THE CURTAIN

Image result for the entrance curtain

“I learn from people” —Socrates, The Phaedrus

Of one thing I am certain:

The secret to life is the curtain.

In the blizzard of facts

You have to notice how the person acts.

Love and desire depends

On the curtain, and when love ends

With its union, the curtain’s division,

The fact between here and there broken,

Clothing comes off and we see what’s there,

Behind the curtain, pleasurable, embarrassed sighs,

The secret, delicate hair.

The allure of what’s hidden by the curtain

Drives everything that’s mysterious, and finally, certain.

In triumph, we part the curtain and walk

Into the mystery. And then we talk,

And in our talk, more curtains arise,

Curtains in the world and curtains in the eyes,

Until the couple who thought they had become one

Find their passionate, unified love is cruelly undone;

Suddenly all that was loved, is hated.

We broke the curtain. But these holy, happy ones? They waited.

THE FLOWER WILL THINK

Image result for flower by the painter chardin

The flower will think itself a stem.

The flower will cling to roots—and listen to them.

The flower will fear the light

And let the message of the stem ignite

Fear and trepidation, as the role

Of different parts confuses the whole.

The way your stem sways

Is a boon to my days.

The gathering your roots do

Is surely a benefit to you.

But I want your flower to see

How beautiful your flower is to me.

Your flower, in the light,

Is better than the root and its night.

Your face is the reason for nothing but clothes,

The reason for every root and every stem—

Your face is much better than those.

Your beautiful face embarrasses them.

 

 

 

THOUGHTS ON LOVE

Image result for abstract painting fire engine red

My love sent 20 fire trucks when I burned the toast.

My love hunted me down and jailed me when I crossed the border by accident.

My love sent me from the university when I wrote the wrong word.

My love arranged to have me married to her.

My love blew herself up after crying out in adoration my holy name.

My love waited in the dark, ambushed me and imprisoned me to stare at me.

My love aborted me for a good reason as I cried out in the dark.

My love had me, held me up to the light, and then devoted her life to me.

Afraid I might be hit by a fire truck, I told my love goodbye.

THE TRAIN PICKS UP THE CROWD. AND ME.

train-station-pic

The Scarriet editor’s morning commute.

Do you care about others? Sucker.

Oscar Wilde’s father had three illegitimate children when he married Oscar’s mother—they were raised as cousins by other family members. Wilde’s family, Irish Catholic, was despised by the ruling Brits. Oscar Wilde had two children with a beautiful woman who was courted by Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.  Oscar Wilde’s U.S. tour made him famous and loved. The trial in England which ruined him was due to class, not homosexuality—Wilde threatened violence to an English aristocrat who left him a calling card with the word “sodomite” on it, seen by one other person; Wilde brought the slander suit, which sealed his doom, unable to see his wife or children at the end of his life.

My heavy thoughts keep my laughter aloft.

Islam and Feminism will fall in love and save mankind.

Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” is a poem—with discrete rhymes. Poetry has no public. Wait. It does. 143 million views on You Tube for “Video Games.”

I didn’t talk to you because I love you. Because I wanted to.

You’re so miserable, I can tell exactly what you’re thinking.

Happiness hides thoughts. Misery reveals them.

You don’t know someone by their mind. The mind is what you never know.

No one knows what anyone else is thinking. Happily.

Remember when the Rolling Stones were good?  “2,000 Light Years From Home”

I was at the Grolier bookstore in Harvard Square on the evening of February 17 for the SpoKe issue no. 4 reading, Kevin Gallagher, editor.  I have two pieces in the issue on Romanian poetry, one on the poet Dan Sociu—both solicited by Ben Mazer.

Jeff Bezos, owner of Washington Post, does business with the CIA, through Amazon—a recent $600 million contract. Holy crap.

Politics is hearsay, science observation.

 

MY EMOTIONS CONQUERED ME

Image result for a cold glass of water

I don’t think it was you. I don’t think it was me.

Were you blind, too? Did you see?

My emotions conquered me.

I remember, before a kiss, drinking a cold glass of water;

In all my love adventures, that strange contrast is what I most remember.

That sudden cold drink. I don’t remember her.

