12/10/17

Poem | George Wallace

Source: https://thenewinquiry.com

I am sorry Diane di Prima*

i am sorry diane diprima there was no
revolution, we cleaned things up just
about enough to carry on, we forgot
your necessary guns and buddha,
the revolution of the body and heart
was no match for clean sheets and
prosperity, we filled the lakes back up
with rainbow trout we unpolluted the sky,
we closed the factories and gentrified
the lower east side, hell i think it was a
rockefeller who rebuilt the bronx (have you
seen the bronx river parkway sparkling in
the autumn sun), we filled our gas tanks and
bank accounts and ran off to cancun, into the
mouths of our children we poured laughter
fireworks poetry and college degrees, we forgot
about filling our bathtubs up with your grandpa's
marxism and coal, the life-preserving waters of
sacco & vanzetti went down the drain, escaped
us -- we put aside your revolutionary letters and
let our cup runneth over with patriotism and
football and craft beer, yeah we let the old
sins back in -- success for the many, fuck-all
for the few -- until the few became the many
again and now it's fuck-all for everyone except
the fatcats and their plastic wives in golfcarts,
country clubs and private towers -- reach for the
sky, the privileged few are on high and the rest
of us are hanging around in the streets below to
fool and to fuel, and now it's ten pm and 3 drunks
crossing church street are pulling on a young girl's
hijab and shouting trump trump trump --and the
blood in the eyes of the people, and the anger
in their mouths, is for each other, not for the
oppressors -- just the way they like it -- and
where is the precious seed of your revolution
now, diane diprima, when we really need it.



*First published in Foundlings Magazine, and included in the 2017 Blue Lights Press collection, Smashing Rock and Straight as Razors.

11/27/17

New | Poetry | Ramu Ramanathan

My First Encounter With The Peacock


The peacock,
He comes,
Knocks at the window
I am gazing out of.

Asks me what I am seeing.
I say a talking peacock.
The peacock smiles and asks for beedies.

I don’t have a pack here,
My wife has it, and
She has gone to the movies.
The displeased peacock
Stamps the ground.

Wait,
Don’t be angry.
I have some potato salad in the fridge.
He says, okay.

I whistle a song
In the orange of the sky.
He eats my dinner.

11/17/17

Poetry | Translation | Dibyajyoti Sarma

photo by Sashikumar J


from Kumarajiva, a narrative poem by Kunwar Narain
Translated from the Hindi by Dibyajyoti Sarma

[We had such plans. I was lucky enough to meet Kunwar Narain at his home in CR Park on 17 September 2016. He had just completed 89 and his hearing was weak. That did not stop us from discussing poetry, and our favourite poets, Eliot, Yeats, Auden. He had translated almost all the major 20th Western poets into Hindi. He also told us about his trip to Turkey and meeting Nazim Hikmet. The Turkish poet had just been released from one of his jail sentences, and Narain was still a starry-eyed young poet. I can still hear his voice narrating the story. “He (Hikmet) was an imposing personality. He sat next to me and put his hand on my thigh. He had huge hands.”

I identified the awe in the voice because that’s what I felt meeting Narain, hearing him tell the tale. I gave him my book of poems and since he had already lost his eye-sight, Apurva Narain, his son, suggested that I read a few poems from the book to him. I did. And he said he liked them. There couldn’t be a bigger reward.

On leaving, with the promise to meet again, I received a copy of Narain’s last masterpiece, the epic poem (Kavya) Kumarajiva published by Bharatiya Gnanpith. I found the book a tad difficult. A poetic biography of Kumarajiva, the man who introduced Buddhist literature in China, the book tackles deep philosophical questions on existence, life, death and everything in between. But the prologue, ‘In Tathagata’s Company’ moved me beyond words. I read and reread the passages a thousand times until I was ready to attempt a translation. This translation is my humble tribute to the legacy of Kunwar Narain.]
  
In Tathagata’s Company
from Kumarajiva, a narrative poem by Kunwar Narain
Translated from the Hindi by Dibyajyoti Sarma


I’ve embarked upon a thousand-year journey,
with Tathagata;
we have an eternity together –
on our path we will find who knows
how many cities, how many deserts.

We’ll not stop anywhere;
we'll carry on like the blowing wind.

We’ll leave behind, just a few words –
some reverberation of ideas,
etching on thresholds –
footprints of roving mendicants.

The way trees and leaves soak in
light and air and
carry to the soil
the fertilisers,

the same way will spread
the fire of spiritual ideas – breathing
from flowers to roots.

Digesting ugliness, there will always bloom
the fragrance of beauty in the air,
breaking the walls of darkness,
there will always sparkle joy, and
we will always be visible
in the wholeness of lost past,
sometimes like a star
sometimes like the sun.

