Sunday, June 24, 2018

KINDNESS by Sampurna Chattarji


four commandments and a caution
I
To be kind you must turn into a tree,
and live very long. Allow your roots to
hang down into the air, allow pecking
and nesting and the tying of prayer strings
and the dying of paper kites in your branches.
Allow women to hug you, men to piss on you,
lovers to carve their initials on your skin.
You must bear every act of insult, love or injury
with the same unruffled expression. You must
have a hollow inside for those who need a place
to keep their secrets safe. And you must grow
and grow and grow until you are a book that
anyone can tear a leaf from and turn into a boat.
II
There must not be premeditation.
You cannot hunt down the proposed
victims of your act. You cannot unfurl
a map. There must not be a ‘must’
behind your act. But there must be
an act. A thought won’t do. You must
act, kindly, without premeditation,
or artifice or hauteur, without the
consciousness of kindness, you must be
spacious and natural as a meadow
hidden behind a high-rise. No asbestos
sheets must shut out the trespassers on
your time. Every claimant must be
a trespasser and you must be guilty of love.
III
You must understand kindness.
Not confuse it with courtesy or charity,
self-righteousness or vanity. You must
see kindness for what it is: abstract
until committed, pure unseeable surge
of interior light. You must leave it
naked, not clothe it in your cast-offs
nor seal it in a box. You must face its
terrible demands, watch the face it puts on
in a crowd. You must accept that it is
mute, and eloquent, and unarmed. Having
seen its defencelessness in the face of greed
you must make your body its armour. You
must not reserve it only for the stranger.
You must let a gnarled and familiar hand
take it between her claws and clasp it tight,
as if squeezing blood, or honey, from a stone.
IV
You must remember: It is not an art.
Not performance poetry or stand-up comedy,
open-mic or rap. It’s a series of can’ts.
Can’t be hyper-linked, can’t be video-installed,
curated, exhibited, animated, projected
or auctioned for brutal sums of cash.
You can but you mustn’t construct it
with your consummate incandescent skill.
You mustn’t turn it into an artefact
best seen in a certain light in a heat-controlled
corollary where the priceless things are stored.
It is priceless, yes, but for all the inflammable
reasons. Neither edgy nor immoral nor decadent,
neither amoral nor minimal nor surreal, neither
modern nor post-modern, neither colonial nor
post-colonial, neither Marxist nor feminist,
neither consumerist nor capitalist, all it is … is …
unlearnable, expressible, impossible, doable, each time
a different animal, alive and muscular and warm.
You must beware:
Kindness may be mistaken for pity, may be rudely
rebuffed, an old man refusing a stranger’s umbrella
out of pride. Suspicion: what does she really want?
Fear: you might pinch the lady’s purse as you help
her dodge the cars. Prepare: you may be punished.
There may be tears, extortions, retractions,
accusations. Who does she think she is? Mother
Teresa? All the world’s ignominy may be yours.
How then will you keep the kindness growing?
You won’t. You’ll break, you’ll stutter, retreat.
You won’t you must you may you will. You will
return, with another bowl filled to the brim
and you will wait for another passer-by to give you
the grace of receiving, and so, repay your debt.
© Sampurna Chattarji

Monday, April 23, 2018

I AM NOT OLD~ Samantha Reynolds


‘I am not old… she said
I am rare.
I am the standing ovation
At the end of the play.
I am the retrospective
Of my life as art
I am the hours
Connected like dots
Into good sense
I am the fullness
Of existing.
You think I am waiting to die…
But I am waiting to be found
I am a treasure.
I am a map.
And these wrinkles are
Imprints of my journey
Ask me
anything.’
~ Samantha Reynolds

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Good Bones BY MAGGIE SMITH


Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
 


Maggie Smith, "Good Bones" from Waxwing.  Copyright © 2016 by Maggie Smith.  Reprinted by permission of Waxwing magazine
 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in   
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Mark Strand, "Keeping Things Whole" from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1979, 1980 by Mark Strand.  Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

After a while you learn-Jorge Luis Borges

After a while you learn the subtle difference Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning And company doesn’t mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats With your head up and your eyes open With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn… That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul, Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure…
That you really are strong
And you really do have worth…
And you learn and learn…
With every good-bye you learn.
*****

Saturday, May 6, 2017

First of all, they came to take the gypsies by Bertold Brecht

“First of all, they came to take the gypsies
and I was happy because they pilfered.
Then they came to take the Jews and I said nothing,
because they were unpleasant to me.
Then they came to take homosexuals,
and I was relieved, because they were annoying me.
Then they came to take the Communists,
and I said nothing because I was not a Communist.
One day they came to take me,
and there was nobody left to protest.'
Bertold Brecht.