I changed my mind a thousand times

In those years when I was beautiful, and making rhymes

And had curls and curls of dark brown hair

And woke, forgetting her.  And nothing was fair.

It is the greatest joy

When girlish qualities inhabit a boy

Who is yet a man and poetry

Gets you through it all even when you are a jerk and that’s what happened to me.

I made too much of those vain attempts. I wept thoroughly

For others’ verse. I derided and left it for dead in my poetry.

I suffered in the brown rooms

But recovered in well-lit ones.

You should have seen those rectangular rooms! And the furniture!

The women came and went. Even her.

Emotions! But love is not these things!

Love flowed away in the advice they gave me.

Love lies in the cold and icy springs.

 

WHY DID YOU MAKE WHAT WAS BEAUTIFUL UGLY AND WRONG?

Image result for two lovers outside the theater in painting

You were at the center of my song.

Why did you make what was beautiful, ugly and wrong?

You loved my insights and my face.

Two who love, and always love, cannot know disgrace.

Why do you value choice when the choice destroys

All other choices and all other joys?

Is it worth choosing, if the choice rips

What can choose away?

Why let a moment ruin the entire day?

Life is simple, why do we look for tips?

Look at life! All these girls and boys…

The only choice I want: when to kiss your lips—

Now, or when night brings a vow, a poem, a play?

 

 

 

PRESIDENT’S DAY

image

It is always best to argue from simple truths; the details are interesting, but not necessary; if they were, no decision or action based on thought would be possible.

Truth is dynamic; it doesn’t curl up passively with a bunch of facts—the passive/aggressive fact-checkers never seem to understand this.

Statistics are for losers. Winning is the only thing. History is written by the winners.

But when a fact, lost to all, suddenly turns up and puts the smiling villain in jail, we exult, we cheer the triumph of justice. Colombo turns on his heel as he is about to exit, and asks one more question. Every interesting crime show, every movie of thoughtful demeanor; romance, comedy, tragedy—all hinge on a detail hidden from view, until the denouement reveals it.

But the important hidden fact was hidden by other facts—clarity and truth occur when we get clear of unnecessary facts and details.

Truth is complex; every situation in life is immensely complex: a picture, a video, a view, a vow, a law, a kiss, a structure, an assemblage, an idea, a thought—all so complex that comprehension and action are blind when confronting the infinite factual complexity of even the simplest things life presents to us.

Truth is complex, but it always emerges simply.

The very simple is not truthful; but the truthful is always very simple in our understanding of it.

A mountain of facts hides the truth, even as the truth is a mountain of facts. Facts hide themselves in the truth—what finds the truth is not the truth.

Simplicity hates and betrays all that is detailed and true until that moment when simplicity finds what is true.

Hate, the opposite of love, finally comes to it.

Love is always the goal; hate, looking for love, always the opposite of love, the seeker; love cannot search for love, truth cannot look for truth, the good cannot find good. I told many half-truths to get here, my love, and I am here because of you. The ambiguous assertions are in the past, always in the past, just as facts and more facts unnecessarily clog up our days.

We now live in an Information Age, such that ignorance is sexy like never before. The more information there is, the more of it must be ignored to find the truth. The success of Trump demonstrates this, to the wailing and whining horror of the educated Left.

Not that ‘too many facts as the enemy of truth’ is lost on the Left.

I realize I am stating a truism.

Everyone confronts “inconvenient” facts—doctored data, religious and philosophical contradictions, party-platform gaps in logic, dearly held beliefs with hidden flaws, old actions or quotes from our former selves—anxiety greets us all—more, the more we are in the public eye—as we desperately patch daily the leaks in our ideological and personal boats. Whether we are a Facebook opining Buddhist monk or Catholic priest, a Muslim American feminist, a gay conservative, or anyone who is terribly honest with their opinions, we struggle daily to make our ideas fit with the world, and more and more in this Information Age we live in, it gives us fits.