Kumarajiva can be resurrected again
the way he resurrected Tathagata;
because no one, Buddha or Kumarajiva,
remains dead.

His was a life of ideas,
which can be experienced any time,
by going to his time
or by bringing him to our time,

the way at one time Kumarajiva
had found completeness,
inhabiting the Buddha’s ideas
in his own time,

the way man inhabits
his memories and past customs
rehabilitating them
in present time.

Every dedicated follower – thinker – artist
draws parallel to the Time where he exists
an Alternate Time of his own.

It is a life at once contemporary
and universal
where resides permanently
the essence of
his ideas and his achievements,
where they grow continuously until eternity.

I, Kumarajiva, am a vehicle of
Buddha’s words, not just a translator.
Through him, I’m a message for myself too,  
interspersed with his message.

With Tathagata’s teachings,
there contain my dedication too.

Wrapped in my achievements,
I too am my Alternate Time
where I’ll endure
even after me — with Tathagata —

the way Tathagata is alive
even after him, in his self-created
Alternate Sub-Time,
even today, with me.

In every moment,
I live several moments.

Time cannot not divided like matter,
like matter, it’s neither whole nor separate.
It’s us with our knowledge of matter that
we divide Time into tiny little pieces.

Whichever epoch I fancy,
I resurrect it like the present day,
and the ones I don’t, I discard them.
            Bringing lifelessness to existence, a conscious being,
            I myself transform into my past, my yesterday,
            my today and my future,
            my eternity.

            It all comes to us,
            through our dreams, our ideas.

This is my present which has arrived after thousands of years,
and it can endure for thousands of years after me,
sometimes ancient,
some prehistoric, sometimes medieval.

With all humility, I invite Tathagata
from his epoch to mine.

Like a book, I open
his epoch in mine.

A lot is hidden in these writings
which are not visible
in the folds of time.

I study the closely-knit
threading of ‘present’, when loosened,
from its holes is visible a light
completely different from the
permanent razzmatazz of today.

Each book is a closed door
opening which I  
immerse into the words
and shower under words’
waterfall of time
which is the time of that language.

I notice
In the beauteous past somewhere,
I’m reincarnated — in some unknown place.

My mind is Jetavana,
somewhere there’s a Shravasti, an Amravati
and Tathagata’s flesh and blood companionship,
a disciple listening to his teachings,
where there’s Sarnath, Sanchi and Patliputra.

            Matching wheels to wheels with the chariots
of Licchavis, Ambapalika rides her chariot —
a Ganika who claims proudly, ‘Today in my
mango orchard, Tathagata will be my guest.’

‘Take thousand cowries, Ganika,
            and give us the pleasure to host him…’
‘I refuse even if you offer a thousand cities.’
The Licchavis heard and her chariot marched on.

I humbly return to Kucha — my own epoch —
where in the caves of Kinjil,
there is a festival in the honour of Maitreya’s return.


Who knows in how many different lives,
in how many different ways, I have experienced
            the different meanings of Home.

Who knows how many times I have experienced
the joys of being a householder
and then the pains of losing the household,
the happiness of setting up a home
and the sadness of witnessing its ruin.

Who knows how many times
I have uttered in exasperation —
I would not build any more homes
and who know how many times
spring up like tides,
mounds of termites on the body,
another home and family.

Who knows how many times
I have uttered with conviction,
like enlightened Buddha —
‘Oh, householder,
I would not allow you to build any more,
another home — this is your last shelter.’

Yet, I am forced to return again and again,
from the other world to this,
carrying in my hands the same begging bowl,

            writings or a torch of wisdom.  

11/15/17

Three Poems | Madhu










Definitions

I never understood definitions,
or relationships.

I do not know what I will do during the day
or in the days to come.

As the day unfolds, I might catch up
with my old fellows

or end up alone having a cone of ghoti gorom. 
I do not question myself and

I don't have the answers if someone else does.
'What are you doing this evening?'  

I may sit and squat the flies
that hover over me like spaceships.

There is never much on my list
There is never much I can risk.

I know this is not how organised people live.
I never said I was people-friendly.


Tongues 

I somehow manage to fall in love
with the wild, unruly, untamed,
unmannerly, and unloved.

I will write a poem
for you in love
on love

I will barely cast it
in English
as you lie beside me
and hum to me

a poem

in bare Bengali.


Durga 

There is no remedy for love than to love more. - 
Henry David Thoreau

I'll forgive you for anything
if you have a beautiful smile

I know of a Durga who forgives Mahishasura
when the artist decides to
make weapons for neither.

Sarbojonin pays for it, and
they both undergo
the same heat to get their clay forms.

Tell me how a mother could kill a child
even if he was evil?

Kiss me on my forehead
turn me into a better being.