Monday, April 30, 2012

A problem of Grammar :)

"One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of accidentally becoming your own father or mother. There is no problem involved in becoming your own father or mother that a broadminded and well-adjusted family can't cope with...

The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's 'Time Traveller's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations'. It will tell you for instance how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it.

The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations whilst you are actually travelling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father."

Page 216, 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', Douglas Adams

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A little bundle of love

To all whom I have fed at this dining table, and to those I have yet to feed.

I am always deeply touched by the offering of food. It moves me more than any other gift.

A post about ripe mango curry, and Sudama's little cloth bundle of powa...

The Offering of Food:

A Gift

"The artist appeals to that part of our being . . . which is a gift and not an acquisition – and, therefore, more permanently enduring."

Joseph Conrad,
From 'The Gift, How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World', by Lewis Hyde

If I were sure

"..but a great weariness is upon me —
I would be willing to die now if I were sure that death is sleep."

From 'Day's End', Alden Nowlan


On a branch
floating downriver,
a cricket, singing.

Kobayashi Issa, Translated by Jane Hirshfield

But the river has ways...

...But the river has ways
of sound and light, ripples
and waves that tell us:
don't be so serious, rumble in
where nothing is finished or broken
and nothing asks to be fixed.

Jeanne Lohmann

Forget your personal tragedy

Ernest Hemingway, to F.Scott Fitzgerald:

"Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt use it—don't cheat with it. Be as faithful to it as a scientist—but don't think anything is of any importance because it happens to you or anyone belonging to you."

Forget your Personal Tragedy:


Important lessons:
Look carefully, record what you see.
Find a way to make beauty necessary;
Find a way to make necessity beautiful.

Anne Michaels, 'Fugitive Pieces'

It may be

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Wendell Berry


It has rained for five days
running the world is
a round puddle
of sunless water
where small islands
are only beginning
to cope
a young boy
in my garden
is bailing out water
from his flower patch
when I ask him why
he tells me
young seeds that have not seen sun
and drown easily.

Audre Lorde

Saturday, April 28, 2012


In and Out
Jane Kenyon

The dog searches until he finds me
upstairs, lies down with a clatter
of elbows, puts his head on my foot.

Sometimes the sound of his breathing
saves my life -- in and out, in
and out; a pause, a long sigh.

I know this feeling. Many cats and kittens have saved me by falling asleep on my lap, or my tummy, and breathing in and out :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pusad, or Journeying into Colour

A life-changing trip. So many wonderful women. So many of my people. There is a reason why I love this country in spite of its many problems. There is a reason I stay. It is good to go out and be reminded about it. We forget, so easily.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

As if


Pierre Bonnard would enter
the museum with a tube of paint
in his pocket and a sable brush.
Then violating the sanctity
of one of his own frames
he'd add a stroke of vermilion
to the skin of a flower.
Just so I stopped you
at the door this morning
and licking my index finger, removed
an invisible crumb
from your vermilion mouth. As if
at the ritual moment of departure
I had to show you still belonged to me.
As if revision were
the purest form of love.

Linda Pastan

To the one at the back of the empty bus

Flood: Years of Solitude
Dionisio D. Martinez

To the one who sets a second place at the table anyway.
To the one at the back of the empty bus.
To the ones who name each piece of stained glass projected on a white wall.
To anyone convinced that a monologue is a conversation with the past.
To the one who loses with the deck he marked.
To those who are destined to inherit the meek.
To us.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What can I hold you with?

What can I hold you with?
Jorge Luis Borges

I offer you lean streets, desperate sunsets, the
moon of the jagged suburbs.
I offer you the bitterness of a man who has looked
long and long at the lonely moon.

I offer you my ancestors, my dead men, the ghosts
that living men have honoured in bronze:
my father's father killed in the frontier of
Buenos Aires, two bullets through his lungs,

bearded and dead, wrapped by his soldiers in
the hide of a cow; my mother's grandfather
--just twentyfour-- heading a charge of
three hundred men in Peru, now ghosts on
vanished horses.

