Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I am Restless

by: Rabindranath Tagore
I am restless. I am athirst for far-away things.
My soul goes out in a longing to touch the skirt of the dim distance.
O Great Beyond, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that I have no wings to fly, that I am bound in this spot evermore.

I am eager and wakeful, I am a stranger in a strange land.
Thy breath comes to me whispering an impossible hope.
Thy tongue is known to my heart as its very own.
O Far-to-seek, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that I know not the way, that I have not the winged horse.

I am listless, I am a wanderer in my heart.
In the sunny haze of the languid hours, what vast vision of thine takes shape in the blue of the sky!
O Farthest end, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that the gates are shut everywhere in the house where I dwell alone!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sher by Mirza Ghalib

I stumbled upon this by chance while reading Sarojini Naidu's description of the Hyderabad Bazaar ( will post that later) & liked it a lot. The sher & the interpretation is completely taken from http://www.geocities.com/ziestnmot/.

Na tha kuchch to KHuda tha, kuchch na hota to KHuda hota

Duboya mujhko hone ne, na hota maiN to kya hota ?

The shair is a buddhist approach to the essence of existence. It is almost as if he can recollect memories of his existence before he was born. When he refers to God as having always existed he is saying that he was one with the universe. He was there when there was nothing in existence. It was only when he is born and becomes conscious of his surroundings that he is confused and over-burdened with questions and problems. In a way he is talking about the tranquility before birth and the short while that he is conscious in life as being his most trying time. He is almost wanting to escape this cage of space and time and go back to being nothingness. He talks about death as the portal to eternal life. This shair is considered by many to be one of his most thought provoking verses because of the delicate language and mesmerising metaphors.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


By Samuel T Coleridge

I have experienc'dThe worst, the World can wreak on me--the worst
That can make Life indifferent, yet disturb
With whisper'd Discontents the dying prayer--
I have beheld the whole of all, wherein
My Heart had any interest in this Life,
To be disrent and torn from off my Hopes
That nothing now is left. Why then live on ?
That Hostage, which the world had in it's keeping
Given by me as a Pledge that I would live--
That Hope of Her, say rather, that pure Faith
In her fix'd Love, which held me to keep truce
With the Tyranny of Life--is gone ah ! whither ?
What boots it to reply ? 'tis gone ! and now
Well may I break this Pact, this League of Blood
That ties me to myself--and break I shall !

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Psalm of Life

Be in the present moment ! How many times have we heard that simple ,yet very profound statement. I can't put a finger at what point in my life, my mind started drifting on its own. It either is busy recollecting the past or dreaming of what could be in the future, while I am in fact acting in the present. Just being aware that this is happening took a long.. time. This poem in another reminder to act & to live every moment as if it were our last ! A fitting resolution for every new year, infact every day, every moment.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real ! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o'erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Village Blacksmith

By H.W. Longfellow

When I was in the 6th standard at school in India, a subject called "Higher English" was introduced. The text for this was a small handbook thinner than any textbook that we had studied till then and each page had either a very small story or a poem in it. When we started our school year we found that our head mistress("HM" as we called her) was going to teach this subject. This was enough to cause great concern & fear among all of us. Nobody had ever talked to HM, we only knew to run when we heard her coming. The truants in our class knew her a little better as they had tasted the sharpness of her cane & her tongue. She was greatly feared by other teachers as well.
With this in mind we awaited our first class on higher english with a lot of dread. Little did we know that HM was a great lover of poetry & literature. She started with Wordsworth's Daffodils & we were transported from that crowded, dusty little classroom to the beautiful English countryside. None of us had seen a daffodil before, but she conjured up a picture so wonderful with her explanation that it came to symbolise a thing of great beauty. Gone was her knit brow and sharp voice that we were accustomed to, instead we found a warm, humorous and witty teacher. It was my first taste of English literature & I fell in love with it, reading and re-reading that little book till it was in tatters by the first year. We also got to know our teacher a lot better, she taught us to enjoy learning and encouraged us to discuss our opinions ( a very rare thing then). Her favorite poets were Longfellow & Wordsworth & this is a tribute to my wonderful English teacher. Much later in life I learnt that HM (Mrs Vijaya Nair) had gone through hard times and the reason that she had been so strict with us was because she wanted to make sure that none of us would go the way that her only son had. Having lost her husband at a young age, she had not be able to control her wayward son who had fallen into bad company.


Under the spreading chestnut tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.

His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate'er he can.
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.

Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellow blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.

And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And hear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from the threshing-floor.

He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.

Toiling, - rejoicing - sorrowing,
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose.

Thanks! thanks, to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou has taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.

H.W.Longfellow was an American poet born in Portland Maine & educated in England. He taught at Harvard College & endured a lot of tragedies in his personal life. Longfellow's blacksmith shop was more than poetic license. It sat on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the proprietor was one Dexter Pratt. And yes, the "spreading chestnut tree" stood out front of the shop. Brattle Street was widened in 1876, and the tree fell victim to progress. However, the children of Cambridge, as well as the town, took the wood and had a chair produced from it in honor of the poet. It was presented to him on his 72nd birthday.
Longfellow was so impressed with the gift that he composed a poem for the children of Cambridge as a way of saying thanks.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


-By P.G.Wodehouse

The sun in the heavens was beaming,
The breeze bore an odour of hay,
My flannels were spotless and gleaming,
My heart was unclouded and gay;
The ladies, all gaily apparelled,
Sat round looking on at the match,
In the tree-tops the dicky-birds carolled,
All was peace -- till I bungled that catch.

