Earth does not forbid, yet the smell of earth remains forgotten. Inner strictures have little bearing to the outer plenitude which seems more and more like a shell, to be shucked, only to be worn as adornment to protect an inner quietude, a sanctum of disconnect.
I have forgotten the smell of sand
as it sifts through
My intentions. I have received
little in the way of
Relevance when I quote the high
To time. And they shriek a silent
shriek to silence the
Evolution of their ghosts, masks
tired of introspection.
the grab of my teacup
in the same measure as
breaks new ground when
the river stalk, plain,
When does the poem cease to be mere wordplay and start living out its words in the tenements of a tiny courage, wilful but soaked in fear?
“…the myth of the equality of all individuals, when the question: “Do you know who you’re talking to?” is still current among us.” – Paolo Freire, “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”
the structure of domination housed
in a tiny neuron frame in the insides
of the insides of your innermost
recesses – is the DNA that animates
your prose, your work of ought,
naught, verbiage, verse, as it claims
to know, to want to deem to know
the heart of snow, the flake.
Erich Fromm contrasts two essential ways of existence, “To have” and “To be”. To have is to possess, the state of the oppressor, perennially seeking excess of ownership, obliterating the past onward to an infinite present. To be, on the other hand, is to engage with the world in a state of love. To be is to transform the world, the past being the oracle of possibility where the sky begins to broach the ether’s dare.
When sky begins to broach
the ether’s dare, the
panther of each thumb, each
slice of hair on a morning’s
rub of ear and mother, you
hear the sound of antecedents.
A necessarily clumsy translation of the last four lines of Faiz’s 1966 poem, sar-e-waadi-e-seena, written after the Arab Israeli war would go thus:
As the chosen few have ritualized oppression
And the preacher exhorts holy surrender to servitude
Reversing centuries of acquiescence to injustice
Mandates an urgent decree of refusal.
Here are the last four lines in transcribed Urdu:
ab rasm-e-sitam hikmat-e-Khaasaan-e-zameeN hai
taeed-e-sitam maslihat-e-mufti-e-deeN hai
ab sadyoN ke iqraar-e-ataa’at ko badalnay
laazim hai ke inkaar ka farmaaN koi utray
Here now is my own rendition of those four lines, taking the spirit of what Faiz says and transfiguring it, correcting it even, to fit the spirit of our times. The self-love imagery – and the line from Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” – comes from my visit to the gym earlier today where I saw a man continually admiring himself in the mirror. On my way back home, the line on sewage was decreed.
Narcissus is want is need is
Me and I, I, I -
The flex of an inflexible memory, the creed of
Harm - The stench of sewage will overpower
The lord of mercy as he pleads, "Man, what are you doing here?"
Language tips the iceberg that is thought. If verse is to claim a similar relation to language, all sorts of decisions have to be made. Incisive decisions to cut all that ties words – and thus thought – to oppression. Otherwise, there is little point in words.
Agree the night is
willing to knife
the wind, to
Sleep in the tent of
Knife is wet with doubt
and much thought
passes by, -
Distraction is the non-substantive anchor of fear. Fear skirts the boundaries of each distraction to preserve the potential for more fear: the sentries of anguish, centuries of flitting about.
The river’s rhythm has the mask
About it, the mask of haste and
About it, feeding a riverbed of