Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to go from loneliness to love - Poem by Linda Gregg: Bamboo and a Bird

I am reading this poem by Linda Gregg (and I am reminded I want to read her book "All of it singing"), this poem is about loneliness and how the narrator becomes comfortable and accepting of their loneliness.  It is true that in this life, we come alone and we go alone.  Loneliness is one of the colors of life to be accepted and sung.  Sometimes we prefer to be alone, perhaps when you are tired or want to do some introspection.

Still it is also true, that what we truly aspire is not loneliness, it is love.  Reflecting on this poem. I am thinking that strangeness leads to loneliness, and oneness leads to love.  But there maybe a direct path from loneliness to love.  Recognizing that we are lonely, and that we are not the only ones that are lonely, that everyone is lonely ... that is the connection between loneliness and love.  And that is the path shown in the following poem by Linda Gregg:

Bamboo and a Bird
- Linda Gregg

In the subway late at night.
Waiting for the downtown train
at Forty-Second Street.
Walking back and forth
on the platform.
Too tired to give money.
Staring at the magazine covers
in the kiosk. Someone passes me
from behind, wearing an orange vest
and dragging a black hose.
A car stops and the doors open.
All the faces are plain.
It makes me happy to be
among these people
who leave empty seats
between each other.

Habit - A Jane Hirshfield poem singing in the company of the sweet singers!

I was reminded of this poem by Jane Hirshfield as I wrote "Monochrome" just minutes ago.  While we make a lot of choices, habits often choose us.  We don't know where we picked them from.  This poem is really about the universal guru.  The teacher who is teaching us all the time.  Making habits all the time.  To form good habits, we need good company.  Sing in the company of the sweet singers, shiv.

- Jane Hirshfield

The morning potion's teaspoon
of sweetness stirred always
for seven circlings—no fewer, no more—
into the cracked blue cup.
Touching the pocket for wallet,
for keys,
before closing the door.
How did we come
to believe these small rituals' promise,
that we are today the selves we yesterday knew,
tomorrow will be?
How intimate and unthinking,
the way the toothbrush is shaken dry after use,
the part we wash first in the bath.
Which habits we learned from others
and which are ours alone we may never know.
Unbearable to acknowledge
how much they are themselves our fated life.
Open the traveling suitcase—
There the beloved red sweater,
bright tangle of necklace, earrings of amber.
Each confirming: I chose these, I.
But habit is different: it chooses.
And we, its good horse,
opening our mouths at even the sight of the bit. 

Monochrome - An original poem


When you travel shiv,
you always choose the same airline,
the same route, the same section
of the plane, the same left side.

Even if you have a choice
you will always stay on the aislelines
making it easier to get out sooner
seldom interacting with the solemn stranger
-- on your right removed from you
by an empty seat between --

who always sits
on the window seat peering

A poem that helps you make difficult moral decisions - Traveling through the dark by William Stafford

Per his biography, William Stafford wrote 22,000 of which 3,000 were published.  One striking feature of his career is its late start: Stafford was forty-eight years old when his first major collection of poetry was published, Traveling Through the Dark, which won the 1963 National Book Award for Poetry.[3] Here is the title poem of that volume, one of his best known works:

William Stafford

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

My take:
This poem is about making a difficult decision while you are traveling in life.  Sometimes you have to do something that would normally not be right, but that would prevent further damage.  I would tried to call a doctor or a policeman to at least save the fawn; but that is what makes this poem good -- it makes you think.

It is very hard to sing truth.  But there is no other way to live.  You have to think.  You have to decide.  And in the end, you have to sing.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Awesome Introduction to Guru Nanak's poetry by Mushtak Soofi

A beautiful, beautiful, beautiful piece of writing on Guru Nanak's poetry by Mushtak Soofi at the Dawn.  A great introduction to Guru Nanak's poetry which is not from a "Sikh" -- so it lacks the emotional baggage that distorts reality.  It is clear when someone writes with love it touches the heart.  Here was where the original article: http://dawn.com/2013/04/26/guru-nanak-a-great-seer-and-a-true-son-of-soil-part-ii/comment-page-1/#comments

