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.

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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.

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.

Ricochet, brown girl in the ring …

Brownian motion … Haiku on the prompts of the universe. Everything we write resonates with others and vice versa. It’s our narrow common humanity that connects us at similar frequencies, for don’t we all harbour the same angst, similar feelings and aspirations. The system is inherently random and yet, we take pride in imagining free will, control and intentionality, a bit like an Amoeba with pseudopodia, engulfing each prompt, each lead, each stray idea to create something, what we think, magnificent. I feel like the world writes for me and I for the world, a conceit perhaps, but that’s what they mean by writing that speaks to you.

“Brown Girl in the Ring” is a traditional children’s song in the West Indies, sung by Boney M, which appeared in their album “Rivers of Babylon” on the 3rd of April, 1978. How quaint, an anniversary ! That was a fun group. Thank you Robert Brown, you inspired some Haiku today.

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Random salvos find

pinnacle in protean

fates of love regrets.

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In echo chambers,

perfunctory collisions

birth brownian verse.

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Agitated hearts:

warm, contracting liquid life

unintentional …

Loud deliberate

destinies streak the future

in strange mutations.

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If time contracts years

to seconds, would then star death

be random showers ?

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It’s incredible how brownian our lives actually are. Even intentionality is remarkably changed by interference. Change is the only constant, that appears enshrined in certainty in Physics.

Stone men for pigeons

At the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in Manhattan, in the company of stone men and pigeons ~ the idea for sculpture poetry grew out of the figures that haunt the plaza that is devoid of people, unlike in the days before the pandemic.

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The streets fidget at this intersection at gazes of stone men / sweeping birds in the gusts of a smug exhalation / The signs say they aren’t meant to feed the pigeons / falling onto the pavement like confetti /hoping for crumbs of compassion //

In the morning hid behind a mask / we exchange glances of belief / truths etched in our silhouettes as the eyes / paint vivid portraits of what must exist/ in the blue, green, grey, brown / hazel or amber inlay of the other //

The times when our smiles were obscured in sunlight and streetlight / people bled onto the path in a diaphanous glow / The invisible slipped past our eyes / but not of the stone men / They have always been solid / sentinels of our displaced pulse / as we erred in the manner of stone //

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Silk route ~ a rite of passage

The silk route (cocoon to silk) is used as a metaphor for life in this poem (scroll below) that grew out of an Insta prompt. On a separate note, I came across this essay on how AI can help place other organisms at the heart of design to make our relationships with them less extractive, yet productive, which may help steer innovation in the right direction. This simulation of a collaboration between humans and silkworm is quite remarkable for the emphasis on sustainable design, which involves silkworms completing all stages in their life cycle unlike as in the poem below or in the way silk is currently harvested.

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Dawn left a ciphered message
on a mulberry tree,
where cocooned in a world
of the aspirational,
under a garb of silk to be,
the sun stayed hid.
A rite of passage then,
yielding to frenzied waters,
as time grows older
like a summer sun,
communally boiling apart …

… in silken sarcophagi,
tumid inflections
of the multitude in vanishing
consciousness.
Steeped in role playing
to the urge of purpose
and yet, there bob
on the surface of liquid life,
the variously hurt, ebullient,
resigned, dutiful, productive,
martyred, even edible.

Subject to ritualized unravelling
at what dusk shall finally bring
Unfit for the loom?
Honour of a weave?
The glory of skirting the credenza?