Conversations under a cherry tree

Cherry blossoms have a way about them as they beckon you for a conversation beneath their laden branches, while they avalanche into confetti  triggered by the muffled sounds of people, under a wispy sun in the caress of a gentle breeze …

There were picnickers on the grounds, their colourful mats in sharp contrast to the pastels of their sylvan hosts. I had to return to Branch Brook Park on a sunny yesterday for photographs and to catch up with a dear friend. I promised I would write a poem to this meeting under the cherry tree.

Under a Japanese Cherry Tree
Blossoms occluded thought in a morning meditation of a centrifugal breath. Does the center of gravity reside in a cherry tree trunk, as we paint wispy conversations under the grace of seasonal confetti ? There aren't enough poems rooting under a cherry tree, yet our hearts communed in a space somewhere wordless, when we spoke of your parents and mine, how yours kissed earth last year and mine kiss sun. Death always eavesdrops on conversations under blossoms exhaling the dregs of life and I watched you make sense of the universe through the Book of Job and a just God. A meaningful theodicy claimed your heart, as you wove in a foreign land, a young life you knew, lost in a meaningless gruesome beheading, of a body bereft of identity, one vanished for a proper burial. And then, it wasn't lost on us, that here we were at the requiem of blossoms, in a pastel conversation of a petal caress, pedestrians led on thought, dogs led on leashes, a woman in a crimson dress posing to whitewash petals, a mature couple, the shades of beige and ebony under the trees, melded further in a secluded corner, and there we were, just the same. Us and them and the cherry trees, speaking of life, death, meaning. The beautiful world strangely floated in place to the ones that weren't blind to it's shades of exhausted blossoms, lining sidewalks. It couldn't have been more real than at that moment.

.

.

.

Our conversations were on other topics as well, but I chose to stay with Job in this poem, specifically because of trying to understand and justify the presence of evil in this world. The theodicies in the Book of Job are too numerous to mention here.

As an atheist despite my Catholic upbringing, I always find intriguing  how we come to terms with the contradictions in our beliefs, professed ethics and perceived realities. Does misfortune strengthen belief, then, would we be in danger of feeling entitled to good  fortune when it does appear, in a certain arrogance of thinking ourselves deserving, therefore ? How does one justify human evil as the reality of existence? How does one justify judgement as ethical and necessary? How does one approach all this in the absence of God? Do secularists, atheists etc rely on other formal institutions for their social or human conscience? It is much more complex as people are all different or are they really? Or do they simply don the garb of a convenient persona within their social cohort, simply believing they have a unique ideology of selfhood, conscience, morality untainted by their social circumstance ?

The only real in all of it is that some live while others die, some suffer less at death while others die a horrific one,  some heal while some hurt, some deceive and others  don’t, some love while some hate, some are evil, others saints, some brave some cowards, some happy, others sad … or it’s just death that is real in the end and the birthing of life while all else is simply a poem.

Spring survives in racemes of yellow

There’s a holly like plant that has naturalized near my home. On my walk, I was delighted to see racemes [1] of yellow flowers that will thereafter turn into clusters of blue-black tart berries of the Oregon barberry. The Oregon Grape Holly or Mahonia aquifolium is from the family Berberidaceae, has leaves that look like Holly and is the state flower of Oregon. This shade garden ornamental that I could finally name, is so beautiful, used now as a substitute for Goldenseal as the leaves, bark, and root contain berberine, a yellow alkaloid that is the same antimicrobial compound found in there too. Its use in medicine by Native Americans in the treatment of arthritis, jaundice, fever and other ailments has been documented as well. Foragers use it to create excellent jellies. It’s literally in my backyard and I never knew … so here it is, set like pectin in a poem.

This poem is dedicated to the beautiful Oregon Grape Holly.

