Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pilgrim's Progress

"Twirled" by Neha

..And to stir the mind
To a search after what it fain would find:
Things that seem to be hid in words obscure,
Do but the Godly mind the more allure;
To study what those sayings should contain
That speak to us in such a Cloudy strain...

- Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan (1678)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ode to My Ocean Wave

"Washed" by Neha

My ocean wave,
Washing over these sand castles we make
Hand in hand
Round and round
As people walk along
As sounds touch our souls
We pick a stranger's tune

My ocean wave,
On a hot summer day
I'd take a dip in you
and you would sooth the sun like a full moon
I'd see a million corals inside,
reflecting like a rainbow made of water bubbles,
a bit salty but welcome

My ocean wave,
I'd just float above you
and you would make heaviness feel like a feather
Making me feel like a puff of air -
floating there
looking at the night sky

My ocean wave,
These waters are calm
You carrying the mermaids
and treasures and the sunken ships-
All this cargo - all in your heart

My ocean wave,
my night and day
my sun and moon
my space travel and handful of earth

My ocean wave,
Your depth is not known
but like a scuba diver,
I jumped right in
And you held my hand
to show me this world below the brine -
the electric fish, the flying horses

My ocean wave,
Wash over me

My ocean wave,
You are my turquoise
You are my horizon, kissing
heaven and earth all at once
You are my dusk red
You are my silhouette
Like feet dipping in your cool water
on a hot summer day
Wash over me

My ocean wave,
breathe in and out
your high tide and low tide

My ocean wave,
Wash over me.

-Neha

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blessed Beads

"Flower Girl" by Neha

She is recycling old paper
rolling it on a fine needle
turning old news into beauty

She is recycling paper beads and her life
You can still read the old lines -
that is, if you look close enough,
underneath the waterproof varnish and patterns

She is recycling her life, like paper beads
There is boundless beauty in each layer
A sum total more stunning than its parts

She calls them the blessed beads
Just like her life

blessings of many lives within this one
blessings of dreamy dreams within this one
blessings of many lines of living love
blessings of constantly changing change

These blessed beads
Just like her life

-Neha

Monday, December 26, 2011

To Birds of Traffic Light

"Birds of Traffic Light" by Neha

Today, I looked up the traffic light
and realized how beautiful life is

Electric wires crossing here and there
And there you see the beautiful birds
Sitting gloriously unaware of the traffic signals below
or the mad rush to enter the shopping malls shouting SALE SALE SALE!
or the impatient lines to get out of the parking lots

There they are. Birds of traffic light.
Sitting gloriously
Looking up to the blue sky and beyond
So much beauty that it fills my heart

And I think that is life
it has so much beauty
If only we'd look up to the sky
Like birds of traffic light

-Neha

Saraktee jaye hai

Saraktee jaye hai rukh se naqaab ahista ahista
nikalataa aa raha hai aaftaab ahista ahista

Jawaan hone lage jab vo to ham se kar liyaa pardaa
hayaa yakalakht aayii aur shabaab ahista ahista

Shabefurkat kaa jaagaa hoon farishton ab to sone do
kabhee fursat men kar lenaa hisaab ahista ahista

Savaalevasl par unko uduu kaa khauf hai itna
Dabey honthon se dete hain javaab ahistaa ahistaa

Hamarey aur tumharey pyar men bass fark hai itna
Idhar to jaldee jaldee hai udhar aahistaa aahistaa

Woh bedardee se sar kaatein "ameer" aur main kahoon un se
Huzoor aahistaa aahistaa, janaab ahista ahista

- Written by Ameer Menai, Sung by Jagjit Singh

Key to urdu words: sarakti - to slip, naqab - veil, ahista - slowly, aftaab - ( vision of) moon, yakalaKht - modesty/shame, shabefurkat - night of separation, savaalevasl - question-answers, uduu - villian,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gravity

"Matched" by Neha

Sometimes, we should just let gravity do its thing
Like falling rain washing over the hot asphalt road
Like fall leaves making friends with the wind
Like fallen dreams settling in your open palms
Sometimes, we should just let gravity do its thing

- Neha

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Whitsun Weddings

....There we were aimed. And as we raced across
Bright knots of rail
Past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss
Came close, and it was nearly done, this frail
Travelling coincidence; and what it held
Stood ready to be loosed with all the power
That being changed can give. We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.

