THE STREET

Keep flowing, street.
Without you, I have no one to meet.

The house that stands next to you,
With books of rivers, rivers of emerald green—and blue
Ponds, which tremble beneath the azure, too,
Is a house where she, perhaps, was born,
With her brother, and the mother still tender and unshorn.

I find a street that started without her, in a distant country,
A country of boats, who brought babies by boat,
Babies so young they do not sing,
But in their mothers’ arms, with closed eyes, cling—
For all the crying they once did
When the world was young and green and the terrible father hid,
Has worn them out.

But the father came
And built roads and streets and buildings, and down this street
I came with you to find her,
To trace streets back,
Back, back, before our love, and before this lack.

Why did I weep when I saw pictures of her family?
Why did she make me weep with joy?
She had lost so much love.  Was it my fate to annoy,
Because I was happier in my family and in my life,
Than her, sad, like the thin edge of a thin knife?

LOVE IS THEATRICALITY

The dilemma for us is this, poor toad:
Love must be theatrical to show itself as love,
But as soon as love enters the theatrical mode
It stops being love.

You brought her flowers and a poem.
Love became exposed and known.
You took her aside and said:
“I love you. You are doomed. You can no longer think it is all in your head.”

Your love spurted ink.
You brought love out of hiding,
Where, indifferent and not curious,
It had belonged to all. Now it’s yours, you think.

The minute love raised its head to be seen,
A thousand photographers flocked
To beauty, with skin almost perfect, just slightly pocked,
And your love turned sophisticated and hidden, that was so sweet and green.

Beware a lover with loves and cards and flowers!
Beware the gestures and the rugs and the cries,
The sudden kiss in the elevator. And the lies.

But also beware the lover who is talking
To you—and the one standing near.
This one has been stranded for hours.
Beware the lover with the soft, low undertow,
Toad! Those drowsy, sweet, soft, sucking, powers.

 

 

THE LOVER IS

Why love? Because love is alert.
That’s a good reason for love.
No one is more sensitive to being hurt
Than one in love.

The hyper-awareness of love is why
The quick, creative eye
Happily sees the truth. And dimly sees the lie.
The alert and searching eye is the heart of love.
The lover is why all lovers cry,
Why all lovers are detectives before every sequence of futurity.

You see the look in the eye, and know why—
It is a lover mad to know the answer.
This is no football player, no dancer.

Iago will rehearse
Not knowing. A lover in reverse.

But here is the philosopher—tortured and alert,
In love with you, and hurt,
Tortured and curious beneath the sun,

Watching stars hate stars
Until the fire and the mystery are done.

 

 

ONCE I SAID

Once I said I loved you

I could not go back

To the way I was.

Those words changed who I am.

Some have no words

To clothe and comfort them.

Some do not speak the speech

That is them; they have no

Conversation with the past.

Before their speechless souls

You would stand speechless and aghast!

 

They cannot be relied on to talk

On anything. Theirs is the poetry

Of insinuation and the glib stare.

Analysis finds they are nothing.

They bring nothing to fruition.

They boast of how they change,

And yes, they change, they change;

But the only good that lasts

Is what is changed by love.

 

WOMEN DON’T PLAY CHESS

If you don’t hear from her for a week,

She is not plotting behind a curtain.

None of what she does is a chess move.

A woman is always uncertain.

A woman is always Socratic,

She is too smart to think she knows.

Too much certainty wears her out—

The certainty that comes and goes

In the mind of the great male thinker

Always certain he can figure it out

If he just has a little more time—

Better to live in dreams and dream for her a rhyme.

She prefers endless ease in the face of endless doubt.

Make her think and she will kill you,

Make her think about thinking and she will go on her way.

A woman never has time to consider

Those grandiose efforts to make her stay.

 

SATURDAY

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Poems are not written, they are sighed

By pain, to escape pain, for pain does not wish with pain to reside.

You, who do not think, think

Poems are written by someone’s hands

When someone’s thoughts fall in a barrel of imported ink.

The professor who said this is a dirty liar.

Poems are sighed by me—who cried in the sink,

Who moaned on a walk—with a heart severely smitten

By you—not someone else—you. It was Saturday.

Friday, I had loved you willingly, willingly.

Then all that sighing. It came suddenly;

I fell ill on Saturday. You had to go. You wouldn’t say.

I sighed in my soup on Saturday.

Why you had to go, I don’t know, you wouldn’t say.

Why did you go? Now I can’t believe in Saturday.

Sunday is no better, and when Friday came again,

I believed in the Friday that was gone

Even as Friday saw me suffering, and then

Suddenly more sighing was going on.

You silly ass! Poems are not written, they are sighed

By pain—to escape pain, for pain does not wish with pain to reside.

 

 

 

 

SHE DREAMS OF ME

Today I saw the saddest face:

A mask of misery and disgrace

Presented for my taste;

The mask is the truth. All of life is a waste

When love is destroyed by pride,

When lovers, once lovers, deride.

The river of love is both narrow and wide;

In the stream we played side by side;

Now big ships ride

The swelling waters; we still touch the waters

But are lost to each other on the other side.

In our miserable aloneness

We follow the old habitual paths

And often cross in those paths.

She boils. She suffers the sin of wrath.

I am placid. I neither weep nor laugh.

I am sorrowful, and loving as always.

I have no desire to speak; she

Doesn’t value speech, poetry

Isn’t her thing; she thinks of me

Much more viscerally;

I don’t dream of her, but she

Dreams of me.

In that dream I say, “Please,

Can’t you see

That I love you?” And she

Turns in her sleep violently.

 

 

 

 

 

I NEVER WANTED MORE THAN THIS

I never wanted more than this,
To feel happy, because useful,
And if greater happiness were needed
Perhaps to meet you later for a kiss
And if work were hard: a garden to be weeded,
As long as there was nothing sad or amiss,
I could look forward to that extra joy
With quiet joy. I never wanted more than this.

A sadness in darkness or rain
Afflicts those already afflicted with pain.
A sadness that creeps in with the shadows
Afflicts you and I, in vain.
Here is the window. I see trees in the distance.
Here is the interesting light.  Your kiss.
I never had a joy like this.

 

ALL TRUE POETRY WRITES AGAINST POETRY

All true poetry writes against poetry—
Passion speaks in a moment only.

Poetry only to a moment pertains.
All speech is a spasm—an electric impulse of our brains.

We need to forget everything we said:
Speech is beautiful—but like hair, it is dead.

A word near a word makes a meaning that is new.
That’s the glory of poetry—if that’s what you want to do.

But don’t trust words. Keep looking in her eyes.
From words all sorts of misunderstandings arise.

She could not decide between those two;
Forgive her, that she could not make up her mind.
Those indecisions and revisions
Were like poems. Inconsequential. But not unkind.

 

 

WHEN SONG IS PAIN

When song is pain—

A hit by a female artist,

So the husband producers can take limousines,

When song is pain,

A young girl, emotionally engaged,

Will never be the same;

When song is pain,

That has to be the best song to hear

In the mall, when you don’t have to be cognizant of the rain;

When song is pain,

You might briefly escape common sense

And feel what the wordless is saying;

When song is pain,

It will never be a poem, or a very good song.

Pain is nothing. Pain is wrong—

A shadow following you down a sunlit lane.

