Here is part two as promised.
Many colour bearing, is my towering refuge
Posing and striking down, the women climb you like ants
A taste of wealth for the Potbellied and seated men
So amply endowed are the gift of this red earth
I know thy tongue better than my own
Your labyrinth speaks more languages than Babel
A blood price for your embrace, yet your kindness traps
Wandering birds that forget to migrate
Sharp fanged and crimson is the Goddess
In her hand she holds a heart, maybe yours
Divine Southern land, so rich is your sanctum
The gold glitters brighter in the colour of your lamps
Every word an unwilling prayer, every corner history laden
Mislaid spiderwebs in the sun and wind, wash away like your equals
But you ancient earth still remain
This poem while written grew longer and became a prayer. I have broken it, today comes the invocation, tomorrow I will publish the praise.
The seasons of my homeland are always embracing
Of the other, always longing and dreaming
The monsoon is a far traveller, missed by a perspiring summer
A humid air haunts this tryst of eager lovers
Deep green is the forest cover, a tongue striking
Across the wet mossy rocks and unbroken forests
Yet I live upon a crisp air laden, high plateau
Thrusting up into many faint seasons, passing fancies
A youthful green and yellowing flowering trees, above me
Violet flowers of an edging creeper, in the corner of what I see
Should it bare that name, the summer sun climaxing
When no sweat it brings out of me, should I call it by it’s name?
Oh heart, how is it you were so quickly filled?
Like a cage awaiting a trapped bird
The fountains gushed overflowing
And in floodwaters do my horses drink
It is a strange and foreign coast
It is a wishing well over-delivering
How else could I be happy?
She spills silver on the borderlines
And foam on the wave edges
As she shines light into that mirror
Circling and drowning, over and over
Sinking in blood, wearing ample gold
Back up from the deep sapphire sea
Again to colour the mountains
And make the smooth leaves shine
The Sun sails to every shore
The wind blowing West
Oh evening shade in your embrace I am only a subtle glace
Yet this arcane environ of the night feels so much like home
A gasping breath is drawn like an arrow in daylight
Yet in shadows panic has no accusation it calls unto itself
Worse still is the more fragile tension behind an expression
Only alone can it break and set free the long trapped sigh
I made my foray into Russian novels with Sholokhov’s “And quietly flows the Don”, far from the usual settings of Imperial Russia and a little too close to the modern world. I grimaced in anticipation of my mind sifting through every word and implication for political agreement as anyone who’s politics has been shaped by too much time online is wont to do.
Yet even the most irritating of internet tendencies stood no chance against Sholokhov’s masterful writing. It’s no surprise he was awarded a Nobel prize, awards like those need to affix themselves to worthwhile writers so that the other slop they push has some credibility.
Sholokhov takes an impressive approach to the Russian revolution where the vast plains of the steppe and the Don river flow with as much beauty and significance as the world changing events transpiring around them. In fact the beauty with which Sholokhov describes his homeland makes you wonder if he cares for the landscape more than the characters.
This is not to say the characters aren’t up to snuff, in typical Russian fashion we get a lengthy genealogy of a long and growing list of characters who are never anxious to present themselves till the war itself is ready to receive them. There is a certain resignation to the many trials and torments the characters suffer, a kind of apolitical eye examining the ups and downs of the war, never judging anyone for the shifting alliance and swaying tides of the war. Given that this was written after the war and by a communist, this is an intensely “realist” approach that gives the characters a great deal of room to change their minds and struggle against the tide of history.
In the hands of a lesser writer this searing focus on big men from small villages, the tragedy conveyed by their ignominious deaths in the Great War, the Civil War, German occupation and their obliviousness to what comes next might seem bitter. Yet in the able hands of Sholokhov, it is rather matter of fact, beautify but embodying a kind of indifferent and constant push onward much like a quiet river.
