ALL WE LOVED AND THOUGHT WE LOVED

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All we loved,
And thought we loved, we did not love,
Because not one moment remained.
Save it with your poetry, they said.
We can’t have it, but at least we’ll have it explained.

All we knew,
And thought we knew, we did not know,
Because not one moment remained.
Leave it to history, they said.
Set it down, at least, though it never gets explained.

All we did,
And thought we did, we did not do,
Because not one moment remained.
Leave it to circumstance, they said.
What’s done is done, and cannot be explained.

If I loved
And thought I loved, I did love.
Can you believe it was this that remained?
Quickly, I kissed you. What else needs to be explained?

 

 

WHAT IF MY POETRY IS VANITY

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What if my poetry is vanity?

It must be. For who writes my poetry but me?

And where are you located when I write?

Does it matter? What does my poetry know of sunlight?

What does my poetry know of you and me?

Who tells me what to put in my poetry?

What pretends to be the bright day inside the cloudy night?

My poetry. That means something isn’t right.

And now what pretends? Is that not vanity?

What does my poetry really know?

Can we discuss that later? Here’s the door. Here’s the world. Let’s go.

 

BYE, POEMS, BYE

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Bye, poems, bye.

What’s the point. Some guy

Will say the same with less.

Bye, poems, bye.

I must pick you up

And read you again, after I cry?

Bye, poems, bye.

The instructions were long. I still couldn’t fly.

Bye, poems, bye.

Why did I think my

Efforts would do?

Bye, poems, bye.

They’re black ink. He’s colorful and sly.

Bye, poems, bye.

I hated. I failed. They thought I was shy.

So I wrote.

Bye, poems, bye.

These are nothing. One glance at the sky

Is more.

Bye, poems, bye.

Want to read them, and buy them? Why?

They’re less than all.

Bye, poems, bye.

She likes stratagems and torture.

She’s speechless. She’d rather die.

Bye, poems, bye.

 

 

MY DEAREST FRIEND

Image result for secret person in modern painting

Don’t believe it until you see it, and yet

You won’t believe it if you disagree with it, I bet.

Even the whole video depends on who sees it.

The world does not belong to what or why, but who.

It hinges on the lover, the judge—it doesn’t matter, really, what you do.

If I know exactly who you are,

The shadow will cover up, or not cover up, my star.

My poem is not for that creep over there.

If the Royal committee rejects my revolution, I don’t care.

I fall in love with you, unthinking.

Only me beside you keeps the whole thing from sinking.

What was done? Why was it done?  What matters is who.

It’s not the circumstance, or even the love. It’s you.

 

 

 

GRADUALLY WE HATE WHAT WE LOVED

Gradually we hate what we loved

Since love cannot be loved alone.

Every land that stretches out next to love

Is dry; nothing but dry stone.

All that sleeps and wakes next to love

Is not love. You cannot find

In the dust of the adjoining land’s dry air

One thing which resembles your mind

When you were young and loved everything in there.

Now love is only one of many things.

Just a sigh. Just something that sings.

Love still makes the same sounds,

But now it’s surrounded, not a force that surrounds.

Remember? Love loved in your sight and breast.

Love was the reason, and the reason for all the rest.

 

 

 

THE POET DOESN’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING

I am beautiful, I don’t need to sing.

I don’t need to practice notes, harmonies, or words.

I am beautiful. I exist, like the birds.

I am beautiful. I never listen to the owner of the store.

Owners aren’t necessary. The customer wants more.

It drives my lover crazy—she sees me lying around,

And I’m really not doing anything.

Maybe, in my silent mind, I’ll find a beautiful sound;

Dreaming, I’ll find an eye of fire, and, with its tip on fire, a beautiful wing.

My invention will die. She will plunge to the ground.

She doesn’t exist for any other thing.

She will fall with a beautiful sound.

A million souls find her, while I’m sleeping.

Some pay me cash. A few of them are weeping.

 

 

 

 

 

WOMEN WANT TO CONTROL MEN

Women want to control men

And men receive this benefit again and again.

As mother pleased the boy

The goddess Kali wraps the man in joy.

The man loves the female form and face

Solely, and wants its beauty all over the place.

Falling upon the woman’s breast,

The guy finds his rest of no rest;

He finds the childhood he lost,

For a manhood of infinite cost.

The sad trips which lead to death

Lead to romance and the uneasy breath

Which lingers around a tree

In the forest of infinite poetry.

Why should the man fight and die,

When bound, he can live a lullaby?

Women, afflicted, need to control

The wandering male soul.

But Shiva can’t be pinned down

In the law, in the convenience of town,

Which last night he burned down.

The man becomes a woman to escape

The woman. When he looks at her

It could be love. Friendship. Film. Rape.

The authority wants to know what the woman wants to do;

What male of exact authority has she been talking to?

The man is now a woman who is now a man.

She controls himself as best as they possibly can.

 

SHE DIDN’T SAY A WORD TO ME

One day my lover. The next day she didn’t say a word to me.

A coward? That’s okay. That’s what we want. To be free.

To be silent, if we want, when someone says “Hey! Answer me!”

The best relationship is when you don’t say a word.

There’s nothing to say. Resting by sun and leaf and bird,

The meadow winking and wandering below

With blossoms covering the valley as if the blossoms were snow,

Sunlight almost scientific, looking like honey kept in a glass,

Its resemblance to science almost scientific, as it lingers in the artistic grass.