I offer you whatever insight my books may hold,
whatever manliness or humour my life.
I offer you the loyalty of a man who has never
been loyal.

I offer you that kernel of myself that I have saved,
somehow --the central heart that deals not
in words, traffics not with dreams, and is
untouched by time, by joy, by adversities.

I offer you the memory of a yellow rose seen at
sunset, years before you were born.
I offer you explanations of yourself, theories about
yourself, authentic and surprising news of

I can give you my loneliness, my darkness, the
hunger of my heart; I am trying to bribe you
with uncertainty, with danger, with defeat.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Mill and the Cross

Remember Bruegel's 'The Fall of Icarus', how "everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster"?  This absolutely stunning movie is a must for anyone who appreciates art, drawing, painting - or the latest, most mind-blowing techniques in film-making.

The Mill and the Cross, trailer:

You can watch the movie here:

"Pieter Bruegel’s 1564 epic masterpiece, The Procession to Calvary, portrays Jesus staggering to his crucifixion, lost in a panoramic landscape crowded with hundreds of villagers and red-caped horsemen. In depicting Jesus’ plight as one among many vignettes, while soldiers on horseback loom threateningly, Bruegel boldly transposes Christ’s passion and death to sixteenth-century Flanders—a time when the Belgian people were suffering terribly under brutal Spanish occupation.

Now one of Poland’s most adventurous and inspired filmmakers, Lech Majewski, translates The Procession to Calvary into cinema, mischievously inviting the viewer to live inside the aesthetic universe of the painting as we watch it being created. As various lives unfold within the film frame, Bruegel, too, appears as a character, capturing shards of their desperate stories on his canvas-in-the-making.

A vibrant meditation on art and religion as ongoing, layered processes of collective storytelling and reinterpretation, The Mill & the Cross is also a feast of stunning visual effects and a provocative allegory."

* Photo from Google Images

Answers to any name, responds to love

This is the poem that inspired the poet, Gary Soto, the Mexican poet, to write poetry.." It expressed "exactly how I felt at the time, unwanted," Soto said. Soto's poems are about Mexican-American factory workers, his father was one of them.

by Edward Field

The poster with my picture on it
Is hanging on the bulletin board in the Post Office.
I stand by it hoping to be recognized
Posing first full face and then profile
But everbody passes by and I have to admit
The photograph was taken some years ago.

I was unwanted then and I'm unwanted now
Ah guess ah'll go up echo mountain and crash.
I wish someone would find my fingerprints somewhere
Maybe on a corpse and say, You're it.

Description: Male, reasonably so
White, but not lily-white and usually deep-red
Thirty-fivish, and looks it lately
Five-feet-nine and one-hundred-thirty pounds: no physique
Black hair going gray, hairline receding fast
What used to be curly, now fuzzy
Brown eyes starey under beetling brow
Mole on chin, probably will become a wen

It is perfectly obvious that he was not popular at school
No good at baseball, and wet his bed.
His aliases tell his story: Dumbell, Good-for-nothing,
Jewboy, Fieldinsky, Skinny, Fierce Face, Greaseball, Sissy.

Warning: This man is not dangerous, answers to any name
Responds to love, don't call him or he will come.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Wind Chimes

Wind chimes define me in some way. Maybe because the wind is my favorite element. I never miss a single movement in the leaves, however subtle, hey, I see you. When I read this poem, my first thought was oh this is what my husband will have to go through if I die and he has to clear up the house of all my books and plants and take down the wind chimes in every single balcony, the chimes that have been a source of such joy that I always felt I was overstaying....

The Wind Chimes

Two wind chimes,
one brass and prone to anger,
one with the throat of an angel,
swing from my porch eave,
sing with the storm.

Last year I lived five months
under that shrill choir,
boxing your house, crowding books
into crates, from some pages
your own voice crying.

Some days the chimes raged.
Some days they hung still.
They fretted when I dug up
the lily I gave you in April,
blooming, strangely, in fall.

Together, they scolded me
when I counted pennies you left
in each can, cup, and drawer,
when I rechecked the closets
for remnants of you.