Mahonia aquifolium
Evergreen, the winter never laid a blemish on her waxy leaves. Is this the eternal of that which survives the rain, the sun, the waxwings, the raccoons, the storms, the kind mercenary from the landscapers in his brown overalls clicking his alligator shears, the petite woman who struck down a holly-alike limb for a sacrificial feast of gratitude ... If feelings ever gelled in pectin then it would be an antiquarian delight, for my Jam Bible has no such recipe. Perhaps I should write one, for they could find it stored in a canopic jar under the sands of time some day the sun rises in the future, like victuals of an earlier age, eternity assimilated in the glaze of green and a yellow of delicate racemes, onyx berries. In Oregon, the barberry is a survivor so they honoured her in their pantheon of Spring goddesses. The birds tell me it is Spring here too. Summer will soon cluster in survival, in patient berries, some tart, some sweet.

I find evergreen to be a poetic synonym for resilience. In the temporal, the evergreen will perish but live an eternity in its lifetime, or perhaps, the Oregon Grape Holly is simply poetic in her waxy leaves.

[1] Definitions:

Raceme ~ a flower cluster with the separate flowers attached by short equal stalks at equal distances along a central stem. The flowers at the base of the central stem develop first. (Oxford Dictionary)

Botanical definition ~ A raceme (/reɪˈsiːm/ or /rəˈsiːm/) or racemoid is an unbranched, indeterminate type of inflorescence bearing pedicellate flowers (flowers having short floral stalks called pedicels) along its axis. In botany, an axis means a shoot, in this case one bearing the flowers. (Wikipedia)

Sakura * Haiku

Here are some Haiku I created for Instagram and Facebook, reposting them to the blog.

We visited the most pinked park with over 2,700 Japanese cherry trees and I melted into haiku. It was a grey and cloudy evening but the contrast of rain drenched blossoms, thick petal carpets and wanderers made for an amazing opportunity to see blossoms at their peak flowering in Branch Brook Park. I have reworked the Haiku a bit on every platform, these here are the final version.

Sakura

.

Pink petal carpet
Prunus 'accolade' blossoms,
hue of poetry

Grey men, fresh blossoms
in a sand box playing ball,
happy with little

Latino couple,
photo shoot under blossoms,
love blooms in 'kanzan'.

Rain melting blossoms
dripping down ebony trunks,
tears for the sun.

Blossoming tarmac,
pathways, river banks, parking,
Caste / no bar / blossoms.

Brush dipped in loves hue,
heart strokes up gnarled onyx trunks,
splattering blossoms.

Are blossoms soul songs ?
Then a million stricken men
bled for love alone

Signalling passion
Akebono and Ukon,
as road parts blossoms.

Drizzle in the air,
pink red petals in my hair,
trees smile, grey sky smiles.

The road to Essex
should be laid in pink passion.
Let Sakura know.

.

.

.

Japanese cherry blossom is a flower of many trees of genus Prunus of which many species and cultivars exists. The fruit isn’t edible like in a cherry tree for these are ornamental Prunus species. Known as Sakura in Japan, it is considered to be their national flower.

We saw men play ball in an awning-covered sandbox and my husband mentioned that it takes very little to keep old men happy. It made me crack up and old in my dictionary refers to anyone over hundred and five, no offence meant. The cherry blossoms took some and some were over hundred and five 😉

There were blossoms everywhere inscribed in the wet, chilly and smiling. All visitors looked very happy. Cherry trees have a way of doing that to people.

I have elaborated a bit on some of the cultivars so that readers may gain an appreciation for the type of blossoms you see the next time you chance upon a cherry tree. There’s more to them than just the colour.

Four of the species/cultivars I have mentioned in the poem are: [1]
Prunus ‘Accolade’ is an English hybrid between P. subhirtella and P. sargentii.This tree bears clusters of semidouble, 12-petaled pale pink flowers that open from dark pink buds in early spring.

Prunus ‘Ukon’ is a cultivar of Prunus serrulata that produces an abundance of large, semidouble flowers of a yellowish or pale green color (ukon, for “turmeric,” refers to its unusual color). A hint of pink on the petals adds to the drama of this attractive cherry.