 

DON’T RUIN IT

When hair hides a beautiful woman’s face

I curse hair and desire and the human race.

I curse beauty and desire and my disgrace

When hair hides a woman’s face.

Don’t ruin it, I said to myself, which you always do.

Oh God look at her. She’s loving you.

Don’t give me Rumi or politics or science.

Give me a beautiful woman’s face.

Don’t give me biblical injunctions and wisdom and advice.

Really. You are thoughtful and nice.

But I will love her at my own pace.

When a song comes into your head,

Record the melody softly. Don’t add a drum.

Beauty must be gently fed.

Time is the same for everyone.

She’s yours. Don’t throw a fit.

Don’t ruin it.

 

WHY DO YOU RUN FROM MY POEM?

Why do you run from my poem?

In it, you can be fulfilled.

In my poem you can never be

Misunderstood or killed.

You love photographs?

But in these photographs you come across as self-willed.

Poetry is trending—poetry is the new way

For one to get attention. What do you say?

In my poem you can never die.

Look, there is no evil eye—

In my poem no false eye stares you down

As you look fake in your red makeup,

Or moan in your stiff white gown.

You will be glorious in my poem. You will never die.

You will be hidden from every monster

And look pretty when you cry.

Why do you run from my poem?

Things will turn out well.

I control everything. The heaven of your being

Avoiding the grasp of hell.

What I say goes. Nothing else gets in

To change my poem—or ruin your skin.

You want to look good? You will never look better.

I can make you beautiful

With a word, or grace you with a letter.

You reside here, where there are no tombs.

Lillys on the hills surround your life.

There are roses in your rooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IF YOU DON’T REMEMBER

If you don’t remember
How we loved and kissed,
Since obviously you were out of your mind,
I will tell you—and if there’s any hatred or sadness I’ve missed
You can tell me later, if you are still feeling unkind.

My poetry always knew what I loved and whom I loved
And when I wrote my poems to you,
That was the first act of love, remember?
That was how you and I knew,
If that helps you to remember.

The red envelope
With the poem within
Was the start of a love
That ended in sin.

If there is one kind of sin I wish to remember,
It is the one that travels in mist and wind,
And blows lovers about.
The first time you let me kiss your lips
There was never any doubt.

I had to kiss you again and again,
Whether the weather was cold, or dry, or wet.
You had a face, and a chin, and breasts
Which I cannot forget.

But if you cannot remember,
I’ll tell you what I’ll do.
I’ll remember for both of us.
My mind, to live, will divide in two,
As that shady garden grew, when the lovers went
Into the garden’s shadows, and love seemed to end,
And even sorrow seemed to be spent.

 

IF SHE DOESN’T LOVE YOU

If she doesn’t love you,

Watch her get old.

Time’s her new lover.

Time loves her slowly

The way she likes. You were too bold.

You wrote her poems and proclaimed

Your love and felt a love for her like death.

Now time is the one who feeds on her breath.

She was not a poet and didn’t want to be told

She was one. That just got old.

You heaped too much praise on her days.

She wants that friendly style,

Of friends, who tell her she’s a doofus with a smile.

You were too bold. Retreat, and watch her get old.

Time is hers. Time is the one she gets to hold.

 

THOMAS BRADY UNLEASHED

IMG_20140218_113143_915

The spirit who guides Scarriet

This poem, To ____ was published on Scarriet in April of last year— here read aloud by Thomas Graves.

This poem, Beauty Is Wrong, also comes from April, 2015.  A reading by Thomas Graves.

Eleanor Windsor.  A new version of the song. Recorded by Brady very recently on his phone with acoustic guitar.  Points for anyone who knows who the person is in the photograph standing next to JFK.

I Had A Dog.  A cheesy, moody rock tune, showing that Brady can do, well, anything.

Beautiful Indian Girl with Cat is one of our personal favorites:

Fantasy for Strings.  What is Brady doing here?  Classical music? What is classical music?

And finally, Now That The Night Is Falling.

 

THE DAY IS A POEM

jaho window

The day is a poem. I cannot write one.
I’ll tell you why the day is a poem. Okay. So:
It has some wind, clouds, rain: a warm January day;
It was a warm December, bereft of snow,
So this day symbolizes, with its warm cloudiness,
The whole winter so far: everything is going to be okay.
The shortness of the day provides a certain gloom,
The darkness from the clouds feels a little sad,
The kind you get in a warm, dimly-lighted room,
And the dampness is like a melody in a minor key,

But if there is a poem here, today is its tomb
And that’s what I need to explain:
I don’t want you to think my poem and day agree;
There isn’t any trick this poem is playing.
The “Bottled Liquors” sign of the liquor store
Across the street as I sit with my coffee here,
Slouching and writing, is not what I’m saying.
This windy day prevents a poem, not because there is more
Poetry in it than I can capture; there’s poems in this day,
And theater—tables with Greek chorus—in this café, sure.
But what I mean by: “this day is a poem. I cannot write one,”
Is a truth not always so, and it may not be true tomorrow.
It has to do with me, and my feelings. Probably my sorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

I DIDN’T LOVE

I didn’t love, because things weren’t ready.
I didn’t love, because things weren’t there.
I had to have an agent and a manager.
I had to prepare.

Someone said love was simple,
Sitting with a poem on his bed,
Writing his own simple music.
I adored him for everything he said.

I didn’t love, because I couldn’t rest
Before the simplicity of love’s stare.
I had to have clouds, shadows and mountains
Before I could care.

I didn’t love, because there were others,
I didn’t love, because love isn’t fair.
I had to be the one. The only one.
So I didn’t dare.

I didn’t love because poetry is dying,
The arts and civilities are lying.
How can one trust lust?
My little life said, beware.

Because lives move,
I didn’t love.

 

 

 

HER NAME IS SORROW

For A.

Her name is sorrow, which I whisper in fragmentary dreams.

Dreams of her are fragmentary when I wake to find my dreams

Are dreams; sadly, only dreams—

Nothing but fragmentary dreams—dreams of dreams,

Dreams dreams are dreaming; so fragmentary, she is not even real in dreams, unreal

Even in dreams, in vivid dreams that are almost life, so real these dreams,

Even in dreams as real as this, she is not real in the most fragmentary dream that seems.

She doesn’t want to be real for me, she is unreal even in the sweet reality of dreams.

She reviles me with such surety, because in life I included her in schemes.

She refuses even to seem as she seems to appear in dreams.

 

THE ONE WE LOVE THE MOST

Blind! Blind! We run to the feast!
The one we love the most is the one we know the least.

Stems and flowers! Orange flowers and roots in the way
And the dark forest blooms in darkness and the darkness breathes
And the blues singer sings: “Do you know what I say?”
Do you know what I say?

The round darkness hurries overhead
To eternity—an eternity not quite dead,
An eternity that curls and purrs and lies on the floor
With you, and you whisper, and there is always more.
There is always more.

You were good for me and I was good for you.
It was because we were bodies believing they were new.

Trapped between narcissism and the unique,
I found you so beautiful and strange, I could hardly speak.

Blind! Blind! We draw near the feast!
The one we love the most is the one we know the least.

THERE ARE LOTS OF THINGS WE LIKE AND ENJOY

chumki

There are lots of things we like, and enjoy,
But the truth of all we adore is this: what we like
Is a brief gift and distracts us from the truth
That life is painful and brief,
And pleasure dies in the arms of grief.