My attention the magic of summer
Had lured from the game -- which was wrong.
The bee (that inveterate hummer)
Was droning its favourite song.
I was tenderly dreaming of Clara
(On her not a girl is a patch),
When, ah, horror! there soared through the air a
Decidedly possible catch.

I heard in a stupor the bowler
Emit a self-satisfied 'Ah!'
The small boys who sat on the roller
Set up an expectant 'Hurrah!'
The batsman with grief from the wicket
Himself had begun to detach --
And I uttered a groan and turned sick. It
Was over. I'd buttered the catch.

O, ne'er, if I live to a million,
Shall I feel such a terrible pang.
From the seats on the far-off pavilion
A loud yell of ecstasy rang.
By the handful my hair (which is auburn)
I tore with a wrench from my thatch,
And my heart was seared deep with a raw burn
At the thought that I'd foozled that catch.

Ah, the bowler's low, querulous mutter
Points loud, unforgettable scoff!
Oh, give me my driver and putter!
Henceforward my game shall be golf.
If I'm asked to play cricket hereafter,
I am wholly determined to scratch.
Life's void of all pleasure and laughter;
I bungled the easiest catch.


Agha Shahid Ali's abiding themes were Kashmir, exile, loneliness, love-and longing, always longing. The mythos of Kashmir, and the opulence ofUrdu poetry shaped much of his writing.This poem, Farewell, is a shattering evocation of conflict. Of belief pitted against belief, of memories and histories intertwined and warring. A pity beyond all telling in the lines, 'They make a desolation and call it peace'. There is no attempt to resolve the implacable anger that fuels such conflict- beyond a sense of bitter, bitter mourning. 'We cannot ask them yet, are you done with the world?'And yet, what seeps through in this poem and all the others in 'The Country Without a Post Office' is the unbearable wistfulness, the unsaid plea of its final lines, 'If only you could have been mine- what couldnot have been possible in the world?'

At a certain point I lost track of you.
They make a desolation and call it peace.
when you left even the stones were buried:
the defenceless would have no weapons.
When the ibex rubs itself against the rocks,
who collects its fallen fleece from the slopes?
O Weaver whose seams perfectly vanished,
who weighs the hairs on the jeweller's balance?
They make a desolation and call it peace.
Who is the guardian tonight of the Gates of Paradise?
My memory is again in the way of your history.
Army convoys all night like desert caravans:
In the smoking oil of dimmed headlights, time dissolved- all
winter- its crushed fennel.
We can't ask them: Are you done with the world?
In the lake the arms of temples and mosques are locked in each other's
Have you soaked saffron to pour on them when they are found like this
centuries later in this country
I have stitched to your shadow?
In this country we step out with doors in our arms
Children run out with windows in their arms.
You drag it behind you in lit corridors.
if the switch is pulled you will be torn from everything.
At a certain point I lost track of you.
You needed me. You needed to perfect me.
In your absence you polished me into the Enemy.
Your history gets in the way of my memory.
I am everything you lost. You can't forgive me.
I am everything you lost. Your perfect Enemy.
Your memory gets in the way of my memory:
I am being rowed through Paradise in a river of Hell:
Exquisite ghost, it is night.
The paddle is a heart; it breaks the porcelain waves.
It is still night. The paddle is a lotus.
I am rowed- as it withers-toward the breeze which is soft as
if it had pity on me.
If only somehow you could have been mine, what wouldn't
have happened in the world?
I'm everything you lost. You won't forgive me.
My memory keeps getting in the way of your history.
There is nothing to forgive.You can't forgive me.
I hid my pain even from myself; I revealed my pain only to myself.
There is everything to forgive. You can't forgive me.
If only somehow you could have been mine,
what would not have been possible in the world?
-- Agha Shahid Ali

The Crocus

An ode to the first blush of spring.
Pictures of crocus at http://jugalbandi.info/2008/03/crocuses/

by: Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) ( author of Uncle Tom's Cabin)
BENEATH the sunny autumn sky,
With gold leaves dropping round,
We sought, my little friend and I,
The consecrated ground,
Where, calm beneath the holy cross,
O'ershadowed by sweet skies,
Sleeps tranquilly that youthful form,
Those blue unclouded eyes.

Around the soft, green swelling mound
We scooped the earth away,
And buried deep the crocus-bulbs
Against a coming day.
"These roots are dry, and brown, and sere;
Why plant them here?" he said,
"To leave them, all the winter long,
So desolate and dead."

"Dear child, within each sere dead form
There sleeps a living flower,
And angel-like it shall arise
In spring's returning hour."
Ah, deeper down -- cold, dark, and chill --
We buried our heart's flower,
But angel-like shall he arise
In spring's immortal hour.

In blue and yellow from its grave
Springs up the crocus fair,
And God shall raise those bright blue eyes,
Those sunny waves of hair.
Not for a fading summer's morn,
Not for a fleeting hour,
But for an endless age of bliss,
Shall rise our heart's dear flower.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

O Captain! My Captain!


