Sunday, September 30, 2012

So much is in bud

Dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralla

"From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea-"

But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
- so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?
- we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision

how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.

Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet-
there is too much broken
that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

Denise Levertov. 'Candles in Babylon'

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, Taos, New Mexico

I’ve expanded like the swollen door in summer
            to fit my own dimension. Your loneliness
is a letter I read and put away, a daily reminder
            in the cry of the magpie that I am
still capable of inflicting pain
            at this distance.

Like a painting, our talk is dense with description,
            half-truths, landscapes, phrases layered
with a patina over time. When she came into my life
            I didn’t hesitate.

Or is that only how it seems now, looking back?
            Or is that only how you accuse me, looking back?
Long ago, this desert was an inland sea. In the mountains
            you can still find shells.

It’s these strange divagations I’ve come to love: midday sun
            on pink escarpments; dusk on gray sandstone;
toe-and-finger holes along the three hundred and fifty-seven foot
            climb to Acoma Pueblo, where the spirit
of the dead hovers about its earthly home
            four days, before the prayer sticks drive it away.

Today all good Jews collect their crimes like old clothes
            to be washed and given to the poor.
I remember how my father held his father around the shoulders
            as they walked to the old synagogue in Philadelphia.

Robin Becker

Lean back again


There were never strawberries
like the ones we had
that sultry afternoon
sitting on the step
of the open french window
facing each other
your knees held in mine
the blue plates in our laps

the strawberries glistening
in the hot sunlight
we dipped them in sugar
looking at each other
not hurrying the feast
for one to come
the empty plates
laid on the stone together
with the two forks crossed

and I bent towards you
sweet in that air
in my arms
abandoned like a child
from your eager mouth
the taste of strawberries
in my memory

lean back again
let me love you
let the sun beat
on our forgetfulness
one hour of all
the heat intense
and summer lightning
on the Kilpatrick hills

let the storm wash the plates.

Edwin Morgan


*Shock: Acute state of prostration accompanied by lowering of blood volume and pressure, weakening of pulse and respiration.

She glances over at the telephone.
Its silence makes her wonder
If it’s still working.

A cigarette burns her fingers as it reaches the filter.
Without flinching, she lets it slip to the floor.

She raises her right arm, like a sword of justice,
And swoops down.
She feels nothing.

She does it again, and again.
She can hear the blood frying
As it spits at the fire.
A crimson arc sprays across the wall
Showering her mother’s figurines on the mantlepiece.

Stumbling into the kitchen,
She wraps a tea towel around her gaping wrist,
Struggling to pull it tight.

Opening the back door, to get some air,
She is buffeted by the wind
As the door bangs on its hinges.

She walks down the drive
And out into the blackness.
The streets are deserted at this hour of night.

At home, a loose telephone wire
Whips the window pane,
As the wind blows rain
Like handfuls of grit against the glass.

David Milligan-Croft

From here:

Saturday, September 29, 2012


I have been wanting to write down this Tibetan man's story, for years. The search for Home. Something I deeply relate to. In all my travels, immigrants and refugees have fascinated me, I listened to their stories, I have suffered with them.

I did not succeeded in taking him home. A feeble attempt at telling his story is all I have been able to accomplish, not even worthy to be called a gift.


You and I

I explain quietly. You
hear me shouting. You
try a new tack. I
feel old wounds reopen.

You see both sides. I
see your blinkers. I
am placatory. You
sense a new selfishness.

I am a dove. You
recognize the hawk. You
offer an olive branch. I
feel the thorns.

You bleed. I
see crocodile tears. I
withdraw. You
reel from the impact.

Roger McGough

You’ve traveled this far, on the back of every mistake


Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.

Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.

Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.

You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.

You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,

when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.

You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it.

Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

Dorianne Laux

Beaver Moon - The Suicide of a Friend

This poem resonates very deeply with me. It is the story of our times, the story of so many lives I read about in the papers every day, and flinch. I can imagine all their last desperate attempts to reach out, to be drawn into the fold, to be held. Oh, their open hands.