She wanted a silent, professional, equipoise.

She feared poetry, memory, talk, baths, noise.

Her sudden bursts of anger over nothing, I tried to figure out.

My Innocent questions she perceived as calling her honor into doubt.

I couldn’t remember the formula—when a girl gets mad

When there’s a faint hint she is, does this mean she’s bad?

I was sickly, affectionately, in love with her. I loved her well.

But this meant I wasn’t able to figure things out when it came to her too well.

Gently accused, does the virgin get angry—or is it the whore?

Well, it’s long over. I don’t really care anymore.

But yesterday I saw a wise Indian woman speak in a video,

And what she did was brilliant, and now I think I know.

She called a skinny girl in the audience fat. Universal laughter.

Called fat, skinny smiles. A self-worth lesson easily known.

If my irritated lover was secretly a whore, it’s good I found out after.

Now let her be angry alone.

 

 

 

 

 

HEARSAY

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“Someone is speaking but she doesn’t know he’s there.” —Here, There, and Everywhere, The Beatles

The great Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci said truth is what we see with our own two eyes.

The Renaissance (aprox. 1400—1600) was a great and remarkable time because it threw off the fake, hearsay wisdom of Aristotle, and trusted simple looking.

But why did it take so long to chuck Aristotle? His authority lasted for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Because hearsay is how highly complex groups communicate, think and live.

Yes, reader. Hearsay is how you think. You have no choice. What else do you have? Do you think you know everything?

Love happens in the eyes.

Seduction and false love happens with words.

Words are hearsay. Professors and journalists and authors may not want to hear this, but all words, not just some, all words, all combinations of words, are hearsay.

Because we read something in the New York Times, or we hear our professor say it, we believe it to be true.

It is not that “it” does not have a very good chance for a certain amount of time to seem true; what matters is that it is an “it,” a thing of words, and what is not included in “its” carefully chosen arrangement contradicts “it,” (if the words don’t contradict themselves, which they often do).

What the “wise” words do not mention is real, but unknown.

All we get is the “it,” the words, what may possibly be believed and what easily can be believed, and this “it” is hearsay—not partially, but entirely. The writer or speaker is not necessarily lying. And if we don’t find an evidence of an outright lie, this may lull us into a false belief that it is not hearsay. But it is. Because it is made of words.  Whether it offends or not, it is hearsay.

Da Vinci was right.

And when we see the hearsay repeated—if  what we read in the New York Times, is seen again in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the Economist, the Nation, the Times of India, ABC News and Fox News, we think this is somehow proof that it cannot be hearsay. 

We think the repeating makes the hearsay legitimate.

But hearsay does not escape being hearsay if it repeats.

The very opposite is true. As they say, lies travel with lighter wings.

The “fixed stars” of Aristotle was a “truth” for hundreds and hundreds of years.

But hearsay didn’t die out with Aristotle.

Today—dear reader, what do you know about the stars?

Hearsay is not necessarily a lie; it’s merely an incomplete assertion—and often it is not innocently incomplete.

True knowledge is impossible.

Ambition is not.

Hearsay is not avoided by the ambitious.  It is embraced.

Since the world is vast and complex—so much so that it cannot be grasped—-it is easy for an educated but bad person to believe that all ideas must be incomplete, since knowledge is limited—and so bad behavior is excused by the knowledge that there is finally no knowledge.

We should listen to da Vinci.  We should look.

Our lives depend on it.

The president condemns violent protest. The paper which reviles him says the president opposes all protest. Those who oppose the president read and believe the president opposes all protest. Hearsay exists when anyone, on any topic, speaks and is heard. The speaker and listener—wherever speech is present—live in hearsay.

Because all speech is hearsay, all public dialogue finds both sides are always wrong, and always right—depending on feelings.

“But the president condemned violent protest!” say the president’s defenders.

“No. We know what the president really meant: to oppose enthusiastic protest against himself and his friends!”

And on it goes.

“Enthusiastic” protest is justified, everything enthusiastic is justified, because hearsay needs to be enthusiastic to sell, to have wings, to make us feel emotional and alive.

Emotion is real. And hearsay, which is not real, becomes real, simply by wearing emotion.

Emotion, needing to be fed, begins to actively seek out greater and greater hearsay. Lies are believed—just so we can feel. Feeling, in the absence of true knowledge, is all we’ve got.

Hearsay is not merely empty talk; it does great harm—as poetry.  Yes, poetry. This is why Plato is famous for faulting it.

Emotion persuades through hearsay; emotion and hearsay make a potent mixture.

Emotion is the frightening noise of the animal—but emotional hearsay is elegantly and insidiously human.

Fear needs an object, and hearsay provides it: fear makes hearsay more effective because the blindness of fear feeds the blindness of hearsay.

Socrates, in his case against Homer in Plato’s Republic, quotes beautiful passages by the great poet Homer—which depict the Homeric gods as sorrowful and weak. Socrates complains this is a bad example for children—on a very simple level, Socrates objects to low morale; with the wisdom of the child, Socrates condemns reproduced unhappiness, or to put it more simply, unhappiness.

Plato objects to Homer and most poetry, not because it is hearsay (though it certainly is) but because it is unhappy.

We know very little. But we should know, at the least, even in the face of hearsay, that to be unhappy is bad.