O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.


My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won; 20
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

- Walt Whitman

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Patriot

By Nissim Ezekiel
Dead poet's society - session V
Wednesday Feb 27 2008

Recited By: Ganesh

I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
Ancient Indian Wisdom is 100% correct,
I should say even 200% correct,
But modern generation is neglecting-
Too much going for fashion and foreign thing.
Other day I'm reading newspaper
(Every day I'm reading Times of India
To improve my English Language)
How one goonda fellow
Threw stone at Indirabehn.
Must be student unrest fellow, I am thinking.
Friends, Romans, Countrymen, I am saying (to myself)
Lend me the ears.
Everything is coming -
Regeneration, Remuneration, Contraception.
Be patiently, brothers and sisters.
You want one glass lassi?
Very good for digestion.
With little salt, lovely drink,
Better than wine;
Not that I am ever tasting the wine.
I'm the total teetotaller, completely total,
But I say
Wine is for the drunkards only.
What you think of prospects of world peace?
Pakistan behaving like this,
China behaving like that,
It is making me really sad, I am telling you.
Really, most harassing me.
All men are brothers, no?
In India also
Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Hindiwallahs
All brothers -
Though some are having funny habits.
Still, you tolerate me,
I tolerate you,
One day Ram Rajya is surely coming.
You are going?
But you will visit again
Any time, any day,
I am not believing in ceremony
Always I am enjoying your company.
This poem is typical Ezekiel- a wry view of patriotism and contemporary (at the time it was written) India with a dash of sarcastic political commentary, all in exaggerated 'Indian English'.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

One Art

By Elizabeth Bishop
Dead poet's society - session IV
Wednesday Feb 20 2008

Recited By: Gaurav

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

-- Elizabeth Bishop

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Brook

By Lord Alfred Tennyson

Recited by Itisha

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally,
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorps, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip's farm I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.

I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.

With many a curve my banks I fret
by many a field and fallow,
And many a fairy foreland set
With willow-weed and mallow.

I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may comeand men may go,
But I go on forever.

I wind about, and in and out,
with here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

And here and there a foamy flake
Upon me, as I travel
With many a silver water-break
Above the golden gravel,

And draw them all along, and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.

I murmur under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

In the Throes of Separation (Inspired by Rumi's songs of love)

Oh this yearning…
What shall I do with it?
Shall I drown it out with the monotonous drone of my routine?
How long can I gently cajole it with the splendors of romantic love?
I have enticed it with the glitter of wealth, and the power of fame,
In the hope that it will find solace,
And forget the emptiness ringing in me.
It lays dormant awhile,
Playing with these toys I bring,
Considering its consolation prizes.

At every sound of Truth,
It wakes up and cries again,
Like a child without its mother in the middle of the night,
Remembering her soft warm embrace.
Like a root pulled out of the soil,
Separated from whence it came,
It remains incomplete and lost.
Alas, it will not be appeased.
Seeing through the illusory promise of happiness,
It goes on singing, crying its haunting melody,
And stirs my soul with longing again.

I carry on, listless, restless,
Continually filling my empty cup
with swiftly vanishing pleasures,
Unsure of what or when or how
this deep painful yearning will be satisfied.
Oh what shall I do with this yearning?

- Sharanya Rao
March 2003

Macavity: the mystery cat (T.S.Eliot)

Dead poet's society - session IV
Wednesday Feb 20 2008

Recited By: Vinod

T.S. Eliot wrote a lot of serious poetry. And then he wrote The Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Makes you wonder why he ever bothered with the serious stuff. Cats got made into a Broadway show and I believe still holds the record for the longest running Broadway show ever. A host of memorable cats in this book of poems, Mungojerrie, Griddlebone, Gus, Macavity, Rum Tum Tugger (the terrible bore), Rumpleteazer -- to name a few.

This poem is about Macavity, the mystery cat. Macavity is the Napolean of Crime and like Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame, can never be connected with any of its crimes. The poem first, the Holmes' references later:

Macavity: the Mystery Cat

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw -
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime - Macavity's not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime - Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air -
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!

Mcavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square -
But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!

He's outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard's.
And when the larder's looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke's been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair -
Ay, there's the wonder of the thing! Macavity's not there!

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty's gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair -
But it's useless to investigate - Mcavity's not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
`It must have been Macavity!' - but he's a mile away.
You'll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long-division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spaer:
At whatever time the deed took place - MACAVITY WASN'T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

The Sherlock Holmes references in the poem:
(The first three are from The Final Problem)
"You have probably never heard of Professor Moriarty?" said he.
"Ay, there's the genius and the wonder of the thing!" he cried.

"... he is extremely tall and thin, his forehead domes out in a white curve, and
his two eyes are deeply sunken in his head ... "

"...the organizer of every deviltry, the controlling brain of the underworld,
the Napoleon of Crime!"
'And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty's gone astray, '
-- a reference to The Naval Treaty.

'Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way, '
-- a reference to The Bruce-Partington Plans.