Even comedians are crashing and burning these days. Sages of the comedic left are having an especially hard time; the rapaciously principled right are now having their moment in the sun; even comedy is moving to the right; the right is, at this moment, funnier than the left—which has dominated the talking classes since the Kennedy/Nixon debates. Almost overnight, the Left finds itself trapped in a politically-correct corner, making nasty faces—a scared, anti-free speech, rat. The impulse could be said to be the same on the Right. Close the borders ‘to be safe.’ The left is shutting up the right ‘to be safe.’ Fear is messing everybody up.

No one is immune. As I write this piece, in a calm, logical, state of mind, I hear some readers in my ear, “You support Trump, that ASSHOLE, you ASSHOLE???”  Even though I haven’t defended Trump at all; the ‘triggered’ tend not to be discerning, but I realize “success of Trump” and comparing the left to a “rat” will damn me in some minds forever.

There is the truth, and then ‘how the truth gets talked about,’ and they are not the same. I do not pretend to know much about the former; I’m only attempting some advice about the latter.

Here’s how to make sense of all this, and the simpler, the better:

There are two impulses, that of Greece and Rome. Community and Empire.

Community is where “reasonable” people, friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, interact;the life most of us know most of the time. This is the realm of cat photos and birthday parties. Conversation. Sleep. Cleaning. Work.

Empire is where political and religious differences exist, aesthetic judgment, the world of Hillary and Trump. Empire is where human beings on a grand scale are managed. United, divided, and motivated.

We all live in both places. Uneasily. Because these two worlds are very different, yet they constantly bleed into each other, and impact each other, and judge each other.

The Empire is more abstract, more distant, and yet it has the upper hand. Poor people, people with less education, resent the Empire, and just want to live in a community. But when the poor, or anyone outside the thinking of the Empire, get ambitious, they make a move toward Empire; for all ambitious people strive to take part, in some way, in the ways of the Empire.

In the community, religion is habit, tradition, culture, ceremony.

In the Empire, religion is theology, mass good, mass evil, terrorism, conformity, ignorance, or enlightenment.

This divide, community and empire, is simple and real.

It is at the heart of every single conflict today.

And the complexity arises because of differences which continually flow in two different directions: debates within the empire—vital, significant, often violent, where the ambitious clash—also run headlong into the community.

Community believes in community, but ideas of Empire may be fostered against community, to destroy community, since Empire is rapaciously ambitious. Community looks out for people. Empire often does not. Community is default common sense. Empire is whatever it wants to be.

Obama’s birth certificate, Russia and the 2016 election—just two examples of how Empire issues dominate the news in extremely divisive ways: empire is where animals in the wild battle over turf; community is mother and her cubs, the babies in the nest. Holocaust is empire, not community action. Religious wars are empire phenomena; religions of peace reflect desires of the community.

But wait. Does this mean all large, global actions are bad, and the good resides only in small gatherings?

My thesis is falling victim to the very thesis I stated—no thesis can describe the world.

Not really. Community actions can be large. They don’t have to be small. Think of the Marshall Plan.  Greece had wide influence, and all that was glorious about Greece fed the grandeur that was Rome. Rome is what incorporates Greece, spreads it, vulgurizes it; the core genius of a Socrates is diluted by the speeches of a Cicero. Shakespeare invents the sitcom, Bach, the Top 40 Hit.

The genius, the good, the beautiful, are too important to hide, but Empire is that which mass produces and distorts these things in order to control and expand beyond the community, producing theft and wealth for Empire beneficiaries, leaders who naturally hate genius and goodness and beauty, just as one brother will envy and hate an innocent and glorious sibling.

But is Rome always bad? Are sitcoms and top 40 hits always bad? No.

And yet the genius makes the good happen in the first place.  We shouldn’t forget that.

Community will not be cowed by empire and will rise up to fight it—and Rome and the British Empire fell, though Empire lives on, and will never be cowed, either.

The vastness of the battle is confusing to many—and ideological differences harden due to pride; community is humble, so how can it be large? Stupidity is easy, and why should it not rush into the arms of a vast and wealthy Empire?

There’s one more division that needs to be elucidated, and with community/empire as a significant division in the background, here is the one real duality which is the key to understanding an ideologically confusing world.

How do we understand the world? Religiously, secularly, patriotically, hedonisticaly, aesthetically, intellectually?

