I could dust off the rain’s remains but there is just too much that resounds I could feel the knotted night and Seep it of its wounds but there is just too much that reminds I could trip the river’s run as it feels its way Over rock but there is just too much rock Somehow song goes away just when you want it to sing overwhelmed by All that remains -
bleed slowly through your dreams
the visage is heaviest when the shadow
pierces your masks –
The above is a specimen of a Kai’ku, a lesser known poetic form where the rule is, “aim for a certain number of syllables; if you get it, it’s ok, and if you don’t, then no need to sweat your syllable tree!”
Kai’ku, loosely translated in the Indo-Pakian as “but why?”, is said to have been disemminated by a handful of lesser-known – this is key – mystics going about their un-enlit ways around about the same time as an enlit guy called bodhidharma was bordercrossing Indo-China.
In another account, the origins of Kai’ku have been linked roughly with the time when another enlit – laotsu – bordercrossed, and the gatekeeper requested him to write a little something. Kaikuans would have been least bothered by such inane requests, so this account is less tenable.
the elemental surrender where peace
is the point
in silence space a plenitude of
happening still –
the elemental small reaching into
a plenitude of happening still –
restful piecing together loss
Would you be able to steal rest away
from its rest
ful nest catch it glimpsing at a
lazy noon edge
of the panther’s easy eye grasping
the full measure
of the poet’s voice midstream
whereas magic has no number
truth is grounded in the beast’s calling whereas
my eye is the knot through which
your vision calls
whereas the ground believes only what can be remembered
The procurement of distance its wish
a certain point the very matter of its
being far it
retains the fulcrum over an axial yearn
it is prefigured
before time became a known quantity the
mouth of becoming
yielding again the very mass that thaws
a historical moment the gravity
of its opening
the tread of being when/where the
stamp of its
becoming the historical sense
the linkage of
thus with this the picture of how
we came & will be
coming to terms with this wind
treesome leaftip youthnib
coming to terms with this I
& grief –
the fallout of a poem
warmth its weight edging along the tip of
water the edging of
a poem its reliance on the luxury of
ice the sip of
a poem its machine of semblance &
catchalls viewing wordspace
to remain in poemspace all
to retain your stake in the human
ratio of reticence to
verse the degree with which the pen
versus the hammer of pain & its
The fattened acid of our age crust of
the bellows of
hell the plain turn of happening this
loss of love
becoming receptive to the dry twigs of
making do with/out
Every liberation is an answer
To an oft morning
Peculiar to chance devoid of
What the eye could
Mean to Thou – every bell is
An answer to what
Was possible in an aftermath
The law is naught but Ought Where is reason Able and when? which sound will Love make as it descends upon The breaking of all law, the Sense of non/ the Frolick of crush and meaning & Tendency, pain, thresholds..
The crow, which now dominates the totem of the Haida nation, was the grandson of that great divine chief who made the world.
When the crow wept asking for the moon, which hung from the wall of tree trunks, his grandfather gave it to him. The crow threw it into the sky through the chimney opening and started crying again, wishing for the stars. When he got them he spread them around the moon.
Then he wept and hopped about and screamed until his grandfather gave him the carved wooden box in which he kept daylight. The great divine chief forbade him to take the box out of the house. He had decided that the world should live in the dark.
The crow played with the box, pretending to be satisfied, but out of the corner of his eye he watched the guards who were watching him.
When they weren’t looking, he fled with the box in his claw. The point of the claw split passing through the chimney, and his feathers were burned and stayed black from then on.
The crow arrived at some islands off the northern coast. He heard human voices and asked for food. They wouldn’t give him any. He threatened to break the wooden box.
“I’ve got daylight in here,” he warned, “and if it escapes, the sky will never put out its light. No one will be able to sleep, nor to keep secrets, and everybody will know who is people, who is bird, and who is beast of the forest.”
They laughed. The crow broke open the box, and light burst forth in the universe. – From Eduardo Galeano’s, “The Memory of Fire: Genesis”.
I’ve got daylight in here, cawed
I’ve got the measure of all things
Tell me what should I do? But there
is law that
Inhibits the stroke of the sun, the
Plying, playing with truth – ooof!
i’ve got day
Light in the shades of a distant
Got to speak with a bent garble to
make any sense
These dark, dark days – I’ve got
A fear of place, of breeding to Haunt the place, of want and if Of place, the trove giving love Of place, the trove matching it And mess of place -
If it is possible to have in language – popular or literary – hooks that thrive on an awe of the hallowed; words, poems, books that convey the sense that the key to this fascinating ineffable lies in somehow giving up your voice in favor of the few who have crossed on to the other side, the side that looks down only to be relieved; does that not goad us in forgetting genocide every took place, and even if it did, what’s the big deal?
This tree will not sound out
Beginnings; it will not prepare
A crowd to tumble the heart’s
Mend to a clearing; more acid
Is the earth’s bile dream believing
Catacombs to be phoenixes, armor
To be insufficient and the roots
Of earth as linking the ends: here
Where it starts and the outmost in
An unverified lock, at Peace with the key of dawn, at sea, at Tentive To War as it unravels as it un Derstands nothing, at Sea; the argument rolls out rolls t Oo another seemingly benign tap tap tap.