- Shiv

No single individual has had more profound impact than Guru Nanak on society in Punjab during the second millennium. His teachings laid the foundation of a new religion known as Sikhism. It will be appropriate to limit our view focusing on some aspects of the sacred verses he composed in the Punjabi. He was a widely travelled man and a polyglot.
Guru Nanak’s vision reflects a highly-creative synthesis of the spiritually-inclined Indian humanism and socially-oriented Muslim mystic thought. He could look beyond the restricting divide that existed between the Hindus and the Muslims. His scathing critique on the one hand, dazzlingly exposed the Hindu and Muslim religious trickery, and on the other, loudly condemned the economic and political exploitation of the masses by the alien aristocracy and its cohorts. “I am neither a Hindu nor a Muslim,” he proclaimed in his unending search of a new human identity.
Guru Nanak in his verses challenges the entrenched aristocracy and its co-opted clergy as well as the new invaders, the Mughal. The vision of Guru Nanak was not serendipitous. The Bhagti movement had already transformed the spiritual landscape of the sub-continent. The movement embodied the defiant spirit of working classes, of artisans in particular that, with the rise of urban centres, started challenging the notions of caste, creed and spirituality of upper castes ensconced in the chambers of power. The Bhagti wave was spearheaded by Tamil mystic and philosopher Ramanuj in 12th century as a consequence of intellectual and spiritual interaction between South Indians and Muslim Arabs in the coastal areas of India.
The core of the movement emphasised the all-pervasive presence of divinity in the universe, rejecting the discrimination on the basis of caste, class and creed. Love and devotional bond with the divine was the essence of new way of individual and collective life. Such a view intrinsically defied the traditional metaphysics that sanctioned oppressively rigid sociopolitical hierarchy.
Guru Nanak was profoundly aware of the political implications such a new worldview entailed. Referring to the aristocracy in his composition ‘Var Malhar’, he lays bare its predatory nature. “Tigers are the rulers, dogs are the chiefs”, implying that they hunt the people for extracting their pound of flesh. As to the clergy, he chooses to play on their pitch exposing their hypocritical practices. “A bloodstain can make the robe unclean/how can one who sucks human blood, claim purity of heart?”
Guru Nanak, in his never-ending search of truth, visited the holy city of Mecca. While returning home through Iraq, Khurasan and Afghanistan, he saw Babar’s military preparations to invade India and predicted the end of Lodhi rule. Guru Nanak was at Emenabad, in the neighbuorhood of the present-day Gujranwala, when Babar invaded Punjab. The people of Emenabad put up a stiff resistance against the invaders. Babar was like a character one finds in one of Bertolt Brecht’s poems; “where my tank passes is my street/what my gun says is my opinion”.
Babar in his fury ordered a general massacre of the people. The troops plundered anything and everything of value that came their way. They committed mass rape. The Guru graphically describes how all the young women were plucked from their homes and enslaved. Their beauty and riches are now bane of their lives — The older ones were forced to grind corn and prepare meals for the troops…
It was not just the Hindu women who were violated. ‘Turkani’ (the Muslim women) met the same fate.
Guru’s ‘Babar Vani’ graphically paints the scene of carnage: “Creator of all things, you made him (Babar) the lord of Khurasan, he struck terror at the heart of India — you sent Yam (the God of death) disguised as the great Mughal … Terrible was the slaughter, loud were the cries of the victims, did this not awaken pity in you? —.”
Guru Nanak in a terrific line describes how Lahore, our great city, suffered when Babar captured and sacked it in the winter of 1524. “Lahore city was given over to death and destruction for hours”. The translation cannot convey the immense intensity of utter helplessness, the verse suggests. Hence the original line in the Punjabi is quoted: “Lahore shahir, zahir qaher, sawa pahir”. Shakespeare would have loved the brevity!
Guru Nanak exposed the barbarity and hypocrisy of this Mughal who in his chronicle expressed his dislike for all things Indian but in fact coveted everything Indian in his insatiable lust for riches and power.
Social and political consciousness is an intrinsic element of Guru Nanak’s poetic being that rejects the one dimensional view of life.
Duality between the material and the spiritual is alien to him. In his verses, mundane and sublime together create an intricate network of interconnections that sustains individual and collective existence. His endeavour aims to grasp the totality of life. His holistic vision is a product of his intense intellectual and spiritual odyssey as well as the outcome of his long travels. He visited the Central Asia and the Middle East. He toured almost the whole of India and even went to Sri Lanka. His journeys exposed him to diverse cultures and societies that helped him evolve his unique worldview underpinned by spiritual humanism.
He, after the Lord Buddha, was the second sage of immeasurable depth who challenged philosophically and morally Indian society which had internalised the notion of inequality as raison d’être of its existence. Unwavering faith in the equality of human beings irrespective of caste and creed is the lynchpin of his moral and metaphysical construct.
He was a great doubter. He always questioned the given, handed down from generation to generation in the garb of sacred tradition. He challenged what was forced down the peoples’ throat as the gospel truth by religious groups with vested interests in support of oppressive socio-political structures.
“There they go to bathe in sacred waters with a deceitful heart and lust of a thief  With a dip they change their being into a new one Though they wash their wrap of its dirt but their heart nurses venom; fresh and pure—.”
He spares neither Hindu priest nor Muslim Mullah. “No more the chants of Qadi and Brahman. The Satan himself now solemnizes the nuptials”.
What an exposé of the Muslim and the Hindu clergy that paddled holy garble in the name of piety! He has nothing less than utter contempt for the ruling elite’s socio-political system.
“Greed is the ruler, sin is the treasurer and falsehood is the ministration–.”
Unlike Mao he does not believe that people are never wrong. Despite his immense love for the people he has no illusions about the popular mindset created by historical conditions in a society based on hierarchy. So he is not reluctant to tell the truth and “To tell the truth is revolutionary”, says Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci who bravely resisted the falsehood of Mussolini’s fascism. The cultural hegemony of ruling elite creates norms that are internalised by the people and thus become ‘common sense’ values of society at large. People identify their interests with the interests of their oppressors and become unwitting tool of maintaining the status quo instead of revolting.
Guru Nanak, centuries before Gramsci’s exposition of cultural theory, realised that people had to emancipate themselves from the clutches of cultural hegemony of the ruling classes in order to be themselves. Upper classes do not maintain their dominant position just through political violence and economic coercion but also through ideology. People under the influence of dominant culture of ruling cliques accept the subterfuge which perpetuates their false consciousness.
“Subjects, blind and ignorant, submitting (to the oppressors) are as good as dead — .”
Guru Nanak loved debate and dialogue to explore the reality. He, in his famous encounters with the traditional clerics, scholars, ascetics and mystics, questioned the answers they offered to solve the mystery of existence. He, in fact, went one step further and had the intellectual courage to question the very questions the tradition asked. His use of Socratic irony facilitated him to challenge the age old metaphysical narrative which was a socio-political ploy to keep the people subjected to the old order; religious and secular.
Guru Nanak as a poet remains unequalled. He is not only profound and prolific but also most diverse. The number of genres he wrote in or created is simply stunning. The genres he employed for his expression include Shloka (couplet) Kafi (lyric), Var (epic) Baran mah (poem of twelve stanzas corresponding to the twelve months of the years), Aarti (Hymn), Sohle (Eulogy/Nuptial song), Sidhgosht (dialogue), Pahir (verses describing the four stages of life) and Sithni (a poetic composition designed to express the mundane experiences of life). And the above list is not exhaustive. The variety of meters (Chhandhas) he effortlessly plays with is immense. No poet before or after him has displayed such a virtuosity and artistic skill though he himself shows extreme humility, a mark of true saintliness, when he talks of himself:
‘Useless bard I was! The Lord assigned me a task Sing of time, day and night, he ordained’.
And his song of time is indeed immortal. His was a divinely inspired voice, expressing not only the ‘sigh of the oppressed’ but also making the oppressed aware of the conditions that compelled them to sigh. Poetry for him was revelation of the veiled, both mundane and sublime. Word uttered in a state of wakefulness was a means of emancipation and salvation:
“Praised be the paper, praised be the pen, praised be the pot, praised be the ink, praised be the writer who writes the truth”.