This should help, and this is all this is meant to be—not an ideology, but an aid to understanding.

The world is either pro-business or anti-business.

Money, wealth, happiness, transactions of all kinds, move in two basic directions—either from buyer to seller, or in some other direction—taxes to the state, tithes to the church, or payoffs to criminals.

The more wealth flows from buyer to seller in a fair and enlightened exchange, and the less it flows in some other direction, the better. And this is the one criterion with which we should be most concerned.

The greatest hope for mankind is an economic one; and no other fact is more important for the world’s community, for its people, than the dear wish that the current leader of the free world, stand up to communism in its cult-religious and all its other forms, to nation-killing capitalism in all its forms, and to Empire scare-mongering environmentalism in all its forms.

And what does this entail? The answer is simple, even as we bask in the glory of community, and struggle with the many contradictory messages of empire—to foster a healthy and just environment within every community for business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT A MAN WANTS TO DO TO YOU

Image result for giant face of a woman in art

What a man wants to do to you

Is way beyond my control.

What he will not do is write you a love poem,

What he will not do is the nothing we understand as the soul.

We are computers, and the more things computers do,

The more inputs create responses less specifically you.

There you are. The radiant hair,

The beautiful face, and now everywhere.

The larger inhibition is always the larger face

Until we miss the part in the mysterious whole,

Whose ongoing progress keeps us moving to a larger place.

Where are you going? I was just beginning a song

In honor of you, my desire being so wrong.

LET BEAUTY BREED

Related image

Let beauty breed.

Do you think there was any other reason I loved you?

It was your beauty. And the need

For beauty is all there is in love.

Brokenhearted, I turned philosopher,

And every precept is born of her.

It is not you anymore.

Beauty is wealth, and you have made me poor.

She provides me beauty every day

Since you made that sour face and went away.

She smiled on me, and then

I acquired temper, folly, understanding,

Which escapes other men.

Oh sure, there is grime

In bus stations and train stations.

There’s great indifference. I don’t care.

Lack of beauty is no crime.

Resentment of beauty is everywhere.

You’ll love me again. Take your time.

 

 

 

 

 

THE ARGUMENT IS ALL I KNOW

Related image

All science depends on observation –a scientist

I really don’t intend to come across as contrary, or slow,
But in matters of the heart, the argument is all I know,
The dispute of the heart which hurts me blow by blow.
We don’t know anything except by the wheel:
All knowledge is the ever-returning pulse we feel.
To demonstrate how you don’t know what you know
Think of time as a pulse, a beat, which becomes so slow,
The beat becomes one continuous impulse—no beat at all.
Or the opposite: pulses so fast, the space between the beats so small,
The speed blurs the pulses into one; so again, no beat at all.
In both cases, one pulse, one thought, one flame.
In each case, incredibly slow, or incredibly fast,
Super slow or super quick, a pulse of one.
We experience opposites exactly the same!
The truth just uttered lies in the past.
Now kiss me. My argument is done.

THE ONLY LOVE IS PUBLIC LOVE

Related image

The only love is public love; in public you will know

It is love. Otherwise, hide. Otherwise, go.

In private realms, hate, as well as love, breeds

And privately even love has its unkind needs,

So public love is the only thing love knows.

Even privately, love is not love unless it shows,

And since hate has its reasons—let’s see

What they are. Nothing is proven privately.

Privacy is for slumber and fantasy

And I love to sleep. But my poetry

Will only be good if I agree

In public to love you privately.

This is why I steal away to you at night

With my poetry and my wishes and my light.

 

 

 

I RETURN TO YOU IN DREAMS

Image result for dreamland in painting

I return to you in dreams!

Let me lean near you, and inform you of dreams.

A dream is more than a dream seems.

Do not insult dreams—especially dreams of you!

Do poets presume poems and dreams untrue?

Poems are false, I know they are, but not dreams, not dreams of you.

Dreams! Dreams are real, and you exist again in dreams, found

By my life, as you existed, passive but profound.

The dreams remember the years,

The years when nights and promises were true.

Returning is what dreams prefer to do—

Take my hand! Look! Dreamland!