I have noticed that if I ever say I am not okay, in a mail, the chances are I will not hear from that person again. The world wants you only as long as you are entertaining. As the famous poem goes, "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone."  I could send a genuine suicide note and the response will be a) silence b) "Oh Asha, you write so beautifully!" :) :)   It is immensely liberating to know that I will be allowed to go, without anyone trying to foil the attempt :)

Beaver Moon - The Suicide of a Friend
Mary Oliver

When somewhere life
breaks the pane of glass,
and from every direction casual
voices are bringing you the news,
you say: I should have known.
You say: I should have been aware.

That last Friday he looked
so ill, like an old mountain-climber
lost on the white trails, listening
to the ice breaking upward, under
his worn-out shoes. You say:

I heard rumors of trouble, but after all
we all have that. You say:
What could I have done? and you go
with the rest, to bury him.

That night, you turn in your bed
to watch the moon rise, and once more
see what a small coin it is
against the darkness, and how everything else
is a mystery, and you know
nothing at all except
the moonlight is beautiful-
white rivers running together
along the bare boughs of the trees-

and somewhere, for someone, life
is becoming moment by moment

From 'Twelve Moons', Poems by Mary Oliver

Sleeping in the Forest

For Reena, who loves the forests.

Sleeping in the Forest
Mary Oliver

I thought the earth
remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.

I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees.

All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom.

By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

From 'Twelve Moons', Poems by Mary Oliver

Friday, September 28, 2012

I listen


The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.  
The dark wheat listens.
Be still.
There they are, the moons young, trying
Their wings.
Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow
Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone
Wholly, into the air.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
Or move.
I listen.
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.

James Wright


One Heart

Look at the birds. Even flying
is born
out of nothing. The first sky
is inside you, friend, open
at either end of day.
The work of wings
was always freedom, fastening
one heart to every falling thing.

Li-Young Lee

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Always the setting forth was the same,
Same sea, same dangers waiting for him
As though he had got nowhere but older.

Behind him on the receding shore
The identical reproaches, and somewhere
Out before him, the unravelling patience

He was wedded to.  There were the islands
Each with its woman and twining welcome
To be navigated, and one to call ``home.''

The knowledge of all that he betrayed
Grew till it was the same whether he stayed
Or went.  Therefore he went.  And what wonder

If sometimes he could not remember
Which was the one who wished on his departure
Perils that he could never sail through,

And which, improbable, remote, and true,
Was the one he kept sailing home to?

W. S. Merwin


An untitled poem
William Allingham

Everything passes and vanishes;
Everything leaves its trace;
And often you see in a footstep
What you could not see in a face.

The Emergency Exit

"So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there's always madness. Madness is the emergency exit.”

Alan Moore, Batman: 'The Killing Joke'

Guardians against Loneliness

From 'The People of the Deer', Farley Mowat's lyrical account of his 2-year stay in the Arctic, with the Ihalmiut people of northern Canada.

"We looked out over a dead land - but not a deserted one, for our eyes quickly discovered the shapes of men standing in monumental immobility on every side of us.

They were men. But men of stone! Insensate little pillars of flat rocks piled precariously atop each other, they stood on every hill, by every lake and river, as they have stood throughout the long ages of the People who created them and called them Inukok (semblance of men).

...The Inukok have being because they were created as guardians of living men against a loneliness which is immeasurable.

When the first man came this way, restlessly probing into unknown lands, he paused upon some hill before he ventured further into the obscurity ahead, and here he raised the figure of an Inukok. Then, as he went forward into the boundless distances, he retained a fragile link with his familiar world as long as he could still discern the dwindling figure of the man of stone. Before it disappeared behind him, the traveler paused to build another Inukok, and so another and another, until his journey ended and he turned back, or until he no longer needed the stone men to bind him to reality and life.

The Inukok are not signposts, just simple landmarks as most white men have thought. They are - or were - the guardians who stolidly resisted the impalpable menace of space uncircumscribed, which can unhinge the finite minds of men. From the crest of Kinetua we looked out and saw these lifeless beings and were comforted to see them standing there. "

Page 224.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Place in Your Life

"Do you read a lot?"