Poetry is bad for very simple reasons. Socrates makes an exception to his banning of poetry in the Republic—he permits, (in his imaginary, poetic Republic) the kind of poetry which praises and depicts heroic behavior.

Hearsay with a good result is good.

It finally comes down to bravery and morale.

Aristotle claimed literary tragedy is purgative—fear stirred up by fiction somehow causes less fear. Plato felt Aristotle’s scientific justification of unhappy poetry was—hearsay.

Plato and Aristotle rarely agree.  A diligent comparison of these two is the beginning of wisdom.

The criminal, looking to advance criminality, will rejoice in poetry of fear and low morale. Producers of drama which terrify and demoralize inject criminality into art; this was Plato’s moral view.

Shakespeare’s tragedies are not good because they are filled with horror; they are good because the poetry and the plot defeat the horror. Shakespeare’s plays are like Platonic Dialogues. Good poetry defeats bad poetry. It’s confusing, It’s why Shakespeare and Plato are so good.

Hearsay also belongs to libel and slander, the real-life, legal counterpart to the kind of poetry Socrates wants to ban.

What is slander, but a fictional condemnation?   What is libel, but bad poetry?

Bad poetry and hearsay are present in mere folly.  But hearsay and bad poetry are also present in the worst kinds of crime, and the worst sorts of sentiments which lead to crime.

Poetry is serious business.

This brings us back to da Vinci and actual proof—great art looks—it uses perspective to escape the blindness of hearsay and fearful emotion.

Love, beauty, and the heroic are seen in ways just enough to be loving, beautiful, and heroic—they do not live in hearsay—which Plato and Shakespeare (slander is condemned often in the Sonnets) both believed was the greatest threat to human happiness.

Socrates invokes the simple wisdom of the child against sophistical reasoning. And further, the worth of Homer’s poetry (for poetry does have worth) emerges with greater interest and understanding in the hyper-critical testing of Homer by Socrates—who certainly understood that banning increases interest in something. Banned, poetry will be loved all the more, and the higher critical lens developed by Plato is worthy in itself, increasing the value of poetry, and the value of seeing poetry—which is seen for what it is. Criticism and poetry both need each other.

Just as the visual arts belong to the geometrical science of the world as a whole, (painting, according to da Vinci, belongs to astronomy) poetry is best judged in the same way—by how it sees (which in poetry is not very much!) and by  how it dispels hearsay in a manner which constantly keeps hearsay in view. This is why the best poets secretly write against poetry.

Hearsay is hasty in its conclusions.

Science, graceful and slow, even where things are quick, is not.

Hasty is unkind.

Haste is not efficiency.  Efficiency is a thousand times faster than rude and ignorant haste.

Science is slow, like love.

If you don’t have the patience for the philosopher Plato, hearsay will likely be your god.

You will weep.  Because you don’t hear Socrates.  But do not weep.

Happy Thanksgiving!  —Scarriet Editors November 21st 2018

 

 

I KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVED

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I was not the top of a thick tree.

She built her nest low, but she nested in me.

I know how much I loved. I know it wasn’t me.

I was only the lyre.  Not the melody.

I was not the wind, which came whistling from afar.

I was only an eye, captured by a star.

Use science. Science doesn’t know

My love. But I know.

She wasn’t worth loving. But I know well

How she’s heaven

To my uncomprehending hell.

I was not prepared, nor was I right.

She was the glory. She was the light.

I know how much I loved.

But it didn’t do any good.

She was the bird who chattered in my wood.

She was the life my body waited for.

No. She was going. I was the door.

She was the fish who struggled in my lake.

Now she’s the breath in every poem I make.

She’s the name I cannot say.

The instrument must die. But the song will stay.

 

 

THE WORST POETS ARE THE POETS

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The worst poets are the poets.

Here they come. Looking for money.

James Oswald III has some.

Workshop your poems with a mountain view.

Oswald’s retreat. Make it new.

Do you want to buy my book?

Look at my face. No. Don’t look.

A poet says scientists are flawed

And human, fishing for money, too.

Oswald waves him off. Let’s see your manuscript.

Fees collected. Now the foot is on the other shoe.

After so many loves, and my experience,

I write poems three by three, and two by two,

For James. Charming man. Wouldn’t it be

Lovely if we were closer to the sea?

The books. The retreat. It’s so tidy.

The women are serious and drink tea.

Thank you. Fuck. Only whiskey for me.

To break into a dance for a mountain view

Somewhere in Italy. Breathe the air.

Bats at dusk. There’s poetry there.

Have you seen the alterations to the view?

Do you want mountains? Or will the poems do?

 

 

A WHOLE LIFE

Think of life: millions of hours, and yet you stay the same!

For years you meditate, try to love, yet always, who do you blame?

Yourself. But I love you, introvert misanthrope!—you made me see

That I, too, hate people; that’s why you got to me—

Why you got under my skin as no one else did.

I was always the nice fool, shy as a sheep as a kid.

When I couldn’t talk to people, the fault, I thought, was mine.

I thought I lacked communication skills; I would gulp wine

To loosen up. Now the truth flashes on me: people are swine!

If life is a game of chess, I look five moves ahead;

But others always taught me: knock over the pieces instead.

Dreamy and sensitive, I found people boring and rude,

But I thought I was slow; I thought the problem was my attitude.

I’m nervous. The room is crowded. I know what I need to do.