We knew what we liked would never last,
And this made us think we liked it more
As it made us forget the truth, underlying:
The thing loved is the thing dying.
This is why the lovers are lying.

Do you hear the thrill in my voice?
It is not because I am glad—
No, no, it is because I am sad.
If I love you, if you see me loving you like mad,
It is not because—it is not because I am glad.

I am kissing you, and you are kissing me,
As if otherwise drowning were our fate, and we
Breathe each other—for the time being, kisses being free—
As the air once was, or time, or the rolling sea,
As love once was, and nothing, you almost nothing to me.

I BEGAN WITH EMOTION

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I began with emotion

And what does emotion know?

Emotion is the result

Of thinking that is slow,

So an anxious mind

Has a feeling the world’s unkind—

What’s thought killed by what’s felt.

And there I saw you, with a sad face,

And said hello. Isn’t the world an emotional place?

I didn’t hear a word you said.

I wish love were music instead.

EVENING PIANO

image

Her hands remember the piano

And soon she is remembering her sorrow

As he, who is older, smiles without regrets

And listens to her music her music forgets.

The evening does not see the evening,

The world cannot see the world.

He smiles, remembering when she was a girl

And he worried about everything.

Her sorrow is surprised how much her sorrow seems

To be the music she is playing for him—who loves to sleep, a sleep lovely for its dreams.

THERE IS ONE LOVE LOVELIER THAN YOU

There is one love lovelier than you.

She kisses me with a face

So beautiful, all ugliness is gone without a trace.

She is beautiful and because she is beautiful, true.

Beauty is good—not for what it is, but for what it can erase.

She kisses me with a beautiful face

Born in darkness, from shadows born,

From atmospheres, from no ordinary mother torn,

Born from mist, by the ether kissed,

Mist drifting from the misty river this morning, early,

A morning that is still night, and still forlorn,

Especially sad, but sadness without worry,

Hanging by the river bank, never in a hurry,

From untroubled shadows lingering, she was born,

And she kisses me, who am forlorn, with kisses true.

There is one love lovelier than you.

THERE IS A LIVING SAPPHO AND IT IS CHUMKI SHARMA

Many scholars have said many things about poems: they are called, variously: epideictic, symbolic, lyrical, epic, intimate, personal, ancient, erotic, moral, psychological, traditional, honorable, dishonorable, sublime, metrical, simple, imagistic, deep image-ist, narrative, expressive, epistolary, Romantic, ritualistic, conventional, oral, ceremonial, private, formal, complex, natural, sexual, stoic, emotional, lovesick, historical, martial, haunting, memorable, subjective, contemporary, colloquial, feminist, precise, mythic, patriotic, fragmented, anonymous, famous, silly, obscure, magical, literary, rhetorical, religious, marvelous. Just to name a few.

Wine, too, can be called many things, and the making of wine is complex, but wine, like poetry, is experienced as wine in the first sip.

Poetry is known as poetry immediately.

Love has a thousand names, and is truly million-faceted, and needs time to sort itself out, even though love, too, may come, at first, with a sip, and, with one kiss, we may wonder, “Is this love?” But love requires duration.  It requires thinking.

Poetry, like wine, like music, destroys thought, and, at its best, becomes thought which is not thought, and that is its pleasure.

Wine, and poetry—as much as what creates them requires vast amounts of complexity—do not require duration to experience—like the first strains of music, we know at once that we are seeing poetry or drinking wine.

Sappho has but a few surviving fragments, but the wine of Sappho lives; we can go over to the shelf and drink from her right now.  Scholars call her the template for nearly everything lyrical—and beyond.

We don’t require more than fragments when it comes to poetry.

Poetry is the speech of Fragment.

This does not mean that all fragmented speech is poetry.  But it does mean that Poetry is very difficult to do, because you have to impress your devotees with just a few words.

One can make one’s lover mad with desire with a brief whisper, but that is only if the conditions are right, and Love is there to help, and we all know that Love is a very powerful god.

All the more impressive then, when humble poetry can make a stranger sigh or weep with a few words.

Rather than use all those words the scholars use, we would rather introduce Chumki Sharma to you as the poet of The Fragment.

What is the world without music, and what is music without melody, and what is melody but a few rising and falling notes?

We wish to introduce Chumki Sharma bereft of all scholarly pretension.

Please see what you can do with this idea.

Why is the poem small? Because the poem, to be itself, is small.

Of course there are many poets (mostly male) who came after Sappho, who had to beat their chests, and pile on the fragments, but fragments is all they finally are.

Now it is certainly possible to have a humble poet who can, with all due modesty and humility, produce a poem (fragment) with a particular lovely sound in the brevity of its sweetness and sweetness in its brevity, and, wishing to lengthen this delight for listeners, using the melody of the fragment, spin a poem into a certain length, for mere pleasure alone: once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, etc.  This is perfectly acceptable.

But your epic writers, your long-winded writers, those tedious, meticulous, bombastic bores!  Sappho would gag.  The fires along the river would gasp and go out.  The bright flames on the banks would douse themselves.  The coy, melodic snakes would crawl back into their holes and die.

We value the skill that lengthens a poem into an acceptable 100 lines, as Poe recommended.

And then there is the genius of Chumki Sharma, who presents the essence of the poem before intellectual impatience has a chance to spoil it—this is the greatest skill: the skill which poems like ‘The Raven’ build on and pay homage to; there is the rare and beautiful reflection, and then there is the thing itself, which the lake reflects.  Poe is the lake; Chumki Sharma is the essence of the reflection that is in the lake.

Her poetry is the wine—before mortals get a hold of it and turn it into mere clever poetry; she is the melody before it is turned into a skilled homage to melody.

There are countless brief poems, and many lovely ones.  Brevity, like anything else, catches us, very often, looking somewhere else for that brief moment; and yet, we know our readers will agree with us, that it is easy to tell, at the first sip, the godlike quality of Chumki Sharma’s poetry, which dwells with brevity, not as shape fashioned, but as pure being, and our readers, we are sure, will note how it rivals the best brief poems (fragments of eternity) ever written.

Chumki Sharma is Bengali and comes to us from Calcutta—the cultural capital of India when Britain ruled over her, but now a great modern city of a great modern country, beset with all the beauty and pain of the modern world; her poems come to us in English, from the naked, unfettered mind of a civilized woman transcending all the contradictions of civilization, arriving like the goddess on the shell, wearing neither chains of translation for English readers, nor the noisy chains of learning—a sad, austere soul singing what could be wine, or love, in the humility of her singing.

Why are Chumki’s poems brief?

Because she is modest.

This is the only reason, and the poet will feel this one reason sweetly eclipses a hundred learned reasons.

Inferior poets—and the true poets will understand—have other reasons for why their poems are brief (I made my intellectual point quickly and felt I could stop. I belong to the ____ school!  I revised it down to this size.)

Chumki is a master, because she has one reason for the lengths of her poems—her modesty.

We expel here, politely, those scholars who have a thousand reasons for why a poem is a certain length, or not.

The epic intention in poetry has long been overthrown as a useless, antiquated idea—if Sappho’s work had survived fully intact, as Homer’s did, this perhaps would have happened faster.

