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The Rose in My Garden – Arnold Lobel

The Rose in My Garden

 

The book I read
Grows like a seed,
Step by step it flows
Just as a seed grows,
Words dance to poetic tunes
Like flowers that slowly bloom,
Upon a rose in the garden
Sleeps a bee among the pollen,
Birds peck and butterflies flutter
Shelter the daisies, peonies in summer,
On a chase, a cat and a fieldmouse
Rattles the garden on shaky grounds,
With a single red rose it starts
Wisdom to the soul it imparts,
The beauty of a poem culminates
In miracles of nature it resonates.

 

5/5*****

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Days with Frog and Toad (Frog and Toad, #4) – Arnold Lobel

 

 

In realm of silence, when thoughts corrode
Words fade, swept away by a mind sham,
A comfort searched within nostalgic shades,
With fresh pot of tea, stories sprang on a warm divan.

Jumped the rope one hundred times, an Old Dark frog,
Did it really happen?, was it true?, a thought to mock
Amid ghostly shivers, rise tales of quick wit and grit,
On a cold dark night, two trembling hearts warmly grin.

Swirling in the sky, on a bumpy ride, the kite encircle
To laughter it climbs, higher from its airy shackle,
To the march of the wind, perseverance and hope sparkle
In the shadows of the kite, the robins fly, without a squabble.

There waits for a sleepy head a glad tomorrow,
Under the covers, procrastination a happy phrase
A thought of another day, a despair in future foreseen
Tomorrow a clean slate, in present where the mess lays.

A birthday hat too big, a gift that seem unfit,
In biggest thoughts, highest mountains, tallest trees
A larger head for a hat, a loving heart for keeps
In white lies sees a caring friend, happiness pleasantly knit.

Wet sandwiches on a sunny day, a reason to be alone,
Two friends, sitting alone together, a home away from home.

Lessons learned, an empty teapot , a wide smile to boast
Spending time with a friends, what a wondrous magic
Adventures of an amphibian pair, an inspiring classic
A tale of friendship within the Days with Frog and Toad.

 

5/5*****

 

Replacement – Tor Ulven

Replacement (Norwegian Literature Series)

 

The mid-afternoon breeze lingers over the traces of burnt up lavender oil. As the heady scent fans out the pleasing Camille Saint-Saëns symphony swirling on a loop nearby; my heart slowly awakens to the thought of an early spring , the currency of which now seems to be a piece of fiction amid this dreary winter. The flaky skin on my forehead smoothens with a dash of coldcream, the lonely curl tucked back in my bundled hair. The looking glass pondering of a time when the opulence of a soft skin , the raven-tint coiffure, render into becoming another pipe dream , the supple visage resigning to its eventual cascading fate. “Take an apple, for example, or any other fruit or vegetable that rots, that withers, shrivels, and wrinkles, as human bodies wither, shrivel, and wrinkle more and more as they age, so that rotting can be considered the lowest common multiple of all fruits (or vegetables), just as people too are only really revealed in decline…….”; the recurrent words of Ulven putting me in a trance. In the descent of a living soul, lay bare the gospel truth of years gone by, magnifying every infinitesimal detail of a quavering time stamp that seem to be hidden beneath the illusive youthful mirage, perpetually trickling down to a forgotten interlude that seem to have dissolved in the passage of life. The fading confines of fact and fiction searching for a glimmer of memory or a dream to legitimize the practicalities of the living shrouded amid surrealistic assimilations of a poignant reflection. The genuine face revealed in the midst of a stimulated sham.

 

…….an artist hanging a row of bananas from a rack along the wall, how all the bananas were painted white, so they all looked identical, and how they were all artificial, except for one, and how once the exhibition opened, one banana, the real one, of course, began to rot, thereby revealing its true face, while the others, the artificial ones, of course, stayed white and pristine.

 

The deceptive façade falling off exposing the tiniest irregular disparities, the forgotten interlude of time now manifests in the peculiar image that is no longer a familiar companion. The implicit fantasy set on the explicit world stage breaks down in a meaningless hiatus, the nagging feeling of misplaced opportunity, the process of self-realization that is not too late to hold onto the transience immediacy of time, the need to express the raw pain of this very thought as the precision of reality remains. Oceans slowly turning into sand, the foetus leisurely growing in the womb, youth being substituted by old age , the sense to see, to think , to imagine, the strategies of equal and opposites, the precision of the surroundings embracing the ambiguity of life. Replacement becomes a linguistic ode to placing the living at equilibrium with the existing milieu, the existence personified by everything real, everything unreal. The attempt to challenge stereotypes being the greatest stereotype of all.