This is how I return, in my mind’s softest robe, to you.

And you return in winding silence too,

Past openings where the smoke

Hangs heavily where paths have made

Entrances down the entrances to shade,

Darkness offering secret, trembling memories of light

Where you spoke to me by trees one summer night.

In the dream I see you there:

Proud, beautiful face!

On either side of your face, the perfumed hair,

Your eyes loving me and mocking me as much as mockery might dare

In the smile which melts into the mist of your race,

The proud chin, the nostrils of an ancient shape,

Which puts me in mind of all

That might take place in a palace banquet hall

By the feast, seated, arms of the lemon, lyre and grape,

Drapery with patterns of circles, strange patterns of the heart

Where you, by fire-light, later undress and recline,

Letting me know, with one look, your entire mind.

These dreams are returning, my morning soon to be my night;

The languid half-falling music of dreams,

Dreams, dreams, dreams, setting right

The wrongs, the inevitable sorrow

Which marches forward in a cold tomorrow.

 

 

ALL REPORTS ARE FALSE

Image result for intellectual smoking in a cigarette in painting

The mind is what finally acts

After it receives a false collection of facts.

The truth forced you to pause

When you saw the real cause.

Your mind was sorely deceived

By facts. It was not the truth, as you believed.

A pile of facts, which do not cohere,

Is the basis of truth somewhere, but entirely false here.

You wanted a smoke; you found a cigarette,

But the smoke, the love—you haven’t found that yet.

Talk to people face to face, people with the world on their back.

Listen to them. Then you’ll wish for a soundtrack.

You see reports of truth suppressed,

And understand why when you see truth, undressed.

There was a reason the cloud hung around the sun.

They weren’t going to ask you. You weren’t the one.

 

 

THE STUPID WANT TO KNOW

Field of Flowers, 1910 - Egon Schiele

The stupid want to know what they don’t need to know.

They ask questions all day.

They are stupid that way.

The truth will only be embarrassing; the wise

Know how to avoid embarrassment. They say a few words and go.

Wisdom knows what not to know.

The eyes are trying to catch up to the brain which is trying to catch up to the eyes.

I have no faith in poetry, and art, its superficial depiction.

I can show you the truth of the truth—in this fiction.

We had a lot of time to kill—the pressure was on to talk.

I suggested we kiss for awhile, after taking a walk.

The less I shared my knowledge of the flowers

The better. We kissed in them for hours.

 

 

 

 

LOVE IS STUPIDITY

Image result for sketches by the renaissance masters

Love is stupidity.

It wasn’t passion, because passion

Can make anything for a moment with anyone happen.

For a few days, it seemed to me

It was my passionate poetry.

But then I found out she had neither heart nor mind

For it. We looked at it and she was blind.

It must have been the momentary glee

That bubbled up when she laughed with me

Over something really stupid. I looked her in the eye

And something happened, but I

Have no idea what made us connect.

Love is something you never expect.

I think it was stupidity.

And a little bit, my poetry.

And more, her heart, vulnerable, because she could not see

My hunger. Or hers, for me.

 

 

WHEN I ENTERED THE ORGY

Related image

When I entered the orgy, it seemed I had entered a brawl.
It did not seem that anyone was making love at all.
It was dark, and sounds I heard only filled me with fear.
I had come for love. Something wasn’t right here.
I began to see in the darkness that the lovers were sad and old;
Is love this brutal? At the book reading, that wasn’t what I was told.
When she explained love to me, she didn’t do it well.
I thought it was more like poetry.  This seems like hell.

DIDN’T ONE LOVE ME?

Image result for lovers in the rain in futurist painting

Dreaming of being loved,

I weep with joy to think when that joy will begin.

But none loves me, or seems to love me.

Not enough love is death and too much love is sin.

I wake up. I dress. I try to be polite.

I squint in the sun. I sing to myself at night.

Sometimes when you are loved, it’s hard to tell:

One told me loving me was a sickness and she was trying to get well.

I kept track of violins, of factories, of whispers in the hall.

I concluded I should be enthusiastic, but not beg love of all.

I didn’t ask for a lot. I had a little fun.

But I was willing to give. I was only looking for one.