We do not remember Petrarch’s long work for which the Italian master was famous during his lifetime—only his shorter poems to Laura.

“I find no peace, yet I am not at war…I burn and I am like ice…I grasp nothing yet embrace the world…because of you, lady, I am this way” —Petrarch, Canzoniere #134

And with this exquisite passage all epics are eclipsed.

The cup is small which brings up the water from the spring.

The best known epic poems exist for us in fragments: short episodes, scenes, and well-known lines.

It is not necessary to sweep away epics and longer works, in order to better see the soft lantern flame of Chumki S. She exists everywhere. Her dancing flame is everywhere. She has no desire to inhibit poetry of any length. But she would not make you stay. She would not keep you. For she will not be kept.

There are billions of short poems in the starry universe, but we come to show you some real star light.

What are critics for, but to keep those moments which the world is too busy to know?

Let us move in closer, then, for a look at this lovely Bengali poet’s poems, where gods stand just above the humble dust, keeping watch at the starry windows.

Only the flute is played in the golden, evening air.

There will be no beating of the drum. The heart is sufficient now.

There is an essence of a sad life here; her poems contain perhaps the essence of a sad life (and so much as they are this, they will live forever).

Dignity, a strange, sad dignity, more so than beauty, lives in her poems; in their fragmentary wholeness, the poems of Chumki S. do not strive for beauty—she is not Coleridge or Poe—but something almost more divine, something deep, deep beyond this, which even a Poe or a Coleridge would be alive to: what we can only characterize as patient, philosophical sorrow.

Petrarch’s lyric triumph made tremendous claims for poetry as an expression of inescapable love which afflicts all sensitive creatures; the brief lyric, since it overthrew religion and the epic, has nearly made all the world and all life its home; with horror the parent watches their child seduced by brief beauty: the brief popular song, the brief promise, the brief kiss, the brief and sudden impregnation, and only then length, study, science, responsibility appear, in the person of the child who must be raised.

Chumki Sharma meets this problem head on, in a unique way, one which embraces and yet sweetly rejects the heretofore inescapable template of all lyric poetry and it’s sweet poison. She is Petrarch and Laura’s child. Chumki saves us from the sweet hell which kills millions in its love-lyric reality. With one poem! This is poem #24 in her book:

The One Night Stand—

Enough of putting poetry

on a pedestal.

I thought of the geek

in my Physics class

long back, to whom

‘Gauss’ Law  for Magnetic Fields’

was more desirable

than me.

What chance did Poetry stand

with her transient words

against the universal

elements of

‘Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?’

After spending the night with

‘The irrationality of the square root of 2,’

I return to poetry

this morning

like an errant lover

vaguely repentant.

This poem is more than a mere complaint. The greatest poets kill poetry anew, take poetry off its pedestal, question it, defy it; here in one fell swoop Chumki picks up lyric hopelessness and parks it between science and religion; there is a seven century long sigh of relief as Petrarch the lovesick poet is overthrown by “a geek” that makes the less than desirable poet herself “vaguely repentant.” There is a great laugh in that “vaguely”—the laughter of the simple, thoughtless, slowly turning wisdom of the ages, captured for us—now—by an English poet from Calcutta.

If poetry is a fragment that destroys thought, then it is like a pill, or a drug—one meant to soothe and relax. Poetry operates the way any drug does, by interfering with our normal functioning.

Poetry is simply a recognition that human emotions which exist around love can act like a drug, and poetry is merely that which can take these altering emotions which center around love, and put them into a pill.

The pill—working in this case, as a poem—functions always by the result of one person affecting another (one definition of love) and so the poet who manufactures the pill is always under the sway of another, and that is how the poet is a poet and is able to make a pill which affects our feelings.

We said Chumki Sharma is modest, and that is why her poems are short; this would seem to contradict what we are saying, for modesty doesn’t equal the ruthless ambition to make a pill which alters our emotions; but the poet needs to have suffered from love to make a pill which repairs love sickness; her modesty is due to suffering in love, for the modest are always modest precisely because of a strong respect for love’s power; the heartbroken are never arrogant, and the heartbroken make the best poets. The best lyrical poets have been crushed by the power of beautiful love.

Chumki Sharma is more than a love poet. But nonetheless love is the language of all lyric poetry and love merely hides in the background with this modern day Sappho; we do not find in Chumki Sharma’s poetry Sappho’s jealousy (it seems a foreign emotion to this beautiful woman from Calcutta, or perhaps she feels it is beneath the dignity of the Muse). We do not find anything like the love which demolishes the poet of the Canzoniere—Sharma’s poetry does not quite reach the pitch of Petrarch’s beautiful sufferings from love, producing the fragments of Petrarch’s desperate sighs.

Chumki Sharma does not remain to suffer in love, watering the ground upon which she stands with her tears.

She leaves.

Chumki leaves the circus, the gallery, the forest.

Chumki will kill lyric poetry with a science geek.

She is the poet of escape.

“Detangle the deep roots of the rose bush I planted […] I pull the plants from the earth, one by one.”

—“Running Away With The Garden”

Running away with a garden is a marvelous poetic conceit. One could almost start a whole poetic tradition with it.

Now it is true, that in love, as inevitably as we leave, we are left.

Love rules all the comings and goings.

Love has its rules, true. But in the poems of Cumki Sharma, it can be said that she is in flight, and we follow her. She feels deeply, but does not feel sorry for herself.

In her poem, “A Stranger In An Autumn Forest,” we find Chumki wondering, if not quite lamenting, about an attractive stranger she sees in a simple but mystical wood:

“Will he […] fade away with all his flesh?

[…] An ache grows in me that I have no desire to banish. If not him, this pain then.”

In these few lines is contained the entire Suffering Love Trope, what W.H.Auden called the “Divine Eros Tradition” of Dante, Petrarch, Shakespeare (the Sonnets) Shelley, etc. “If not him, this pain then” sums it up entirely!

In her poem Chumki is speaking of a stranger—and he is presented as an imaginary figure leaning against a tree in the poem; this is similar to Dante’s Beatrice and Petrarch’s Laura, aloof maidens who seem imaginative at times, even as they cause pain. The Eros is divine—not fleshy, not shameful, and perhaps not quite real. The pain is real, but pure, and yet to call pain pure does little to help the sufferer. Or perhaps it does help by way of diagnosis, pinpointing the pain, identifying its cause, which perhaps is part of the pill’s power. “What ails me?” You are in love, child.”

Two things now need to be said. Chumki does escape, in a way. “A Stranger In An Autumn Forest” ends with an image of the sky above the tree. A pure, simple image. A pure, simple escape.

Second, Dante and Petrarch created divine targets of their divine and lovely pain: Beatrice and Laura, private associations which, in their poems, became famous. This raises interesting questions about male versus female love: women do not make monuments of their private sufferings.

In Dante and Petrarch the love becomes stronger in the loss, leading to what is essentially worship of God—worship of a deity who is everything and nothing. Everything, because Creator, nothing, because nowhere in sight.

The loss of love, the lover who has left and broken your heart, can remain an irritation, or it can become a religion.

Our religion, our being, as expressed in lyric poetry, is how we express that irritation. Do we go, “Oh damn!” Or do we drape our irritation in beauty? Or do we become a scientist, and wonder not about God, but emptiness?