 

….he imagines a blind man with a rattling box for a stomach, who constantly feeds himself coins just to buy himself a few more minutes of sight, though when the river of change dries up, he’s blind until he can fish up some new coin….

 

We are indebted to our cognitive skills. We indebted to our vision, our ability to speak, to hear, we are answerable to every act that our minds and hands commit. Ask a blind man what would he give to see a speck of crimson floating in the morning sky, ask those who are bed-ridden what would they give just to be able to sit at the dinner table. The trembling fingers who battle with every button that needs to be keyed in a shirt, the delirium that gradually erases the sweet nostalgia of your first kiss, the warmth of a lover’s naked body, the crumpled sheets that no longer carry the scent of your beloved, sobriety being taunted by a reclusive beer bottle, the forlorn heart that fraternize with a half-lit cigarette ,sounds of a chimney evaporating in vacuity along the waning years; emptiness builds sanctuaries , you get used to the burgeoning darkness and yet, darkness is never still. Ulven writes, “Whenever you want. Nothing is physically stopping you, nothing, that is, but the prohibition itself.” Reading Ulven’s celebrated words, make me ponder on how we humans take things for granted. How we in our luxuriate narcissism bring an illusion of invincibility to our mortality. The crimes we commit against each other, the ignorance that mushrooms in neglect, how we bloated with pride disregard the lives we throw in oblivion, the very lives who could one day save us from our own nullity.

 

Someone is standing motionless on the footbridge. As you get closer you see that it’s a middle-aged woman in a gray coat, and that she’s thrown something, it’s impossible to say what, over the rail, and that now she’s following it with her eyes. Afterward, she turns around and walks toward you. As you pass one another, you seem to see a secret smile of forbidden pleasure playing across her face. ………..

 

The phenomenon of death points the issue in permanence of physical departures and deliberations over the plausibility of an afterlife. Ulven fields an inquiry in the correlated subject matter of legitimacy of a soul. The rationalities of death and dying make an emphatic paradox debating the religious dogma of a heaven and hell. The contemplating abstractions of mortal v/s immortal soul characterised as the anecdotal sum and substance of biological continuity v/s spiritual reliance. Death is perceived either as a relief or consolation, the boundaries of consciousness disappearing in a deafening cry. Ulven’s outlook on how we don’t possess the exclusivity of joie de vivre, accentuated Ulven’s own personal turmoil. The candid dialogue on suicide… “you remember what the psychiatrist said, how when someone finally convinces themselves to do it, they get excited, cheerful, they seem happy, energetic, and everyone thinks they’re getting better, but in fact they’re not getting better, they’re just grimly, morbidly happy because they’ve finally decided to do it…”, comes to be a prophetic writing on the wall underlining Ulven’s own impending suicide couple years later. (Tor Ulven killed himself in 1995).

 

Replacement swarms with the quotidian of the lowest possible decimal of organic existence. Elementary trivialities are elevated on a visionary pedestal, entwining the reticence of beauty with the complex realism. With beauty comes suffering. Germination is chased by decay. Ulven’s amorphous metaphorical world may seem as clear as the mud, yet the celebrated verses flow into multifaceted passage that at times equate to serene banality of a pond; the silent waters a chimeric humeral veil to the chaotic world thriving beneath brimming with stones, aquatic fauna and flora, each embracing the frictions of splendour and degeneration. Akin to silhouettes meeting in secrecy , Ulven’s voices rise and fall throughout the solemn narrative fluently switching from the meditative musings of a nonagenarian protagonist to the assorted individual dispositions of multiple characters bracing the aesthetics of a life beyond and within the parameters of beauty and suffering. Steadily, as the reader immerses in these soul-stirring reflexions resonating in the queries of resounding silence, the flow of words animating the numerous articulations amalgamate into a single resonating conscious , the assumed mind trip eventually residing within you, the reader, the humble self locked up in the precariousness of time.


…..what you’ve got to understand is that meaning can be found in meaninglessness, and that these meaningless words hold all you need to know.