'Engaged in doing complicated long-division sums.'
-- a reference to Moriarty's well-known mathematical talent.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Golden Boat

From Sonar Tari (The Golden Boat) by Rabindranath Tagore, 1894

Dead poet's society - session IV
Wednesday Feb 20 2008

Recited By: Ganesh

Clouds rumbling in the sky; teeming rain.
I sit on the river-bank, sad and alone.
The sheaves lie gathered, harvest has ended,
The river is swollen and fierce in its flow.
As we cut the paddy it started to rain.

One small paddy-field, no one but me -
Flood-waters twisting and swirling everywhere.
Trees on the far bank smear shadows like ink
On a village painted on deep morning grey.
On this side a paddy-field, no one but me.

Who is this, steering close to the shore,
Singing? I feel that she is someone I know.
The sails are filled wide, she grazes ahead,
Waves break helplessly against the boat each side.
I watch and feel I have seen her face before.

Oh to what foreign land do you sail?
Come to the bank and moor your boat for a while.
Go where you want to, give where you care to,
But come to the bank a moment, show your smile -
Take away my golden paddy when you sail.

Take it, take as much as you can load.
Is there more? No, none, I have put it aboard.
My intense labor here by the river -
I have parted with it all, layer by layer:
Now take me as well, be kind, take me aboard.

No room, no room, the boat is too small.
Loaded with my gold paddy, the boat is full.
Across the rain-sky clouds heave to and fro,
On the bare river-bank, I remain alone -
What I had has gone: the golden boat took it all.

Dead Poets Society - Session IV

Wednesday Feb 20 2008
Ashwini & Arun's Place

Vinod - Macavity: the Mystery Cat by T.S.Eliot
Ganesh - The Golden Boat by Rabindranath Tagore
Itisha - The Brook by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Ashwini - The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth
Gaurav - One Art by Elizabeth Bishop
Sharanya - In the Throes of Separation by Sharanya Rao

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kubla Khan or, A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment.

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Dead poet's society - session III
Wednesday Feb 13 2008

Recited By: Gaurav

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Forgotten beauty of poetry

As a young student in school, the class that I looked forward to the most was English. There were good teachers and not so good teachers but it didn’t matter to me as I was transported into another world reading the poems or enacting the plays in my head. In my mind I created my own scene of Portia and Shylock as I read Merchant of Venice. I had not seen daffodils but I fell in love with it as I read Wordsworth’s poem.
Over the years, I forgot about this passion as I studied Engineering and went on with my career . Occasionally I felt this same emotion when I walked out on an early spring morning trampling the dew covered grass to see a fruit or flower that had just bloomed in my garden.
When we started the dead poets’ society, I was a little apprehensive as I have enjoyed reading poetry in solitude but I discovered that it was a lot more fun to share the joy with friends.
I had forgotten this part of me and I am so happy to have discovered it again. It is in those moments that we feel close to nature, do we actually live. Poetry is one that goes straight to your heart makes you feel one with nature. It is a beautiful thing never to be forgotten again !

The Leech Gatherer (Resolution and Independence)

William Wordsworth
Dead Poets Society - session III
Recited by Ashwini

The poem describes the mood swing that the poet undergoes while wandering in the woods. He happens to meet an old man who was stirring the pond & finds out that the old man makes his living by selling leeches. Leeches were used in medicine in those days to suck out bad blood from wounds. The poet feels that it is the hand of Providence that has led him to this man to show him how the old man was persevering in his job without any complaints, remorse or pain.

There was a roaring in the wind all night;
The rain came heavily and fell in floods;
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;
The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters;
And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.

All things that love the sun are out of doors;
The sky rejoices in the morning's birth;
The grass is bright with rain-drops; -on the moors
The Hare is running races in her mirth;
And with her feet she from the plashy earth
Raises a mist; that, glittering in the sun,
Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.

I was a traveller then upon the moor;
I saw the Hare that raced about with joy;
I heard the woods and distant waters roar;
Or heard them not, as happy as a boy:
The pleasant season did my heart employ:
My old remembrances went from me wholly;
And all the ways of men, so vain and melancholy!

But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
Of joy in minds that can no further go,
As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low,
To me that morning did it happen so;
And fears and fancies thick upon me came;
Dim sadness -and blind thoughts, I knew not, nor could name.

I heard the Skylark warbling in the sky;
And I bethought me of the playful Hare:
Even such a happy Child of earth am I;
Even as these blissful creatures do I fare;
Far from the world I walk, and from all care;
But there may come another day to me -
Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty.

My whole life I have lived in pleasant thought,
As if life's business were a summer mood:
As if all needful things would come unsought
To genial faith, still rich in genial good:
But how can He expect that others should
Build for him, sow for him, and at his call
Love him, who for himself will take no heed at all?

I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous Boy,
The sleepless Soul that perished in his pride;
Of Him who walked in glory and in joy
Following his plough, along the mountain-side:
By our own spirits are we deified;
We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness.

Now, whether it were by peculiar grace,
A leading from above, a something given,
Yet it befell that, in this lonely place,
When I with these untoward thoughts had striven,
Beside a pool bare to the eye of heaven
I saw a Man before me unawares:
The oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs.