"A little. Being read to is nicer." She looked at me. "That's over now, isn't it?"

"Why should it be over?" But I couldn't see myself talking into cassettes for her or meeting her to read aloud.

"I was so glad and so proud of you when you learned to read. And what nice letters you wrote me!" That was true; I had admired her and been glad, because she was reading and she wrote to me,

But I could feel how little my admiration and happiness were worth compared to what learning to read and write must have cost Hanna, how meagre they must have been if they could not even get me to answer her, visit her, talk to her.

I had granted Hanna a small niche, certainly an important niche, one from which I gained something and for which I did something, but not a place in my life."

Page 195, 'The Reader' by Bernard Schlink.
Translated from the German by Carol Brown Janeway.

Movie adaptation by Stephen Daldry.

Photo: Google Images


"Blue doesn't exist in itself. Neither does heaven. Both are a result of perception and longing."

There are days when the sky is all you have.

So new, and gentle-sharp, and strange

When First We Faced, And Touching Showed

When first we faced, and touching showed
How well we knew the early moves,
Behind the moonlight and the frost,
The excitement and the gratitude,
There stood how much our meeting owed
To other meetings, other loves.

The decades of a different life
That opened past your inch-close eyes
Belonged to others, lavished, lost;
Nor could I hold you hard enough
To call my years of hunger-strife
Back for your mouth to colonise.

Admitted: and the pain is real.
But when did love not try to change
The world back to itself--no cost,
No past, no people else at all--
Only what meeting made us feel,
So new, and gentle-sharp, and strange?

Philip Larkin

To go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine

When I am among the trees
Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, '"Stay awhile".
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again,"It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."

Page 4, 'Thirst',  Poems by Mary Oliver

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Bura jo dekhan main chala, bura na milya koe,
Jo ghat khoja apna, mujh se bura na koe.

When I went to look for evil, I found
none as wretched as my own heart.


My friend Amandeep Sandhu's new novel "Roll of Honour" is out on the stands.

And carry our unwantedness somewhere else

"...I have everything I began the journey with,
And also a memory of my setting out
When I was confused, so confused. Terrifying
To think we have such power to alter our states,
Order comings and goings: know where we're not wanted
And carry our unwantedness somewhere else."

From 'Madras Central', Vijay Nambisan



...He who has no house now will not build one
He who is alone will be so for a long time to come
Will stay awake, read, write long letters
And restlessly walk in the park among the blown leaves.

Rainer Maria Rilke


Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca sing "Barcarolle":


Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour
Souris à nos ivresses
Nuit plus douce que le jour
Ô,belle nuit d’amour!
Le temps fuit et sans retour
Emporte nos tendresses
Loin de cet heureux séjour
Le temps fuit sans retour
Zéphyrs embrasés
Versez-nous vos caresses
Zéphyrs embrasés
Donnez-nous vos baisers!
Vos baisers! Vos baisers! Ah!
Belle nuit, ô, nuit d’amour
Souris à nos ivresses
Nuit plus douce que le jour,
Ô, belle nuit d’amour!
Ah! souris à nos ivresses!
Nuit d’amour, ô, nuit d’amour!
Ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah! ah!

And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?

The Swan
Mary Oliver

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross Streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?

And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Luminoso. Luminously.

A very long time ago, in those years of trying to find your place in the world, you would go alone to Western Classical music concerts and sit in the second row, with strangers - just because you were drawn by the sheer beauty of the words that this music form uses to describe itself.

You could possibly have been the only person sitting there amidst all those well-dressed highly cultured respectable older people, not even knowing the names of the instruments being played, but already in tears looking at the program and reading out the terms in there, silently, like a rosary.

Allegro. Moderato. Sonate. Nocturne. Andante. Libretto. Staccato. Adagio. Arabesque. Cantata. Concertino. Luminoso.