Ignore the smiling faces. Find the honest, frowning face. Find you.

 

 

 

POETRY LIVES

We’re all poets, but poetry is the worst part

Of ourselves: mawkish, declarative, the inner coming out like a fart.

Disgustingly clever, airy, vain,

Presuming to change the world, insane.

We’re all poets, but some are wise.

Poetry lives in the hatred of the poetry. In the eyes.

Poetry is her, whether she fails, succeeds, or tries.

INDIAN POETRY NOVEMBER

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Welcome to the November 2018 Scarriet Indian poetry in English.

It is advantageous when a poet knows what they want to do. Knowing what you want to do is the play you’re putting on.  I vastly prefer Shakespeare performed by the very young to the slickest Hollywood production featuring well-known actors. Shakespeare wins me over. And so a poet who knows what they want to do wins me over. An amateur love poem moves me more than a sophisticated one by a sophisticated poet who is dutifully being sophisticated—by saying nothing which identifies him as a poet with something to say. Auden, one of my favorite poets, said it is better for the apprentice poet to love to “play with words” than “to have something to say,” but this was Auden acting sophisticated for a certain class of people—Auden knew in his heart this was rubbish. It goes without saying a poet should be good with words and have a sizable vocabulary, but look what Mozart did with 12 notes. What you do is all. Not the words—is this wrong to assert around poets? I assert it, nonetheless. Hearsay belongs to words, and hearsay is the greatest enemy of the poet.

And because hearsay is the enemy, many seek the safety of “just playing with words.”  The truly brave fight hearsay by “having something to say.”

Linda Ashok knows what she wants to do.  She wants to make old-fashioned India sexually happier for women—a good challenge for poetry, and a good thing for her, since every great poet has an identity of some kind as a particular kind of poet; the vague feeling that you would like to write poetry isn’t enough; you need to know what you want to do before you write the poem. This is a simple fact. One can see the intention, or not—in every poem (no matter what the New Critics say) and language and experience are such that infinite profit can pour from a single theme; the poet who has no theme is barren.

Here is Linda Ashok’s “Dirty Love.”

A beach is a pretty place to kiss
but I don’t want to kiss you at pretty places

I want to kiss you under the bed
On the bathroom pot
While washing your wears
While on the wait for your train
at the station, at taxi stands

I want to kiss you by the masjid
by the tea-stall, house of the congress &
the conservatives
I want to kiss you in a public toilet

and places that are not as pretty as the beach

Because–
1) I only know how to make dirty love &
2) my absence can only love you as much

 

Linda Ashok is young and ambitious—the poem just quoted is superb—there are no limits to what she can do.

When I first met Linda Ashok as a literary online friend, “Linda,” a popular American hit song from 1946, was a brief point of interest between us, the context of which I cannot quite remember—except that, pedant that I am, I had to point out to Linda that “Linda,” the once well-known song, was named for the child who would grow up and marry the Beatle, Paul McCartney.  Yes, poets, it’s true!

I recently watched a documentary on my phone on the evolution of the Beatles’ public image as they burst upon the world in 1964—we all remember those snappy answers by the Fab Four at numerous press conferences, the Beatles, cocky, funny, self-assured, witty, ebullient at the time.

The documentary revealed by accident (it was the usual fan-hash of worship and nostalgia) the one overlooked fact of the most famous musical act in history—how much the Beatles came to hate the press—at first their best friends.

The press (publicity) ended up ruining the Beatles, causing them to retreat from public life, break up, hate each other, and lose their miraculous gift of songwriting before the age of 30.

“How long will you last?” “Which of you are married?” “Why are you doing solo projects?” “Are you spreading drug use?”

Paul McCartney was asked every day, “When are you going to marry Jane Asher?”

Paul became increasingly annoyed with the marriage questions—at one point saying on video with a very grim face, he hated marriage, (Linda was still a few years away) but this was only the tip of the iceberg; as the early 60s flew by, the Beatles died from fake news, exasperated with lying, gossipy, nasty reporters.

Poets live and die by the press release, the review, the publication, the notice, the award, the prize, the whisper.

But not just poets. All of us live and die by hearsay.

The poets are precisely that class of people who are supposed to miraculously conquer hearsay—when it comes to words, poets fight fire with fire.

When reporters and reviewers hate you, you are no poet, you are no human being. We really do live in the breath of others.

Linda Ashok is working hard, in a public manner, in the world of the press release, for poetry, and for all of us.

Upon the wave of hearsay she sails.

We make poetry professional when we elevate the criticism of the poetry.  Just as the Beatles knew they had truly made it when other artists began to cover their songs, poetry shared in a meaningful and sincere manner is the hard work that must be done.

Starry-eyed “poets” gushing fine sentiments and “liking” each other is to be encouraged, even, and it may advance poetry, professionally and internationally, but only so much.

Linda cares about poetry in all its guises, but I believe she also understands, in a worldly sense, what feeds poetry, and where poetry can go.

John Lennon wanted to pull out. Asked by a reporter (this might have been 1965) what he “really cared about,” since, according to the reporter, John (the caustic, cynical Beatles) was known for “not caring about anything,” John said he cared for, “myself and my family,” pointing out many people didn’t have to like everything, and the public was more like him, than this reporter realized.

And so, no pressure on Linda.

Poetry can be served in all sorts of ways.

It does not even have to be liked.