The last day, the house empty,
resonant with space, the two chimes
had nothing to toll for.
I walked out, took them down,
carried our mute spirits home.

Shirley Buettner

What you’re looking through, is the act of giving

"I don't get poetry". People often tell me that. Do I get it? No, I don't get all of it either. Entire verses escape me. I may not even get what the poet intended. I am just grateful for a few beautiful lines here and there that speak to me, make me feel less alone in experiencing something. Or breathtaking words that choke me up. Constructions that make me view reality in a way I had not imagined. Images that light me up because I can see them so clearly in my head. A flow that brings quick tears to my eyes and makes me get up and take a walk and come back because I have just been given a vision of such loveliness and I can feel myself expanding to contain it all.

You don't always have to understand. Poetry, or people. There is still a giving. To open up and receive is a choice we make.

That is how I look at it. On the other hand, I could just have a propensity for intoxication, maybe I will grab at any substance, including words? :) :) :) :)

Poem Beginning with a Line by Milosz
Mark Irwin

“The most beautiful bodies are like transparent glass.”
They are bodies of the selfless or of those newly
dead. What appears transparent is really flame
burning so brightly it appears like glass. What
you’re looking through is the act of giving: One
thing in life needed desperately, given to another,
or perhaps life itself. The most beautiful bodies
are not transparent, but sometimes the color
of lead, like the elephant whom a child with some
peanuts lifts by the trunk in his hand in the swirling
dust, so that it appears he has lifted a monument
or a city with all its pain. The bodies that seem
transparent are made of an ice so pure it appears
to be glass sweating, where you, desiring another,
glimpse your own face that weighs nothing and is burning.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Be kinder to yourself

For the Dead

I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer

The waste of my love goes on this way
trying to save you from yourself

I have always wondered about the left-over
energy, the way water goes rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting long after midnight...

Adrienne Rich

Walk off the Earth

Something a young friend shared - very catchy tune, and I love that guy's voice, and I love the whole arrangement - so what if they are singing an age-old story, so what if it's all cliché-d, everyday?

It's amazing how these young people sing the saddest of songs in the happiest of ways, so just when you start swaying to the beats, you pause and pay attention to the lyrics and wonder hey isn't this about sad things, but why am I so happy, why does this make me smile, want to dance, forgive people? :)  Must be the percussion, drumming has that effect :)

Do share good songs if you find any, passing through a song-drought, it's really harsh summer in my music-land and the wells are dry :)

Somebody That I Used to Know -

What you get

"This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed."

From 'Prayer' by Jorie Graham

Wide awake, cracked open

April in Maine
May Sarton

The days are cold and brown,
Brown fields, no sign of green,
Brown twigs, not even swelling,
And dirty snow in the woods.

But as the dark flows in
The tree frogs begin
Their shrill sweet singing,
And we lie on our beds
Through the ecstatic night,
Wide awake, cracked open.

There will be no going back.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

If Only

Their cottage sat on a grassy bluff
weathered by salt spray, fogs, and rain
blowing off dunes and bleached logpiles
past tidal creeks seeping out to sea.

Cattails bobbed with redwing blackbirds.
Sparrows clamored through wild-rose thickets.
Two dogs, spattered with sandy muck,
snoozed on the sunny porch steps.

Dinner simmered on the stove.
Pulling weeds in the garden, she smiled,
hearing his tires pop gravel and clamshells
at their rutted lane's long winding end.

The dogs leapt up, loped out to greet him.
This is how it should have been.

John Balaban

Insist on Canticles

The Exultet is sung by the deacon after the Paschal Candle has been brought into the church on Easter Saturday night (evening, midnight, or before dawn.)  Sung by the light of candles.

"You are closer to glory
leaping an abyss
than upholstering a rut.
Not dawdling.
Not doubting.
Intrepid all the way
Walk toward clarity.
At every crossroad
Be prepared
to bump into wonder.
Only love prevails.
En route to disaster
insist on canticles.
Lift your ineffable
out of the mundane.
Nothing perishes;
nothing survives;
everything transforms!"

From 'Easter Exultet', by James Broughton

My favorite Easter memory, here.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


These people who have never been pampered as children, are so childish, I tell you. Like me.