Didn’t one love me? What did I have to do?

Was it that I looked, and didn’t find you?

Another loved me when I did not love her;

It was a pleasure when we were together.

It was a sweet friendship made in regions above.

But it wasn’t love.

 

WE ARE ARTISTS, EVERY ONE

Image result for greek statue

We are artists, every one.
We see more in the shade than in the sun.
We see more of the twisted body on the couch
Than art can depict, never mind “My kid could do that.” Ouch!
We see more in the laughter of Valerie
Than we see in an art gallery.
Valerie really hurt me. See her selfie?
Valerie has been on my mind all day.
Greek statue, you are great, but you won’t make Valerie go away.

THEY’RE NOT GOING TO THINK WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO THINK

https://unpizzicodidragoncellotritato.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/retrato_de_sor_juana_inc3a9s_de_la_cruz_miguel_cabrera.jpg?w=477

They’re not going to think what you want them to think,
Even when they’re in your arms,
After reading your poem and sighing.
And you? What will you be thinking?
How love lights you up, but already seems to be dying?

They’re not going to love what you want them to love,
Even when their lips are on yours
After reading your poem and sighing.
And you? What do you think of love,
Knowing that love, a fire, just like a fire, lives as a fire by dying?

They’re not going to say what you want them to say,
Even when they say what they want you to say.
After reading your poem, they cannot say
Why you cannot say anything, or why you are sighing.
And so you wrote a poem today.
Which already seems to be dying.

INDIE INDIA

Image may contain: 1 person

The poet and painter Sushmita Gupta.

There’s something happening in poetry at present which ought to make many very proud, and a smaller, but a still significantly large amount of people, uncomfortable.

The best poetry in English right now is being produced by non-MFA poets from India.

We can name this phenomenon anything we want—some have called it the Bolly Verse phenomenon. Its center is Kolkata, or West Bengal, where a great deal of poems today are written in English. Kolkata (Calcutta), which we hear is an enchanting, mystical, modern city, was the cultural capital of British India. Rabindranath Tagore, the Tolstoy/Hugo/Poe/Borges/Shakespeare of India, was Bengali.

Contemporary Indian poets are inspired both by modern ways and old leather books from the 19th century.

These amateur Indian poets, amateur in the best sense of that word, are dimly aware of Whitman and William Carlos Williams, but they are just as likely to be inspired by Rumi or Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

These Indian poets have an advantage over American sophisticates—who are brutally and self-consciously modern.

Rumi sells far more books in America than any modern American poet—Rumi’s popularity rolls over the chilling influence of MFA programs; Rumi has an immense following in spite of American MFA-program success—a kind of pyramid-scheme success, if one is honest, and which, to be critically valid, demands a kind of anti-populist, historically-blank, hyper-individualist poetry: the kind published by university presses; academically rewarded—but since popularity is considered by sophisticates to be a bad thing—MFA-produced poetry has an almost nonexistent readership.

These indie Indian poets are not consciously writing against the MFA.  And we do not bring these Indian poets to the world’s notice to make an anti-MFA point. Live, and let live, is a fine motto. These Indian poets have as many admiring readers on Facebook as the most successful American poets do, with the exception of poets like Billy Collins and Mary Oliver—but even these are, relatively speaking, no lions; Rumi is a thousand times more influential.

These indie Indians are probably a little better, however, just because they are not beholden to Modernist or MFA sensibilities—which is sometimes a bee hive, death star, hodgepodge of crackpot, over-educated impulses.

These indie Indians are good, in large part because they are good in the way poems have been good and will always be good, despite the Modernist, MFA detour—confusing many Western hair-shirt wearers since 1913.

Joie Bose writes like a foul-mouthed Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  The foul-mouthed part is not “modern.”  The ancient Roman poets were foul-mouthed.  Peel the Modernist onion and you find ancient, and then perhaps nothing—the good poet happily and desperately on their own.  There is no need to advertise Bose as modern—because she’s good.