 

All is connected, all is replaced. Change is inevitable. You find yourself standing alone with your reflection, a tranquillity steadily sets in, you keep gazing into the identical likeliness until the image blurs your rationalities, the chill in the air no longer affecting your bare skin, the last whiff of the lavender fetching in the elusive epiphanies of the Ulvenesque aura that everything matters, every tiny bit of it creating intelligent and unintelligent life. Insignificant beads strung together transforming into pearls of wisdom, the interlacing circulatory sequence edifying with every drop of fluid sagacity. So, readers like myself who whine about facets of life getting in the way of my undertaken readings, need to take a step back pausing all the juvenile tantrums and appreciate the dealings of life in its entirety no matter how tough or easy things might seem, respect it much as you respect your beloved things , value it as much as you value the words you read in a book, maybe even more , for as every single letter is as precious as the word composed ,remarkably in some of the most meaningless things lies the profundity of a lifelong meaning.

 

5/5 ♥♥♥♥♥

The Vegetarian – Han Kang

The Vegetarian

 

“…. I went on and came to a tree. The tree told me that one could not talk here because human beings do not understand feelings. I went on, I was sorry to part with the tree because the tree understood me.” – ( The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky)

Abstinence – The passage of self-denial, the resolve of sheer restraint; where does it all begin and where will it eventually end? The steady shedding of birthing desires, the restriction of outwardly impulses marred by internal nightmares, slowly culminating into a growing silence. Silence – the sin of resilience or a rickety salvation from a venomous psychotic turmoil or a falsified symbol of complacency? Complacency , it’s obeisance revered, it’s rebellion sued. The superficiality of an acquired complacency steeped in the will of ignorance, the façade of normalcy shamelessly taking refuge in someone else’s mediocrity. A sense of superiority acquired by the bullish masking of your own imperfections within the blemished veil of others. Power- The artillery of dominance menacing the societal hierarchy, becoming a fateful pawn in haunting gender games separating individual and the community. The woes of patriarchy are magnified by the cultural power play of resilience and rebellion. The loneliness of the body, an individual, muddled in the patriarchal conformism embodying the egotism of a person’s disposed ignorance to the needs of others. The entrapment of individuals within their own individualities; the legitimacy of a human disseminating in societal iniquity. The possibility of violence and the impossibility of beauty thriving in the chaotic mesh of human feelings; abstinence being the only respite to an existing nirvana.

Yeong-hye’s proclamation of being a vegetarian triggered a distressful cycle of abuse and self-annihilation. The status of women in a patriarchal society is marred with agonizing conflicts. The aching desire to maintain normalcy in a gingerly structured survival balancing the hierarchical constitution burgeons with a sense of superiority and the thriving of a submissive spouse. The thought of quitting the existing conflicts, the surreal yearning to sprout from the earth, the undertaken path of abstinence frees the body from the vicissitudes of the mind. The radical spirit of a woman powerless in a world enveloping values that demands a bona fide conformity, endures the burden of her choices being ruthlessly interpreted on a communal dais.

“This was the body of a beautiful young woman, conventionally an object of desire, and yet it was a body from which all desire had been eliminated.”

The entrapped melanocytes claim their dermal existence in a patterned bluish-gray birthmark. The ugliness of the Mongolian Mark disproves the beautiful distinctiveness of the melanocytes condemning the presence of the dermal cells that are different in their formation. The psychedelic floral patterns painted on Yeong-hye’s naked body bury the unsightliness of the Mongolian Mark in the alluring work of art. The beauty of the art evoking a repulsive guilt of carnal desire. Art is escapism. Sex, the beaten path to escape into a fantasy. The worlds of art and sex collide merging the flesh and identities, faceless humans, the body becoming distinct, free-moving into a whole new entity. The ultimate nullification of personality and identity. The intensity of the emotions clashing over the quandary of body over mind wrapped up in surrealism of unrestricted art. Free-will convulsing within the bounds of insanity, drives the notion of sexual freedom to the edge of a carnal conundrum.

“ Was he a normal human being? More than that, a moral human being? A strong human being, able to control his impulses?”

When the fear of losing everything overrides the self-assured convictions deterring a restrictive conscious encompassing unrestrictive art, freedom becomes a luxury. The discomforting anxiety burdens the agony of self-realization. The notion of an ‘absolute freedom’, an untainted freedom beyond the realms of self-examinations trapped between the battles between normality v/s animalistic fervour and morality v/s immorality. The impulses of self–obliteration hovering over Yeong-ho.

