Monday, June 30, 2008


I have studied the science of separations
From nocturnal laments when hair flows loose.
Oxen chew, waiting lengthens,
This last hour of vigil in the city.
And I honourthe rituals of that cock-crowing night
When, having lifted the journey's burden of grief,
Tear stained eyes gazed into the distance
And the singing of Muses blended with the weeping of women.

Who can know from the word goodbye
What kind of parting is in store for us,
What the cock's clamour promises
When a light burns in the acropolis,
And at the dawn of some sort of new life
When the lazy ox chews in his stall
Why the rooster, herald of a new life,
Flaps his wings on the city walls.

Osip Mandelstam

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Only Poetry

The hearts echoes render no songs when the spirit is mute, wrote Shelley. But we often forget it, during the course of our days, when we are taken in by the ephemeral babble of our rhetoric and the shifting sands of our logic. We forget the commonplace jealousies of our prejudices and the convenience of our biases. We move from position to position, edges and mirages and shadows, ignoring the ephemera of our lives, the commonplace diktats that we obey and the sometimes total abjection to cultures and voices that seek our attention. We disregard ourselves, we throw ourselves at the mercy of winds, winds that have not stopped blowing for ages, the same ill winds, of unchange and hate, of misplaced logic, of unedifying subtleties, of harsh histories and injustice.

For actually, when we are mute, when our very essence is held hostage by fears, fears of a common nature, of survival and livelihood, of love and betrayal, then our seemingly broad vision suffers a visceral death, our loud cacophony loses the rhythm of rhyme, it dies a painful slow nauseating and demeaning death. Our strength, the verve of an ordinary human being lies perhaps in just recognizing these ephemeras, these ebbs and flows, the waning and waxing of our fevers. But our spirits will be mute, will transpire, will change in a changing life and we, even if guarded and ready, will suffer the ignorance of darkness, inside dark nights.

Only poetry and words can help us see a thread, one that runs through all lives, even the meanest, the most depraved. Only poetry, even if illusory, can help pacify demons of ignorant strength and remind us of certain times in the past, of kings larger than life, those who built vast mountains that lie shattered now, where lone and level sands stretch far away. Even hesitant and unrequited loves, impulsive passion, hastily scribbled poems and hopeful happiness can unite a mute soul with a dissipate reality. Only poetry.

I do not know what poetry actually is, though at times I have been sure of what it is not. When that hard day has mercifully come to a stuttering end, when a falling night has tried to cosy itself to a few benign looking stars, when the cheapest looking bar in town has played the saddest love song, towards the end of that dissolute song, in rhyme with its fading notes, the hesitant steps taken away from that melancholy din reminds me of poetry.
Let these stars fall down tonight. A loved one is breathing his last.