WordPress asks me what new skills I learnt recently as the text cursor waits for me expectantly. Well I learnt nothing and why it’s important. For a long time now I’ve been scouring various theogonies and mythologies from the Mediterranean to the Steppe. Nothing seemed to resonate till I returned to the one tradition that provoke the most resistance in me, Daoism. Of course the inscrutable I Ching was the least comforting guide in an urgent but dreadfully prolonged search for meaning. Yet the Tao says that a vessel is only useful because of the emptiness inside. Somehow I am a broken bell that now rings and I have been having the most pleasant dreams of the last few years. I’ve been mixing a little bit of Jung’s active imagination to the mix and yesterday I saw a forest in the fall, leaves brown and sweeping downwards, the forest floor aching for someone to trod on the leaves that yearn to crack and offer music to the scene. Nature is indeed a teacher as the Tao says, but I also saw a guide in black robes, face obscured with a dry leaf, beacon me closer into the dark of the dry forest – as though the season and the empty world beneath the canopies yearned to be filled by my curiosity. Nature is indeed a teacher and my master wields a leaf.
I feel like I have walked into a clear stream with mud covering my feet. As I look down to really see how I got here, I wish I had seen what my journey was really like. I’ve been blogging and writing for a long time, so long that I thought I was over it. The more discomforting truth is that I’ve lost my own voice with all this writing. I could turn to the well everyday and draw up something to write about, I could read or hear something that might taste like water to the dry pallet I had for inspiration. Long into the process it was all inspiration reaching into an empty well. Much of what I’ve written is just echoes of better work and of what I liked. So much so that repetition and rephrasing became the meat on my bones, I’ve been creating an assortment of platypus like creatures just to keep publishing and farming readership for nothing of value. So after this brief reprieve, I’m going to go back to writing but actually reach for the water. I’d rather write to hear my own voice than continue with the same old nothing. I’m tempted to discard everything I’ve written so far if I’m being very honest but I haven’t taken that decision yet. For now I will rest and get a taste of my own voice.
Every sunset when the light grows faint behind the Peepul tree, I notice a mundane miracle of little note that repeats its defiant cause on the electric lines. A branch from a now dead cactus plant was drawn in by some unknown wind and carried unambitiously to the electric wire by my balcony. Long and alone in as much as a year the branch has kept alive, with green leaves and purple flowers crowing its upward grasp, the branch has lived past its parent, hanging on by only a twig. How among the endless lines crossing the streets and the loud lives of everyone here does this little stem keep still on its tight rope? It must be akin to holding your breath and keeping a low profile, if the branch ever grew bigger or expanded in any direction, it’s fragile balance would be lost and the mundane act of survival would soon decay among all the leaves and swept up refuse on the streets.
I live a strange world where the earth itself seems to disappear. Now and then I hear a bird call, a song that only birds of the Monsoon Jungles sing.
I look about for this phantom and realise that tree lines themselves are hard to find. Now and then my attention surfaces like driftwood on the night sea when I see the damp edges of world. Frogs waylay my path refusing to move out of the way of my scooter, giant snails appear in strange places – absurdly delicate targets in a precarious world.
The only conscious glimpses I steal are on rare days when I’m over the crowded lines of buildings; terraces only intrude on neighbours in this city. On rare rooftops visits I look for the moon. They say that in old Sumerian myths Nanna, the Moon God was the one who birthed the Sun God, Shamash. The reason for this unusual pre-eminence was that in the old days on the Mesopotamian marshes hunter-gathers looked to the Moon more often than they did to the Sun. It was only with sedentary lives that the Sun grew more important.
I think of how wondrously different it must have been to live your life by the Moon, to wander along the Mountain ranges and river banks of the Tigris with Moonlight as a calendar, compass and God. Often I look up in surprised to see that the moon isn’t there, that it has slipped by so quickly while city life seems so frozen in concrete sameness. These years have all felt the same, lost in the slow stream of my own thoughts and the city, I can hardly imagine the Moon transforming so quickly.
In the empty liberation that builds cities there are no more butterflies for caterpillars to turn into, perhaps no cocoons either. No wonder then that the ever changing Moon is difficult to see when the sky is overcast and blotted out. With no cycles of the Moon to sway the tide there is only still water.