The first poem in Chumki Sharma’s just arrived, first book, Running Away With The Garden, is a metaphysical tour de force. It is a sly treatise on advanced physics. We come face to face with the idea that poignancy and brevity in the poem may be due to the fact that the poem is a succinct and profound mathematical formula. The battered lover’s modesty is wisdom. Mad love hurts her into science—and poetry.

We quote poem #1 in full:

Shape of Emptiness—

He buys me coffee in a cup

so light my lips drown, scald

in the heat of the liquid.

Nothing exists between me

and the cup in my hand.

Heat seeps through it like

mist on the hills.

The potter’s wheel spins

shaping emptiness.

A number of profound ideas flow into each other in this poem. 1. Matter shapes emptiness. 2. The shape of emptiness is matter. 3. Matter (therefore) doesn’t “exist.” 4. Existence is “buying” and exchange. 5. He buys her coffee: (heat, energy)—but not a cup (matter, stability, order, house). 6. Then a transition quickly to a startling beautiful, nature image (“mist on the hills”) that feels absolutely appropriate, even as it increases our wonder: the “energy exchange” of mist in a natural landscape. The poem finally returns to artifact: making (and implicitly buying and selling) a vessel, which brings us back to that cup of emptiness holding energy. “Nothing exists between me and the cup in my hand.”

This is a metaphor for Chumki’s poetry: the pill, the drug, of her poetry dissolves in the reader: it is a pure, visceral experience without “poetry,” without a medium, getting in the way. “Nothing exists between [you] and…” Chumki’s poetry, like the iconic fragments of Sappho, like the new lyric transcending Petrarch’s love sickness: the ultimate lyric drug cure, disappearing entirely into the reader’s consciousness.

This poem, for instance, makes the case exactly as we are describing it, and of course we quote it in full:

#10 The Train Missed Me—

Thirst so old, it becomes

the air I breathe.

Between a cup of

tea and Valium,

I choose the latter,

relish the sweetness

of pill after pill

melting in the heat

of my mouth.

Hypnotic song of the

morphine in my veins.

And rain,

after many days

of no sunset, rain.

The drops vanish into

my barren fields, vapour

hisses from the cracks.

Rain lashes on the

window, sprays on my

bed, pillow, face, hair

and all I can smell

is the beginning

of the end.

Reaching the station

just as the last train leaves.

It makes no difference that this poem is all about herself, all about her feelings—with lyric genius, less is more, and the template is the poet, and if it fails to interest, this is not because the poem is “only” about the poet’s feelings (Petrarch’s Lyric Revolution), for how the poet interests us makes no difference, and all the better if the poet herself is interesting, and she is, but ironically due to the poetry, which nonetheless disappears, like the coffee cup of no substance, into herself. Or, is it herself disappearing into her poetry, and the reader who stands intrigued and dumbfounded, the reader the real witness of the train (the poem, Chumki) leaving?

Chumki, the poet herself, not Love, will determine who leaves and who is left.

Another trope she uses is the atomistic, Lucretius universe, symbolized by endless dust which gathers and must be swept away: fine particles of dirt represent endless epics, endless effort, all those old traditions which the lyric poet must take into account and deflect with a brief and wholesome and devout sigh, and no one does it more coyly than Chumki Sharma:

#12 Dirt Builds A World

Cleanliness drive in the city,

a century’s dirt to be swept

underneath. I see

old women everywhere,

like crones out of fairy tales,

sweeping dirt from the streets.

I stop one of them, ask her

for three wishes.

She stares at me, eyes

of Bobbies on a thief,

mutters to the old woman

next to her, “she doesn’t even

know Hindi, her blouse is too flimsy,

what is going to become of us?”

All I want is her broom.

New Moon

I tiptoe around your dusty footprint

on the walls of this heart.

The heart is the finite entity upon which the infinite dust becomes a writing pad—which will not be erased by any “cleanliness drive” (earnest moral project) if the tiptoeing poet can help it. Chumki invokes a world with a few naughty (filthy) lines.

This lyric mastery is on display throughout Chumki’s book of 30 poems.

It is why we dare to trumpet her greatness, even though her modesty may rebel, and reject it all, as we look around to find her, longing for her lyric pill that has a thousand names, but which immediately makes us burn like ice and freeze like fire, in a delicious agony both artificial and natural, a thrill at once very old and very new; we betray all we are devoted to in this poet’s arms, even as it feels in her embrace that we are true.

This is what this poet does to us.

Her drug works quickly. She sums up the whole universe of single motherhood in a poem on her son, #5 “My Little Van Gogh,” with the smallest drop of her exquisite lyric poison:

“No colouring books for my son.”

[…] He drew his own sky.”

[…] Once my little Van Gogh turned our

asphalt floors into vibrant forests.

His father was angry. I was secretly happy he was taking his art beyond […]

…he made me a box to keep my bangles.

The Bouganvillea spills over

the chained link fence outside my window.”

The lyric gift of Chumki Sharma crumples every awkward convention with a whimsical, soft touch. She is truly the ideal of Goethe’s Eternal Feminine, the wise female force in action.

We quote the whole of poem #6 in her book:

The Book on The Art of Bombing—

On the eve of the 70th anniversary

of the Hiroshima bombings,

you call me and tell me to write on war.

You say a poet should be versatile,

should be able to write on any topic anytime.

And I remember the book you had gifted me,

perhaps as a bribe for a poem on war?

“How To Make Hand Grenades For Dummies.”

That book the same size as the Gita

on my grandfather’s desk,

Motifs of flowers and fighter jets

on the cover of the book

sharing the sky with bombs falling like rain.

Today a woman who loves to read

will hold the book in her hands.

Today a man will be killed by a raindrop.

Chumki Sharma will not let the world tell her how to write poetry. Lyric poets who have the insight and talent and joy and grief of Chumki Sharma owe the world nothing. The contradiction exists: the extreme modesty of the invisible poet—who is, nonetheless, the world, and holds the fate of the world with the way she administers her lyric drug. We are killed by Chumki’s raindrop.

That she “is the world” is not too large a claim—she makes herself the subject of her poetry, which is how the lyric drug works: “Today a woman who loves to read” is the essence of self-awareness which makes the poem and the world one in the mind of the reader—in that escape from the world, to the world, which is the great social act of the art of poetry itself.

As Chumki writes in the final stanza of her haunting poem, #8 “The  Gallery:”

I am in all and none I own.

After every rain

I leave the place for

Something called home.

We look for Chumki Sharma in ourselves. And then we realize she is looking for us, but this is the final illusion, for a poem has no eyes. Chumki Sharma knows that even the gift of lyric poetry cannot go that far. She must be satisfied, and we must be satisfied with:

In the moonlight

I step into my own shadow.

— #3 The Inmate

We shall be watching Chumki Sharma for a long time to come.

***************************************************

Salem, MA Dec. 22, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN SPRING I SHALL BE OLDER

In spring I shall be older, and in summer, older still.
Let me stay here in winter, where I’m young, despite the chill.

The love who betrayed me has a birthday in December.
When I knew Him, He was young. And that’s all I remember.

Youth’s vanity and pride hurts no one. It is the length
Of years and its wisdom that wounds. Love has no strength

In the God who forgives mistakes, though He is deep and wide.
It is not youth’s folly which ruins. Only age. And its pride.