Aug 25, 2016
Fresh out of a family trip to Malaysia, after taking in the expansive green, I was struck by the unapologetic African green on my hour long drive from Monrovia’s airport to the city proper. But proper it wasn’t in so many ways. The lush green of humanity that underlies all earth has its peculiar infringement here: the stark signs of an unasked for ‘development’; the fancy NGO cars contrasted with mostly older local ones; the few good expat-catering restaurants with security guards and the others unguarded, catering to locals; the expensive everything in a poor poor city.
In the sense of following two different trajectories of neoliberal development, Liberia is similar to Malaysia, only on the opposite ends of well-being; the one being a model for the other. While Malaysian greenery is being tamed to showcase exotic development, the rawness of African green has yet to be tamed; always a reminder that something more powerful lurks below the sheen that is currently being desperately aimed for.
Undone by what I admire, the in
Most anchor, the
Brass measure of all that is bold,
Is crass, is class,
The feed of foul and its brethren of
Impure, the brew
And vole that burrows each hold on
Touch and bruise.
Sep 6, 2016
Left Monrovia three days ago and came back home yesterday. Since the first impression I wrote above, I spoke with the people I worked with, getting their take on the history of Liberia and their take alone (deliberately avoiding reading up online), and this is what I got.
In the 1820s, freed American slaves (Americo-Liberians) started colonizing a number of African states including Liberia and Sierra Leone under the organizing umbrella of a religious organization, the American colonization society. By 1847, the Americo-Liberians, who had pretty much taken over the country, freed themselves of the yoke of the controlling church. This is what is referred to as Liberian Independence. More than a hundred years of being under the Americo-Liberians, the 1970s saw two favorable rulers in the 1960s and 70s in terms of having an inclusive stance towards the indigenous Liberians, especially William Tolbert who ruled from 1971 till he was executed by the ‘accidental’ indigenous military coup-leader, William Doe, in 1980. During the ten years of Doe’s rule, the Americo-Liberians tried this way and that to remove him after which the horrible civil war began in 1989, and Doe was removed by execution in 1990. Charles Taylor entered the fray during this period. In 2003, war finally ended and after a series of interim governments, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became president in 2006 and still rules.
That poet, he don’t do justice; does
Artful thought, renaissance
Crumble on a peach souffle, does heart;
don’t do justice; does wire
frame necessity capturing mouthful of
soul, prancing about the
hoary precipices of Saturn’s myth; don’t
do justice; peachy pie – chalk;
“One who is a human being belonging by nature not to himself but to another is by nature a slave; and being a man he is an article of property, and an article of property is an instrument . . . The slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.
Hence there are by nature various classes of rulers and ruled. For the freeman rules the slave, the male the female, and the man the child.
The art of war includes hunting, an art which we ought to practice against wild beasts and against men who, though intended by nature to be governed, refuse to submit; for war of such a kind is naturally just.
Bodily service for the necessities of life is forthcoming from both, from slaves and from domestic animals alike. The intention of nature therefore is to make the bodies of freemen and of slaves different.”
Bodily service – the axe to grind
An historical allegory; would you
Refer to the nightwatchman to
Guard you against the sinning saint?
Or would you rather breathe content,
Despising the reined, despite the
Rain off course, of coarse fabric,
Taint, hubris, hued with haw & pun?
Work took me to Vientiane, Laos, recently (the last week of February 2016). In mid 2013, I had written a first impression piece on Muscat. This time, I thought of writing one with a power critique informing the first time visitor.
The external oppression – context
The local news was abuzz with renewed US business-related activity (Obama is coming in September) as Laos takes over the chairmanship of ASEAN this year. Although a communist country since 1975, Laos has no qualms in opening itself up to the wondrous creed of the neoliberal. A Thai consultant remarked that about 15 years ago, all he could see on the streets of Vientiane were the tuk-tuks, but now you see cars and motorbikes all over the place. Increasing Chinese foreign investment is making Vietnam, a long time Laotian benefactor, edgy. Hence the surge in US pivot-al interest. There is even talk of the US taking some responsibility in cleaning up the unexploded bombs – two million tons dropped during the secret war of 1964-73, the most heavily bombed per capita nation ever. How power revels in the forgetfulness of the powerless!
The embedded oppressor – subtext
I work with government departments (statistics and IT) in mostly African and Middle Eastern states. Strengthening the public sector – where providing service to people is part of the mandate by definition – is the only redemption for a consultant who sensibilities have been blighted; otherwise the larger aims of the agencies we work for either dovetail with the neoliberal program, or at the very least never challenged.
A salient fact, not highlighted enough, is that despite the high capability of local staff (esp. here in Laos where at the IT department of the ministry I learned a few new things from the staff), the dependence on the external, international consultant subordinates and even mutes the local voice. When I ask about their requirements, the response is something along the lines of, “what do you think?”
The international consultant is thus a modern iteration of the white saviour, and this realization, that our work is part of the oppressive fabric, is an uncomfortable one.
Government folk tend to be much more open to outsiders than given credit for. This is true wherever I have been, and Laos is no exception. On top of that, you get the much publicized mildness – however much of a tourist cliché – of the East Asian. This bit of humanity is consolation in face of the thin redemptive possibilities and uncomfortable truths that hound the work of a development consultant.
The subaltern is credible – text
The subaltern is credible with salt in its teeth with humor in the tummy of its riverside birth its calm solubility and harmless want is weak is water is standing with the whalemouth reeking of the hull and counterpoint will it will?
The token pic
I took this one on the first day as I was walking by the Mekong river taking in the novelty. The kids clicked here betray none of the famed docility. The tropes of the past stand once again to be revised.