A lesson on Mecca pilgrimage from Malcolm X's biography

I was reading the biography of Malcolm X.  It seems like Malcolm X took a pilgrimage to Mecca and his thinking changed.  Then I started wondering about pilgrimages.  I have always thought of pilgrimages to be wasteful.  Maybe sometimes pilgrimage is important because it is sort of a vacation.  You stop thinking about what you normally think about and you start focusing on truth, on right.  I had written an article about why doing pilgrimages is useless because of superstition, (Needlessness of Pilgrimage - Sabrimala), but this is different.

In this case a pilgrimage was actually useful.  So, while Guru Nanak says its not important to pilgrimage, he still visits Haridwar, he still goes to Mecca.  We go to the golden temple.  What is that if not a pilgrimage.  So the message of the guru of truth is not necessarily about the uselessness of pilgrimage.  It the useless of pilgrimage ALONE.  If the pilgrimage helps in change your views and puts you on the right path, then it is good.  Then pilgrimage is another color of a song.  But it is important to think.  It is important to mend your mind first.  Shiv, first mend your mind, then sing your song.  Following is the biography of Malcolm X.


BIOGRAPHY of Malcolm X

Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother, Louise Norton Little, was a homemaker occupied with the family's eight children. His father, Earl Little, was an outspoken Baptist minister and avid supporter of Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Earl's civil rights activism prompted death threats from the white supremacist organization Black Legion, forcing the family to relocate twice before Malcolm's fourth birthday.

"When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Klu Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home... Brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out."

Regardless of the Little's efforts to elude the Legion, in 1929 their Lansing, Michigan home was burned to the ground. Two years later, Earl's body was found lying across the town's trolley tracks. Police ruled both incidents as accidents, but the Little's were certain that members of the Black Legion were responsible. Louise suffered emotional breakdown several years after the death of her husband and was committed to a mental institution. Her children were split up amongst various foster homes and orphanages.

Growing up

Malcolm was a smart, focused student. He graduated from junior high at the top of his class. However, when a favorite teacher told Malcolm his dream of becoming a lawyer was "no realistic goal for a nigger," Malcolm lost interest in school. He dropped out, spent some time in Boston, Massachusetts working various odd jobs, and then traveled to Harlem, New York where he committed petty crimes. By 1942 Malcolm was coordinating various narcotics, prostitution and gambling rings.

"...Early in life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise."

Eventually Malcolm and his buddy, Malcolm "Shorty" Jarvis, moved back to Boston. In 1946 they were arrested and convicted on burglary charges, and Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison. (He was paroled after serving seven years.) Recalling his days in school, he used the time to further his education. It was during this period of self-enlightenment that Malcolm's brother Reginald would visit and discuss his recent conversion to the Muslim religion. Reginald belonged to the religious organization the Nation of Islam (NOI).

Intrigued, Malcolm began to study the teachings of NOI leader Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad taught that white society actively worked to keep African-Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic and social success. Among other goals, the NOI fought for a state of their own, separate from one inhabited by white people. By the time he was paroled in 1952, Malcolm was a devoted follower with the new surname "X." (He considered "Little" a slave name and chose the "X" to signify his lost tribal name.)