As a huge Stone is sometimes seen to lie
Couched on the bald top of an eminence;
Wonder to all who do the same espy,
By what means it could thither come, and whence;
So that it seems a thing endued with sense:
Like a Sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelf
Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself;

Such seemed this Man, not all alive nor dead,
Nor all asleep -in his extreme old age:
His body was bent double, feet and head
Coming together in life's pilgrimage;
As if some dire constraint of pain, or rage
Of sickness felt by him in times long past,
A more than human weight upon his frame had cast.

Himself he propped, his body, limbs, and face,
Upon a long grey Staff of shaven wood:
And, still as I drew near with gentle pace,
Upon the margin of that moorish flood
Motionless as a Cloud the Old-man stood;
That heareth not the loud winds when they call;
And moveth all together, if it move at all.

At length, himself unsettling, he the Pond
Stirred with his Staff, and fixedly did look
Upon the muddy water, which he conned,
As if he had been reading in a book:
And now a stranger's privilege I took;
And, drawing to his side, to him did say,
"This morning gives us promise of a glorious day."

A gentle answer did the Old-man make,
In courteous speech which forth he slowly drew:
And him with further words I thus bespake,
"What occupation do you there pursue?
This is a lonesome place for one like you.
"He answered, while a flash of mild surprise
Broke from the sable orbs of his yet vivid eyes.

His words came feebly, from a feeble chest,
But each in solemn order followed each,
With something of a lofty utterance drest -
Choice word and measured phrase, above the reach
Of ordinary men; a stately speech;
Such as grave livers do in Scotland use,
Religious men, who give to God and Man their dues.

He told, that to these waters he had come
To gather Leeches, being old and poor:
Employment hazardous and wearisome!
And he had many hardships to endure;
From pond to pond he roamed, form moor to moor;
Housing, with God's good help, by choice or chance;
And in this way he gained and honest maintenance.

The Old-man still stood talking by my side;
But now his voice to me was like a stream
Scarce heard; nor word from word could I divide;
And the whole Body of the Man did seem
Like one whom I had met with in a dream;
Or like a man from some far region sent,
To give me human strength, by apt admonishment.

My former thoughts returned: the fear that kills;
And hope that is unwilling to be fed;
Cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills;
And mighty Poets in their misery dead.-
Perplexed, and longing to be comforted,
My question eagerly did I renew,
"How is it that you live, and what is it you do?"

He with a smile did then his words repeat;
And said that, gathering Leeches, far and wide
He travelled; stirring thus about his feet
The waters of the Pools where they abide.
"Once I could meet with them on every side;
But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may."

While he was talking thus, the lonely place,
The Old-man's shape, and speech, all troubled me:
In my mind's eye I seemed to see him pace
About the weary moors continually,
Wandering about alone and silently.
While I these thoughts within myself pursued,
He, having made a pause, the same discourse renewed.

And soon with this he other matter blended,
Cheerfully uttered, with demeanour kind,
But stately in the main; and when he ended,
I could have laughed myself to scorn to find
In that decrepit Man so firm a mind.
"God," said I, "be my help and stay secure;
I'll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor!"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lament for Boromir (JRR Tolkien)

Dead poet's society - session III
Wednesday Feb 13 2008

Recited By: Vinod

The Lament for Boromir is very poignant. The most interesting part of this poem is that Legolas composes the second verse, and Aragorn composes the first and the third stanzas; while, Tolkien believes that in his plot, Legolas is a better poet than Aragorn, and brings that out in the imagery of the verses. The second stanza is far more poetically dense in terms of expression, poetic depth, even construction as opposed to the stanzas 1 and 3. Talk about getting into the character and writing in the moment!!

Through Rohan over fen and field where the long grass grows
The West Wind comes walking, and about the walls it goes.
'What news from the West, O wandering wind, do you bring to me tonight?
Have you seen Boromir the Tall by moon or by starlight?'
'I saw him ride over seven streams, over waters wide and grey;
I saw him walk in empty lands, until he passed away
Into the shadows of the North. I saw him then no more.
The North Wind may have heard the horn of the son of Denethor.'
'O Boromir! From the high walls westward I looked afar,
But you came not from the empty lands where no men are.'

From the mouths ofthe Sea the South Wind flies,from the sandhills andthe stones;
The wailing of the gulls it bears, and at the gate it moans.
'What news from the South, O sighing wind, do you bring to me at eve?
Where now is Boromir the fair? He tarries and I grieve.'
'Ask not of me where he doth dwell --- so many bones there lie
On the white shores and the dark shores under the stormy sky;
So many have passed down Anduin to find the flowing Sea.
Ask of the North Wind news of them the North Wind sends to me!'
'O Boromir! Beyond the gate the seaward road runs south,
But you came not with the wailing gulls from the grey sea's mouth.'

From the Gate of Kings the North Wind rides, and past the roaring falls;
And clear and cold about the tower its loud horn calls.
'What news from the North, O mighty wind, do you bring to me today?
What news of Boromir the Bold? For he is long away.'
'Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he fought.
His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.
His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest;
And Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, bore him upon its breast.'
'O Boromir! The Tower of Gaurd shall ever northward gaze
To Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, until the end of days.'