*

Rajiv Mohabir has a poem on the Poetry Foundation site called “Coolie” which sets the record straight about his slave ancestry: “Now Stateside, Americans erase my slave story; call me Indian.”

Indian poetry has a tendency, perhaps more so than American and British poetry, to be scientific.

Science—once felt by the Romantics to be the opposite of poetry—when embraced by poets today, tends to prove the Romantics right—to be taken seriously, science avoids song. Take this relentlessly passionate and lyrical poem quoted in full by Mohabir—it is highly prosaic; note the use of “something” and “sometimes.”

Perhaps there is a scientific reason for the poets inserting poetry into more accessible prose speech—the urgent messages can be more publicly conveyed.

The sentence, “Whatever beast calls out will never know itself through the mirror of another, as populations collapse and the sea empties and no others can process its cries into music” is poetry of the highest order—“mirror,” the key word, has a distant, underwater, relation to “music,” as well as “Whatever,” “never,” “another,” “others,” and “cries.”  As “populations collapse and the sea empties” are prose facts from a scientific journal. Presenting all this may indicate the highest genius, or an eco-poetry pulled in too many directions.

If readers are confronted with facts about ocean pollution in a poem, and this is the main thrust of the poem, it will never be a poem. Poems and scientific journals are utterly different, and should be kept separate.

This is a bold assertion, only because the reason may not be readily apparent, but it comes back to hearsay. The Renaissance artist da Vinci said truth is only what we can see with our own two eyes. (This faith in seeing began the scientific and artistic revolution against the hearsay of Aristotle.) Words are not just partially hearsay. Words are hearsay. The difference between factual news and poetry has nothing to do with the words and their content, but whether the narrator is considered reliable, or not. The hidden truth is that the reliability of the narrator is hearsay, as well. Poetry suffers whenever it includes narration by narrators who are considered reliable (“I read the news and the seas are doomed.”)  The unreliability of the narrator is precisely what frees up poetry to be poetry.

So here’s the poem:

Hybrid Unidentified Whale

Is it any shock that in loss
we compensate? How emptiness
is like a coral, a something,
that strews its intestines
then chokes another head
with its greedy bowels.
Poets gather at this bed, drawn
like rorquals to krill blooms
to the metaphor’s perfume
of being the first or the only
of your kind. Scientists listen:
a blue or fin? Or is it a sei? A mix
of the dying out? Whatever
beast calls out will never
know itself through the mirror
of another, as populations collapse
and the sea empties and no others
can process its cries into music.
I want to cast such song-frequency
with lines about how shells
gouge my feet when I keep up
with you foot for foot,
or how I’ve noticed
that you stop looking back
for me, but researchers
can no longer hear
its strain. Sometimes I call
into the abyss for so long
it reaches back and slides
down my throat.

I wouldn’t go so far to say this is great poetry chained to the scientific essay. It is more like the scientific essay hitting and molding great poetry. Those “researchers.”  The “sea empties.”  So the reliable have warned us.  And it doesn’t matter if it’s true, or not.  It could be true for a time, or in part.  That’s not good enough for poetry. That’s the insidious thing about hearsay. It keeps us from seeing. If we don’t see, it’s not a poem.

**

Meena Kandaswamy is a young poet and novelist who belongs to the Caste Annihilation Movement. Her poetry is frank, direct, and all for striking a match for revolution.

The poet is not at all troubled that her poem, marked by the sublime, ends with a phrase which has a prose/science feel: “Aggression is the best kind of trouble-shooting.”

AGGRESSION

Ours is a silence
that waits. Endlessly waits.

And then, unable to bear it
any further, it breaks into wails.

But not all suppressed reactions
end in our bemoaning the tragedy.

Sometimes,
the outward signals
of inward struggles takes colossal forms
And the revolution happens because our dreams explode.

Most of the time:

Aggression is the best kind of trouble-shooting.

***

Shikha Malaviya is one of those poets who has so much to say, her poetry breeding with journalism, bursting with intelligence, feeling, experience, memories of her life and mixed with the news of the world—she is obviously anxious to share India, history and to change with the world—the poetry itself can hardly keep up with her breathless sweep. Is it possible for things to be too much for poetry? Nearly every poem by Malaviya has “after such-and-such” or “inspired by that” or “based on this” as a header; every poem, if possible, has more depth and exactness than life itself, as when a person’s room is as interesting as the person; hers is verse focused on multi-tasking to an extraordinary degree.

Her poem “September 9, 2012 (A poem in 9 hours)” has 3 parts.

The first part, “1 PM, Bangalore, Sunday brunch,” is followed by “2. 5 PM, Narmada Valley, dam protest” and “3. 10 PM, Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu, nuclear reactor protest.”

Shikha Malaviya is energetic, to say the least. Can we keep up with her? Here’s the first part of “September 9, 2012 (A poem in 9 hours)”:

The sting of sea salt on our tongues
we chase down tequila shots
screaming chug! chug! chug!
Our hips swaying badly
to Bollywood beats
telling us the party has
just begun

Remainders of an ordered feast
green curry smudged
on the forehead of a table
and after the fact
a melamine pile
plates balanced precariously
a half-eaten momo
in the shape of a smile
grinning back at us
wickedly

As the neighbors’ loud laundry
flaps in the warm Bangalore wind
tied in triplicate to
the security camera pole
how ugly it is we all complain
tenants should be screened
we all agree
someone is always watching
don’t they know
as you snap a picture
with your mobile phone

Could there be a better way to spend a Sunday?