Intelligent and articulate, Malcolm was appointed as a minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad also charged him with establishing new mosques in cities such as Detroit, Michigan and Harlem, New York. Malcolm utilized newspaper columns, as well as radio and television to communicate the NOI's message across the United States. His charisma, drive and conviction attracted an astounding number of new members. Malcolm was largely credited with increasing membership in the NOI from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963.

The crowds and controversy surrounding Malcolm made him a media magnet. He was featured in a week-long television special with Mike Wallace in 1959, called "The Hate That Hate Produced." The program explored the fundamentals of the NOI, and tracked Malcolm's emergence as one of its most important leaders. After the special, Malcolm was faced with the uncomfortable reality that his fame had eclipsed that of his mentor Elijah Muhammad.

Racial tensions ran increasingly high during the early 1960s. In addition to the media, Malcolm's vivid personality had captured the government's attention. As membership in the NOI continued to grow, FBI agents infiltrated the organization (one even acted as Malcolm's bodyguard) and secretly placed bugs, wiretaps, cameras and other surveillance equipment to monitor the group's activities.

A test of faith

Malcolm's faith was dealt a crushing blow at the height of the civil rights movement in 1963. He learned that his mentor and leader, Elijah Muhammad, was secretly having relations with as many as six women within the Nation of Islam organization. As if that were not enough, Malcolm found out that some of these relationships had resulted in children.

"I am not educated, nor am I an expert in any particular field... but I am sincere and my sincerity is my credential."

Since joining the NOI, Malcolm had strictly adhered to the teachings of Muhammad - which included remaining celibate until his marriage to Betty Shabazz in 1958. Malcolm refused Muhammad's request to help cover up the affairs and subsequent children. He was deeply hurt by the deception of Muhammad, whom he had considered a living prophet. Malcolm also felt guilty about the masses he had led to join the NOI, which he now felt was a fraudulent organization built on too many lies to ignore.

Shortly after his shocking discovery, Malcolm received criticism for a comment he made regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. "[Kennedy] never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon," said Malcolm. After the statement, Elijah Muhammad "silenced" Malcolm for 90 days. Malcolm, however, suspected he was silenced for another reason. In March 1964 Malcolm terminated his relationship with the NOI. Unable to look past Muhammad's deception, Malcolm decided to found his own religious organization, the Muslim Mosque, Inc.

A new awakening

That same year, Malcolm went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The trip proved life altering. For the first time, Malcolm shared his thoughts and beliefs with different cultures, and found the response to be overwhelmingly positive. When he returned, Malcolm said he had met "blonde-haired, blued-eyed men I could call my brothers." He returned to the United States with a new outlook on integration and a new hope for the future. This time when Malcolm spoke, instead of just preaching to African-Americans, he had a message for all races.

"Human rights are something you were born with. Human rights are your God-given rights. Human rights are the rights that are recognized by all nations of this earth."

After Malcolm resigned his position in the Nation of Islam and renounced Elijah Muhammad, relations between the two had become increasingly volatile. FBI informants working undercover in the NOI warned officials that Malcolm had been marked for assassination. (One undercover officer had even been ordered to help plant a bomb in Malcolm's car).

After repeated attempts on his life, Malcolm rarely traveled anywhere without bodyguards. On February 14, 1965 the home where Malcolm, Betty and their four daughters lived in East Elmhurst, New York was firebombed. Luckily, the family escaped physical injury.

The legacy of "X"

One week later, however, Malcolm's enemies were successful in their ruthless attempt. At a speaking engagement in the Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965 three gunmen rushed Malcolm onstage. They shot him 15 times at close range. The 39-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

"Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action."

Fifteen hundred people attended Malcolm's funeral in Harlem on February 27, 1965 at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ (now Child's Memorial Temple Church of God in Christ). After the ceremony, friends took the shovels away from the waiting gravediggers and buried Malcolm themselves.

Later that year, Betty gave birth to their twin daughters.

Malcolm's assassins, Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were convicted of first-degree murder in March 1966. The three men were all members of the Nation of Islam.

The legacy of Malcolm X has moved through generations as the subject of numerous documentaries, books and movies. A tremendous resurgence of interest occurred in 1992 when director Spike Lee released the acclaimed movie, Malcolm X. The film received Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Denzel Washington) and Best Costume Design.

Malcolm X is buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The story of Laila Majnu and its moral - Osho

The story of Laila Majnu in the words of Osho

What I am teaching is not a religion but a religiousness. A religion is a creed, a dogma, an ideology; it is intellectual. You can be convinced about it -- arguments can be given, proofs can be supplied, you can be silenced. Argumentation is a kind of violence, a very subtle violence. It is an attempt to manipulate you, control you, enslave you. All the religions have been doing that for thousands of years; it is a subtle strategy to create mental slavery.

What I am doing here has nothing to do with religion at all. It is a kind of religiousness -- no belief, no dogma, no church. It is a love affair; you cannot be convinced of it. Do you think Majnu can convince others about the beauty of Laila? It is impossible. Nobody can convince anybody else about his love affair. It is far deeper than the intellect, it is of the heart, and the heart knows no arguments, no proofs; it is simply so. One can dance, one can sing, but one cannot prove it. One can shout with joy, one can say "Alleluia!" but those are not arguments, they are not convincing.