Luminoso. Luminously. You know? Like the way we should live. Can you ever utter that word aloud like a prayer, and be the same again?

You never found your place in the world. You pass through the fringes, the periphery of so many lives. Never crossing that line into the sanctum sanctorum, the place where the God resides. Your offerings, left outside the door, unnoticed.

And so, it is time to leave.

Let the journey at least be through light. Let there be light. Before the dark tunnel. Before the bardo of Fear. You are on your knees. Please.

Luminoso. Luminously. Like the way we should leave.  


The Lightest Touch

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then like a hand in the dark
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.

In the silence that follows
a great line
you can feel Lazarus
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

David Whyte

Nothing, but a way of happening

The Train
David Orr

Not that anyone will care,
But as I was sitting there

On the 8:07
To New Haven,

I was struck by lightning.
The strangest thing

Wasn't the flash of my hair
Catching on fire,

But the way people pretended
Nothing had happened.

For me, it was real enough.
But it seemed as if

The others saw this as nothing
But a way of happening,

A way to get from one place
To another place,

But not a place itself.
So, ignored, I burned to death.

Later, someone sat in my seat
And my ashes ruined his suit.



From 'The People of the Deer', Farley Mowat:

"The Ihalmut do not fill canvasses with their paintings, or inscribe figures on rocks, or carve figurines in clay or in stone, because in the lives of the People there is no room for the creation of objects of no practical value. What purpose is there in creating beautiful things if they must be abandoned when the family treks out over the Barrens? But the artistic sense is present and strongly developed. It is strongly alive in their stories and songs, and in the string-figures, but they also use it in the construction of things which assist in their living and in these cases it is no less an art. The pleasure of abstract creation is largely denied to them by the nature of the land, but still they know how to make beauty.

They know how to make beauty, and they also know how to enjoy it - for it is no uncommon thing to see an Ihalmio man squatting silently on a hill crest and watching, for hours at a time, the swift interplay of colors that sweep the sky at sunset and dawn. It is not unusual to see an Ihalmio pause for long minutes to watch the sleek beauty of a weasel or to stare into the brilliant heart of some minuscule flower. And these things are done quite unconsciously, too. There is no word for "beauty" - as such - in their language, it needs no words in their hearts."

Page 159

Listening, she leans into what she knows

Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus, or The Mulata
Natasha Trethewey

-after the painting by Diego Velàzquez, ca. 1619

She is the vessels on the table before her:
the copper pot tipped toward us, the white pitcher
clutched in her hand, the black one edged in red
and upside down. Bent over, she is the mortar
and the pestle at rest in the mortar—still angled
in its posture of use. She is the stack of bowls
and the bulb of garlic beside it, the basket hung
by a nail on the wall and the white cloth bundled
in it, the rag in the foreground recalling her hand.
She's the stain on the wall the size of her shadow—
the color of blood, the shape of a thumb. She is echo
of Jesus at table, framed in the scene behind her:
his white corona, her white cap. Listening, she leans
into what she knows. Light falls on half her face.

Photo: Google Images

And there is no end to this

Henry Carlile

He is pushing a black Ford
through an empty street -
a car like his father's
that beat the flat roads like wind
in summer and brought him here.

He never forgave his father.
That was the year he left home.
Then there was talk of weather
and everyone was packing.
Windmills were stopped
all over Kansas.

He is thinking of fathers,
the ways they never forgive you,
withholding love like lust.
But they quit, they stop like pumps.
There is no way to
set them working again.\

He is thinking of mothers,
how she could not know how he
half followed girls down dark streets
of his heart, how that loneliness
is passed to sons,
to the fathers of sons.

He is pushing a black Ford.
Its problem is such a heart
you cannot give it enough care.
Like a father it will quit.
And there is no end to this.


Saturday, September 22, 2012



Crying reminds me.

Miles Kierson

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

"Because no one wants to hear the clown in pain, because that's not funny."