- Philip Larkin

A German Requiem

It is not what they built. It is what they knocked down.
It is not the houses. It is the spaces in between the houses.
It is not the streets that exist. It is the streets that no longer exist.
It is not your memories which haunt you.
It is not what you have written down.
It is what you have forgotten, what you must forget.
What you must go on forgetting all your life.
And with any luck oblivion should discover a ritual.
You will find out that you are not alone in the enterprise.
Yesterday the very furniture seemed to reproach you.
Today you take your place in the Widow's Shuttle.

*

The bus is waiting at the southern gate
To take you to the city of your ancestors
Which stands on the hill opposite, with gleaming pediments,
As vivid as this charming square, your home.
Are you shy? You should be. It is almost like a wedding,
The way you clasp your flowers and give a little tug at your veil. Oh,
The hideous bridesmaids, it is natural that you should resent them
Just a little, on this first day.
But that will pass, and the cemetery is not far.
Here comes the driver, flicking a toothpick into the gutter,
His tongue still searching between his teeth.
See, he has not noticed you. No one has noticed you.
It will pass, young lady, it will pass.

*

How comforting it is, once or twice a year,
To get together and forget the old times.
As on those special days, ladies and gentlemen,
When the boiled shirts gather at the graveside
And a leering waistcoast approaches the rostrum.
It is like a solemn pact between the survivors.
They mayor has signed it on behalf of the freemasonry.
The priest has sealed it on behalf of all the rest.
Nothing more need be said, and it is better that way-

*

The better for the widow, that she should not live in fear of surprise,
The better for the young man, that he should move at liberty between the armchairs,
The better that these bent figures who flutter among the graves
Tending the nightlights and replacing the chrysanthemums
Are not ghosts,
That they shall go home.
The bus is waiting, and on the upper terraces
The workmen are dismantling the houses of the dead.

*

But when so many had died, so many and at such speed,
There were no cities waiting for the victims.
They unscrewed the name-plates from the shattered doorways
And carried them away with the coffins.
So the squares and parks were filled with the eloquence of young cemeteries:
The smell of fresh earth, the improvised crosses
And all the impossible directions in brass and enamel.

*

'Doctor Gliedschirm, skin specialist, surgeries 14-16 hours or by appointment.'
Professor Sarnagel was buried with four degrees, two associate memberships
And instructions to tradesmen to use the back entrance.
Your uncle's grave informed you that he lived in the third floor, left.
You were asked please to ring, and he would come down in the lift
To which one needed a key...

*

Would come down, would ever come down
With a smile like thin gruel, and never too much to say.
How he shrank through the years.
How you towered over him in the narrow cage.
How he shrinks now...

*
But come. Grief must have its term? Guilt too, then.
And it seems there is no limit to the resourcefulness of recollection.
So that a man might say and think:
When the world was at its darkest,
When the black wings passed over the rooftops,
(And who can divine His purposes?) even then
There was always, always a fire in this hearth.
You see this cupboard? A priest-hole!
And in that lumber-room whole generations have been housed and fed.
Oh, if I were to begin, if I were to begin to tell you
The half, the quarter, a mere smattering of what we went through!

*

His wife nods, and a secret smile,
Like a breeze with enough strength to carry one dry leaf
Over two pavingstones, passes from chair to chair.
Even the enquirer is charmed.
He forgets to pursue the point.
It is not what he wants to know.
It is what he wants not to know.
It is not what they say.
It is what they do not say.


James Fenton

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quilty as Charged

"Quilts tell stories" by Neha

She quilted her life
One patch at a time
Her life was long, colorful, complex
And so was the quilt.

It took hundreds of patches

She did not make them perfect squares on purpose
For her life was not all squares
It was more like squares, rectangles,
triangles, circles, hexagons -
All thrown together
The edges not perfectly blending
Still dancing her crazy dance

She felt quilty

So she quilted her life
One patch at a time
Her life was long, colorful, complex
And so was the quilt.

In between these patches
Of many colors, yarns and patterns
Of matches and mismatches
Of decisions and indecisions
Was her entire life's story

And now, looking at the quilt
She felt quilty. Quilty as charged.
She both trembled and tickled
To think of what the quilt knows about her

-Neha

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tears of the Giraffe

Giraffe Sketch by Johan31000

Mma Ramotswe had a gift for the American woman, a basket which on her return journey from Bulawayo she had bought, on impulse, from a woman sitting by the side of the road in Francistown. The woman was desperate, and Mma Ramotswe, who did not need a basket, had bought it to help her. It was a traditional Botswana basket, with a design worked into the weaving.

"These little marks here are tears." she said. "The giraffe gives its tears to the women and they weave them into the basket"

The American woman took the basket politely, in the proper Botswana way of receiving a gift - with both hands...."You are very kind, Mma."she said. "But why did the giraffe give its tears?"