 



 

 

 

DYING FROM A SMILE IS THE WORST WAY TO DIE

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Dying from a smile is the worst way to die, and I’ll tell you why:

No one has ever been killed by a smile, except when love retreats behind it

And the smile is the only thing left smiling, and you know the world

Is false—it is what you always knew—that nothing appears

As it really is—the great painting is a fake! The lover’s smile is hiding tears!

The conclusion made, and acted on, was wrong for all these years!

Wrong! Wrong! This smile was not anything like you thought!

This is the smile that is sincere, this is the smile that is happy.

And this is the one that was bought.

But yours is the smile that knows

What I know. The poem we read together. Can we find another of those?

 

PROFESSIONALS ARE SAD

image

Professionals are sad.

That’s why I fell in love with one.

They make the brakes work and the headlights go on.

Some make sure the headlines are not too terrifying—

The population will go into a panic unless calmed by the sure hand of the professional.

Being a good professional, the dentist has a good sense of humor—

She needs one to get through her days in that lair of pain,

So one night she will be flown by professionals where professionals

Will ensure her vacation will be a lovely one.

The professional will consult budgetary experts before

She explains to the new student body how a failing grade

Could impact a professional career

In the music industry, the art world, and other spheres of the professional realm.

My lover spoke a little ruefully about professional love, making a sad joke

That, as I lay next to her, blankly, in an unprofessional mood, suddenly made me terribly sad.

Professionalism must be the true essence of existence.

I make a grand effort to use commas correctly,

In my escape, here, in this café, with a view outside of slightly ancient houses,

Parking garages, and flags, as I read Dante—his sad descriptions of hell, and the pain.

Even the one who pours my coffee is a professional, with worries

Only professionals know; those who, a little sadly, make sure things run smoothly

In their place of employment, the friendly little café which hides a complexity

Only properly understood by professionals—professionals who might publish professionally

So readers might purchase their ideas and feel a little less confused as they go through their day.

 

 

 

 

 

YOU CANNOT LOVE HER, BUT I CAN

 

image

She came from the feminine sea,

Like creation emerging from creation,

To be loved by an affectionate and useful man,

Who, when most useful, pleases her with musical poetry,

Chiming with love that unites a broken nation.

You cannot love her, but I can.

 

He made books and locks, the rain against the sea;

I need them, like food—each evening of each day,

Because I hide in a house made by wandering man,

Unable to find pleasure on what I lie on; you see

The mountains that ring, like clouds, this rainy valley?

You cannot love her, but I can.

 

She is all that a woman intends to be

When birds arrive at the back of the day

To holler at you, a masculine, philosophical  man,

Who strives each day to write poetry

That can make itself into something anyone can say.

You cannot love her, but I can.

A WHITE DUDE PLEADS WITH HIS POLITICALLY CORRECT LOVER

Your political opinions mean nothing to me—

Opinions on matters of the state abstractly

Blow in the abstract breeze.

They matter not—except that they might make you hate me

And then they do matter—terrifically.

I love you, purely, like I love the taste of cheese,

But I love you alone, in a manner that excludes all,

Which is the definition of love—in two the one becomes free.

People are nothing until they fall.

Nothing you hate or love makes you my enemy,

Unless your politics pictures me, in some way, guilty.

Our love is for the moment; it cannot endure—

We are food for each other, we delightfully dine

In pure taste—our mutual love is pure,

And since you don’t want children, I’ll agree

To forget the future, and add to food the brilliant wine.

The past, as well, we can leave aside.

My ancestors slaughtered, owned slaves and lied,

But I was born innocently, like you,

When two moments kissed, for a moment or two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WE ALWAYS REJECT THE GOOD (A CHRISTMAS POEM)

image,

You seriously think it’s the bad you’re deflecting

And that you never find the good you’re expecting,

But if the world and yourself were truly understood,

Surprise—you spend your life rejecting the good.

You think in a moment when you should ponder for an hour,

Losing beauty because you do not plan,

You seek out the sweet whose result is sour,

You miss the good woman, you choose the wrong man.

The light pours in and you shut it out,

The world is endlessly beautiful, but you see it not.

You thought you were sensitive, but look! you’re a lout.

Too late! Good was here! Now you hate yourself a lot.

Too late! Too late! You never understood:

It was you that was bad. And the whole world was good.

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS LOVE?

image

To not get trapped in words, words which inhibit love,

Focus on the picture, and do not say her name,

For many people know it, and they will use the same

Syllables that belong to her, and they, too, love

Her and her picture—if you hear them whispering her name,

You will be reminded how many love her like you do—oh, exactly the same!

You saying her name will be lost in a forest of cries.

How to love her? The lovely expression of intelligence in her eyes

Looks—not at you. Just so you know, without you, there is love

Between her and someone else, both issuing the most exquisite sighs,

Even if it is her looking at herself—can pictures love pictures?

Yes, I believe they can; hers, the love her love captures;

Her beauty is such, that it amazes herself. Not that your love dies,

Knowing she does not need you—but, yes, she is not looking in your eyes.

So how exactly will you write that poem that says, “Your beauty

Lives, it lives in love which loves and lives in love without me?”

You better start your poem of love now—

Before she gets up and walks away, seeing she doesn’t love you, and will never love you, anyhow.

I WAS THE POET

You brought your body to the table.

I brought romance and poetry.

You didn’t want to, or maybe you were not able

To utter a single line of poetry.

You never made up anything resembling poetry.

You had newsy opinions and that was it.

I made up stories for you. I convinced you for awhile

That you were a poet without poems, that you were a poet in ways that really counted,

Because you loved nature, but I could tell, just by your smile,

You didn’t believe in anything that I was saying, even when I said

That saying wasn’t anything.  You had this splendid aspect about you that cannot be explained.

You got very upset, once, when I held an umbrella over you when it rained.

I love to think, but you hated to “analyze” anything, and that gave me fits.

I was the poet. But I could tell: You thought all I thought about was your tits.

 

OUTSIDE

IMG_20151210_080527_668-1

The design of outside—

The lake perfectly flat

And the sky—how does it create distance like that?—

Diminishes my poems’ pride.

The tiny houses, with breakfast inside,

And the morning news, these houses

Belong to the world outside—

Which eats away at my poems’ pride.

I know you pretty well—

I don’t think you would deride

My poems. But the truth is, I can already tell

By the pride inside, I’m going to hell.

 

YOU PRODUCE NO BEAUTY

You produce no beauty,
But are the beautiful one;
A flower without a seed,
A want without a need,
A cold and cunning sun.

You make a lovely picture,
In high-heels and black-brown hair—
But that’s a false picture, without intention, or care.

You move without a conscience, a spasmodic will.
You once ran to stay with me,
Now you run away from me.
A mountain soul weeps before a dark and silent hill.

You drew me in: a beautiful accident,
A beautiful burning which came, burning; and, burning, went.
Was there death in you, before you were sent?

I saw you in the custom house, I saw you in the square,
I saw you at the florist.
But none had seen you there.

You produce no love,
But are the lovely one,
A sky with a sunset per minute
But never any sun.
You once ran to me.
Now you only run.