Identity becomes a farcical metaphor floating in its own singularity. The human body is torn between its own language and the language imposed by others. The individual and the community segregated by the former’s quest to explore the terrains of freedom confronting the limitations of the society; the sum and substance of ‘identity’ collapsing within an individual. Han Kang is meticulous in layering the intricacies of mainstream Korean Society laminating the cultural fringes in the dual domains of “social-self” and “solitary-self”. The concept of freedom and identity carved in harmony with the workings of societal dogmas rather than those of an individual is tactfully highlighted through the firm notion that people are somehow in debt of the socio-cultural benevolence. The menacing arcs of gender, food, sexual liberation, sexual violence, abuse, mental maladies and suicide dismantles the values of personal freedom with asphyxiating constraints. Thus, the fatalities of individualities misplaced in the struggles, societal responsibilities and imposed taboos; the denied personhood exiled in the feelings of displacement.

“Whether human, animal or plant, she could not be called ‘a person’, but then wasn’t exactly some feral creature either – more like a mysterious being with qualities of both”

Personal identity becomes highly subjective in this three-tier narrative. Each of Han Kang’s focal characters struggle amid the legitimacy of their personhood. Be it In-hye, who has this incredible ability to adapt to any dire circumstances with staunch endurance, binding up her wounds with an ingrained smothering stability. Yeong-ho , who weighed down by his own battles of moral obligations and self-depravity. Lastly, Yeong-hye’s husband who exemplifies the nitty-gritty of a patriarchal society. But, the greatest irony of the identity clash stems in the portrayal of Kim Yeong-hye. Despite Yeong-hye being the pivotal common thread throughout the audacious narratives, fails to take the centre-stage. Her personhood becomes secondary forging its way around and through her, in the course of her emaciated life. Yeong-hye is steadily pushed in the background. Her own individuation clings on the opinionated strings of the people around her.

“ Look , sister, I’m doing a handstand; leaves are growing out of my body, roots are sprouting out of my hands……they delve down into the earth. Endlessly,endlessly…….yes, I spread my legs because I wanted flowers to bloom from my crotch; I spread them wide……..”

Respect – Who deserves the core of its sentiment? The oppressed body that uproots itself from the surface of the human race or the resilient body that submerges under an ocean of emptiness to survive among the human race? Or then, is it the inescapable individual existing within the two claustrophobic bodily milieus, who is the rightful beneficiary of the justified reverence? The predominant existentialism theme encircling this literary reserve, probes the legitimacy of human existence in the state of chaos amplifying the very core of human nature. The individual remains incomprehensible; the significance of kith and kin disseminating in a ruthless abandonment. Unlike the black bird soaring the blue skies, the earthly bound tree runs short of absolute freedom. A tree may stand solitary on the mountain top, sturdy on the fertile ground, still, its roots run deep, firmly rooted into the earth below. Akin to a tree rooted in its earthly codes, an individual is forever rooted into the societal dogmas. An individual is far from being truly free, the cost of an absolute freedom paid through self-annihilation. The supreme exemption from the morally reprehensible decoding of the totality of being attained in the final uprooting of a human being from the society. Is then, the path of abstinence a bane or a boon? At the risk of bizarre insanity devoid of a definite beginning or an end, is then the onset of abstinence a daring last resort to establish identity? And, how farther can a person keep running, far into the deep darkness before crashing into his/her own fractured soul?

4/5 ****

Stoner – John Williams

Stoner


“Mr. Shakespeare speaks to you across three hundred years, Mr. Stoner; do you hear him?………

Sloane was speaking again. “What does he say to you, Mr. Stoner? What does his sonnet mean?

What if? The powerful wordy duo ruminate in the silence of my room, its vestiges drawn-out to the smooth voice of Lee Ann Womack guiding the overwhelming metaphors through the darkness, hoping that I would dance. For hours after I closed a page on Stoner, defying the nudging of Womack, the audibility of the thunderous rain collapsing into my inaudibility, I pondered: – “What if?” The soil chemistry had overridden the realms of literature. The illusion of love had surrender to the innocence of love. The prosperous loneliness had depleted in impoverished companionship. What if, William Stoner had never stepped in the corridors of the University of Missouri? What if he had never met Edith? What if he had never attended Sloane’s lecture? The reverberations of Arthur Sloane’s words pulsated right through my ponderings; the mirror within wiping a speck of its vagueness. Mr. Stoner speaks to you across decades, do you hear him? Life miles away from the rural landscape, a life esteemed in mediocrity, do you hear him?


