crimson tinged its braided snow;

Long had I watched the glory moving on

O’er the still radiance of the lake below.

Tranquil its spirit seemed, and floated slow!

Even in its very motion there was rest;

While every breath of eve that chanced to blow

Wafted the traveller to the beauteous west.

Emblem, methought, of the departed soul!

To whose white robe the gleam of bliss is given

And by the breath of mercy made to roll

Right onwards to the golden gate of heaven,

Where to the eye of faith its peaceful lies,

And tells to man his glorious destinies.

John Wilson (1785 – 1854)

The Eve of St. Agnes by John Keats: Stanza XXV and XXI


The eve of St. Ages is one of the most sensuous of Keats poems and my favorite. I love the energy, the imagery, the Gothic element and the splendid language in the poem. It is a long narrative poem and I am sharing here two stanzas from the original forty two.

Excerpt from The Eve of St. Agnes

XXV

Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeline’s fair breast,
As down she knelt for heaven’s grace and boon;
Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest,
And on her silver cross soft amethyst,
And on her hair a glory, like a saint:
She seem’d a splendid angel, newly drest,
Save wings, for heaven:–Porphyro grew faint:
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint.

XXVI

Anon his heart revives: her vespers done,
Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees;
Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
Loosens her fragrant boddice; by degrees
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:
Half-hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,
Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,
In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed,
But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled

John Keats (1795-1821)

The Song of Despair By Pablo Neruda


Pablo Neruda is a poet very close to my heart. I was introduced to his works way back as a teenager and I fell in love with his poetry instantly.

“Twenty Poems and a Song of Despair” and “The Heights Of Machu Piccho” are my favorites among Neruda’s works. I will share the other poems too.


The Song of Despair By Pablo Neruda

( from twenty love poems and a song of despair)

(Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Canción Desesperada)

The memory of you emerges from the night around me.
The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one!

Cold flower heads are raining over my heart.
Oh pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.

In you the wars and the flights accumulated.
From you the wings of the song birds rose.

You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. In you everything sank!

It was the happy hour of assault and the kiss.
The hour of the spell that blazed like a lighthouse.

Pilot’s dread, fury of a blind diver,
turbulent drunkenness of love, in you everything sank!

In the childhood of mist my soul, winged and wounded.
Lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

You girdled sorrow, you clung to desire,
sadness stunned you, in you everything sank!

I made the wall of shadow draw back,
beyond desire and act, I walked on.

Oh flesh, my own flesh, woman whom I loved and lost,
I summon you in the moist hour, I raise my song to you.

Like a jar you housed the infinite tenderness,
and the infinite oblivion shattered you like a jar.

There was the black solitude of the islands,
and there, woman of love, your arms took me in.

There were thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit.
There were grief and the ruins, and you were the miracle.

Ah woman, I do not know how you could contain me
in the earth of your soul, in the cross of your arms!

How terrible and brief was my desire of you!
How difficult and drunken, how tensed and avid.

Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs,
still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.

Oh the bitten mouth, oh the kissed limbs,
oh the hungering teeth, oh the entwined bodies.

Oh the mad coupling of hope and force
in which we merged and despaired.

And the tenderness, light as water and as flour.
And the word scarcely begun on the lips.

This was my destiny and in it was the voyage of my longing,
and in it my longing fell, in you everything sank!

Oh pit of debris, everything fell into you,
what sorrow did you not express, in what sorrow are you not drowned!

From billow to billow you still called and sang.
Standing like a sailor in the prow of a vessel.

You still flowered in songs, you still broke in currents.
Oh pit of debris, open and bitter well.

Pale blind diver, luckless slinger,
lost discoverer, in you everything sank!

It is the hour of departure, the hard cold hour
which the night fastens to all the timetables.

The rustling belt of the sea girdles the shore.
Cold stars heave up, black birds migrate.

Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
Only the tremulous shadow twists in my hands.

Oh farther than everything. Oh farther than everything.

It is the hour of departure. Oh abandoned one.

Pablo Neruda (July 12, 1904 – September 23, 1973)
him

Poetry challenge : Old Begger Woman


Author and friend Kris Saknussemm gave this second challenge to write something which had rhythm.

I quote

“write something to that rhythm. Don’t use any metaphors to clue us in–EMBODY the rhythm. Don’t worry about “melody.” Worry only about the rhythm…and use ALL the words: CLAWS, WRETCHED, GRATEFUL, TORRENT, SEETHING & TOMORROW”
-Kris

Here is my poem

Old Begger Woman

Near the village square
A shriveled frame
in tattered rags
Squatting
Her mangled hair full of
tiny, dry leaves blown by the wind
Her wrinkled face
bursts into a toothless laugh
Along with the mocking kids
A dry weed, broken from its roots
Flung from shore to shore
by the torrents of abuse
Even with a seething heart
and mind mauled by
the claws of memory
She rejoices each moment she lives
Grateful for a life well spent
unconcerned about tomorrow
“Wretched woman they call me”, she laughs
“What about them?
Living but still not alive