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
Anthony Griffith
9.22 minutes

Shell by broken shell

Morning Walk
Mary Oliver

Little by little
the ocean
empties its pockets—
foam and fluff;
and the long, tangled ornateness
of seaweed;

or the whelks,
ribbed or with ivory knobs;
but so knocked about
in the sea's blue hands
and their story is at length only
about the wholeness of destruction—

they come one by one
to the shore
to the shallows
to the mussel-dappled rocks
to the rise to dryness
to the edge of the town
to offer, to the measure that we will accept it,
this wisdom:

though the hour be whole
though the minute be deep and rich
though the heart be a singer of hot red songs
and the mind be as lightning,
what all the music will come to is nothing,
only the sheets of fog and the fog's blue bell—
you do not believe it now, your are not supposed to,
you do not believe it yet—but you will—
morning by singular morning,
and shell by broken shell.

As if it were dusk

How to See Deer
Philip Booth

Forget roadside crossings.
Go nowhere with guns.
Go elsewhere your own way,

lonely and wanting. Or
stay and be early:
next to deep woods

inhabit old orchards.
All clearings promise.
Sunrise is good,

and fog before sun.
Expect nothing always;
find your luck slowly.

Wait out the windfall.
Take your good time
to learn to read ferns;

make like a turtle:
downhill toward slow water.
Instructed by heron,

drink the pure silence.
Be compassed by wind.
If you quiver like aspen

trust your quick nature:
let your ear teach you
which way to listen.

You've come to assume
protective color; now
colors reform to

new shapes in your eye.
You've learned by now
to wait without waiting;

as if it were dusk
look into light falling;
in deep relief

things even out. Be
careless of nothing. See
what you see.

From 'Lifelines'

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Waterfall and Wine

"A work of art is abundant, spills out, gets drunk, sits up with you all night and forgets to close the curtains, dries your tears, is your friend, offers you a disguise, a difference, a pose. Cut and cut it through and there is still a diamond at the core. Skim the top and it is rich. The inexhaustible energy of art is transfusion for a worn-out world. When I read Virginia Woolf she is to my spirit, waterfall and wine."

Page 65, 'A Gift of Wings', from 'Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery' by Jeanette Winterson

A beautiful series of interviews by David Milligan-Croft illustrates this so well:

The Boating Party:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

To circle about in such gladness...

Muffin. 13 Dec 2014. Cubbon Park.

This is undoubtedly the most beautiful piece of writing I have ever come across. A short story called 'The 24-hour Dog' by Jeannette Winterson. About this man who adopts a little puppy. I could barely breathe till the end.

"He was as soft as rainwater. I made him walk on a lead and he jumped for joy, the way creatures do, and children do and adults don't do, and spend their lives wondering where the leap went.

He had the kind of legs that go round in circles. He orbited me. He was a universe of play. Why did I walk so purposefully in a straight line? Where would it take me? He went round and round and we got there all the same.

...... I looked at him, trusting, vulnerable, love without caution. He was a new beginning and every new beginning returns the world. In him, the rain forests were pristine and the sea had not been blunted. He was a map of clear outlines and unnamed hope. He was time before or time after. Time now had not spoiled him. In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance.

......He circled along in his warm skin, happy again because he was free and because he belonged. All of one's life is a struggle towards that; the narrow path between freedom and belonging. I have sometimes sacrificed freedom in order to belong, but more often I have given up all hope of belonging.

It is no use trying to assume again the state of innocence and acceptance of the animal or the child. This time it has to be conscious. To circle about in such gladness as his, is the effort of a whole lifetime."

From 'The World and Other Places', Jeannette Winterson

This book is available on Flipkart. I got it from a second-hand bookshop on Church Street.

P.S: So a kind soul found me the full story, published online, in 1997. Thanks, Rukhiya, you have no idea what this means to me!

The Way In

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.
But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding,
and beauty.
To enter stone, be water.
To rise through hard earth, be plant
desiring sunlight, believing in water.
To entire fire, be dry.
To enter life, be food.