Image may contain: 1 person

The poetry of Joie Bose, and to be less pretentious, the poems of Joie Bose, belong to the center of what poetry has always been; when you’re drunk and you get up close to someone at a party, or any situation where you find yourself in a position to really hear what a person is really thinking—not what they think about X, Y, or Z-–but what they are thinking, as a person navigating this absurd, strange, beautiful, threatening world just like you, and navigating it means feeling along with the thinking, you get the total human experience.  Too much of poetry is somebody thinking about something and then coming up with a poem (let me use this image! let me use this rhyme!)—the good poets actually do less work and skip that step of “thinking about what they are going to write” and instead plunge right into it, so we experience the thinking—the thinking does not orchestrate the correct sort of speech behind the facade of the poem.  The thinking is the poem.

And let’s quote a Joie Bose poem so you’ll see exactly what we mean:

Stop talking! Shut your trap,
You better shut the fuck up!

Revolution is revolting and
we see that it’s the same
phrases and people on both sides
not knowing much about the cause
for these causes are mere pawns
and their quest is the same.

Why do you get up in the morning
Everyday and gear up to get out of bed?

I do, to board a train called Hope
It passes by many stations
For my destination changes.

I am a vagabond. Home is where I am.

People die when I rub them off
And I don’t believe in obituaries, ecologies and funerals.

Don’t ask me to stop if you can’t be me
And when you become, you will cease to care.

This poem is very heavy on the attitude.  And to its credit.

Because that’s what poetry is.  It’s attitude.

Think about it. Poetry isn’t science. When Keats famously said beauty is truth, he was presenting an attitude.  Think of Byron.  He was all attitude.

Poe made great efforts to get across the important point that poetry is neither moral nor intellectual, but resides in an area between the two.  Once poetry attempts to be moral, it dies, because poetry is too truthfully subjective to be moral; when poetry becomes too intellectual, it perishes for the same reason, losing the subjective thrill which is the key to poetry’s expression.  This does not mean that the moral and intellectual faculties of the poet are absent; the poet is aware of these—but the reader wants cohesion, not precepts.

Joie Bose’s poem has its reasons. “Causes are mere pawns” is the same thing as saying causes are effects—which they certainly can be; there is a sound and playful philosophy going on here.  The way hope inside hope rides a train which stops, but doesn’t, carries more interest—the poet is calling the shots, and that’s refreshing; she’s not letting the world and its stock images (train stations, destinations, these normally dull objects of sorrow and limitation) spoil her fun.  But this is not to say the poet is making a train a nice thing on a whim—the whole poem follows out the entire essence of what the poet is saying at every point, and, finally, “Don’t ask me to stop if you can’t be me” which is piling on more of that “shut the fuck up” attitude—and “cease to care” opposes “hope,” and these two opposites interact precisely because the poet’s attitude is strongly expressed—we connect with the poet who apparently doesn’t give a fuck (or does she?)  There’s a person in Bose’s poem—one is bumping into an attractive stranger, not hearing a lecture.  Her poem is exciting.

The poet Sushmita Gupta also makes poetry from a plain, homely, yet gracious place—poetry coming out of a tradition which sells the human.  As with Bose, Sushmita Gupta is not interested in intellectual or aesthetic distance, something modern poets often do—and why must they do it? What if poetry is harmed by intellectual distancing, and modern poetry has made a horrible miscalculation?  For calculation is at the center of modern poetry—if nothing else, it is highly intellectual and historically and theoretically conscious, and if it does take its calculations seriously—and this means miscalculation is possible—the moderns need to at least acknowledge this.  In speaking of a “modern temper,” and speaking of it pejoratively, we are sure our modern readers, every one, will say to themselves, “Well this isn’t my attitude! I have no “modern” limitations! Scarriet is building a straw man!” This indeed may be true, but any sophisticated reader who reads the following poem by Sushmita will find themselves immediately confronting what their modern education tells them is insufficient, even as their very soul is swept away by the beauty of this poem:

Why Me

Beyond the forest
By the river swollen,
Stood a single tree.
Often times,
I ran away
From it all,
And sat underneath,
Where branches,
From the sun,
Barely covered me.

