In the cytoplasm of affection

I wrote this poem in response to a prompt by a fellow instagrammer, to write about an animal or wildlife. I chose the wild in the microbial.

I drew this after eons, in a spell of inspiration

Blepharisma, Vorticella, Cyanobacteria / blue-green algae, Stentor and Volvox feature in the poem today, inspired that I am by the antics of these organisms in the work of another instagrammer. In her microbial world, microbes dance to strange rhythms, cannibalize, reproduce, scavenge, lay eggs, moult, become anxious, sometimes just sidle up to each other or simply float. Find the photos on Instagram.

The diagrammatic version of Blepharisma is my squiggly art. The other species mentioned in the poem are Vorticella with the spring coil and are attached to a substrate. The Stentors are motile and have cilia for locomotion. The blue-green algae or cyanobacteria resemble fettuccine in spinach flavour and the Volvox are a constellation of sorts.

Cilia are used in locomotion but ‘Ciliating’ is my singular stupendous contribution to the dictionary 😃 and will someday be used in Scrabble.

We thought of us today as single cells
'Ciliating' across the universe of colour
under the coverslip of time; a microcosm
of pedalling plants or fettuccine of cells.

The hues of darkness are pink and bright,
in beach slippers tracing paths on glass,
and those springing Vorticella are flowers
we created in our fictions of science ...

But all possess a veneer bound
cytoplasm of affection, crawling like
Annelids across the void in a world
bursting in avatars of the invisible

or their transparent real selves
glowing like gemstones in the sky,
or simply opaque as we are, each
to the other under the play of light,

polarized views secreted within some
dark muddied pond, harbouring
the cells of love, shedding cuticles
of sorrow, laying the germ of tomorrow

or funneling delight in little green globes
that make food ... are food. We must be
blessed to be cytoplasm like them or cursed,
I don't know which, but it's all profound.

Note:
Blepharisma is found in fresh and salt water, is a unicellular ciliated protist and is pink due to the presence of the photosensitive pigment, blepharismin. These pink creatures are photophobic, seek out darkened areas and lose their colour or die in strong light.

Vorticella is a ciliated protozoan with a stalk that is made up of a contractile organelle which serves as a molecular spring, so it can contract. This organelle or spasmoneme is said to have a higher specific power than the engine of the average car.

Volvox is a green algae that forms spherical colonies of up to 50,000 cells and live in freshwater habitats.

Cyanobacteria are Gram-negative bacteria that obtain energy via photosynthesis, also called blue-green algae but aren’t eukaryotes like algae.

Stentors are among the biggest known extant unicellular organisms and also ciliated.

Annelids belong to phylum Annelida that includes earthworms, leeches and the microscopic polychaete worms, oligochaetes.

Cytoplasm is the jelly like substance within the cell membrane,.excluding the nucleus. All together, they make the protoplasm of a cell.

Video:

The video link arrived in newsletter earlier that helps appreciate the many ways to see a microbe, and how a single creature can appear different depending on the microscopy method used to capture it through a manipulating of light.

There’s no one way a microbe looks, only different clever methods to see it~https://youtu.be/VBmzwM76V0o

Butterfly Sunrise

The water was the ripple of silk and the birds had quietened down. There were no skunks or bees or mosquitoes or anything that could spray, sting and bite, except the temperature was an ungodly 25 degrees Celsius and even Christian Wiman’s poem [1] made for a stark reminder of the hamster wheel of friendships and beliefs. I walked and listened to words witten by this professor at Yale divinity school, that rasped,


“All my friends are finding new beliefs and I am finding it harder and harder to keep track of the new gods and the new loves,and the old gods and the old loves,and the days have daggers, and the mirrors motives,and the planet’s turning faster and faster in the blackness…”


It’s a poem about steadfastness of friendship given our changing beliefs in life, which make for an interesting perspective [2]. The poet quite unusually, finds his friends beautiful and credible despite their changing mores or circumstance which is heartening to see.


It was getting darker and darker, until I came upon “butterfly sunrise”  on my evening walk. A little girl had etched markings for hopscotch at various lengths of the path and one of them had these words written on it, at another she had printed  “sunshine footprints” and at a third, she had scrawled her signature in a delightful flourish. It was happy graffiti and I borrowed her words for a poem.


Process:Mine is a loose sequence of tercets aiming not to rhyme in iambic pentameter with a little enjambment.

I breeze walk past homes open for summer,
they let out bright light in sounds and fragrance,
perfumed women, men, the softest soap.