Mma Ramotswe shrugged; she had never thought about it. "I suppose that it means that we can all give something," she said. "A giraffe has nothing else to give - only tears."

Did it mean that? she wondered. And for a moment she imagined that she saw a giraffe peering down through the trees, its strange, stilt-borne body camouflaged among the leaves; and its moist velvet cheeks and liquid eyes; and she thought of all the beauty there was in Africa, and of the laughter, and the love.

- From Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

Ab ke saawan mein

"Wheat Field in Rain" by Vincent Van Gogh

Ab ke saawan mein shararat ye mere saath hui,
Mera ghar chhod ke kul shahar mein barsaat hui.

Aap mat puchiye kya hum pe safar mein gujri,
The luteron ka jahan gaon, wahin raat hui.

Zindagi bhar to hui guftgu gairon se magar,
Aaj tak humse hamari naa mulakat hui.

Har galat mod pe toka hai kisi ne mujhko,
Ek aawaz teri jab se mere sath hui.

Maine socha ki mere desh ki halat kya hai,
Ek kaatil se tabhi meri mulakat hui.

- Gopaldas Neeraj

खुशबू सी आ रही है

Parinda by Neha

खुशबू सी आ रही है इधर ज़ाफ़रान की,
खिडकी खुली है फिर कोई उनके मकान की.

हारे हुए परिन्दे ज़रा उड़ के देख तो,
आ जायेगी जमीन पे छत आसमान की.

बुझ जाये सरेशाम ही जैसे कोई चिराग,
कुछ यूँ है शुरुआत मेरी दास्तान की.

ज्यों लूट ले कहार ही दुल्हन की पालकी,
हालत यही है आजकल हिन्दुस्तान की.

औरों के घर की धूप उसे क्यूं पसंद हो,
बेची हो जिसने रोशनी अपने मकान की .

जुल्फों के पेंचो-ख़म में उसे मत तलाशिये,
ये शायरी जुबां है किसी बेजुबान की.

'नीरज' से बढ़कर और धनी है कौन,
उसके हृदय में पीर है सारे जहान की.

- गोपालदास "नीरज"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Where are you from?


The Flowing Hair by Henri Matisse

[ The lady behind the restaurant counter asks me, without a comma:
"You look lovely this afternoon where are you from?"

As always, I fumble for a response to these four words:
Where are you from?

And then there is loveliness
Is loveliness and where I am from related?

I fumble for the first geographical wave that comes to mind, which it does depending on the season, time of the day and my mood.

For "Where am I from?"]

I.

I am from this ground I am standing on.
I am here now. I am from here.
I am from my blue bedroom
I am from my white kitchen
I am from the green study
I am from the lemon bathroom
I am from the white living room

I am from the side street
I am from the progressive county
I am from the green city
I am from the legendary state
I am from this greatest country on earth

But wait. This is my adopted home
I must belong where I came from.

So let's try again.

I am from that ancient country
I am from that mythical state
I am from that dusty city
I am from that revolutionary county
I am from that main road

I am from the plot where my parents house stands
I am from that tall building I called home before I grew my wings
I am from my parents house on the sixth floor
I am from the house number 64

I am from that brown living room
I am from that sea green bathroom
I am from that blue study
I am from my mother's grey kitchen
I am from my pink bedroom where my stuffed toys are still lined up
I am from that ground I stood on
I was there then. I was from there then.

But I am standing here now.
Here in a very precise space
Square footage taken by my blue shoes
So ask me again where I am from

I am from where my parents spent their childhood
Where my mother, as a little girl, played on a banyan tree swing
I am from the house from whose roof my father fell
as a three years old kid. Unharmed. From what the eyes can see atleast.

So ask me again where I am from

I am from where I am right now
Like a magical tree that
grows new roots wherever you may place it
I am from here

I am from everywhere I have been
From everywhere I will go
From the human ocean
The mammal ocean
The living ocean
The non living ocean
The star dust we all share

Yes. I am from the stars.

-Neha

Take 2: Where are you from? Read Take 1 here.

The listener

Arabian Song by Paul Klee

He was a listener
Sometimes a bit adrift
Sometimes a bit restless
Sometimes a bit listless

But always listening
Above the lines
Under the lines
On the line

He had been listening all his life
So it seemed natural that he'd listen to her
And when he would speak it would be
about what he had listened

She listened too
Sometimes she was a bit adrift too
Sometimes she was a bit restless too
Sometimes she was a bit listless too

She was not a born listener
But life had taught her
That that is one of the best things to do
To listen

So here they were now:
Two listeners and silence

-Neha

Untitled (aka "Last Love)

"Love on the Street" by Neha

To my daughters, I need to say:

Go with the one who loves you biblically.