Prunus × yedoensis ‘Akebono’ This medium-size tree produces very attractive light pink semidouble flowers that appear before its dark green leaves emerge. Akebono translates as “dawn” or “daybreak.”

Prunus ‘Kanzan’ is a popular cultivar is considered by many to be the most showy ornamental cherry. Flowering is extravagant, with pink, almost magenta double blossoms borne in hanging clusters. The double blossoms of this cultivar were bred to have up to 28 petals each.

Reference:
[1]https://www.bbg.org/collections/cherry_stages

Changing narratives in soul transformations of a gracious river

I imagine very loosely in this poem, the river Saraswati, that graced on her banks an ancient civilization. There is mention of her in the Rig Veda. It could be any river that flows or changes course or is obliterated entirely that this poem speaks for; some rivers relegated to the realm of myth and legend.

I also dedicate this post to ‘taking to writing during the pandemic’, when a piece of music inspired me to understand the farmer who communed with spirits, posted in April last year, at the onset of social distancing and isolation.

.

.

.

.

A strange tributary of thought / River is muddy / a pioneering sliver of sludge making her way down a mountain / silting in regrets as she fights the ocean / in the final dregs of life //                              

A bird’s eye view of her mouth / or a scrutiny of the invisible / as she swallows the salty tears of the sea / mangroves root inside out / krill, feel at home in saline fingers / River speaks of a silty aftermath / in the delta of older and wiser //

River, she carries tales of mountains / of eroded banks many miles inland / You may not see now / but the river knows / the river flows / in purpose / harmonious blending in her final annihilation / of her murky origins //

Explorers collected facts to transcribe into a colonial harness / built dams to tame her like a horse to ride / prostituted her energy to the highest bidder / and infuriated her surging passions / pulling off the embrace of her arborescent lovers //

What is real in a river / but what feels real to you / as you raft in her rapids / drown in her depths / moisten your farmland / and quench your collective thirst / River exists only in demands as you study her ways to use her / but even she may dry up in defiance or change her state of flow / Your science may predict that in their religious texts in retrospect /

.

.

.

There’s something about rivers that speaks for a life journey, about seeking oneself. In what I wrote about Ali Farka Touré last year, I found that his lilting voice and his music mimicked a river. Ai du felt like the third longest river in Africa in a song of a single verse,

“that proceeds to evolve like a fractal, assuming different scales to gain several dimensions. It begins like the clear waters of the Niger, emanating from the ancient rocks of the Guinean highlands, as it moves away from the Atlantic, into the Sahara Desert, where it takes a sharp right turn near the ancient city of Timbuktu and heads southeast to the Gulf of Guinea. It is shaped like a boomerang, this river of rivers, as observed from the skies. Is this what inspired Ai du, I wonder, the course of a river through the hearts and minds of people, as it travels across land seeding lakes, evaporating across the Sahel, confluences with tributaries, fractalizes onto a Delta, much like a song but iterating the same crystallized philosophy contained in a single verse”.


“Trust and faith in your fellow man has no equal.
If you have experienced trust you will know its strength.
You must know yourself before you know others”.

The song strikes me deeply, each time I listen to it, like a contemplation too of breakdown of trust I have experienced on occasion, in the hurts of spirits of the past and a need always to rehabilitate vulnerability. Much of poetry and music, takes one to a place of compassion. It’s strange how music heals and how life flows like a river. A river is her own mind and no dam can stop a raging deluge.

Surreal

The truth can sometimes appear as surreal as a ghost in the attic. This prose poem is loosely based on what happened in a village many decades ago on a hot summer day, with poetic license, but the kernel of which remains quite unchanged. Consider it an exorcism of stories that need to find their way to poems.