The air's rarer, for I can smell them all.
Skunks spirit into the dark undergrowth,
butterfly sunrise jumps at me in chalk,

speedier than sunset and challenges
the lungs; they disobey my evening breath.
These hopscotch numbers are math on a path

leaving sunshine footprints at dusk, like late
blossoms on short overgrown bonsai plants.
There's a food truck, people from twenty nineteen,

unmask smiles at the clubhouse gleefully,
clinking glasses. Those on the tennis courts
sweat out spring, while dogs stroll their walkers.

Summer never really raised a brow
until luciana thought to hopscotch
the road to happiness, in coloured chalk.

References:

[1]~https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/151735/all-my-friends-are-finding-new-beliefs
[2]~https://onbeing.org/programs/christian-wiman-all-my-friends-are-finding-new-beliefs/

The locus of evil

I find mob violence a very alarming facet of human behaviour. How communities deal with a member that they may or may not know, especially persons that commit social infarctions, those that they feel are beyond redemption, who cannot be fixed, who don’t toe the line, the kind of person whose antisocial behaviour vexes them as they tire of him/her, is of great interest to me as I try and understand human proclivities. It was an anecdote recounted by someone I knew in Tanzania, of a case of mob violence they had witnessed in Kariakoo market once, in Dar es Salaam that inspires this poem. The paper referenced below [1] , sheds light on many forms of community violence in the country and the reasons behind such violence. It also discusses how a community or a family deals with the loss of a relative so assaulted or lynched by a mob. The traits of persons at the receiving end of mob rage appear to be that of an individual bereft entirely of social capital or even of investment in the communal purpose.

Process: I had written about mob violence earlier, inPrimal‘. This poem here, has undergone countless revisions and it is still far from finished. Written in the narrative style, it has no meter yet. Let it be considered a work in progress.

A millionth of a millisecond is marked in millet /  Gunny sacks of Wimbi in Kariakoo market, line up like hours in the day / Seeds, fine as mustard that will constellate a bubbling porridge in blinking stars /  the molten lava of uji served for breakfast / They sieved it through their fingers like sand / these women draped in soft cotton kanga / negotiating  a banter / with men selling millet //
Over there, glass beads on the counter, simply seconds in the day/ fine as Wimbi, colour of blood / for a ceremonial collar / Maasai men buy beads as fine as millet / for women to  thread unity in community / in a necklace called Umoja / in blood beads / on a market day like everyday, the pulse of an economy / the flow of goods through a vein of commerce // 
He is here too / spiralling through millet like a singular wind / faceless in a crowd of millet / one of millet / he seeks time like all of millet / The seconds gush forth, a rolling river of communal hunger / to survive to another day /  
Community couldn't mend him, regiment him or shackle him / to the amalgam of a communal self serving/ so he is simply Mwizi today / He thieves time in a shiny watch, a magpie stealing luck / spiriting it away like hours in the day / Is success longer in stolen seconds ? The sleight of hand, a practised art / In a movie, we would have rooted for him / 
But today someone screams Mwizi ! Resounding chorus of voices in a cascade of Mwizi, Mwizi, Mwizi ricocheting through the chaos of sweaty passions / surging seventh wave in the stupor of a dying day / women heaving empathic bosoms for a thief assaulted their collective breast /his dagger thrust at a united Manhood  // 
Mwizi makes men of a mob,  warriors all in symphonies of death cries /  communal body rises as one against one / furies raging in whirlwinds / as fear submits him to clay in the hands of children / Mwizi, a  soft dough of resignation / simply kindling to a spark of communal rancor at the festival of burning daylight / a human torch, burnt to ashes, burnt to ashes, burnt to ashes //
Sixty seconds make a minute / do sixty people make umoja ... unity ... The hours gather in day and rage in bile / A shiny watch marked in fleeting moments, mere existence / When the clock strikes, does the hour exist ?  When a mob forms, where then, is the locus of evil ?

Wimbi ~ finger millet, Kanga ~ cotton fabric draped by women, Umoja ~ unity, Uji ~ porridge , Mwizi ~ thief (kiswahili).

Further reading:

[1] Community violence in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: A mixed methods study by Anne H. Outwater1, Edward Mgaya, Jacquelyn C. Campbell (retrieved on 19/apr/21)

Flawless as scarred bread

Scoring bread ~ proofed dough placed in a hot cast iron pot before it goes into the oven for the final baking

Sourdough breadmaking is an art. It takes the harvesting and raising of ‘wild’ yeast and a vast amount of lactobacilli over seven days or longer, then their subsequent use in creating a loaf over a period of three days. It’s an art for the patient. I have cultures I raised from scratch over the past many years. My background in Mycology makes me comfortable with this microbiome of outcompeting symbionts and they are like a family that keep chill in a refrigerator and like a family, they offer many lessons one needs to know about cooperation and collaboration as ironically as the final product teaches about individuation.

