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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MY LOST LANGUAGE by Anna Sujatha Mathai

MY LOST LANGUAGE
I search for my lost syllables
in the green grass of the paddy fields.
My lost language, Malayalam,
Has dropped like a gold wedding band,
Into the stream below,
A lost band lying
In the flowing water,
Amid the pebbles deep in the water.
As I search, I hear my grandmother's voice
Speak from the bed under the attic stairs.
How many nights I lay with her
Sharing the pain and the sorrows of her life.
The smell of whole mangoes pickled in brine
Emanates from the earthen bharanis lining the wall
Vying with the smell of jasmine
Coming in through the open window.
Grandmother smells of aromatic oils
Meant to ease her pains.
In the dark night outside, snakes shed their skin.
I hug her tight, as she tells me
In the music of that lost language
About her sad childhood,
The cruel stepmother, the hunger, the humiliation,
The struggle to learn a little English,
All in Malayalam, which opens windows.
On the day of her death she appears to me in a dream.
Clear bells ring, piercing my consciousness.
Molle, you know I lived a sad life,
But can you feel it now, the joy?
She holds out the lost band to me --
English and Malayalam bound together in gold.
My lost language shines in the palm of my hand,
Forming intimate syllables.
Rediscovering lost memories,
A language that trembles in my deepest sleep.
Copyright. Anna Sujatha Mathai.
(First pub. in MOTHER'S VEENA. 2013.)

Monday, April 17, 2017

KINDNESS By Naomi Shihab Nye

KINDNESS
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My Friend, the Prophet by Nadia Ibrashi


The age of old-time prophets is gone,
only small-time prophets remain,
take my friend Alice who sings in nightclubs,
smoky rooms that sprout like mushrooms in Detroit.
She married young, but her newlywed was lost
to the city, his “Peace” sign smashed upon his head.
She belts “No Regrets,” a favorite
that makes me shiver.
Love was king, but for only a day, she croons.
Later, she might walk home with a friend,
kiss him goodnight with her tulip-mouth
that wilts with every dusk.
But no tears will be shed
There'll be no one to blame.

She writes music in the dark,
her ruptured ribs sealing themselves.
Life still goes on
Yes, even though love has gone.
Her heart has discovered villages of hurt,
and look at her:
She’s singing.
“No Regrets,” Edith Piaf. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Art of Losing by Tishani Doshi



It begins with the death 
of the childhood pet -
the dog who refuses to eat
for days, the bird or fish
found sideways, dead.
And you think the hole
in the universe,
caused by the emission
of your grief, is so deep
it will never be rectified.
But it's only the start
of an endless litany
of betrayals:
the cruelty of school,
your first bastard boyfriend,
the neighbour's son
going slowly mad.
You catch hold of losing,
and suddenly, it's everywhere -
the beggars in the street,
the ravage of a distant war
in your sleep.
And when grandfather
hobbles up to the commode
to relieve himself like a girl
without bothering to shut
the door, you begin to realize
what it means to exist
in a world without.
People around you grow old
and die, and it's explained
as a kind of going away -
to God, or rot, or to return
as an ant. And once again,
you're expected to be calm
about the fact that you'll never see
the dead again,
never hear them enter a room
or leave it,
never have them touch
the soft parting of your hair.
Let it be, your parents advise:
it's nothing.
Wait till your favourite aunt
keels over in a shopping mall,
or the only boy you loved
drives off a cliff and survives,
but will never walk again.
That'll really do you in,
make you want to slit your wrists
(in a metaphorical way, of course,
because you're strong and know
that life is about surviving these things).
And almost all of it might
be bearable if it would just end
at this. But one day your parents
will sneak into the garden
to stand under the stars,
and fade, like the lawn,
into a mossy kind of grey.
And you must let them.
Not just that.
You must let them pass
into that wilderness
and understand that soon,
you'll be called aside
to put away your paper wings,
to fall into that same oblivion
with nothing.
As if it were nothing.
*****