Walking around office with shoelaces undone on one shoe - you never mastered shoelaces, and you don't understand why only the right shoe's laces come out all the time, and you are just too worn out today, you don't care.

Someone says, hey your shoelaces have come out. You stretch your foot to her - "You do it for me". She does.

And then you show your other foot. "But that's not come undone?" You bend down and pull it out. "Now it is."

She says it is all wrongly criss-crossed. You sit down on the floor, and say "Let's pull it all out and start from the beginning....."

Oct 2006

Didn't you hear I come in six-packs? :)

"Well, if you'd let me explain, sir,' said the insect tapping the most petulant of all the tentacles at his disposal, 'I'm afraid that isn't possible right now as Mr.Zarniwoop is on an intergalactic cruise.'
Hell, thought Zaphod.
'When's he going to be back?' he said.
'Back, sir? He's in his office.'
Zaphod paused whilst he tried to sort this particular thought in his mind. He didn't succeed.

'The cat's on an intergalactic his office?' He leaned forward and gripped the tapping tentacle.
'Listen, three eyes,' he said, 'don't try to outweird me, I get stranger things than you free with my breakfast cereal.'

'Well, just who do you think you are, honey?' flounced the insect quivering its wings in rage, 'Zaphod Beeblebrox or something?'
'Count the heads,' said Zaphod in a low rasp.
The insect blinked at him. It blinked at him again.
'You are Zaphod Beeblebrox?' it squeaked.
'Yeah', said Zaphod, 'but don't shout it out or they'll all want one.'
'The Zaphod Beeblebrox?'
'No, just a Zaphod Beeblebrox, didn't you hear I come in six-packs?'

The insect rattled its tentacles together in agitation.
'But, sir,' it squealed, 'I just heard on the sub-ether radio report. It said you were dead........'
'Yeah, that's right,' said Zaphod, 'I just haven't stopped moving yet.'

Page 178, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', Douglas Adams

Friday, April 6, 2012

Everything I thought I wanted

After a Month of Rain
Linda Pastan

Everything I thought I wanted
is right here,
particularly when the sun
is making such a comeback,
and the lilac engorged
with purple has recovered
from its severe pruning,
and you will be back soon

to dispel whatever it is
that overtakes me like leaf blight,
even on a day like this. I can still
hear remnants of the rain

in the swollen stream
behind the house, in the faint
dripping under the eaves,
persistent as memory.

And all the things I didn't think
I wanted, cut like the lilac back
to the root, push up again
from underground.


In the heat of late afternoon...
Gary Young

In the heat of late afternoon, lightning streaks from a nearly
cloudless sky to the top of the far mesa. At dusk, the whole south
end of the valley blazes as the clouds turn incandescent with
some distant strike. There is a constant congress here between
the earth and the sky. This afternoon a thunderstorm crossed the
valley. One moment the ground was dry, and the next there were
torrents running down the hillsides and arroyos. A quarter-mile off
I could see a downpour bouncing off the sage and the fine clay
soil. I could see the rain approach, and then it hit, drenching me,
and moved on. Ten minutes later I was dry. The rain comes from
heaven, and we are cleansed by it.

Suddenly the meaning of baptism
is clear to me: you can begin again, and we are saved every day.

But I laugh

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

from Langston Hughes's 'I, Too, Sing America'

The Function of Art

If what Proust says is true, that happiness is the absence of fever, then I will never know happiness. For I am possessed by a fever for knowledge, experience, and creation.

We are going to the moon, that is not very far.
Man has so much farther to go within himself.

There is not one big cosmic meaning for all,
there is only the meaning we each give to our life,
an individual meaning, an individual plot,
like an individual novel, a book for each person.

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.

Anais Nin

Would it save you a lot of time? :)

Therapy, at all times. Thank you, Adams.