The one whose love lifts its head to you despite its broken neck.

Whose body bursts sixteen arms electric to carry you, gentle, the way old grief is gentle.

Love the love that is messy in all its too much,

The body that rides best your body, whose mouth saddles the naked salt of your far gone hips, whose tongue translates the rock language of all your elegant scars.

Go with the one who cries out for his tragic sisters as he chops the winter’s wood, the one whose skin

Triggers your heart into a heaven of blood waltzes.

Go with the one who resembles most your father. Not the father you can point out on a map,

But the father who is here. Is your home. Is the key to your front door. Know that your first love will only

Be the first. And the second and third and even fourth will unprepare you for the most important:

The Blessed. The Beast. The Last love. Which is, of course, the most terrifying kind.

Because which of us wants to go with what can murder us? Can reveal to us

Our true heart’s end and its thirty years spent in poverty?

Can mimic the sound of our birdthroated mothers, replicate the warmth of our brothers' tempers? Can pull us out of ourselves until

We are no longer sisters or daughters or sword swallowers but, instead,

Women. Who give. And lead. And take and want

And want

And want

And want

Because there is no shame in wanting.

And you will hear yourself say: Last Love, I wish to die so I may come back to you new and never tasted by any other mouth but yours.

And I want to be the hands that pull your children out of you and tuck them deep inside myself until they are

Ready to be the children of such a royal and staggering love. Or you will say: Last Love,

I am old, and have spent myself on the courageless, have wasted too many clocks on less-deserving men, so I hurl myself

At the throne of you and lie humbly at your feet.

Last Love, let me never roll out of this heavy dream of you.

Let the day I was born mean my life will end where you end.

Let the man behind the church do what he did if it brings me to you.

Let the girls in the locker room corner me again if it brings me to you.

Let the wrong beds find me if it brings me to you.

Let this wild depression throw me beneath its hooves if it brings me to you.

Let me pronounce my hoarded joy if it brings me to you.

Let my father break me again and again if it brings me to you.

Last love, I let other men borrow your children. Forgive me.

Last love, I vowed my heart to another. Forgive me.

Last Love, I have let my blind and anxious hands wander into a room and come out empty. Forgive me.

Last Love, I have cursed the women you loved before me. Forgive me.

Last Love, I envy your mother’s body where you resided first. Forgive me.

Last Love, I am all that is left. Forgive me.

Last Love, I did not see you coming. Forgive me.

Last Love, every day without you was a life I crawled out of. Amen.

Last Love, you are my Last Love. Amen.

Last Love, I am all that is left. Amen.

I am all that is left.

Amen.


Barason ke baad

baraso.n ke baad dekhaa ik shaKhs dil_rubaa saa
ab zahan me.n nahii.n hai par naam thaa bhalaa saa

abaruu khi.nche khi.nche se aa.Nkhe.n jhukii jhukii sii
baate.n rukii rukii sii lahajaa thakaa thakaa saa

alfaaz the ke jugnuu aavaaz ke safar me.n
ban jaaye jangalo.n me.n jis tarah raastaa saa

Khvaabo.n me.n Khvaab us ke yaado.n me.n yaad us kii
niindo.n me.n ghul gayaa ho jaise ke rat_jagaa saa

pahale bhii log aaye kitane hii zindagii me.n
vo har tarah se lekin auro.n se thaa judaa saa

agalii muhabbato.n ne vo naa_muraadiyaa.N dii.n
taazaa rafaaqato.n se dil thaa Daraa Daraa saa

kuchh ye ke muddato.n se ham bhii nahii.n the roye
kuchh zahar me.n bujhaa thaa ahabaab kaa dilaasaa

phir yuu.N huaa ke saavan aa.Nkho.n me.n aa base the
phir yuu.N huaa ke jaise dil bhii thaa aabalaa saa

ab sach kahe.n to yaaro ham ko Khabar nahii.n thii
ban jaayegaa qayaamat ik vaaqi_aa zaraa saa

tevar the beruKhii ke andaaz dostii ke
vo ajanabii thaa lekin lagataa thaa aashnaa saa

ham dasht the ke dariyaa ham zahar the ke amrit
naahaq thaa zo.Num ham ko jab vo nahii.n thaa pyaasaa

ham ne bhii us ko dekhaa kal shaam ittefaaqan
apanaa bhii haal hai ab logo 'Faraz' kaa saa

- Ahmed Faraz

Grandma's Pickle

Garden with Flowers by Gustav Klimt

Like her love
The recipe of the lemon pickle is gone
A taste remains

A little girl tip toeing to grab a big piece
of grandma's pickle,
grabbing it,
running,
hiding again to eat it in the attic

Only a memory remains
Of her love
Like lemon pickle

-Neha

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Where are you from?