-- J.R.R. Tolkien

The World was Young, the Mountains Green -- or Why the Dwarves Chose to Live in Darksome Holes (JRR Tolkien)

Dead poet's society - session III
Wednesday Feb 13 2008

Recited By: Vinod

These days, the writing of heroic fantasy has become a mass-production industry; scarcely a week goes by without an author inventing a brave new world and subsequently being acclaimed as "the true inheritor of Tolkien's mantle", or some such. Unfortunately, fantastic settings alone do not an epic make, and 90% of new fantasy writing is crap - the same generic swords and sorcery, thud and blunder, repeated ad nauseam.

Tolkien is different. His imaginary homelands are not just names on the (by now obligatory) frontispiece map, they're countries, with rich histories and vibrant cultures; his invented tongues are not meaningless agglomerations of random syllables, they're carefully designed showcases of the linguist's art, with comprehensive lexica and detailed etymologies; his many invented beings are not cardboard cutout monsters, they're creatures who live and breathe and walk the pages of his books as convincingly as do his human heroes and heroines. The suspension of disbelief in Tolkien is total.

And then there's his verse. Tolkien's verse has genuine poetic merit, and it's not in the least bit self-conscious; when his characters break into song (which, mind you, occurs fairly often in his books), it always seems the perfectly natural thing to do. Today's poem is an excellent example: in "The Fellowship of the Ring" (the first volume of "The Lord of the Rings"), the eponymous fellowship are forced to detour through the dark and deserted Dwarven mines of Moria. One of the party asks why the Dwarves chose to live in such darksome holes; in reply, Gimli, the lone representative of that race in the Fellowship, half sings, half chants a poem describing the glory of the Dwarven kingdom in the Elder Days... at the end of the recital, the reader is left with the realization that the story of Moria couldn't have been told any other way: mere prose is simply too dry to communicate the wonder and the beauty that was Khazad-dum.

As always with Tolkien, the form reinforces the content to marvellous effect: the language is intentionally archaic, the alliteration pronounced (but never obtrusive), the sense of nostalgia and loss almost palpable. Notice how Gimli never explicitly states just what it was that caused Moria's abandonment: his reticence seems to imply that the events being recounted occurred at a great remove from the here and now; this in turn enhances the mystery, the vague undercurrent of dread that runs through the poem (and especially through the last stanza). This lack of particularity might be annoying in what is ostensibly a historical tale, but this is definitely one of those cases where less is more: a straightforward cataloguing of facts could never hope to capture the audience's attention the way Gimli's hypnotically beautiful couplets do.

And beautiful they certainly are: Tolkien's feel for the English language, for the music of words and the perfection of images, is flawless. It's a pity that his poetic output was (by and large) limited to within the confines of his invented universe (wide though they were); he could easily have been this century's successor to Kipling and Tennyson, so perfect is his verse, so effortless his prosody...

The World was Young, the Mountains Green

The world was young, the mountains green,
No stain yet on the Moon was seen,
No words were laid on stream or stone,
When Durin woke and walked alone.
He named the nameless hills and dells;
He drank from yet untasted wells;
He stooped and looked in Mirrormere,
And saw a crown of stars appear,
As gems upon a silver thread,
Above the shadow of his head.

The world was fair, the mountains tall,
In Elder Days before the fall
Of mighty kings in Nargothrond
And Gondolin, who now beyond
The Western Seas have passed away:
The world was fair in Durin's Day.

A king he was on carven throne
In many-pillared halls of stone
With golden roof and silver floor,
And runes of power upon the door.
The light of sun and star and moon
In shining lamps of crystal hewn
Undimmed by cloud or shade of night
There shone for ever fair and bright.

There hammer on the anvil smote,
There chisel clove, and graver wrote;
There forged was blade, and bound was hilt;
The delver mined, the mason built.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
And metal wrought like fishes' mail,
Buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
And shining spears were laid in hoard.

Unwearied then were Durin's folk;
Beneath the mountains music woke:
The harpers harped, the minstrels sang,
And at the gates the trumpets rang.

The world is grey, the mountains old,
The forge's fire is ashen-cold;
No harp is wrung, no hammer falls:
The darkness dwells in Durin's halls;
The shadow lies upon his tomb
In Moria, in Khazad-dum.
But still the sunken stars appear
In dark and windless Mirrormere;
There lies his crown in water deep,
Till Durin wakes again from sleep.

-- J. R. R. Tolkien

P.S.: Some stuff in the initial funda isnt mine, thanks to Amit, a friend of mine.

The Diverting History of John Gilpin

By William Cowper

Wednesday, Feb 13th, 2008.
Dead Poets' Society -- Session 3
Recited by Itisha.

John Gilpin was a citizen
Of credit and renown,
A train-band captain eke was he,
Of famous London town.

John Gilpin's spouse said to her dear,
"Though wedded we have been
These twice ten tedious years, yet we
No holiday have seen.

"To-morrow is our wedding-day,
And we will then repair
Unto the 'Bell' at Edmonton,
All in a chaise and pair.

"My sister, and my sister's child,
Myself, and children three,
Will fill the chaise; so you must ride
On horseback after we."

He soon replied, "I do admire
Of womankind but one,
And you are she, my dearest dear,
Therefore it shall be done.

"I am a linendraper bold,
As all the world doth know,
And my good friend the calender
Will lend his horse to go."

Quoth Mrs. Gilpin, "That's well said;
And for that wine is dear,
We will be furnished with our own,
Which is both bright and clear."