We are already exhausted, and we still have a dam protest and a nuclear reactor protest to attend.  But why complain?  With her, we can have our cake and eat it.  There is so much to eat.

Malaviya is not above remarking on “green curry smudged” before protesting a dam. Remarkably, she has time for everything.  We glimpse in her work the possible truth that poetry is energy.

****

Biswamit Dwibedy writes poems so metaphorically self-conscious of their own wisdom one almost feels one should be deciphering them on a blackboard, if not listening to them in a hushed and bewildered ashram.

Master Alone

Feeding on the bread of stars, at footlights of the ardent lover
Their relationship, now reduced to a metaphor, a cluster of knowledge
that turns perception to the proof as one searches for it.

Units of measurement become frames to reveal the radiant serpent
ever-changing in the night sky.

This freedom is the result of that recognition.

“And so I descended from the sky and awakened you,”

said the bejeweled animal
to the simpler earth choked by muddy fragments.

And lines of landscape appear choked when
expressions of the face cease to manifest

“two hands only intertwine by the extension of their shadows”

as the shape of the word “anonymous”
because it is incomplete
a sequence turns to an extension
seen in the nature of blood.

And the frequency in question
Is the proof allowed
to find no utterance.

*****

Jhilmil Breckenridge, like many poets these days, pursues advanced degrees in creative writing, is an “activist,” as well as a “poet.”

A poet doesn’t need anything aside from their poems to prove they are a good poet.

We go to a doctor when we are ill.

But who looks to see what someone “is” before perusing their poems?

If anyone did such a thing, poetry would be aghast.

Until there are churches or hospitals which exist because a “poet” works there, poets will wander with their works under their arms, belonging to nothing and no one. I “studied” with this or that poet is a sign of weakness, since a person will never be a poem.

The poem is the sermon and the surgery, and poems are had for a song. Poetic reputation outside the poem is the saddest lie. Not that activism and advanced degrees are bad. We should be able to do whatever we want to do.

Breckenridge is aware of this, otherwise she would not have written this lovely stanza:

If your religion is poetry,
you have to consume grief and joy
in equal measure,
consume until you are so replete
you have no option but for the words
and worlds to flow, soot on pristine white.

The priest brings soot which conveys religious law; the doctor, soot in a pill to make you feel better; Breckenridge understands soot is soot.

This is the awful truth of poetry. Imagination has more to do with a “heavenly” sermon or a “miraculous” pill than with poetry. Poets today merely mourn. Breckenridge, again:

If your religion is poetry,
you must learn to witness, to feel
the terror of starving farmers,
the hungry sea the refugee boat teeters in,
the salt of your tears as you see small bodies
being lifted from soot and grime.

******

Arundhathi Subramaniam is a poet whose poems achieve a lullaby sublimity, the term of which is not meant to indicate a lower order of poem, since the best lyric poems in the canon, if we are honest, achieve excellence in the lullaby mode—poetry pours balm even as it does all of its other things; poetry otherwise would have no identity apart from jarring silliness (the limerick) or fictional speech (prose).

The following will illustrate exactly this—poetry is lullaby, when the wind isn’t blowing.

Prayer

May things stay the way they are
in the simplest place you know.

May the shuttered windows
keep the air as cool as bottled jasmine.
May you never forget to listen
to the crumpled whisper of sheets
that mould themselves to your sleeping form.
May the pillows always be silvered
with cat-down and the muted percussion
of a lover’s breath.
May the murmur of the wall clock
continue to decree that your providence
run ten minutes slow.

May nothing be disturbed
in the simplest place you know
for it is here in the foetal hush
that blueprints dissolve
and poems begin,
and faith spreads like the hum of crickets,
faith in a time
when maps shall fade,
nostalgia cease
and the vigil end.

*******

Thanks to these wonderful Indian poets and to Linda.  See you in December!

—Scarriet Editors, Salem MA 11/15/18

 

 

 

 

 

I HOPE IT STAYS THIS WAY

Image result for sexy bot

“what I had before” —old blues song

Yesterday, when reading the news

I suddenly realized only conservatives can sing the blues.

Look at my hand! My hand was praised once by my love.

I heard that someone manufactures a beautiful leather glove,

And clothes are good. But not really, when you’re in love.

I skipped the laundry and the chores and didn’t bother with a hat.

I just went out in the wind with my love. She likes that.

We went out to an old farm and touched the back of an enormous pig.

We are drawn to the bar life because nobody wants to be a prig,

But these days I lounge indoors for the entire afternoon,

And then have a single smoke, dreary and sober beneath the sober moon.

I hope it stays this way. But with death involved, you cannot know.

The architecture of old New England houses, boxes in a row,

Look solid, and even colorful, as old houses go.

They have a dignity and a practicality and cozy by the sea,

Where old America began. It’s okay by me.

Where a plantation stood in Georgia, rural dogs run free,

Just south of the Jefferson mall, on interstate 83.

But all these details… When everything amounts to good

Then everything is good. Criminals can do what they want.

I would smile a wan smile and look away. If the bullies taunt,

Their rhetoric will eventually cease. But if they took my lunch,

Many problems can be solved with one good, well-aimed punch.

You don’t get many chances. So don’t miss.