It always felt like black and white back then in the sepia  memories in photos, except in stories my mother told me about kaleidoscopic ices and green bottles of sodas with a marble in the neck. Roads snaked around the church in iron tinted blood and there were not many wheels raising dust. That summer day, everyone ruminated on the sultry weather, lounging on a grass mattress or a chair, in the deep recess of a cavernous room somewhere. 
My Beautiful, you walked like the sole flower of the tropics that lonely road where the wooden windows shut people in and the Suns fiery digits out. Your cotton dress sheathed around your hips, your soft breasts and everything glinted white in the sun, even the black cross perched on the grotto. They used to begin the stations of the cross there for the march up to the chapel on the hill. It's strange that prayers never linger long near open spaces or in closed hearts. There were three of them that day the sun blotted out the landscape. Drunk on the fervour of youth, the dregs of local ferment, hallucinating of angels in a sacred space and you appeared. People noted in retrospect that you were very pretty as prima facie evidence.
You may have tarried a while for you knew them. Everyone knew everyone in the village and their dead ancestors. Perhaps they catcalled or slunk in a phrase that clamped lead on your feet, sunk to a pit in your stomach and sweated your palms. Did the banter get too risqué ? Your dress was hemmed to the length of the times. Your hair coiffed that way too. Did you smile? Or they were only drunk on desire, the echoes of prayers that weren't truly there and you answered in kind. 
A strange place for the carnal, up the steps to the grotto, all around roads, large houses, closed wooden doors, your screams muffled in the sun, the refectory window around the bend, behind where they kept the hearse, even the padre could not hear you in the fugue of his siesta but the gate to the cemetery further up was in full view and it anticipated your arrival in an afternoon conviction of faith. After they had their way, what did you say to warrant a passage of soul, was it the shock of the known or was it the shame of the village marvelling at your naked brown body up the many steps to a white grotto? 

Your lifeless body lay limp and faithless in fellowmen, for voices would be silenced soon, for only God was your witness and they hadn't thought to call Him to the witness stand. No one knew who raped you, for those youth provoked fear and that drives souls to silence. Perhaps it was penitence, for one met death on the way to a suicide. Another was pulled in by lotus stems in a lake to murky depths. A third lives but in the end everyone dies. 

Edit: I used the term ‘Grotto’ because no special term exists for the huge cross placed near a church, atop a whitewashed sculpted dome, a common sight in Goan villages. There’s no specific word in my native language either. A real ‘Grotto’ dedicated to Mary also exists around many churches and looks quite similar.

Lasting Ripples

I photographed this leaf while on my ‘stroll’ yesterday that couldn’t count for exercise 🙂 I stopped at every leaf and flower like a bee…

Striations

Anything can trigger a poem, this one dominoed into Hell’s Gate Park in Kenya. Down below, a random photo I took inside, a few years earlier. It was strange, there was hardly anyone there that day, except the hot sun and a tiny array of grassland herbivores.

And the knowledge of the hedgerow plant, I found embedded in leaf veins ... like in mine, etched along blue lines of a notebook. In the ripples on the remnants of water that pooled, before the mudflats claimed them are the striations of  ol'butot near  Naivasha. His stories tell of caves, a gleaming obsidian of a pre historic introspection. Do forty day fasts suffice to exorcise the springs of sulphur or the forced baptism of a flash flood washing six souls to Hades ? The sun glinted at me through a narrowness of fate, a gorge of interminable seconds and I marvelled at the strata of time in a warp, for it blurted out a moan. Love spoke in nuanced layers of molten flow that crawled to stillness. Can I not say that stone speaks? A couple of hundred years back in time, self titled discoverers  had seen land that had not been unseen by the thousands who lived for thousands until then. So yes, the strata spoke to me, like the striations in the leaves and the lines that were everywhere telling stories of interminable seconds. Time grooves like a death valley in an engraving, etched like a memory of that which has never been, ripples on sand, circles on water, 
“A sparse region of natural beauty, Hell’s Gate runs west of the ancient lava flows of Mount Longonot, a 9,111-foot-high extinct volcano dominating Lake Naivasha and the Rift Valley. Combined with Longonot and Naivasha, the region forms a unique sanctuary for bird and animal life. It has been a longtime favorite of hikers, rock climbers, and nature lovers”… Read further here.