The past gathered out of the darkness where it stayed, and the dead raised themselves to live before him; and the past and the dead flowed into the present among the alive, so that he had for an intense instant a vision of denseness into which he was compacted and from which he could not escape, and had no wish to escape.

We are the proverbial mirror fabricating our perceptions of the world around us. Our aspirations educated through harmonizing the inner conflicts flourish in the capacity of subtle companionships. The colossal world of books, language and literature, rinsing the murkiness of the mirror reflecting the opaque mysteries of life. A thousand facets learned from the pages of the books, the thought of rising above the common herd braving the unthinkable nuance of life’s journey, further and further in the permanence of bleakness whilst cherishing the consuming ripples of fresh vistas. To quote Anatole France – “We chase dreams and embrace shadows.” Stoner chased his dreams however inconsequential they have seem to the life pundits and alongside embraced numerous shadows carving a tedious path of loneliness and cynicism distracted with a feeling of hopelessness. A naive farm boy setting on an explorative journey of a life beyond the rural Missouri milieu into the colossal realms of English Literature yearned to carve a niche as a faithful teacher staying true his art of knowledge. Stoner’s life brims with overreaching simplicity plagued with incessant hardships, pain of desolation and endurance to clichéd absurdities. His tumultuous relationship with Edith, the love that he discovered with Katherine, the loyalty he hoped from Finch and the complexities of manipulative diplomacy he encountered with Lomax and later with Charles Walker, veered towards psychosomatic severity. The shadows intensified into the ruthless politics escalating in the narrow world of the University impacting a profound change within Stoner paving a rational route in normalizing irrationalities in the competency of an “asylum”, a rest home disquieted minds.

Am I romanticising William Stoner? I dare not! Do I concur with the author (John Williams) inferring Stoner to be a hero? If heroes are depicted as a larger than life saviour aura of sword wielding knights, an underdog rising to the thrilling destined zenith, then I shall speak otherwise. Heroes are not only born by winning a war, battles are fought every day, the elected battlefield either stately or pedestrian, not all those who survive are heroes and not those who die are less heroic because in a war there are no winners or losers, just sufferers. Stoner’s potency shimmered when he faced his optimistic parents with his own pessimism. The audacity of his convictions braved his own battles with Walker and the probing academia. Behind the curtains of monotone prose and rhetoric clichés, sparkle unlikely gems illuminating the notion of gallant life interchanging through the hope of future and the conflict of past and present and being the doomed instrument of change no matter how negligible amid the potential menace of stagnation.

The women in Stoner’s life endure similar psychosomatic maladies succumbing to the polarities of passivity, stoicism and antagonism dispositions. The contemplations are asserted by the domestic education of Edith Bostwick: –“Her childhood was an exceedingly formal one, even in the most ordinary moments of family life. Her parents behaved toward each other with a distant courtesy; Edith never saw pass between them the spontaneous warmth of either anger or love. Anger was days of courteous silence, and love was a word of courteous endearment. She was an only child, and loneliness was one of the earliest conditions of her life.”A convoluted maze of behavioural inheritance hovers over the fate of the characters, perpetually in an ongoing tussle to escape the belligerent irregularities of their upbringing, be it Stoner or the people around him. This stays true especially to the women who are in habitual pandemonium to change the rules of the emancipation and break away from from the protocols of their familial rearing. Stoner’s mother who never opposes her husband’s sentences passively agreeing to every decision made on their behalf; Edith who is stuck in her own commotion of sympathetic self- liberation in the unsympathetic societal didactic obligations, Katherine, who charts her own way to individualism and Grace , defining herself from her past discrepancies . Each of these women influenced by their circumstances and realities are inexorable in the fair and unfair hostilities, yet somehow not unalterable.


Stoner’s colleagues, who held him in no particular esteem when he was alive, speak of him rarely now; to the older ones, his name is a reminder of the end that awaits them all, and to the younger ones it is merely a sound which evokes no sense of the past and no identity with which they can associate themselves or their careers.