The story about Majnu is very significant. It is a Sufi story. It is not an ordinary love story as people have been thinking, it is an allegory.

Majnu fell in love with a woman called Laila who was not beautiful according to others. According to the public opinion she was very ordinary, homely -- not only that but ugly too. And Majnu was mad, so mad that the very name of Majnu has become synonymous with madness. He was continuously praying to God, continuously moving around the city asking people for help, because he was a poor man and the woman he had fallen in love with belonged to an aristocratic family. Even to see Laila from far away was not easy. It was a Mohammedan country, and in a Mohammedan country it is very difficult to see even the face of a woman.

Seeing his agony, his anguish, even the king became a little concerned. He called Majnu; he felt great compassion for him. He told him, "I know that woman; that family is well known to me, and if Laila had been a beautiful woman she would have been part of my harem. I have not chosen her -- she is not worth choosing. I have got all the beautiful women from all over the country, and I feel so much for you that I will give you a chance. You can choose any woman from my harem and she will be yours!" -- and he called the most beautiful women.

Majnu looked at each woman in minute detail and said, "This is not Laila!" Again and again...he passed over a dozen women, and the remark was always the same: "This is not Laila!"

The king said, "You must have gone utterly crazy! Laila is nothing compared to these beautiful women! You can choose anyone. I KNOW your Laila, I have known the most beautiful women of the world, and my women are some of the greatest that have ever been on the earth."

Majnu said, "But you don't understand me. And I can understand that you cannot understand. It is not a question of choosing somebody else; the choice is not in my hands. It has happened already; the heart has chosen! I am nobody, I cannot interfere in it. The mind is only the circumference; the heart is the center. The center has chosen, how can the circumference interfere?

"And moreover -- forgive me for saying so, because you have been so kind -- I still insist that there has never been a woman like Laila and there will never be again. But to see the beauty of Laila you need the eyes of a Majnu, and you don't have those eyes so nothing can be done about it. You have to see her through MY eyes; only then will you be able to see the grandeur, the splendor of her being."

Remember these words: To see the beauty of Laila you need the eyes of a Majnu.
This is not a religion. The people who have gathered around me are lovers -- not intellectually convinced of what I am saying, but existentially convinced of what I am. It is a question not decided by the mind but something to be felt.

Waking to Sarah Monagle's blog and poetry

Once in a while you stumble into singing that is so beautiful that your sense of the world changes. Blue turns into a happy color and the emptiness of the sky fulfilling. I woke up and randomly picked Sarah Monagle's blog . Please click on the link and check out her beautiful poetry and photography.

Also enjoy this beautiful a poem that she wrote in April 2013:

Piece of Sky

The piece of me that is the sky
flies within the blue, hopes with
the sun, believes the clouds.
Above, the piece watches me,
sends me to the sea to breathe,
scatters green, gifts wildflowers
like smiles. In the sky, a piece of me
flies, and within me lies ~
a perfect piece of sky.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The time to sing is now! - "The delay" a poem by Tony Hoagland

Sometimes we forget to sing. Sometimes we are singing in the wrong color.  This poem is a reminder that we don't have a lot of time on our hands.  That we cannot afford the delay.  That we need to be singing now.  Tony Hoagland's "The Delay" reminds me of Guru Tegh Bahadur's poem that I nicknamed "Lost time" --

The Delay
I should walk up the stairs right now
and make slow love to the woman I live with
but I sit here drinking gingerale instead
and turning the pages of a book

about the polar expeditions -- men
who ran away from what they should have done
to carve a name out for themselves
in a hunk of planetary ice.

In the yellowed, hundred-year-old photographs.
they still look arrogant and brash
in their brand new bearskin coats and beards.
The might be Nordic gods, posing on a ridge

above a caravan of Eskimoes and sleds.
But I wonder how they looked months later,
when the emptiness they wanted
such a close inspection of

had eaten out their cheeks, eaten up
the part of them made out of words,
and left the bony, silent men themselves
walking over fields of sea-green,

thousand-year old ice and wind. There are
other photographs -- the Welshman
kneeling, as if to pray
at the carcass of a seal; Peary

weeping at the stump of his left hand.
There are other plot-lines and motifs
But the story stays the same: some of us
would rather die than change. We love 
what will destroy us

as a shortcut through this world
which would bend an break us slowly
into average flesh and blood.
I close the book and listen to the noises

of an ordinary night. A chair that scrapes.
The cricket, like a small appliance
singing. The air of every room
so ponderously still. I can tell

that it is not too late.
And then I think this ordinariness
will crush me in its fist.
And then I wish it would
                               for Charlie Smith

An acoustic recording of Guru Nanak's Aarti

Recently I recorded my dear Guru Nanak's Aarti.  It was just me and the piano in my studio one evening. The essence of this beautiful poem is "How can I light candles for the one who has ignited all the stars in the platter of the sky, and lit all the flowers in the forest, and blows their perfume with the celestial wind? Nanak says that the true Aarti (lighting of candles) is the lighting of the heart's candle."


Included are romanized lyrics and a translation I found elsewhere on the web.  At some point I want to do that translation myself because this translation is somewhat weak.  