As with many pursuits in life, when one sets the tenor of ones effort to measure to a self defined value, one has to contend sometimes with gratuitous criticism from others, but there can be much worse. Failures or setbacks are a ‘scoring’ of human vulnerability and many a time they can help reconfigure any situation into one of immense beauty. Look to bread, no further.

Every time I run the blade along the taut skin of dough proofed for bread, my heart trembles until the realization that maiming or rather scoring the patiently risen dough is what in fact makes bread beautiful.

Process:

I created this poem quite a while ago in the style of prose poetry [1] and have now parsed it out into lines. It appears finished for now. Prose poems are not be broken into verse lines or stanzas but retain elements of poetry, like meter, use of rhetorical devices and other poetic overtones. The scoring of bread is a theme in this one. It has also morphed into free verse.

Prose poetry is a form I wish to explore further. There are poetry resources and poem analyses too that I would like to share at this blog in the future.

Edit: changed the name of the poem, the first one didn’t quite sit well.

Enjoy the poem. Bon appétit !

In a constant quest for lyricism in folding,

shaping and rising, Gluten does really talk,

crocheting into yarn until it can hold

no more it’s airy soliloquy, its poetic

enterprise. The ever silent kitchen appears

tired in each rise and sourdoughs are

demanding little babies. Between all that

feeding, swaddling and resting, life scores

each time, deflates the expectant infant into

a discipline of beauty. The lame tattoos

every unfulfilled ambition, every regret,

every defeat, keeping score and bread

is thus born beautiful. Slashed not flawed,

it needs no charity of a harsh counsel

but the benefit of a loving indulgence.

About scoring bread with a Lame:

The intense heat of the oven expedites the fermentation process to cause bread dough to rise rapidly with the production of gases, which in turn push against the taut surface, which may accidentally and unimaginatively crack open. Therefore, bakers slash or score bread with a ‘Lame’ or a blade to deliberately create a weak point to direct this rapid expansion. It helps to control the height of the finished loaf in a consistent manner depending on how the scoring is done. Scoring helps make decorative bread, hardly a flaw in such a scarring.

References:

[1]Prose poetry ~https://www.masterclass.com/articles/understanding-prose-poetry#an-example-of-prose-poetry

Pale beneath a zesty rind

Breakfast stories …

Food satisfies and yet, there’s a kind of hunger that permeates the spirit that is insatiable. When I first watched Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hamilton, sing ‘Satisfied’, with Angelica Schuyler, I felt he was making a statement on the path to Boddichitta or the awakened mind. A dissatisfied mind is known to be constantly groping for meaning or creating a path, in a state arising, ironically out of dissatisfaction, according to Buddhist thought.

A verse of the song 'Satisfied' is as follows:

You strike me as a woman who has never been satisfied

I'm sure I don't know what you mean, you forget yourself

You're like me, I'm never satisfied

Is that right?

I've never been satisfied

Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Hamilton spends the rest of the play driven by his dissatisfaction. I remembered this at morning tea and I felt this should compel me to write something profound and philosophical but couldn’t quite get past breakfast. So here’s a poem on lemons and avocados. I think, the tart flavour of a lemon helps awaken the palate and the creamy texture of an avocado, smoothens the day.

Lemons stained in sun
Each sun that wafts in with dawn 
stains the lemons yellow,
and leaves them pale beneath
their zesty rind for life.

Sever the citrus in sorrow
and it drips sour,
in a spark that sets you alive.

Slice morning into emerald slivers.
What green of meadows
to contemplate breakfast !

I'm famished for poems
and I string words on bread
to satiate a soul hunger.
Slices of morning

Stained to a blur in a cut-away marsh and a note on Patrick Kavanagh

I began work on this article and poem a few days earlier, never quite finishing it, but the weather is the tint of silver and grey, the roads have been licked by showers, the same as on that day when I heard, once, twice, thrice more, Pádraig Ó Tuama, a poet from Ireland speak about Patrick Kavanagh, a poet from Ireland and it inspired me to pot my poem into place, like a herb at a windowsill gazing at rain. There was magic in this Irish voice [1] lulling me into a rainy day stupor in words that were meant for April, for marshes, and I would have liked to say for love, but how do you describe a poem that is love.

Patrick Kavanagh, was the self taught son of a shoe maker with an incoherent life view and philosophy [2] , some say, the greatest Irish poet since William Butler Yeats, but this isn’t what brought me to read about him, it was simply Tuama reading his poem, ‘The one’.

