Like water ……

Seeker,
do we not wish to emulate
the mutability of water ?

You may be chained to your freedom,
but grow like water.
It stays; accretes to you
like feathers of Rime ice
along that very chain.

You may be trapped in your secure lodging
but be fluid like water.
It stays; little droplets
coalesced on the surface
of your windscreen

You may be smug in your thirst for transcendence
but meditate on water.
It stays; invisible moisture
soaking your skin unseen
so you may remain alive.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Gratitude for the mutability of water
________________________________
High atop  Mount Washington is a mountain peak full of the most alarming changes of weather; tempests, brazen winds, icy chills, sunshine fit for alpine flora and a strange beauty for the seekers of such natural extravagance.

The weather was frostily elegant when we visited New Hampshire in early Fall, the measured grace of Rime ice everywhere was a spectacle to observe and appreciate.

In a place like this, you think warm thoughts.

The Tao of the Wisteria

Like Waka itself,
you grow five syllables
then seven, then five,
then seven,
then again ……
twining liana after liana
around the Doric column
covered in stucco;
Is this commitment?
Perhaps,
an elegant
Ushin Renga riposte
is your twirling delicate tendril
seeking the steadfast
pillar of support,
that does not deny you
an embrace.

They call you
a wanton vine
prodding
every nook and cranny,
clasping,
firmly grasping;
Yet despite
your wistful Wisterin,
that can be poison brew or elixir,
the goldfinches make you their home
and nobles invite you into their gardens,
where you outlast their kith and kin
and even their Cherry blossoms.

So a timekeeper you are,
punctuating the days with seasons;
Fragrant racemes in spring,
leafy interludes in summer,
then barren winter waka vines,
which when laid end to end
yield miles of poetry.

Slowly, steadily,
sinuously, sensuously,
your dancing tendrils,

woody stems,
all the while bearing witness
to an expanding consciousness
of an elegant, immortal love

.

.

.

.

.

.

_____________________________________________

The very first time I saw Wisteria (1), a woody twining leguminous vine (of the family Fabaceae), was at the chateau, Azay le Rideau in the Loire Valley. It was so beautiful, with the vines trailing against the stucco walls of an outbuilding. I have seen it many times since and last week, once again at one of my favourite gardens, Van Vleck mansion in Montclair; a Chinese Wisteria that is quite impressive in it muscular base and stem.

In Japan, Wisteria was a plant associated with the aristocracy; It now makes a lovely addition to any garden provided the woody deciduous vines are trained well with sturdy support. According to Peter Valder (author of Wisterias: A Comprehensive Guide, 1995), Japanese wisteria is the more decorative plant (2):

“With its many-flowered racemes, it remains in bloom longer, its growth habit is more graceful, the disposition of its blossoms and foliage more elegant, and its autumn colour more effective.”

I wished this botanical poem to be a tribute to this beautiful plant. Wisteria has long been a motif in art, literature and decor in Japan (a favourite with feng Shui practitioners), also especially in Waka poetry which includes Haiku, Ushin Renga and other forms; it has even been a mainstay in theatre, with the famous Fuji Musume (Wisteria Maiden) a classical dance out of the Kabuki theatre in Japan, first performed in 1826, originally as one in a series of five dances (6).

Renga (3) is a genre of Japanese linked-verse poetry in which two or more poets supplied alternating sections of a poem. This form of collaborative poetry (4) requires that the poets complete each other’s stanzas intelligibly. Ushin Renga is serious Renga, elegant and refined like Wisteria I should think.

Waka (5) is Japanese court poetry of the 6th – 14th century, including such forms as renga and haiku. The term waka also is used as a synonym for tanka or short poem, which is the basic form of Japanese poetry.

I think we have something to learn about growth, endurance, elegance and refinement from the way of the Wisteria. I hope you enjoy this botanical poem.

_____________________________________________

References:

1-https://www.britannica.com/plant/Wisteria

2-https://www.seattlejapanesegarden.org/blog/2018/5/3/japanese-wisteria-brings-late-spring-beauty-to-the-seattle-japanese-garden

3-https://www.britannica.com/art/renga#ref722204

4-https://swarthyface.blogspot.com/2020/05/study-guidenotes-on-waka-japanese.html?m=1

5-https://www.britannica.com/art/waka-Japanese-poetry

6-http://www.karensantry.com/thefujimusume

The yin and yang of the hermit crab and the sea anemone

As you scuttled on the sand
beneath the swaying algal fronds,
one would think it to be the blue sky
and a mass of forest.
But legionnaire,
you were treading generous waters
and there were so many shells
for the taking,
to reign on and make your castle.

You chose your pick
from the seas bounty.
and the snail was long gone,
martyred to the ocean,
and you, just as soft bodied,
much more agile
in temperament
scouring the next best opportunity;
Now armed with protective sheath
of conchiolin, chitin, prismatic, calcified.
How bright and pearlescent
Is the nacre of your beautiful lodging,
like chandeliers in a noble home.

Did you not scout out the lone anemone,
coax her onto your castle,
formidable you both together.
Perched on your battlements,
she wrapped the drawbridge
in a poisonous curtain
of stinging tentacles,
warding off the glances of those
that wished to annhilate
you in ultimate sacrifice.
Yet, provider you were
of ocean feasts
and travels to forbidden places.