Gagan mein thaal rav chand deepak bane
Tarka mandal janak moti
Dhoop malaanlo pawan chavaro kare
Sagal banrai phoolant jyoti

Kaisi aarti hove 
bhavkhandna teri aarti
Anahad shabd vajant bheri

Sahas tav nain nan
Nain hai tohe kau
Sahas murat nan na ek tohe
Sahas pad bimal nan ek pad gandh bin
Sahas tav gandh ev chalat mohi

Sab mein jot jot hai sohi
Tis ke chaanan sab mein chaanan hoi
Gur sakhi jot pargat hoe
Jo tis bhave so aarti hoe

Har charan kamal makrand lobit mano
Aneno mohe aaee piyasa
Kirpa jal de nanak sarang ko
Hoe jate tere naam vasa
Hoe jate tere naam vasa


The Sky is Your platter,
The sun and moon are the lamps
The Stars in the sky are the pearls,
The ‘Dhoop’ (Incense) is the fragrance,
That the wind propels,The whole forest is Your flowers.

O! What a wonderful Aarti, this is!
You, are a destroyer of Fear,
The sound of Your Name, which is so subtle, that It goes unheard,
Resounds endlessly.

You have a thousand eyes, but not one is yours
You have several forms, yet not one is yours
You have feet, noses…And you have none…
I am charmed by your

Your Light enlightens all!
It is by the Grace of the Guru that the real Light (Knowledge) Manifests.
What pleases the Almighty is this Aarti

Nanak is like the thirsty bird that asks,
For a drop of water, From You O Lord!
That drop (Grace) will make Nanak find comfort,
In the uttering of Your Name.

You're the top - A Tony Hoagland poem about loving family

This is a beautiful poem about understanding each other.  In this case poet Tony Hoagland understands his grandmother much better as he grows up and gets to know where she came from.  The poem really says it all:

Poem: "You're the Top," by Tony Hoagland

You're the Top

Of all the people that I've ever known
I think my grandmother Bernice
would be best qualified to be beside me now
driving north of Boston in a rented car
while Cole Porter warbles on the radio;
Only she would be trivial and un-
politically correct enough to totally enjoy
the rhyming of Mahatma Ghandi
with Napoleon brandy;
and she would understand, from 1948,
the miracle that once was cellophane,
which Porter rhymes with night in Spain.
She loved that image of the high gay life
where people dressed by servants
turned every night into the Ritz:
dancing through a shower of just
uncorked champagne
into the shelter of a dry martini.
When she was 70 and I was young
I hated how a life of privilege
had kept her ignorance intact
about the world beneath her pretty feet,
how she believed that people with good manners
naturally had yachts, knew how to waltz
and dribbled French into their sentences
like salad dressing. My liberal adolescent rage
was like a righteous fist back then
that wouldn't let me rest,
but I've come far enough from who I was
to see her as she saw herself:
a tipsy debutante in 1938,
kicking off a party with her shoes;
launching the lipstick-red high heel
from her elegant big toe
into the orbit of a chandelier
suspended in a lyric by Cole Porter,
bright and beautiful and useless.

Other notes:

"You're The Top" is a Cole Porter song from the 1934 musical Anything Goes. It is about a man and a woman who take turns complimenting each other. The best selling version was Paul Whiteman's Victor single, which made the top five.

It was the most popular song from Anything Goes at the start with hundreds of parodies.[1][2]

The lyrics are particularly significant because they offer a snapshot as to what was highly prized in the mid-1930s, and demonstrate Porter's rhyming ability.

Some of the lyrics were re-written by P. G. Wodehouse for the British version of Anything Goes.

Lyrics of the song "You're the top":

You're The Top Lyrics
by Cole Porter. From De-Lovely

At words poetic, I'm so pathetic
That I always have found it best,
Instead of getting 'em off my chest,
To let 'em rest unexpressed,
I hate parading my serenading
As I'll probably miss a bar,
But if this ditty is not so pretty
At least it'll tell you
How great you are.

You're the top!
You're the Coliseum.
You're the top!
You're the Louver Museum.
You're a melody from a symphony by Strauss
You're a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare's sonnet,
You're Mickey Mouse.
You're the Nile,
You're the Tower of Pisa,
You're the smile on the Mona Lisa
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom you're the top!

Your words poetic are not pathetic.
On the other hand, babe, you shine,
And I can feel after every line
A thrill divine
Down my spine.
Now gifted humans like Vincent Youmans
Might think that your song is bad,
But I got a notion
I'll second the motion
And this is what I'm going to add;

You're the top!
You're Mahatma Gandhi.
You're the top!
You're Napoleon Brandy.
You're the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain,
You're the National Gallery
You're Garbo's salary,
You're cellophane.
You're sublime,
You're turkey dinner,
You're the time, the time of a Derby winner
I'm a toy balloon that’s fated soon to pop
But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top!
You're an arrow collar
You're the top!
You're a Coolidge dollar,
You're the nimble tread
Of the feet of Fred Astaire,
You're an O'Neill drama,

You're Whistler's mama!

You're camembert.

You're a rose,
You're Inferno's Dante,

You're the nose
On the great Durante.
I'm just in a way,
As the French would say, "de trop".
But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top!
You're a dance in Bali.
You're the top!
You're a hot tamale.
You're an angel, you,
Simply too, too, too diveen,
You're a Boticcelli,
You're Keats,
You're Shelly!