John Gilpin kissed his loving wife.
O'erjoyed was he to find.
That though on pleasure she was bent,
She had a frugal mind.

The morning came, the chaise was brought,
But yet was not allowed
To drive up to the door, lest all
Should say that she was proud.

So three doors off the chaise was stayed,
Where they did all get in;
Six precious souls, and all agog
To dash through thick and thin.

Smack went the whip, round went the wheels,
Were never folks so glad!
The stones did rattle underneath,
As if Cheapside were mad.

John Gilpin at his horse's side
Seized fast the flowing mane,
And up he got, in haste to ride,
But soon came down again;

For saddletree scarce reached had he,
His journey to begin,
When, turning round his head, he saw
Three customers come in.

So down he came; for loss of time,
Although it grieved him sore,
Yet loss of pence, full well he knew,
Would trouble him much more.

'Twas long before the customers
Were suited to their mind,
When Betty screaming came downstairs,
"The wine is left behind!"

"Good lack!" quoth he, "yet bring it me,
My leathern belt likewise,
In which I bear my trusty sword
When I do exercise."

Now Mistress Gilpin (careful soul!)
Had two stone bottles found,
To hold the liquor that she loved,
And keep it safe and sound.

Each bottle had a curling ear,
Through which the belt he drew,
And hung a bottle on each side,
To make his balance true.

Then over all, that he might be
Equipped from top to toe,
His long red cloak, well brushed and neat,
He manfully did throw.

Now see him mounted once again
Upon his nimble steed,
Full slowly pacing o'er the stones,
With caution and good heed.

But finding soon a smoother road
Beneath his well-shod feet,
The snorting beast began to trot,
Which galled him in his seat.

"So, fair and softly!" John he cried,
But John he cried in vain;
That trot became a gallop soon,
In spite of curb and rein.

So stooping down, as needs he must
Who cannot sit upright,
He grasped the mane with both his hands,
And eke with all his might.

His horse, who never in that sort
Had handled been before,
What thing upon his back had got,
Did wonder more and more.

Away went Gilpin, neck or nought,
Away went hat and wig;
He little dreamt, when he set out,
Of running such a rig.

The wind did blow, the cloak did fly
Like streamer long and gay,
Till, loop and button failing both.
At last it flew away.

Then might all people well discern
The bottles he had slung;
A bottle swinging at each side,
As hath been said or sung.

The dogs did bark, the children screamed,
Up flew the windows all;
And every soul cried out, "Well done!"
As loud as he could bawl.

Away went Gilpin--who but he?
His fame soon spread around;
"He carries weight! he rides a race!
'Tis for a thousand pound!"

And still as fast as he drew near,
'Twas wonderful to view
How in a trice the turnpike-men
Their gates wide open threw.

And now, as he went bowing down
His reeking head full low,
The bottles twain behind his back
Were shattered at a blow.

Down ran the wine into the road,
Most piteous to be seen,
Which made the horse's flanks to smoke,
As they had basted been.

But still he seemed to carry weight.
With leathern girdle braced;
For all might see the bottle-necks
Still dangling at his waist.

Thus all through merry Islington
These gambols he did play,
Until he came unto the Wash
Of Edmonton so gay;

And there he threw the wash about
On both sides of the way,
Just like unto a trundling mop,
Or a wild goose at play.

At Edmonton his loving wife
From the balcony spied
Her tender husband, wondering much
To see how he did ride.

"Stop, stop, John Gilpin!--Here's the house!"
They all at once did cry;
"The dinner waits, and we are tired;"
Said Gilpin--"So am I!"

But yet his horse was not a whit
Inclined to tarry there;
For why?--his owner had a house
Full ten miles off, at Ware.

So like an arrow swift he flew,
Shot by an archer strong;
So did he fly--which brings me to
The middle of my song.

Away went Gilpin, out of breath,
And sore against his will,
Till at his friend the calender's
His horse at last stood still.

The calender, amazed to see
His neighbour in such trim,
Laid down his pipe, flew to the gate.
And thus accosted him:

"What news? what news? your tidings tell;
Tell me you must and shall--
Say why bareheaded you are come,
Or why you come at all?"

Now Gilpin had a pleasant wit,
And loved a timely joke;
And thus unto the calender
In merry guise he spoke:

"I came because your horse would come;
And, if I well forebode,
My hat and wig will soon be here,
They are upon the road."

The calender, right glad to find
His friend in merry pin,
Returned him not a single word,
But to the house went in;

Whence straight he came with hat and wig,
A wig that flowed behind,
A hat not much the worse for wear,
Each comely in its kind.

He held them up, and in his turn
Thus showed his ready wit:
"My head is twice as big as yours,
They therefore needs must fit."

"But let me scrape the dirt away,
That hangs upon your face;
And stop and eat, for well you may
Be in a hungry case."

Said John, "It is my wedding-day,
And all the world would stare
If wife should dine at Edmonton,
And I should dine at Ware."

So turning to his horse, he said
"I am in haste to dine;
'Twas for your pleasure you came here,
You shall go back for mine."

Ah! luckless speech, and bootless boast!
For which he paid full dear;
For while he spake, a braying ass
Did sing most loud and clear;

Whereat his horse did snort, as he
Had heard a lion roar,
And galloped off with all his might,
As he had done before.