I was the high card sent to your winning hand,
But you folded; you had no courage or confidence
(You never had a winning hand),
A bluff took all your pleasure, a bluff took all your land.

You are the beautiful one, with beautiful shape if you stand or sit,
Who announces to the world: “This is it.”

A rainfall never falling on root or leaf,
A sigh never landing on a fond ear,
A tear never falling for another; just for yourself, a tear,
Your beauty never making a beautiful belief.

You produce no beauty,
You produce no song.
How can it be that poetry
Could be so wrong?

 

I MISSED YOU ON THE TRAIN

index

No, not to die,

But to sleep, forever,

With a restless, curious eye

Staring aghast at dreams!

More real than life and pain—

People and things I saw, I see, again.

The only real that’s real is the real which seems.

 

I missed you on the train.

The loudest dream

Sounded in my ears.

I missed the train

And saw it pull away—

But without agony or tears—

I love my dreams

More than life and pain.

The only real that’s real is the real which seems.

SINCE SHE WON’T BE WON

Since she won’t be won, I’ll win the world.

And when the world understands me,

It will be okay that she has banned me,

This woman, pretty and silly like a girl

Who I loved. If the crowds shout, hurray!

Will it hurt me, that as I hear their cheers,

She, in her loneliness, haughtily turns away?

She never gets what she wants, and her tears

Do not come easily, for she accepts

That her world has everything that’s wrong.

Oh God, how I loved her! But gradually, by unseen steps,

I realized she was bad for me, and my song.

But love finds every reason to love and will love

The very thing reason says should not be loved.

When love and reason diverge in the wood,

The trees becomes lonelier and strange

As one watches reason, not looking back,

Stride through trees, and over the mountains, away.

Love will not hear of wrong. Love, as love, has no lack.

Though love lasted a moment, it will always be,

Faithful to gardens: green, in their green tranquility.

Tomorrow I’ll remember that I loved her today:

In my faith to infants, and faith, faith that all who are faithful will stay.

 

YOU’RE JUST SAYING THAT

image

To love someone is torture

Because we worry about the future—

This moment not big enough to contain our love;

This moment too small to contain wanting someone

Again and again and again.

When I talked to you,

It was only to read your mind.

We are helpless when we love someone;

It is so important for our lover to be kind.

We must find out, and the only way to find out

Is to get inside their mind.

Impossible! So the body must do.

My desire—pity my desire!—is sadly chasing the infinity of you.

Pictures are better; and, better still,

When you don’t look at the camera; you are beautiful

In the oblivion of yourself, looking upwards, at a future state

Of sweet drift, where nothing is heavy or locked; not a shadow, not a doubt, not a gate—

You, floating to me for a kiss, eyes finding mine, smiling, saying, darling, I know why you are late.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S EASY TO BE DISAPPOINTED

image

It’s easy to be disappointed by the life of the mind.

Too much thought can make the body absolutely blind.

But come with me, and I’ll show you how

Imagination can make me love you now

Who hated you before,

And you will dazzle, even though, in truth, you are a big fat bore.

I will be in love and it will not be an act;

It will be the mind presenting syllabification and tact;

It will be poetry refusing to be separate from poetry’s fact;

It will be cunning pressing against your breast,

And weeping. For mind together with emotion is the best.

 

 

MORE ADDICTIVE

image

Is there a bass line more addictive than heroin?

Or a melody that beats all intoxication?

Is there a set of eyes

So lovely, they are food to the wise?

And I, in love, could look at them forever,

And float in ecstasy

Upon their dark and rain pelted river?

There is a melody just like your eyes

Which I heard once under the starry river

Superseding our less distinguished skies.

I heard it once, and it ended my thirst

For melody, which was not the first

Thing I loved, nor the worst.

It was only after you came by

That I knew how beautifully harmony could die,

And dying with it, objects, lights, and hope—

All that once made me stop—

And now breathes quietly in deep depths of the skies that have no sky.

OTHER LIVES

image

Other lives matter, completely different from your own,

Who never send you music on your cell phone,

Who never develop secret crushes on you,

Who don’t do disgusting things you do,

Who never make a peep and quietly pay the fee,

Who navigate icy rivers for glory,

Who feed thousands from a golden throne.

 

Other lives matter who are long dead,

Who never come near you or enter your head,

Who you never discover on the internet,

Who you know for a moment and then forget,

Who die minutes from you with strange cries,

Who had the most fascinating eyes,

Who are gone forever on some strange highway fled.

 

Other lives matter who rose in the spring

To be loved liked summer on a summer’s day,

Where summer breezes, around tree and tree and tree, vanished, dying away.

 

Other lives matter that you never heard moan,

Because they sang another song, and lived on their own.

But the other life that matters most, a life never spoken, broken, or known,

Is your life, you, strangest of all lives, you, standing by your shadow, inviolate, alone.

 

 

 

 

 

CHEATING

image

I have never—nor would I ever—cheat on you.

You let a small suspicion take root in your mind, where it grew and grew and grew.

Christ said we cheat, if we cheat in our mind.

Outwardly pure, we can still be unkind.

There is no escape. If we were deaf, dumb, and blind,

Jealousy would still haunt our souls; and jealousy is so unkind.

I told you I would never sleep with her because she had fat arms.

And that was the end: I was unkind—in your mind, you had fat arms.

Since we broke up, a year has gone by

And I only now realized why.

How does love between the sensitive work at all?

Give me blue skies over an island. A parking lot. A wall.

 

WHEN LOVE WAS VOLUNTARY

Aphro herm 2

When love was voluntary,
And lakes dimmed their mirrors for the moon-lit sky,
And twisted trees were planned by twisted vines,
I could see, by your whisper, by a few poem’s lines,
Whether you were actually mine,
And my heart, by my heart, could soften,
Or be heartless—like a cruel heart with too much wine—
Whenever I wanted, and, if I wanted,
I could dissolve my whole love in one warm bath,
And it would fade, and disappear,
And slip, like a snake, away, without sorrow or wrath.

Ah! When love was voluntary,
And lakes took their time to reflect the sky,
And rivers decided when to be rivers or grass,
I could decide to decline; I could decide to pass
On your grateful face breathing on me, alas,
And clay would voluntarily soften,
Or harden in a hard din of brass;
I could remember what I wanted to remember
And never, never bring you to mind,
Whether you had broken my heart harshly,
Or kissed me and been kind.

 

 

 

THE PROBLEM, OF COURSE, IS SEX

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The problem, of course, is sex.

Here’s what the Trojan war

Did: is Helen, the beautiful Greek,

Kidnap victim or whore?

This is not what peace knows or expects.

When you are too humiliated to speak,

Out come the weapons. The weapons talk, instead—

Weapons invented by the tongue-tied geek

For the brutal male, who loudly counts the dead.

Today’s War of Islam is a simple one:

Lands where the women are more beautiful than the men

Are going to get invaded again and again.

Have you seen women from the Middle East?

Heavens! Even the eyes are a feast.

The Middle East wants to hide its Helen,

Because love is a problem when the woman is a “ten.”

The West is different; its women are not pretty.

Have you seen Sarah Jessica Parker from “Sex in the City?”

The West, short on beauty, promotes sex and freedom.

Modesty? Veils? Allah? The West doesn’t need them.

If the West, which insults Islam, had its women hide all,

The West would never have sex at all.