A solitary carnation may adorn the grave, the hopefulness of a name mislaid amongst the forename gradations on a wooden board nailed on the wall outside the Bursar’s Office, merely having the singular opportune alumni reminiscence, the essence of the individuality crumpled within the washed up ink of an old newspaper, the love for language and literature ebbed into nothingness and the mulish earth stoically consuming the enigma of the mind and heart. The Midwestern Don Quixote may not have his Sancho to arbitrate his madness, his dreams and morality to the world, nonetheless akin to Don Quixote, William Stoner has a story to tell, his very own.

Much has already been said, yet there is much more to be told and then there shall remain volumes untold. For every mind, every heart that walked the hallways, the extensive corridors of academic institutions, gently knocked on the least decorated door courteously nodding to a pair of anxious eyes peeking through the stack of books , dreamers and realists, both taking refuge in a world far more unreal and yet real, has had a probable chance of encountering an equivalent persona of William Stoner; the passivity of mediocrity imparting the triumphant lessons of life irrespective to its unsentimental consequences. Do you hear William Stoner? A good man or a weak man, who’s to blame and who’s to claim its share, do you perceive the rumbles of his life? What does Stoner say to you? YOU, the reader!

 

4/5****

Walking the Black Cat – Charles Simic

Walking the Black Cat

The bearded old man on the corner
The one drinking out of a brown paper bag
The one who declares himself
The world’s greatest ventriloquist,
We are all his puppets, he says
When he chooses to say anything………..

The street ventriloquist frightens the songbirds with his ascending voice booming as he reads the ghostly script printed on the sun-struck window, the lost authenticity of man. The empty cardboard box flies across the crowded boulevard, the language of humanity latching on a destitute like a garish whore, a new residence is in the offing. The shadows of the painted doll faces cramped in the store window bobbing in approval of a ragged old woman on the road to somewhere else. A pack of cards evaporating in thin air, the twin dummies sitting on his lap wanting to saw me in half, the world chained in the magic mirror, the applause began as a naked bride lay in the coffin; the fleeting moments of life grasp the abstraction of my magician. The mice in the large cage squeaks as it hear the silence of hell darting in and out of a dark corner like a black cat. Have you met Miss Jones? ,enquire the drunken insomniacs as they pour wine, the bottle wrapped in a pristine white napkin, triumphing Miss Jones’ protruding cleavage entering the world of the dead. Powdered wigs, theatrical costumes scurrying through deafening fire alarms, French fries drowned in streams of ketchup, a cigarette burning in the ear of the executioner while the Marie Antoinette eats her fries.

Little cutie, are you for sale! the devil will say.
The undertaker will buy a toy for your grandson.
Your mind will be a horner’s nest even on your deathbed,
You will pray to God, but God will hang a sign that
He’s not to be disturbed.
Question no further, that’s all I know……………

War, famine, illness bed each other, the weeping grandchildren breastfed on the gravestone, the roadside ant being the envy of all and the fly-infested corpse watching a silent movie is what the gypsy told my grandmother while she was still a young girl. Chewing the same horrid gum, the gypsy woman now dines with undertaker, body and soul. Talking to the little birdies, the sly feline in my arms pondered on the imaginary friends of Heraclitus who incessantly argued in the midst of a strange neighbourhood. The romantic world that we envision and the reality we witness unfolding day after day bearing a resemblance to the monkey perched on an electric chair smoking a cheap cigar and enjoying an evening of noir films in a roach motel. The father of lies licking the honey from the black glove sniggers at the bees wobbly on crutches, paradoxical consequences in the plea of the preacher of wanting to be God’s video game, all night long in a closed penny arcade.

My chicken soup thickened with pounded young almonds
My blend of winter greens
Dearest tagliatelle with mushrooms, fennel, anchovies
Tomato and vermouth sauce
Beloved monkfish braised with onions, capers
And green olives
Give me your tongue tasting of white beans and garlic……..

Lazing in Café Paradiso, a pair of glasses perched on the bridge of his nose; he details the specifics of wild berries with cream. “People watching is my favourite occupation”, he asserts. The observant poet pens the reality of life in its most essential moments embossing memorable imagery one after another. The magnificence and revulsion of life lies in simple nuances of everyday life. Poignant words unfolding the fundamental isolation of transient singular entities, encompassing the uniqueness of life experiences and comprehending the workings of our complex world. “What’s a poem but a well-prepared dish served on a plate?” the poet articulates; the food we eat, the recipes we concoct assimilating the singularity of assorted ingredients into a gourmet variation establishes a mutual co-existence which at time alienate its patron with horrific inedibility. The sum of the isolated ingredients exacting the nature of life; the sum of its ephemeral moments. The reality of food imbibing the reality of life. The brilliance of the poet illuminating the path of poetry in discovering a better world letting the surrealism of silence speak through the minimalistic pleasures of life away from the eyes of abstraction.