You're Ovaltine!
You're a boom,
You're the dam at Boulder,
You're the moon,
Over Mae West's shoulder,
I'm the nominee of the G.O.P.


But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top!
You're a Waldorf salad.
You're the top!
You're a Berlin ballad.
You're the boats that glide
On the sleepy Zuider Zee,
You're an old Dutch master,

You're Lady Astor,
You're broccoli!
You're romance,
You're the steppes of Russia,
You're the pants, on a Roxy usher,
I'm a broken doll, a fol-de-rol, a blop,

But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A thousand mornings - Mary Oliver

A thousand mornings
Mary Oliver

I go down to the shore in the morning
and depnding on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out, and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall -
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice
excuse me, I have work to do.

You are the one 
who has to take 
the first step.  

You are the one 
who has to make 
a beginning.  

And you have 
to take it, and 
make it yourself.  

No one else helps you.  
Not even the vast sea.  
It has its own song to sing.  

Focus on your song, 
and sing 

Want want want - A poem

Want want want
Some want to clean
Some want to quiet
Some want to have
Some want to know
Shiv wants to accept

Interesting Advice on poetry writing by William Logan

The Nude that Stays Nude
William Logan

Don’t do what all the other little buggers are doing.

Don’t try to make the poem look pretty. You’re not decorating 
cupcakes, Cupcake.

Don’t think you’re the only bastard who ever suffered — just write as if  you were.

Don’t eat someone else’s lunch. For eat read steal. For lunch read wife. For wife read style.

Don’t be any form’s bitch.

Don’t think if  you cheat on form or slip the meter, no one will notice. They’ll know and think you a fool. Don’t think it impossible to cheat on form. If you do it well, they’ll think you a genius.

Don’t think if  you declare yourself avant-garde, your sins will be 

Don’t blubber if  you never receive prizes. Look at the poets who won the Pulitzer fifty years ago. See who’s there. See who’s not.

Don’t think you’re special. Stand in a library amid all those poets who thought they were every inch the genius you think you are.

Don’t double-space your lines and think the poem better. It just takes up more room.

Don’t think regret is 20/20. Regret is myopic. Hope is astigmatic. Trust is blind.

Don’t think what you have to say is important. The way you say it is what’s important. What you have to say is rubbish.

Don’t think you don’t have to read. You read in order to steal. Read more, steal better.

Don’t think your poems are good because they sound good read aloud. Get your hearing checked.

Never write poems about poetry.

Don’t play to the audience. Your audience is full of dopes, cheeseballs, and Johnny-come-latelies — besides, they’re laughing at you all the way home.

Don’t think you’ve been anointed by early success. Look at the critical darlings of a hundred years ago. Look at the darlings of twenty years ago.

Never wish you were there. Wish you were here.

Don’t think you can ignore grammar. You need grammar more than grammar needs you.

Never eat the pie if  you can own the fork.

Don’t think new is better. Don’t think new is not better. Don’t think, read. Don’t think, ink.

Poetry is the nude that stays nude.

Never write the first line if you already know the last. The best poem is the unwritten poem.

Don’t break the window before you look at the view.

Don’t think that if you have two manuscripts, you have two manuscripts. You have one manuscript.

Don’t eat jargon, because you’ll shit jargon.

Don’t think poetry is a religion. It’s more important than religion.

What do we learn from the rose - Rumi

What was said to the rose
- Rumi

What was said to the rose that made it open
was said to me here in my chest.

What was told the Cypress that made it strong and straight,
what was whispered the jasmine so it is what it is,
whatever made sugarcane sweet,
whatever was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in Turkestan that makes them so handsome,
whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush like a human face,
that is being said to me now.
I blush.

Whatever put eloquence in
language, that's happening here.
The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,
in love with the one to whom every that belongs!


A Riddle Song - Walt Whitman singing the mysteries of the universe

After the first read of this poem by Whitman, to me he is describing the mystery of the universe. To me he is describing the universal "Aum" that lives within and around us. We know it in different ways -- the unstruck note for instance. He calls it 'unheard by sharpest ear, unform'd in clearest eye.'

This reminds me of Guru Nanak's Aarti where he describes "Ek Omkaar" -

Several are your eyes, yet no one eye is yours
Several are your forms, yet no one form is yours
Several are your feet, not one foot without an essence (path)
You have several essences ... that's charming, amazing!

Here is Walt's poem:

A Riddle Song
By Walt Whitman

That which eludes this verse and any verse,
Unheard by sharpest ear, unform'd in clearest eye or cunningest mind,
Nor lore nor fame, nor happiness nor wealth,
And yet the pulse of every heart and life throughout the world incessantly,
Which you and I and all pursuing ever ever miss,
Open but still a secret, the real of the real, an illusion,
Costless, vouchsafed to each, yet never man the owner,
Which poets vainly seek to put in rhyme, historians in prose,
Which sculptor never chisel'd yet, nor painter painted,
Which vocalist never sung, nor orator nor actor ever utter'd,
Invoking here and now I challenge for my song.