Linda Hogan

Friday, September 14, 2012


"...Like most people, I enjoyed the hot evenings and the smell of food and the birds that spike the sky, but I was not a mystic or a man of God and I did not feel the ecstasy I had read about. I longed for feeling though I could not have told you that. Words like passion and ecstasy, we learn them but they stay flat on the page. Sometimes we try and turn them over, find out what's on the other side, and everyone has a story to tell of a woman or a brothel or an opium night or a war. We fear it. We fear passion and laugh at too much love, and those who love too much.

And still we long to feel."

Page 155, 'The Passion', Jeannette Winterson


How I became a madman
Kahlil Gibran

You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen - the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives - I ran mask-less through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves!”

Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.

And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “He is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”

Thus I became a madman.

And I have found both freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.

But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a thief in a jail is not safe from another thief.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Child Self

Twenty-three years after Sylvia Plath took her own life at the age of 30, Ted Hughes, her husband, wrote to their 24-year-old son, Nicholas:

"....But not many people realise that it is, in fact, the suffering of the child inside them. Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances.

And when we meet people this is what we usually meet. And if this is the only part of them we meet we’re likely to get a rough time, and to end up making ‘no contact’. But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child, you find that everybody becomes, in a way, like your own child."

Monday, September 10, 2012


"Strictly, art does not belong to our evolutionary pattern at all. It has no biological necessity. Time taken up with it was time lost to hunting, gathering, mating, exploring, building, thriving. Odd then, that when routine physical threats to ourselves and our kind are no longer a reality, we say we have no time for art.

If we say that art, all art is no longer relevant to our lives, then we might at least risk the question 'What has happened to our lives?'. The usual question, 'What has happened to art?' is too easy an escape route."

Page 20, 'Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery', Jeanette Winterson

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why not?

"To the dumb question ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?"

Christopher Hitchens, on Mortality:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Your unbroken voice, or the sea

The Black Guitar

 Clearing out ten years from a wardrobe
 I opened its lid and saw Joe
 written twice in its dust, in a child’s hand,
 then a squiggled seagull or two.

 Joe, Joe
 a man’s tears are worth nothing,
 but a child’s name in the dust, or in the sand
 of a darkening beach, that’s a life’s work.

I touched two strings, to hear how much
 two lives can slip out of tune
 then I left it,

 brought down the night on it, for fear, Joe
 of hearing your unbroken voice, or the sea
 if I played it.

Paul Henry

Later, can we walk to the duck pond?

"....Tom, the stars are sitting in tonight like gumball gems in a little girl's
jewelry box. Later can we walk to the duck pond?

yes, and we can even go the long way past the jungle gym. i will push you on
the swing, but promise me you'll hold tight. if you fall i might disappear."

from "Litany", Carolyn Creedon

Nothing to be afraid

The Lightkeeper
Carolyn Forché

A night without ships. Foghorns called into walled cloud, and you
still alive, drawn to the light as if it were a fire kept by monks,
darkness once crusted with stars, but now death-dark as you sail inward.
Through wild gorse and sea wrack, through heather and torn wool

you ran, pulling me by the hand, so I might see this for once in my life:
the spin and spin of light, the whirring of it, light in search of the lost,
there since the era of fire, era of candles and hollow-wick lamps,
whale oil and solid wick, colza and lard, kerosene and carbide,
the signal fires lighted on this perilous coast in the Tower of Hook.

You say to me stay awake, be like the lensmaker who died with his
lungs full of glass, be the yew in blossom when bees swarm, be
their amber cathedral and even the ghosts of Cistercians will be kind to you.

In a certain light as after rain, in pearled clouds or the water beyond,
seen or sensed water, sea or lake, you would stop still and gaze out
for a long time. Also when fireflies opened and closed in the pines,
and a star appeared, our only heaven. You taught me to live like this.

That after death it would be as it was before we were born. Nothing
to be afraid. Nothing but happiness as unbearable as the dread
from which it comes. Go toward the light always, be without ships.

As though

"I had not intended to take communion at all, but my longing for strong arms and certainty and the quiet holiness around me forced me to my feet and down the aisle where strangers met my eyes as though I had been their son."