The lyrical sagacity of Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Frost, Dickinson, prevail in the air, Vasko Popa leading the poetic parade, guiding the realist poet to vibrantly capture the precious moments of life overlooking the idealist romanticism. In poise, a poet name Charles Simic, pens mesmerising multifaceted sentences tracing his own childhood experiences in a war-torn former Yugoslavia( Serbia) assimilating the elliptical imagery with his immigrant life in urban America. Similar to the fluidity of a Hollywood movie, juxtaposing the memory of the beginning and end in the overlapping images of movie, a young boy struggles with his individual identity stuck between two cultures, the domestic alienation marred with recollections of a horrid war and the convolution of absorbing the present American culture, making mere cameo appearances.

……That’s me there, I said to the kiddies
I’m squeezed between the man
With two bandaged hands raised
And the old woman with her mouth open
As if she were showing us a tooth…….

That hurts badly. The hundred times.
I rewound the tape, not once
Could they catch sight of me
In that huge gray crowd
That was like any other gray crowd……

A panhandling Jesus, the Emperor donning his pig masks limping down the avenue with the three-legged dog poet, the dogs hear it, the throbbing of the Hamlet’s ghost walking in the hallways of a Vegas motel .Under the rusted cans sharpening the potato peeler, the conquering hero is tired of sawing a cadaver. Hell with those judicial robes! Lincoln wears a false beard and so does Moses! After a cold shower, Adam and Eve relaxing in a madhouse, hurry home. Water turning into wine! Let it rain! Let it pour! With arms spread out like a Dutch windmill howling the blind man’s bluff, death becomes an early riser. The pavement crowded with giggling schoolchildren, the white blindfold fastens. The blood orange tumbles on the ground, the pink juice streaming in bloodied rain, the birds are silent, the end of the world may be near, the cry of the child left on the doorstep asphyxiating the pouring rain. The incoherent ventriloquist seeks out a refuge under the cardboard box.

….It’s because there are things in this world
That just can’t be helped, you said.
Right then, I heard the blood orange
Roll off the table and with a thud
Lie cracked open on the floor.

The blossoming rose may sing melodious hymns to the morning sun, but in the shambles of bowed petals nestled at the kerb dwell the lingering verses of a soulful poem. I pick up a couple muddy magenta ones curled besides my feet whilst walking the black cat to its home.

4/5****

The Birds – Tarjei Vesaas

The Birds

“You are You, that was what was written.”

For the past week, every time I stepped into my room, an inquisitive man bombarded me with string of questions I had no answers to. “What’s the use of having so many turnips?”, he asked as he lay gazing at the naked sky. A faint whiff of camphor emitted from his smile, as he repeated how he pompously waved to Anna and Inger from the pier with sheer happiness, the boiled sweets gently being tossed by his tongue. The songs of the bird have no regulations sprouting from the petite beak on the whims and fancies of its colourful singer; coded messages of the birds veiled under those melodious tunes. For Mattis, I kept aside the astute reader dwelling within me and opted to take a lesson or two from the rebellion avian wonders and read the book with pages twisting according to my whims and fancies. Like, the spontaneous birds, I opened up a page, read Mattis’s words and then traced my path back and forth through the graceful prose deciphering each footprints and clandestine messages pricked by the beak of the woodcock trying to comprehend the language of birds through the optimistic eyes of Mattis. I resisted my nasty urge to pry into the story-line or the sub-plot, all I sought after was to perceive the world of Mattis through his words, his mind, his frustrations and longings while seeking a plausible answer to the avian greeting, “You are you!”


“Why are the things the way they are?”