Indifferently, 'mid public, private haunts, in solitude,
Behind the mountain and the wood,
Companion of the city's busiest streets, through the assemblage,
It and its radiations constantly glide.

In looks of fair unconscious babes,
Or strangely in the coffin'd dead,
Or show of breaking dawn or stars by night,
As some dissolving delicate film of dreams,
Hiding yet lingering.

Two little breaths of words comprising it,
Two words, yet all from first to last comprised in it.

How ardently for it!
How many ships have sail'd and sunk for it!

How many travelers started from their homes and neer return'd!
How much of genius boldly staked and lost for it!
What countless stores of beauty, love, ventur'd for it!
How all superbest deeds since Time began are traceable to it--and
shall be to the end!
How all heroic martyrdoms to it!
How, justified by it, the horrors, evils, battles of the earth!
How the bright fascinating lambent flames of it, in every age and
land, have drawn men's eyes,
Rich as a sunset on the Norway coast, the sky, the islands, and the cliffs,
Or midnight's silent glowing northern lights unreachable.

Haply God's riddle it, so vague and yet so certain,
The soul for it, and all the visible universe for it,
And heaven at last for it.

Where does Aum come from - some interesting observations

Aum just comes from the combination of two letters of the old Indian alphabets. "Au" comes from what we call "oora" in punjabi -- it even looks like Aum. That's the you get when your mouth is fully open without any obstruction. "M" is the last alphabet in the old Indian system. It is the sound we make when our mouth is fully obstructed.

I find interesting that in other language and religious systems the same emphasis is paid to the beginning and ending letters of the alphabet. It is also interesting to note how the beginning and end is related to "truth" in many different cultures. See the following notes from Wikipedia:

Alpha and Omega

Alpha and Omega, alpha (α or Α) and omega (ω or Ω), are the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet and are an appellation of Christ or of God in the Book of Revelation. These couple of letters are used as Christian symbols,[1] and are often combined with the Cross, Chi-rho, or other Christian symbols.

The term Alpha and Omega comes from the phrase "I am the alpha and the omega" (Koiné Greek: τὸ Α καὶ τὸ Ω), an appellation of Jesus[2] in the Book of Revelation (verses 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13). The first part of this phrase ("I am the Alpha and Omega") is first found in Chapter 1 verse 8, and is found in every manuscript of Revelation that has 1v8. Several later manuscripts repeat "I am the Alpha and Omega" in 1v11 too, but it does not receive support here from most of the oldest manuscripts, including the Alexandrine, Sinaitic, and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus. It is, therefore, omitted in some modern translations. Scholar Robert Young stated, with regard to "I am the Alpha and Omega" in 1v11, that the "oldest [manuscripts] omit" it.[3]

Meaning in Christianity

Its meaning is found in the fact that alpha (Α) and omega (Ω) are respectively the first and last letters of the Classical (Ionic) Greek alphabet. This would be similar to referring to someone in English as the "A and Z". Thus, twice when the title appears it is further clarified with the additional title "the beginning and the end" (Revelation 21:6, 22:13).
Though many commentators and dictionaries apply this title both to God and to Christ,[4] some secular sources argue otherwise. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament (1974) claims: "It cannot be absolutely certain that the writer meant to refer to the Lord Jesus specifically here ... There is no real incongruity in supposing, also, that the writer here meant to refer to God as such." [5] Most Christian denominations also teach that the title applies to both Jesus and God.
The letters Alpha and Omega in juxtaposition are often used as a Christian visual symbol (see examples). The letters were shown hanging from the arms of the cross in Early Christian art, and some crux gemmata, jeweled crosses in precious metal, have formed letters hanging in this way, called pendilia. In fact, despite always being in Greek, the letters became more common in Western than Eastern Orthodox Christian art. They are often shown to the left and right of Christ's head, sometimes within his halo, where they take the place of the christogram used in Orthodox art.
This symbol was suggested by the Apocalypse, where many believe that Christ, as well as the Father, is "the First and the Last" (ii, 8); "the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (cf., xxii, 13; i, 8). Clement of Alexandria (2nd century, philosopher and commentator on pagan and Christian information) speaks of the Word as "the Alpha and the Omega of Whom alone the end becomes beginning, and ends again at the original beginning without any break" (Stromata, IV, 25). Tertullian (lawyer, theologian) also alludes to Christ as the Alpha and Omega (De Monogamiâ, v), and from Prudentius (Cathemer., ix, 10) we learn that in the fourth century the interpretation of the apocalyptic letters was still the same: "Alpha et Omega cognominatus, ipse fons et clausula, Omnium quae sunt, fuerunt, quaeque post futura sunt." It was, however, in the monuments of early Christianity that the symbolic Alpha and Omega had their greatest vogue.
This phrase is interpreted by many Christians to mean that Jesus has existed for all eternity. The phrase "alpha and omega" may signify that God is eternal. The symbols were used in early Christianity and appear in the Roman catacombs.


In Rabbinic literature, the word emet (אמת meaning "truth"), one of the names of God in Judaism, has been interpreted as consisting of the first, middle and final letters of the Hebrew alphabet.


The Qur'an gives al'Awwal (الأول), meaning "The First" and al'Akhir (الأخر), meaning "The Last" as two of the names of God: 57:3.