There were thunderstorms predicted that day. I’m not afraid of showers or a stronger breeze. In fact I had the car fuelled to capacity in case there was a miraculous flood and it needed fuel to coast away to safety … inane thoughts course like random particles in days of inexplicable lightening … incongruous as the fifteen varieties of eggs in the section for hens, which is next to fifteen varieties of milk in the section for cows and five varieties of egg whites in the section for eggs that didn’t quite yolk in a sunrise …

Tuama echoes my thoughts entirely when he says, in introducing Kavanagh’s poem, “But more often, these days, I’m turning to poetry when it makes me smile as I read it because the words are delicious, because it’s describing something of great delight, of great simplicity, and of great lightness of being”.

Cattails or Bulrushes

It is sometimes the beauty of voice and words too, that fuels a walk through aisles of produce in a store, like a musical secret between the one that speaks to you while you listen, for he speaks of poets, of childhood, of meanings and you listen, not once, but twice, then thrice, as you caress an avocado, slip tomatoes in a basket, ponder awhile at smiling citruses and blackberries. Then, for a while, I stay still to contemplate the labels that divide the plant kingdom into classes, much after Linnaeus, in terms of those raised by fertilizer, pesticides and ones that are organic through sheer will perhaps, or is it the fallaciousness of words that drags us into an abyss of untruths, darkened corners of commercial illusions, and how does all this matter, I ask, as I think about layers of food, that the lack of a label made much less edible somehow. Was food purer back then or was it an illusion too … Tuama spills a beautiful voice to say that one always returns to the hollows we carry inside, which is why we revisit poets of the past.

On a Marshland
The One by Patrick Kavanagh [3]

Green, blue, yellow and red –
God is down in the swamps and marshes
Sensational as April and almost incred-
ible the flowering of our catharsis.
A humble scene in a backward place
Where no one important ever looked
The raving flowers looked up in the face
Of the One and the Endless, the Mind that has baulked
The profoundest of mortals. A primrose, a violet,
A violent wild iris – but mostly anonymous performers
Yet an important occasion as the Muse at her toilet
Prepared to inform the local farmers
That beautiful, beautiful, beautiful God
Was breathing His love by a cut-away bog.

I tried modelling a poem in continuation of this one by Kavanagh. ‘The One’ which is a loose sonnet of sorts, with a couplet at the end, is a lyrical encapsulation of Kavanagh’s own view, as he observes in his ‘Self Portrait’,
“…the things that really matter are casual, insignificant little things ….” and he asserts that “in the final simplicity we don’t care whether we appear foolish or not. … We are satisfied with being ourselves, however small.”

Stained to a blur in a cut-away marsh ~ davina e. solomon 

That beautiful, beautiful, beautiful God
by a cut-away marsh, was breathing His love
and silver, and grey tints skies above,
floating in place under a lightning rod ...

and I am misted by the softest spray.
The tint of rain is a creamy green
hid in avocados, deep within,
as wanton herbs glisten a sweet array

of marsh grass, undulating fur on a pet
in a thunderstorms sweet caress.
Startled birds raise like a dress,
metal cars, stray shoppers ... mudflats all wet.

Cilantro macerated a fragrant apology
to a bloodied tomato, an onion grated to tears
to further press an avocado, reveal its fears
in lime to a wound. Here's a salty astrology

of a heaven strung in voices, in hope
streaking marshlands in the wet of rain
billowing hair, breezily dry, partly pain
reining love like a braided rope.

As I queue, it's clear these specks of colour
plan a future meal. I hear a cashier speak
both of us tinted in poems, a brazen leak
on a pastoral painting, stained to blur.

Process:

The stanzas follow the rhyming sequence of quatrains , each stanza a different sequence from the previous one. The stanzas alternate between engagement with store produce in the real and the imagining of the weather, outside. The entire article itself is an attempt at visual storytelling using prose poetry and free verse. I wove in the recipe of guacamole after Kavanaghs fist line of colour in ‘The One’.

A simple way to Guacamole:

A simple way to Guacamole
A couple of ripe ready avocadoes, a tomato, half an onion and a green lime. Grate the onion and tomato, chop some green chilli and coriander, mash lightly the avocados with a fork, squeeze a lime ... add salt ... serve with sourdough bread or simply, without.

References:
[1]Patrick Kavanagh A Poem About the Beauty of Home ~https://onbeing.org/programs/a-poem-about-the-beauty-of-home/
[2]Patrick Kavanagh 1904-1967 ~https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/patrick-kavanagh
[3]The One by Patrick Kavanagh ~https://www.saltproject.org/progressive-christian-blog/2020/3/30/the-one-by-patrick-kavanagh