Since the days when the reviewed prose found solace only in the confined dwelling of my notebooks, all ever that was written in those single-lined pages were incessant lists of questions searching for answers from the inner world of books, responses that were dismissed in the external milieu. When does the mind stops asking questions or rather does discharge them through frivolity? Do we surrender our curiosity to the obstinate barriers hurled by the resolutions? Why have we stopped asking questions? Is it a mark of an idiocy or naivety if one poses too many questions? If I had a penny for each of my mushrooming questions being disposed by a recurrent resonance of “It’s the way things are…. grow-up. Is there nothing on the television?” Do then, the “grown-up” minds never have the need to ask question? Or, is it that the winds of maturity bring along clouds of ignorance and indolence? There were times when I ached to offer an ardent listening ear to Mattis’s copious questions, to the undemanding man who longed to talk about himself and his struggle and in them I could have searched my own clarifications. A simple mind is child-like, naive and inquisitive. Unlike the fearful judicious mentality, simplicity is fearless in its own way. Pristine and unscathed by the corrupted ways of life, it flourishes through sense of sympathetic and comforting communication. Silly as it may sound, I found Mattis’s plain, childlike mind to be courageous for not only being able to produce plethora of queries but, for giving a voice to them even at the risk of their reckless dismissal. How come those who possess the three gifts of vigour, intelligence and beauty; the very endowments that Mattis desired, are unaware of its commendable merit? Do we take granted the precious gifts of our mind because we are born with it and never have known a world without it? If only, the worldly wise could frequently ask, “Why are things the way they are?” perhaps, someday, someone might just stop saying, “It’s the way things are.” And, then Mattis would never feel like an outsider in this sophisticated intellect masquerade.


“But, hush there it was. The flapping wings, the bird itself, indistinct, speeding through the air straight across the house and off in the other direction……….”

The surprise flight of the woodcock over Mattis’s home enchants Mattis and in the bird’s recurrent airborne moves, the woodcock becomes one of the central characters in Mattis’s life. The bird becomes a herald of a secret-language, an omen prophesying the probability of a vulnerable future and one of nature’s many essentials that equates its uniqueness with Mattis. Vesaas’s employment of woodcock as an ornithological symbol signifies the fundamental spiritual intimacy through which Mattis relates to the exquisiteness of nature. Similar to the woodcock, the existence of the lake becomes a spellbinding ironical personality permeating the habitual existence of Mattis and Hege. The boat that he ferries across the lake, the cool waters of the lake, the solitary aspen trees, the turnips in the field, the thunderstorms become a gratifying compensation to Mattis’s innermost life filling it with explorations of his enthusiasm and apprehensions.


“The world was full of forces you couldn’t fight against which suddenly loomed up and aimed a crushing blow at you………What could you do when things were like this?”

Drops of change come from the subtle dilution of resistance, however, when the dregs of resistance precipitate into substantial despair, the opaqueness of change becomes an impenetrable substance. The two slender aspen trees with withered tops, swayed between these distressing elements of change and resistance. The lush forest , the serene lake, the coquettishness of two gorgeous women, the fierce lightning, the menacing toadstools, the gentle wrestling of Hege’s knitting needles with its optimism resting within the eight-petalled woolen roses and the soaring flight of the woodcock gradually seep into the inherent life of Mattis. It is his world, only for him through which mirrors the mysticism of nature and the meaning of being alive with the helplessness and fullness of an inner-life that is beyond the comprehension of normalcy. Tarjei Vesaas scripts a simple story of a simple mind juggling in between the unexpected lunacy and the expected “normalcy” of life. Simplicity has no place in this complex world, its existence ridiculed through mocked “Simple Simon” labelling. Vesaas depicts a memorable world of simplicity unconsciously whittling a harbinger eminence, a simple life set in the idyllic Norwegian rural town merging into the transitory happiness and perplexity of agonies that arrive through loneliness, patience, love, hope, death, desolation, and change, antagonism of an independent survival and above all the perils of being a Simple Simon. Mattis’s journey maybe one-dimensional and chaotic, nevertheless it is numinous, poetic and deeply emotional. Vesaas’s masterpiece etches profoundly the poignant and compassionate narrative of Hege and Mattis , leaving me as mesmeric as the voyage of the woodcock. Oh, my dear Mattis, you have been such a charming roommate for the past few days, please do visit me again and bring along that chirpy woodcock fellow and maybe, Mr. Vesaas too. You are you, Mattis! You and the woodcock!

***[The above photographic illustrations were taken from the book inspired 1968 Polish movie – ‘Matthew’s Days’ ( Żywot Mateusza)]

5/5*****