Flowing Hair by Henri Matisse


[ The lady behind the restaurant counter asks me:
"You look lovely this afternoon where are you from?"

Yes - without a comma or a full stop she asks me:
"You look lovely this afternoon where are you from?"

As always, I fumble for a response to these four words:
Where are you from?

And then there is loveliness
Is loveliness and where I am from related?

I fumble for the first geographical wave that comes to mind.

For "Where am I from?"]

I.

I am from this ground I am standing on.
I am here now. I am from here.
I think of the mythical tree which grows
roots from wherever it is uprooted and rerooted.

I am from this little box I call home
From the blue bedroom I dream in
to the yellow kitchen I cook in, the dining table
which lives parallel lives as a workstation and
an artist's desk overlooking the petunias smiling
in an inverted old lampshade pot.

I am from this study room with a french window
opening to a big tree - the tree whose name
I do not know, but which I love.
The one on which two baby squirrels
dance, play and nap all day long.

I am from the living room with its multi color carpet
and painting with blown up red
flowers - flowers whose name
I don't know, but which I love. The
one I look at to escape to a bed a flowers with soft
green cushion looking at the blue colored sky

II.

I am from the street I turn on to reach home.
The sidewalks. Resident's only parking spaces. The red light.
The bus stop. Wild yellow flower forcing its way through concrete.
Tall trees which have been here since
long before anyone I know has existed.

I am from the sub-division with its underground
drainage system. The rising and falling
property values. The neighborhood plan and
historic preservation. The advisory groups and
residential conservation areas.
I am from the great city. The great falls road. The farmer's
market. The boards and commissions. The council for dog license
and now waived cat license. The coyote coexistence.
The garden plot rental.

III.
I am from the great state. The queen state.
The monumental state. The free state.
The one which claims many big deeds -
It hopes you too will be pleased.
Founding father of chocolate and chewing gum of self help,
The pink punk pony, fat fish and eloquent elephant.
They were all from here.

I am from the greatest country in the world. The
one which is fastest, strongest, toughest. The
one which was destined to be the greatest. The
one which worked at it through longest works days
and shortest annual leaves. The one with the soul train,
the funk, the rap, the jazz, the country, the pop all rolled into one.
The one with silver diners and soup kitchens.

I am from the west. The wild wild west. The best of west
the land of dreams. The land of starting from scratch.
The land of I-don't care-who-your-father-was.

IV.

But wait. I was not born here

I am from across the oceans
The country I was born in
The capital I was born in
It is not even a state but a union territory

I am from that subdivision
That city
That tall building I spent a decade in
before I grew my own wings
I am from my parents house
I am from the room I painted pink
I am from the mirror who saw me dance
I am from the workstation of my first job
I am from where my parents grew

I am from where my parents spent their childhood.
Where my mother swung on a banyan tree swing
From the house from whose roof my father fell
when he was three. Unharmed from what eyes can see.

V.

I am from everywhere I have been
From everywhere I will go
From the human ocean
The mammal ocean
The living ocean
The non living ocean
The star dust we all share

Yes. I am from the stars.

-Neha

Take 1: Where are you from? Read Take 2 here.

A Neverending Story

Dance at Moma by Henri Matisse

A neverending story
Only dot dot dot . . .
A sentence left hanging mid-air
Defying the laws of gravity

A neverending story
Only dot dot dot . . .
Fill in my blanks with words
Found in an unfound dictionary

A neverending story
Only dot dot dot . . .
A chapter not written yet
You speak in prose but it is poetry

A neverending story
Only dot dot dot . . .
Like circles in white sand
Our criss crossed geometry . . .

-Neha

If the River Knows

Current by Neha

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. - A. A. Milne, Author (1882-1956)

If the river knows, why then does she fall from great heights ?
Why does she go and hit the rock bottom?
Does she like the slippery green moss?
Does she like the rainbow created by her fall?

Or does the river just know this:
That with countless rise and falls,
she will get there some day?
That she is not in midst of a current,
she is the current herself?

- Neha

Microwaved love


A microwave safe cup
met a handcrafted saucer

The cup was machine made perfect
The saucer had uneven finger marks

The cup could stand high temperatures
The saucer cracked if not handled carefully

A machine made cup and a handmade saucer
So different. So together

-Neha