Such a strange commensalism
of stranger species still,
like a lesson to the world
that seeks to categorize,
prioritize abstractions
like cooperation
among the species;
All in the face of such, as senseless
as in the drama of evolution
across the species,
where life revels
in astounding difference
and in a perfect symbiosis!

.

.

.

.

.

.

It is Thanksgiving in the USA and this is a poem of gratitude for my home, my friends, family and every person I have crossed paths with. I believe that kindness, connection and the ability to render the inorganic, organic through our various commensalisms and symbiotic associations is what makes life and love go on for eternity or at least for the eternity of our living memory.

I happened to watch a beautiful movie on marine life and this commensalism begged to be transmuted to poetry; as an aside I have been amused by Sebastian the hermit crab from the Disney version of ‘ Little Mermaid’, and have loved the score composed by Alan Menken ever since.

Love and happiness are never an entitlement but the result of a sometimes reciprocal arrangement. In one as beautiful as in the sea anemone and the hermit crab, it is such that the yin and yang of the species are perfectly balanced. I hope we use this day to measure ourselves against the backdrop of this idea for the world; a world, which I feel, tries always to be in perfect balance when we are in cooperative engagement, in a cosmic dance in perfect complement to each other.

Love and peace to the universe. I am eternally grateful not only for today but every day that I wake up and am alive to the bright sun, the glowing moon, the dripping rain and the magnificent snow.

The Gilded Cage

The bars of a cage
at Georgetown Zoo
were no filter
for the humid summer glare
or gaping visitor glances …
You were no threat
and I was no predator,
each safe in our space.

.

Yet, when I raised
and pointed my lens
you shielded your sad eyes
(or did I imagine sad)
with your bony hand
and lowered your gaze.
As you averted
your simian face,
did you feel shame?
For I felt shame.
My camera was dead weight that day …

.

.

.

.

.

.

I respectfully try not to anthropomorphise animals; we can all relate one way or another to other sentient beings.

Fluid, like poetry …

Life seems suffused with dreary interludes, composed prosaically,

but in poems,

it flows like the tannic waters of a brook,

yielding, adapting, singing, swirling,

rounding the rough edges of odd shaped rocks.

.

This year; sharp, uneven, like jagged rocks,

and my way I learned, was to be liquid like water,

steeped with tannins of leafy experiences

long leached into the liquor distilled of life itself …

.

We were like a bewildered herd, stupefied with change,

wrought out of disasters brought upon ourselves,

self sabotaging as we are in a strangely cooperative human way

driven through a mutualism of mirrored self interests …

our solipsism evident yet in virtual existence.

.

And in the midst of the strangeness of circumstance,

we who lusted for worldly ways, found,

that time being money, wasn’t going according to plan.

Yet, where hearts and minds were clear still,

among them dreamers, poets, those charting manifest feeling,

such beings grew boldly amorphous.

.

Love, kindness, compassion, connection,

abstract nouns then, intransitive verbs now .

Perhaps they sing poems; those who care to see the world in colour,

in hues brightly vibrant, or even shades that may grow duller

Reality feels black or white, when guided not by the light of the sun

For who can see or love a rainbow if they can’t imagine one ……

Octillions of candles in the Sun

I thread a prayer with beads of feeling

… a meagre attempt at gratitude

for the luminous that brightens life itself

and I am but a poor reflective moon like at night,

when the humid air is pregnant with poetry,

and the dark thick glabrous leaves of Sisal

give me goosebumps.

I have you for my personal solarium

where you shine nothing but love,

that I now assign you gender

and place you in my pantheon of deities;

the only way I can exalt your luminous presence

by submitting to you my insignificance.

I know you burn an internal heat

slowly making your way to a little death

through millions of years before you go

from red giant to white dwarf.

They say you aren’t massive enough

and there will be no black hole in your wake.

Yet, despite the derisions,

you make the leaves glow green as I plant bougainvillea and Plumeria

in a light drenched garden,

while the farmer in Morogoro plants Cassava and tomatoes

And elsewhere in the world they see auroras…

But you shine on me all year and I feel special

for my thoughts are bright and nothing rains down my cheeks.

The paddy fields in Mbeya are busy capturing your photons

and the dukas in Kariakoo will soon be selling fragrant rice,

that will feed the poor and the rich alike.

And I know there are times when you feel low

like the heat simmering in rage beneath a dark spot on your skinless surface,

so they map and measure your cycles

and astrologers and astronomers swear by them,

as when all your magnetic storms conspire to send signals,

that NASA can see and I can feel,

for it warms my heart to be able to stand

bathed in your warm presence

on the fringe of a sandy beach

alongside the turquoise waters of Msasani bay.

And I miss you when it rains

or when your sometimes petulant magnetic flares

are so impulsive and reckless,

they blow out the grid.

I need not worry then,

for ever since Prometheus stole the fire from Zeus

I now know how to make one …

and I light a candle or sometimes an oil lamp

to imitate, to worship you one way or another

and banish the darkness.

.

.

.

Gratitude to the radiant Sun while in warm, tropical Dar es Salaam