When you punch, punch, and when you kiss, kiss!

Yesterday I heard a pitch for a sexy bot.

I hope it stays this way. But I know it will not.

 

THANK GOD I’M SAFE

Thank God I’m safe. Free of lamentation—

Now that I see

She’s not the one for me.

Oh God, had she been,

I would have had to cross the sea, and I cannot swim.

I’m safe now. Love would have meant

An hour or two of kissing and then wondering where she went.

When I saw her from the back, her long hair

And her tall shape made me prepare

For love everlasting, but when she turned around

I saw her face was a little too round,

Thank God! I knew then there would be no insurmountable trick

Of children, the broken life in the night, worried sick,

When the night crawls and spreads its alarms

As we hold the infinite child in our arms.

I knew there would be safety; there would be no way

For the visionary lightning to wake me, though I had slept all day.

LOVE WILL NOT GET YOU LOVE

Love will not get you love.

Loving will not make you loved.

Have you loved one who did not love you?

Why did you think that would do?

She loved a pile of pennies more than you.

She was the one who looked out

At many things, and filled you with doubt.

It’s time to put on your uniform and fight.

Love desires to sleep peacefully at night.

Love is looking for a peaceful dome

Where money drops, to count money at home.

This needs to be defended.

War is love, now that love has ended.

Sublimity, like this poem, is cold and hateful.

Defeat libel. Face death. Then she’ll be grateful.

 

 

 

 

IF YOU HAD A BODY LIKE THAT

Two gloves, a left and a right.

Only the fool doesn’t get it right.

God is peace. Then a note from Mozart, and a little bit more.

Following the concert, we run home to bed.

No ambiguity and nothing to dread.

Good is nothing. And a little bit more.

Evil is everything. Birthmarks on the whore.

If you had a body like that,

What would I think of your soul?

Everything runs from the world as a whole.

Ignorance leads to irritation, and then attempts to be boss.

Democracy is bitter, bitter about its loss.

This is my republic. No one tells me what to do.

The simplest laws would look good on you.

 

I WENT DOWN

Image result for kiss and cigarette in modern painting

I went down to poetry, with quiet thought,

Finding, but not finding, what I sought:

Ambiguous cigarette, ambiguous kiss!

Is it possible poetry can give me this?

What do words mean? What do words mean in the end?

Now that I have my poem—is it mine to send?

Or is this a sentiment caught from long ago,

Which is not mine?  Can you let me know?

HOW CAN THERE BE

Related image

How can there be a sexy face?

Sex is something done in private.

But here is sex in every place.

Let’s cover the face,

As we cover the other parts

Which render and distract so many hearts.

God help me, I cannot stop looking

At her eye. It’s like smelling bacon cooking,

Everywhere! Sizzling bacon invades the nose,

Where morality doesn’t live. The scent of the world wears no clothes.

And neither does this face, whose eye

My eye catches. Sex is more than a dream,

As common on her as perfume, or a sunbeam.

And yet you want me to be moral; you want me not to say

What the whole world dreams, and what I would like to do today.

The only way morality exists

Is if we live in the past.  She lived long, but never kissed!

I have everything I want today.

Don’t ask me why, Rosalinda. I will not say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WE NEVER SEE THE SUN

Image result for t s eliot

We never see the sun.

We only see the sunbeam.

We get but a glimpse of the true, romantic dream.

The wisdom of Socrates and the old Romantics

The Moderns never get.

Tears of—laughter—made Byron’s face wet.

There is a world of nuance the Moderns don’t know—

Beneath the black, the humor, of Edgar Allan Poe.

Romanticism is not what the Moderns think.

The Dark Lady wasn’t a lover. But a pun on black ink.

Romanticism is not alive with flowers.

Romanticism is the dungeon and a moon, seen in the window, one night, for a couple of hours.

And if this makes you sad, go ahead, be modern. Whatever that means.

A cough in your forties?  England by way of Italy in your teens?

Romanticism happened. You never saw it. That’s what it means.

 

 

 

 

WHY LOVE IS JEALOUS

Image result for pyramus and thisbe

Women are wise to hate men’s jealousy;

The jealous man loves the woman

Through a standard of beauty loved by men.

A man wouldn’t mind if a woman loved him this way.

If she loved him through a female standard, to him that would be okay.

But why, when a woman sees her man is jealous, does she run away?

Men embrace judgement, the contest; they have a keen interest in the game;

Men see life as binary; life is either split, or everything’s the same.

The mathematical reality of life is binary;

Reproduction, the binary split of replication fascinates the man—

He loves himself—in his son, he loves life—in poetry.

To her, nothing is worth replicating;

Jealousy to her is death; she rejects his standard, his hierarchy, his plan.

She transcends life and death in non-death. Nothing, to her, is worth debating.

The woman, wiser, knows binary in life means death;

The woman is content in a way the man is not; she is self-enclosed and whole.

So the sexes are different—different not just in body, but in soul.

So when I wonder how it was

With her and I, the question,

Why love is jealous, should be: why is jealousy love?

 

 

 

 

RUMINATION

Image result for blue sky in renaissance painting

Alarmism has turned off my alarm.

The rooster crows as I walk with my dog around the farm.

Now I sleep. A world inside a world is safe from harm.

Among tall trees, a lush, fantastic, garden,

Three hungry bees for every flower.

Sunlight, you are my radiation, my danger.