One evening,
On a day of betrayal,
I sat sobbing.
And by the time
The sun was gone,
And tiny stars
Just began showing,
My quiet sobbing
Had turned to a howl.
Past hurt,
Came crawling,
Out of deep dungeons,
They were on a prowl.
I asked,
Of the wildly hungry,
Wind,
Why me.
Why always me.
That angered
The dark
And brazen
Wind to a frenzy.
It threw me
In the river,
Of fast flowing,
Spiraling waters,
That was used to
Smoothening rocks,
In a day,
To pebbles.
I was blown away,
By just that one question.
Why me.
I groped,
I screamed,
I cried for help,
But the waters rumbled,
The winds roared,
My cries drowned,
To a tiny yelp.
I was cruised,
Over rocks,
Over branches,
Till I was thrown,
On the shores,
Of an unknown land.
My clothes in tatters,
My head and hair,
Covered in wet sand.
The sun
Was beginning to rise,
But I just wished,
For sleep,
For rest,
For some
Peaceful time.
Happy to be alive,
I once again asked,
But more in gratitude,
You saved me o divine lord,
Why me.
Why in spite of my failings,
Why me.

This poem by Sushmita Gupta succeeds not because it’s telling a highly realistic story; it is not successful for any modern reason at all—it succeeds almost mathematically—the pure timing of “why me,” its musical repetition. If Sushmita’s poem is mathematical, it seems unobtrusively musical, instead, seeming to spring directly from the heart. It succeeds where all great art succeeds; not in some critical guide book—but with the audience.

We found this poem by Payal Sharma  printed out on Facebook recently, and include it in our random piece on a great nation’s poetry; it reminds us of Emily Dickinson or even Sylvia Plath.  We have no great motive for sharing this, except as a pleasing addition to the vague idea that Indian women writing by their wits alone are making great poetry today.  Payal lives in the north of India, works in an office, is intelligent, passionate, and counts among her influences Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson, E.E. Cummings, Virginia Woolf, William Shakespeare, W.H. Auden, Wilfred Owen, Lord Byron, Kahil Gibran, Mirza Ghalib, Sarojini Naidu, and Rabindranath Tagore. If William Shakespeare or W.H. Auden or Oscar Wilde find you in offices in Mexico, childhoods in India, or MFA seminars in the U.S.A., they find you.  That’s all that matters.

In the following poem by Payal, we find “exhaling sad to inhale relief” exquisite, and the conclusion of the poem sounds like the pure yelp of divine Miss Emily herself: “demurely silent pearls, which nobody earned more so!”

As you may

Half drowned,
treading through the narrow waters
in numbing black void,
greased with slippery layers
of lard extracted from my old epithets.

Dear lover, come as you may-

A chrome door to murky corridor,
leading to the virgin smells
of crushed black olives
in medieval castles.

A faint hint of corrosive carbon,
peered with miraculous oxygen,
released in deep audible
breaths of night trees,
exhaling sad to inhale relief.

A knight in decent armour,
sent by gown-less fairies
from the oppressed villages of
valour and essential ignorance.

A tang of air from several yards,
carrying the mental notes
from past teachers,
coiled around my neck for a while,
like demurely silent pearls,
which nobody earned more so!

~~~~

These three Indian poets, Joie, Sushmita, and Payal are different, independent—and magnificent!

We are proud to be able to present them.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, phone, selfie and indoor

Payal Sharma

THE BEAUTIFUL GIRL WITH THE UGLY VOICE

Image result for evil woman in painting

She’s beautiful, and would be my choice;

She’s beautiful, but I hesitate by that ugly voice.

How often do we experience the soul?

I do. When I look at a woman who is beautiful.

But then, I draw near, and before the soul makes a choice,

I listen to the soul—in the fearful particulars in the voice.

I know that sometimes the beautiful is a trick

To make use of me, to eat me, to kill me with a decorated stick.

The vines winding around the tree are snakes

And after the lovemaking the soul in terror wakes.

After the love flashes in the eye

The hand with the knife reaches around and you die.

The weeping love, the poem whispered in sorrow,

Is forgotten in laughter when I’m murdered tomorrow.

What is the soul? The soul is not the chosen, but the choice.

Who are you? That music. Where is it? What happened to your voice?

 

 

%d bloggers like this: