The book of life

For some, life is an open book, for others not so much. Some believe in destiny, fate; another school of thought, free will, like in a book of blank pages to work on as you please. If life is a book, written or unwritten yet, it must contain language. It brings to mind, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s first philosophical work ‘Tractatus Logico Philosophicus’ which considered the world to be a vast collection of facts, arranged logically, that we use language to try describe them in a seamless and efficient way. It’s later in his life that he wrote ‘Philosophical Investigations’, to undercut his own earlier work, in that he considered the world much more fluid in how we use language games to create meaningful narratives of, like in poetry perhaps. Seeking to define everything set to literary rules can be an Achilles heel in writing. In such case no one would have ever invented free verse 🙂 The first thing one understands in the use of language, is that there are no rules; it’s an evolution of sorts, based on our immediate context. Change is the only constant even in language. I’m still making sense of Wittgenstein but I also wrote a poem on ‘The Prison House of Language’ a while back, that brought me to read his book in the first place. I’ll publish it soon.

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Plain, like a sheet of windy sky / each time we leaf ahead / and then we leave impressions for another day / when we turn the page to inscribe love, sorrow, joy or splatter stains like inky tears // 

We dig deep our rage, lightly scribble inanities / etch an anxious moment, engrave our doubts / and some pages we leave blank / not knowing how to essay a gospel legible to the mind //

The life bible copied by scribes transmuting historical omissions /  or flagrant errors / yet so esoteric in revelations of the whore of Babylon / like invidious spine in this manifest tract / for our moral foibles and unbending compunction //

There are stories to suit every fancy / a virgin birth / Ecclesiastes laments in a cross between Kant and Schopenhauer / the holy spirit in the realm of the unseen, the ear of God //

Hardly original this / pattern engraved in the solidity of rock / self replicating in molten ambition or hardening in regrets / but we choose our script / our David / our Leah / Job / our Jonah and our Moby Dick //

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The book of life.

Seams of tolerance and hems of comprehension

Here’s a poem I wrote a while ago, a semi autobiographical exploration through poetic license. I’m a bit busy today to write something new.

As a visitor to the UK a few years earlier, I had the strange luck of having a homeless man accost me while rushing into a Mall. I still wonder what his thought process may have been to say what he did, because it hurt my ego at that moment. I am not the one to engage in stinging retorts especially with strangers, so I moved away with his voice trailing behind me. Society programmes us in many ways, steeped that we are in unconscious prejudice. I felt angry, then sorry for him and he only brought to the surface what others around may have as well been thinking. I also felt annoyed with myself for feeling smug about being sorry, like a privilege I couldn’t see.

Intriguing it is, how we imbibe the abstract (like political boundaries) to rigidly set our realities like they were an incontrovertible fact. Perhaps we ought to rethink our realities then, based that they are in abstractions.

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I’m in an exaggerated rush into a mall / to make peace with sartorial conventions /
I could be poetic like those silks hanging off size 2 / six feet tall, the forms I will assume in Elysium //


His words are spartan, in the limits of his comprehension / trying to locate the boundaries of mine / His poverty still sewn into garments plainly out of fashion /
“Go back to where you came from”, he says //


My bruised ego trails like the tatters on his scruffy clothes / smells like his unwashed homelessness / abstract as his missing buttons / ineffectual as the zip performing no function at his crotch //


My clothes are light for winter / and I levitate to grandiose visions of a noblesse oblige / and then descend to schadenfreude //

 
My chafed Id and my melting Ego are heavily jetlagged / to float on this collective misery / so it escapes into the innards of consumerism / to placate itself in seams, frills, flounces and pin tucks / until it dawns upon me that / my choice is vintage //

 
He got me thinking / as his words ripped seams / and I mull over what’s corralled within / dammed / and the sluice gates open wide //


Where do I go Mr. Man ? 


To the country of my expatriation / the country of my adoption / the land of my adaptation / retract into the womb of my motherland / explore the limits on my passport / or time travel into the utopia of my futuristic visions ?


You sit within the four walls of nationalism / a stickler for amorphous rules / I used to adhere to a parochial liturgy / Now,  I am confined to the porosity of internationalism / and I detest this too, for it does not align / with my unbounded galaxial ambitions / for I am contained in the borders of a passport / the alms of time in a visa / the confines of a solar day and the limits of a moonlit night //


These ephemeral fences of the dark / erect walls between the decades / the years and the soil my feet plant into / They shade horizons that rim my eyes / fold mountains too severe to climb / contain glaciers in the footprint of infantry / vault food in foreign aisles / encode fashions in patents / and imprison schools in capital / while poaching elephants for an Ivory Babel //


I beg to answer you like I beg to answer me / that I came from here / now / but where is that exactly / if not within those dark places / the same as you //

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I find deep seated prejudice crafts a certain narrative of the world for us, it does not mean anything until someone acts upon it. Instances of violence against ‘the other’ could be a result of such unfortunate assumptions we harbour about those different from us. This poem is about all of us. I thank the homeless man for adding this conversation to my canvas.

A Quantum of Sattva

Sometimes, it’s not the number of things we do but the amount we think that exhausts us. I like long solitary walks in wooded areas together with my music. It is positively grounding. This week I may work on a daily Pranayama and some fasting, which I regret I haven’t made time for recently, or in a strict routine. I find them both helpful, especially for meditation. This poem is parsing a way out to a place of meditative silence, not to curb the creativity as much as to channel it, to take a break from oneself, so to speak.

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The Sun is risen / gratitude is measured / to limbs that stretch far like rays to rival a mountain of assumptions / or a wanton horse in a meadow / or a bow aiming for reason / or bent like a hair pin securing locks of wild ebony / invoking that which brightens the day in radiance / moves across the sky with intention / is a friend / aum mitraye namaha //

The breath of life / an inhale of the universe / still as a deep lake in the holding place of love / an exhale of self / and in this, the expansiveness of heart / like in an elasticity of silence / clocks cease to exist here / time fills the lungs and loud spaces /a mind, eerily empty / settling like silt as rivers of thought meet the ocean of acceptance //

Food of spirit / Sattva in a steep consciousness / the altitude of a reckoning / and a chaste eating / even if it were a stone soup / to be sipped in gratefulness in a spiritual famine / A sense of cumin like a quantum of humanity / the fragrance of ginger in the abundant grace of serene moonlight //

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The first verse indicates the Hatha Yoga Asanas of the Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations and the 12 poses, each with a greeting to the Sun in gratitude. Mitraye means a friend in Sanskrit.

The second is on Pranayama. Ideally, Yoga Asanas were merely preparation for breathing, at least in the way it was meant to be, inorder to achieve a meditative state.

The third verse is about the concept of Sattva in food and through it, in spirit. I have never been able to adhere to Sattvic food for long, that would mean going vegan. Sattvic food follows a similar concept as the Japanese Shojin Ryori.

Sattva is one of the three modes of existence, the other being Rajas and Tamas. It refers in Sanskrit to the quality of goodness, positivity, truth, serenity, balance, peacefulness, and virtuousness that is drawn towards dharma (loosely the right way of living) and Gyana (knowledge).

Weighing the Soul

The poem was inspired by the cliff scene from the Swedish horror drama ‘Midsommar’, that depicts a ritual called Ättestupa. It is based on the premise of senicide, where at 72, the elderly cult members throw themselves off a cliff. Such a ritual is historically inaccurate, but it made me wonder of the myriad forms of approaching death, this one voluntary and clearly without a history of mental distress, it felt like a horrific and painful euthanasia. Ari Aster’s movie reeks of death but even so, the actors are all marvellous, the cinematography excellent, the premise of the film absolutely bizarre and overall, a movie that stayed with me because I actually enjoyed it. It is quite a work of art.

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A promise was inscribed at the cliff edge of reason / What were the birds and the butterflies thinking / to fly without a harness / seeking salvation as simply as wading / through water like a seal / and coming up short of breath //

The soul feels ill prepared for what comes next / Transmogrify and perhaps / it can become a dove on it’s way down / through the sheer intent of words //

Promises made to the heart / that love will make the soul buoyant / as it will float finally like loose feathers / once the weighted bird hits the rocks far below //

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I hope my readers don’t find the theme of this poem too morbid, this movie was quite bizarre, yet so creative. I had to translate the scene to speak for beliefs I think people have, that seem to provide for faith strong enough to jump to such a painful death, even if this particular ritual is historically inaccurate.

Waking to Spring

I was going crazy trying to stitch sense into a fabric project and I woke up this morning to see the trees had already produced buds and beat me to it. The sun is quite absent and the rain makes for a dreary Sunday 🌧️ along with a rejection of a poem from a poetry review. Perhaps, I deal well with these, they make me E. Scissorshands and brutal with a pair 😃

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As the night wove onto the spokes of sleep / the weaver of dreams twined in a strange reminiscing / and she heard the trees groan in buds of Spring, in collective labour //

The kaleidoscope of calico strewn across the floor cleaved moonlight into little squares of nightmares / Here she is, designing beauty in REM / quilted in the hues of a strange pallor //

It was the nucleus of a mist / like the pea under her bed / that kept the princess awake to wondering how Spring would awaken in blossoms / like the trees had it planned all along //

At dawn she felt she would explode legume like into art / creatively abridged into those ten minute DIY / where details are irretrievably lost in the maze of perfection / everything fabricated at the witching hour / to burst out in blossoms //

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I woke up feeling like I needed to write more, maniacally perhaps. I did, after breakfast and a chamomile tea. Love to self and getting through finishing what I started.

Arabian Nights and other stories

It occurred to me that ‘One thousand and one nights’ could have been the story of a woman stalling death through self soothing soliloquies. Marie Antoinette went grey the night before she was guillotined; so it must take a lot of strength to wax eloquent in stories, before ones imminent execution. I read one very tattered copy, lying around my childhood home, at twelve I think and loved parts of it. Today, I will try some haiku, tanka, waka maybe …

Sweet Scherezade,

spins in soft soliloquies,

sepulchral solace.

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April blossoms are,

the laconic wit of Spring

at a shy winter.

She sings syllables in hue,

to a frosty reluctance.

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Virgin bedchamber,

sweetly ricochets in tales,

like peas slumbering

in pods that divulge secrets

ripening in explosions.

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Despite the dreary circumstance of Scheherazade’s storytelling under duress, within the bedchamber of Sultan Sharyar, she apparently gave birth to three sons during the period. Ok, poetic license I reckon but this is one heck of a strong woman.