Something hand-written is handed to me. Could anything be stranger?

The world looks the same as it did in my first hour.

The world can take care of the world.

I feel safe.  Is this odd?

Have I slipped into madness? Or did I find God?

 

 

 

A POEM IS A JOKE WITH A DRY PUNCHLINE

Image result for LOVE'S MAD EYE IN RENAISSANCE PAINTING

A poem is a joke with a dry punchline.

You looked into a divine future that wasn’t.

Let’s say she loved you, but now she doesn’t;

Love’s not funny, but maybe she never did.

A poem fails that cries. Better to kid.

Better to say the bricks that rainy night in the square

Were mirrors in the evening glare

And find a joke in that, that could be hiding there,

A memory of something a little weird or funny,

Her attempt at humor, your lack of money,

Whatever kind of makes sense, but is sort of odd;

Speculation or comparison to God

Is good for a laugh without laughing.

I want that, but that’s not what she’s having.

You fall in love with the crazy ones. Why is that?

There’s a mad excitement which lights the eye,

An interest which is close to enmity,

Which few can broadcast. I saw it in you

And ha ha ha—you must have seen it in me, too.

Now get ready for the punchline:

The gleam that gleams in the gleaming wine

Was the whole delicate thing in sum.

Get the poems from your desk. Patricia said you were fucking dumb.

 

 

PRUDENCE

Love that’s stupid is not love.

Love is betrayed most by love

When it loves, but loves stupidly.

Love discerns the enemy,

And doesn’t let the enemy in.

Love that’s stupid isn’t love. It’s sin.

She respected the fear of her boss,

Which would have been OK,

But that’s all she cared about.

I loved her. That was my tremendous loss.

That’s how I lost my way.

I was stupid. There was one

Who loved me and loved great art,

But I was stupid and pushed her out of my heart.

Stupid always seems to win. Why?

I loved one who didn’t love me.

When we love, why do we love stupidly?

When we love, we shouldn’t be stupid.

But look at all the things, when we wanted things, we did.

When you sell the worthless, it isn’t profit,

But its opposite.

Love that’s stupid is the opposite of love.

I MADE HER CRAZY

I made her crazy. The broken heart

Learns to be crazy as its highest art.

After she talks to strangers who look at her and smile,

She thinks, I’m crazy, why did I say that, he thought I was crazy all the while,

And the stranger who leaves her thinks, she is totally mad,

She’s crazy. She’s crazy. Too crazy to be happy. Too crazy to be sad.

When she’s alone she decides again not to think

Of me, and succumbs to memories, at the desk, at the bureau, at the sink.

She talks to her family and her friends while thinking of me,

And into her dreams I waltz in fateful horror and pornography,

And she sees me—and otherwise cannot see.

It is usually enough to hate and blame me for what went wrong,

But then she imagines a bird in a wood singing a delicate song

And then she sees me approaching with a poem on my tongue

And again she thinks of me, and wishes she were young,

Long before she met me and I smiled and then

She it made it worse and now she thinks of me again.

She wishes she had a spade, a garden with dark soil deep,

And into the earth she crawls, a young girl, who falls asleep,

And when she wakes in the morning, the quiet butterfly

Makes confident noises. And nothing else comes by,

And she escapes, at last, my blue-green eye.

O here comes the madness, oh let it start!

Madness is the only thing which soothes the burning heart,

The heart he heated with his voice and hand,

When the cold blue sea sprinkled the respectable land.

 

EVERY ETHNICITY

 

Image result for american soldiers in arab village

Every ethnicity has a soul,

But only the poet has a soul that is whole.

If I could be an ethnicity, which one would I be?

None. I would rather write poetry.

I could be a Chinese nerd, and love beauty unselfconsciously.

The men there are either severe or nerdy,

And if you are nerdy you may still love a beauty,

Since millions—how sweet!—of the men are nerdy

And the Chinese women don’t care how men look.

Beauty in China is measured by how well you read a book.

The Italian men have swagger in their soul

And fight over their beautiful women to feel whole.

The English men are brutish and sarcastic,

And in response, the English women are sarcastic, too.

The German man is thoughtful. His dreams are fantastic.

The Pole shrugs. The Arabs shower cigarettes on you.

Russians share feelings, the friendly Africans flirt.

The Frenchman is theoretical, the French woman, rather curt.

The Spaniard prefers a mysterious smile, the Irishman, a song,

The people of India are jolly, but intense, when they prove you wrong.

Americans? This mixture hasn’t been around for long.

The men are arrogant, they look around

At the world they rule, which America recently found.

A miracle, I was raised a poet here. I write poems for Cupid,

Not for these—they’re either feminist, or stupid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAFETY OR LOVE

Image result for abstract painting of a crimson curtain

Choose safety or love.

If you think it’s safe, it’s not love—

She only pretends to love you.

The more you love her,

The more she turns to safety—

Where paintings and words are a blur.

I know, because she reached out to me

When you thought she was loving you.

I was ugly. Tomorrow came to her safely

Because I didn’t love her. She had no doubts. She knew.

You only want to be certain,

Now, in your grief,

Why she disappeared behind the curtain

And what she does behind the curtain now,

And if love is love, how

Love can hurt and betray all love.

The problem is, you want to be certain

If she was certain

When she disappeared behind the curtain

And was she running from love?

You loved her. She was certain.

And yes she was.

 

 

 

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