So pity the West, and its desire;

And the world: aflame with God, and make-up, and pride, and fire.

 

We hesitated to publish “The Problem, Of Course, Is Sex,” because we felt it would offend—precisely because of the sex problem identified in the poem: the author of the poem is a white male, and, in a look-ist frenzy, perpetuates cruel and fraudulent stereotypes in the poem. Yes, as the author of the poem, we admit on a superficial level, the poem does this, but this is only by way of illustrating what is perhaps the chief problem in the current Muslim crisis—the aggressive Puritanism of Radical Islam—for who doubts the rapacious, misguided morality of the Taliban, in its wounded-pride, religious, purity, is not at the center of the whole, crazed, passionate terrorist grievance? It is the Greeks losing their Helen, a society’s sex-pride massing for war and revenge, and willing to sacrifice their children for it.  Is this not it?  Meanwhile, the war-like, invading, divide-and-conquer, bullying West, casually tossing off shows like “Sex In the City,” celebrates license and freedom—which insults the invaded people’s soul every day. The Islam crisis may ultimately be about oil and geo-political strategy. But we feel it is also about sex. At the very least, sex is what drives the signing up, and blowing up, for the manic, righteous, revenge-of-rape/rape-revenge cause. To reduce geo-political complexity to rape is a poetic trope; poets sometimes understand the crude and simple truth of a very complex issue is, indeed, the truth, despite the complexity of the issue, with its minefield of offenses to polite society, a polite society, in this case, which has smoothly and professionally committed massive wrongs. The insult to Western women in the poem represents more bitter fruit, a furtherance of the revenge-wound. As with the vengeful Hamlet’s madness—once a wrong begins, who knows where it will end?

 

 

 

TRUE LOVE IS COMPETITION AND HATE

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True love is competition and hate.

I got tired of loving what was great

And now I love a dull and helpless fool

Who understands my rule.

I prefer a wooden post

To what others love the most.

He was so attractive, I wanted to die.

I can’t actually love that. Let others try.

There is sadness, which causes tears;

Fear this not. This is common. Beware the weeping produced by fears.

You can make it. You can retire in a few more years.

You can get out, forget love, and avoid those fearful, fearful tears.

Admire love from afar—belong to that greater world

To whom love belongs—there is no girl

Who can possibly love that man.

Want is a shadow. You want. That doesn’t mean you can.

Do you know what great poetry is? It is music for ears

Just like your own, but drowned in fearful tears.

 

 

 

WOUNDS OF LOVE ARE ALWAYS WARM

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Wounds of love are always warm,

Wounds of love will never close.

Love is not a battle or a storm—

Oh love is worse than those.

 

The woman is affectionate.

This is why she runs away

From true love that lives at night

And smiles during the lonely day.

 

Wounds from love are deeper than

Those made from the knife.

Love creates hate; wounds from love are deeper than

Wounds from life.

UNCLE’S POEM IS HERE SOMEWHERE

Uncle, you are more like my father than I am,

And they say you seem more like me than him.

They say we are just holograms of projected embarrassment.

None of this is real. I was going to write a poem

But then started to read and got distracted.

Who knows where this poem is now, uncle.

No one likes you, uncle, but I do.

You manage to embarrass everyone and I see

How we all have our pitiful illusions

And yet we can’t help what we are. Like you, uncle.

You are an uncle, and you can’t help that.

We are what the world creates of us.  You write poems

In all different styles that wreak havoc among poets

Who stick to their chosen styles and low key rhetoric

Because they don’t want to embarrass anyone!

Humiliation is suicide! Puncturing others’ illusions,

With your immense talent, uncle, you see through

What others see and do, and you do, you do, naked shoe.

But you can’t do that, you mustn’t do that, uncle.

You have children. You say things. Your poems

Make fun of poems others write, which others take seriously,

And the horror is, your poems are much, much better than theirs.

You are going to destroy the world, uncle, with your wit,

And your everything! But I’ve seen you weep, I’ve seen you suffer,

Uncle, I know how on so many levels you think further than the rest.

Now where was that poem I was going to write?

It was going to be great, like you. It was going to be the best.

 

 

ISLAM HAS MADE THE WEST VEXED

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A small part of Islam has made the West vexed

With bouts of terror and hatred. When Muslim pride is rubbed raw,

When Islamic pride, embarrassed by the Westerner, over-sexed,

Terrified embarrassment having nowhere to hide,

As Western invaders break Allah’s moral law,

Stealing not only oil, but soiling the essence of women and young—

(A far cry from a quaint National Geographic photograph of camel dung—)

A secret internet sharing of shame travels far and wide

Among shamed, humiliated Muslim hordes,

As British Empire surrogates, U.S. and Israel, throw fuel on the fire

For further control which an Empire affords;

And add to this, the manipulated Sunni/Shiite mire—

You have what we have, and the desire to stop it

Cannot stop what drives it—too many parties do not want to drop it.

Blame Churchill and the British Empire.

Let China and Russia put out the fire.

The U.S., with its befuddled liberalism, and sex,

And freedom, and right-wingers, will only perplex.

Westerners should just stand back.

The West made the Sunnis mad in Iraq.

Oh man. Godless Japan. Can you make Hello Kitty toys attack?

LET THIS POEM STAND IN

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Let this poem stand in, let this ill-tempered poem be

My reaction to the tragedy.

Why ill-tempered? Because no sorrow

Lives, except that which I borrow.

A poet doesn’t put on displays,

And is true never to one occasion, but to all our yesterdays.

My nerves are bad. I will feel sad tomorrow.

I know I will. I will feel sorrow for myself whenever I die,

And that will be real sorrow.

I don’t feel sorrow now, so why should I try?

Yes, that’s right. This is honesty. Do you feel the true, lyric I?

Blame it on my muse, who hides in the real shadows,

Who, as I make my way to this poetry reading,

Might be around the corner—I might see her with someone else;

Nothing I see on the news can compete with her,

Even those I see on the news who are dead. Or crying, or bleeding.

Distant from me, the experimental poem, a flag’s color,

All that’s public: blah, blah, blah, buying and signing and selling books.

Blame ill-temper on love. I feel ill, I feel strange things where no one looks.

 

 

 

 

IT IS RIDICULOUS THAT I AM SO HAPPY

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It is ridiculous that I am so happy.

The one who loved me, now hates me

And her vast change of heart

Has ripped my tiny world apart.

Mine is a tiny world, since it centers on me—

Is this why I am ridiculously happy?

No, the world punishes the self-obsessed.

The world has its demands, and sends us many a guest.

There are guests in my home—arrogantly

I wish them away. More demands come from me.

All it took to cure my sorrow was an understanding from you—

A stranger who lives in my vast world, and now in my tiny one, too.

 

HUMANS ARE SIMPLER DOGS

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Since I left the human race,

To its vanities and rude mistakes,

To its sad search for sweet good taste, and grace—

I learned what love is, and what it takes

To love—how love wants to look at a face

That has meaning and a truth to tell.

Humans are simpler dogs—a sentence has less nuance than a smell.

We are not barred from truth because of its truth

But because of the courage it takes to tell

The truth, without shame; shame knows us—and we know it well.

I loved you like a dog, and I miss your smell—

Wrong and shame are what I miss; everything I cannot tell.

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