Jeannette Winterson, 'The Passion'

Thursday, September 6, 2012


"According to Orhan Pamuk, the melancholy of Istanbul is huzun, a Turkish word whose Arabic root (it appears five times in the Koran) denotes a feeling of deep spiritual loss but also a hopeful way of looking at life, “a state of mind that is ultimately as life-affirming as it is negating.

"For the Sufis, huzun is the spiritual anguish one feels at not being close enough to God; for Saint John of the Cross, this anguish causes the sufferer to plummet so far down that his soul will, as a result, soar to its divine desire. Huzun is therefore a sought-after state, and it is the absence, not the presence, of huzun that causes the sufferer distress.

“It is the failure to experience huzun,” Pamuk says, “that leads him to feel it.” According to Pamuk, moreover, huzun is not a singular preoccupation but a communal emotion, not the melancholy of an individual but the black mood shared by millions. “What I am trying to explain,” he writes in this delightful, profound, marvelously original book, “is the huzun of an entire city: of Istanbul.”

(A reader sent this as a comment to the previous post (thank you!), have yet to read the book - I guess this excerpt is from this review of 'Istanbul':

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Toska - noun /ˈtō-skə/ - Russian word roughly translated as sadness, melancholia, lugubriousness.

No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.
Vladimir Nabokov, cited in 'A Field Guide to Melancholy' by Jacky Bowring

From here:

Think of this, and tremble

A Warning
Csezlaw Milosz

Little animals from cartoons, talking rabbits, doggies, squirrels, as well as ladybugs, bees, grasshoppers. They have as much in common with real animals as our notions of the world have with the real world. Think of this, and tremble.

from "Roadside Dog"

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Indian Diaspora In Russia

I grew up reading the Soviet Union and Sputnik magazines, Russian folk tales in English, watching my father learn Russian with Linguaphone Institute records, on the old gramaphone. (I grew up at a time when the Sovient Union was big). From there on the transition to Chekhov, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, the poetry of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Anna Akhmatova, and later on the movies of Tarkovsky ('The Stalker' still remains my all-time favorite movie), Tchaikovsky's ballet 'The Nutcracker'etc was but a natural progression.

An old article, but interesting  - from

"...there is a significant Indian and South Asian diasporic presence in Russia. A recent study sponsored by the Russian Academy of Sciences claims that Russia may indeed be witnessing the re-emergence of that once extensive Indian Diaspora that stretched from Sindh through Central Asia and into Russia."

The Indian Diaspora In Russia

And everything hurts in autumn

Paul Henry

Others want this house and soon
we must either leave or stay.
Is it the house or love
we are moving out of?
Perhaps we cannot say

but it hurts, all afternoon
our marriage has moved inside me –
the boys, the prints on the stairs,
the broken-down cars, the holidays
in heaven and hell, long Saturdays
in market towns, mad neighbours.

I pick you a pear from the tree
but you have disappeared again
into that silence you inhabit,
your second home, where a whisper
might fall heavily to the floor –
an incendiary, pear-shaped
and loaded with pain.

Shall we stay or leave then, love?
It’s only the years moving inside us
and everything hurts in autumn.
Where shall we put them,
the years, in our new house?
the years we are moving out of?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I Have News for You

I Have News for You
Tony Hoagland

...Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after fame or love or quantities of money as
unattainable as that moon;
thus, they do not later
have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you—
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.


At the post office, I dash a note to a friend,
tell her I've just moved in, gotten settled, that

I'm now rushing off on an errand — except
that I write errant, a slip between letters,

each with an upright backbone anchoring it
to the page. One has with it the fullness

of possibility, a shape almost like the O
my friend's mouth will make when she sees

my letter in her box; the other, a mark that crosses
like the flat line of your death, the symbol

over the church house door, the ashes on your forehead
some Wednesday I barely remember.

What was I saying? I had to cross the word out,
start again, explain what I know best

because of the way you left me: how suddenly
a simple errand, a letter — everything — can go wrong.

Natasha Trethewey

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