'Are you trying to tell me,' said Arthur, slowly and with control, 'that you originally.....made the earth?'
'Oh yes,' said Slartibartfast. 'Did you ever go to a place...I think it was called Norway?'
'No,' said Arthur, 'no, I didn't.'
'Pity,' said Slartibartfast, 'that was one of mine. Won an award you know. Lovely crinkly edges. I was most upset to hear of its destruction.'
'You were upset!'
'Yes. Five minutes later and it wouldn't have mattered so much. It was a quite shocking cock-up.'
'Huh?' said Arthur.
'The mice were furious.'
'The mice were furious?'
'Oh yes,' said the old man mildly.
'Yes well so I expect were the dogs and cats and duckbilled platypuses, but...'
'Ah, but they hadn't paid for it you see, had they?'

'Look, said Arthur, 'would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?'

Page 117, 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, A Trilogy in Four Parts', Douglas Adams

Thursday, April 5, 2012

That sense of protectedness

"One sultry day in midsummer I invited a troubled friend from down the coast to visit me in the hermitage; if anywhere could bring her calm, I thought, it would be here. As soon as I led her into the chapel, she broke into tears before the small cross suspended from a skylight in a warm, round, golden space.

"You're moved?" I asked.

"Not only." I could hear what even the stillness could not heal. "I can feel all the things I never had when I was growing up. That sense of protectedness, of being held."

Page 204, 'The Man Within My Head', Pico Iyer

A Yakshagaana Tale

This quiet shy colleague of ours happened to share our table at lunch, and we get to know that during his 6 years in the US, he used to act in Yakshagaana plays as part of the Kannada Sangha, and has travelled to other cities to perform with the troupe! He had this interesting story to tell about the man who started the troupe, who was totally into this art form and directed all those performances, while holding a full-time job.

When he was a small boy growing up in Sringeri in South Kanara, he used to go sit with the workers who came to de-husk the areca nut (betel nut) seeds at their farm. Now de-husking is a very monotonous, repetitive job that can become quite tedious when done throughout the day, for days together. To not succumb to this boredom, the workers used to switch on the radio, and listen to Yakshagaana songs all day. Yakshagaana performances used to be the major form of entertainment for people in those areas those days, they really connected to the songs, they could visualize the plays and the elaborate costumes in their heads, and talk about it.

And so the grandiose tales from our epics were played out in the little boy’s head, every emotion layered out with care, dwelled upon, lived, enjoyed, and suffered to its deepest core – and so was born a life-long fascination for mythology, drama and music.

When he grew up he learned Yakshagaana and took it all the way to the US with him, and spread it far and wide along with his troupe - and now that he is back here, he puts up performances in the city.

This strange mix of areca nuts and abhinaya somehow totally appealed to me. :)  I can so imagine the diffused sunlight coming in through the areca nut grove of thin parallel lines, the open space where the nuts are de-husked, the red-tiled house behind, the small black radio, the occasional sharing of comments within the circle, the enjoyment, the thread of the known running through them all, a bond like no other.

And it reminded me of Kathakali and all those epic mythological characters and the passage in Arundhati Roy's 'The God of Small Things' about "the Great Stories where you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t, and yet you want to know again…..."

Returning to the Great Stories, an earlier post.

*Photo from Google Images

Monday, April 2, 2012


"When his closest disciple, Ananda, asked him what was the greatest miracle," she went on, "walking on water or conjuring jewels out of thin air, changing the heat of one's body through meditation or sitting undisturbed in a cave for years and years, he (the Buddha) said, "Simply touching the heart of another human being. Acting kindly. That's the greatest miracle of all."

Page 114, 'The Man Within My Head', Pico Iyer

To do something very common, in my own way

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning
by Adrienne Rich

My swirling wants. Your frozen lips.
The grammar turned and attacked me.
Themes, written under duress.
Emptiness of the notations.

They gave me a drug that slowed the healing of wounds.

I want you to see this before I leave:
the experience of repetition as death
the failure of criticism to locate the pain
the poster in the bus that said:
my bleeding is under control

A red plant in a cemetary of plastic wreaths.

A last attempt: the language is a dialect called metaphor.
These images go unglossed: hair, glacier, flashlight.
When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
I could say: those mountains have a meaning
but further than that I could not say.

To do something very common, in my own way.

Blog Archive