The steps to inoculation

Vaccination brought to mind, strangely, thoughts on ambidexterity. When one arm feels a bit leaden after a jab, how does one go about doing with the other, that which seems impossible. As per research, being born ambidextrous can be disadvantageous for cognitive functioning, especially for arithmetic, memory retrieval, and logical reasoning, besides it has been associated with difficulties in language too. Yet, it isn’t clear if training towards ambidexterity would also cause the same issues as being born ambidextrous does [1]

On a positive note, it is quite possible to train ones non dominant hand to become more proficient, as in a concert pianist skilled with both hands, but whose mastery is complementary rather than competitive [2]. Some random thoughts at a vaccination and a poem thereafter …

You are one step closer, say stickers in red,
on a floor burning it's way to needles.

Unpeopled lines criss cross, one to medication
another to a woman in a white lab coat

against a wall, papered to impress or assure ,
etched in beakers, pipettes, bunsen

burners in blue. Here, swabs, syringes
and two arms to choose from.

"Which do you prefer", she asks, seated
at my left and I look to my right

at my BCG scar. Suddenly, this
seems painfully sore. "Left", I say,

besides, "you are closer", I think.
My right arm needs to lift the dutch oven

and to write, brush my teeth, chop onions
for biryani and ouch, there aren't any tears

only a needle I felt, like her unsmiling or resigned
face. She must feel tired poking dozens

of people for no fault of their own
so I wished her a great day and all that,

then took my place on a seat among
people moping over their big bright

phones, for my fifteen minutes of pain
or not, as I am distracted easily and this

is a pharmacy. Here I am in the section for adult diapers
with a vantage view of incontinence. Que sorte!

Read further: [1]~https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/sep/03/can-you-boost-your-brain-power-by-making-yourself-ambidextrous

[2]~https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-training-to-become-ambidextrous-improve-brain-function/

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, 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 to try 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. The paper referenced below [1] , sheds light on many forms of community violence in the country and the reasons behind it. 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 an investment in the communal purpose.

Process: I have written about mob violence earlier in ‘Primal‘ and will write again. This poem though has gone through countless revisions and it is still far from finished. It’s written in the narrative style but it has no meter yet. Let me consider it 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