Away went Gilpin, and away
Went Gilpin's hat and wig;
He lost them sooner than at first,
For why?--they were too big.

Now Mistress Gilpin, when she saw
Her husband posting down
Into the country far away,
She pulled out half-a-crown;

And thus unto the youth she said
That drove them to the "Bell,"
"This shall be yours when you bring back
My husband safe and well."

The youth did ride, and soon did meet
John coming back amain;
Whom in a trice he tried to stop,
By catching at his rein.

But not performing what he meant,
And gladly would have done,
The frighted steed he frighted more,
And made him faster run.

Away went Gilpin, and away
Went postboy at his heels,
The postboy's horse right glad to miss
The lumbering of the wheels.

Six gentlemen upon the road,
Thus seeing Gilpin fly,
With postboy scampering in the rear.
They raised the hue and cry.

"Stop thief! stop thief! a highwayman!'"
Not one of them was mute;
And all and each that passed that way
Did join in the pursuit.

And now the turnpike-gates again
Flew open in short space;
The toll-man thinking, as before,
That Gilpin rode a race.

And so he did, and won it too,
For he got first to town;
Nor stopped till where he had got up,
He did again get down.

Now let us sing, Long live the King,
And Gilpin, long live he;
And when he next doth ride abroad.
May I be there to see.

Dead Poets Society - Session III

Wednesday Feb 13 2008
Arun & Ashwini's place

Vinod - 2 of Tolkien's poems/songs
Ashwini - "The Leche Gatherer" or "Resolution and Independence" by William Wordsworth
Gaurav - "Kubla Khan" or "A vision in a dream. A Fragment." by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Itisha - "The Diverting History of John Gilpin" by William Cowper

Friday, February 8, 2008

Moment of Silence (Emmanuel Ortiz)

Dead poet's society - session II
Wednesday Feb 6 2008

Recited By: Vinod

Emmanuel Ortiz is a Chicano (native born Mexican), a Puerto Rican, an Irish American.. but foremost an activist and a spoken-word poet. He works with the Minnesota Alliance for the indigenous Zapatistas. The wikipedia entry for this poem has the following to say...
Moment of Silence is a controversial poem by Emmanuel Ortiz published on September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 attacks. The poem links the history of colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, the War on Terror, environmental racism, and structural violence to the attacks.

The poem goes on to critique the notion of a moment of silence, perhaps best summed up by the lines: "From somewhere within the pillars of power, you open your mouth to invoke a moment of our silence and we are all left speechless" and "This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written." The majority of the poem serves as a list of historical crimes by the West against indigenous peoples or the Third World and how the structures which perpetuate those crimes slip through the cracks whenever people take a "moment of silence". Essentially, Ortiz believes a moment of silence "cut[s] in line" by failing to acknowledge previous and ongoing forms of structural violence.


Before I start this poem, I'd like to ask you to join me
In a moment of silence
In honor of those who died in the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon last September 11th.
I would also like to ask you
To offer up a moment of silence
For all of those who have been harassed, imprisoned,
disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retaliation for those strikes,
For the victims in both Afghanistan and the U.S.

And if I could just add one more thing...
A full day of silence
For the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the
hands of U.S.-backed Israeli
forces over decades of occupation.
Six months of silence for the million and-a-half Iraqi people,
mostly children, who have died of
malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year U.S.
embargo against the country.

Before I begin this poem,
Two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa,
Where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.
Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
Where death rained down and peeled back every layer of
concrete, steel, earth and skin
And the survivors went on as if alive.
A year of silence for the millions of dead in Vietnam - a people,
not a war - for those who
know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel, their
relatives' bones buried in it, their babies born of it.
A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of
a secret war ... ssssshhhhh....
Say nothing ... we don't want them to learn that they are dead.
Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Colombia,
Whose names, like the corpses they once represented, have
piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem.
An hour of silence for El Salvador ...
An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua ...
Two days of silence for the Guatemaltecos ...
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.
45 seconds of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found
their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could
poke into the sky.
There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.
And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of
sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, and the west...

100 years of silence...
For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half
of right here,
Whose land and lives were stolen,
In postcard-perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand
Fallen Timbers, or the Trail of Tears.
Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the
refrigerator of our consciousness ...

So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut
A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust.

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same
And the rest of us hope to hell it won't be. Not like it always has

Because this is not a 9/11 poem.
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem
This is a 1492 poem.

This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written.
And if this is a 9/11 poem, then:
This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 1971.
This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko in South Africa,
This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison,
New York, 1971.
This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times, and
Newsweek ignored.
This is a poem for interrupting this program.

And still you want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty:
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children
Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger,
For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of our silence.

If you want a moment of silence
Then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and the televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit.

If you want a moment of silence, put a brick through the window
of Taco Bell,
And pay the workers for wages lost.
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the
Penthouses and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The Fourth of July
During Dayton's 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful
people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence
Then take it NOW,
Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand,
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence.
Take it.
But take it all...Don't cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime. But we,
Tonight we will keep right on singing...For our dead.

EMMANUEL ORTIZ, 11 Sep 2002.

Here's a link to an mp3 rendering of this poem!