Category Archives: Poetry

Birdsong

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Elegy To The Bird of Empty Spaces

O. bless me, Muse of Silence, dark and still,
That no more worldly sound my words shall make
Than Philomel, whose plaintive, helpless trill
Eternal thirst for endless peace does slake.

Sadly I tell of seer and of seen
Of a bird who pain into silence sang
Of one who saw what might have been
In those spaces between each lonely pang.

Night in silence the tiny flapping heard.
None can tell when its heart took wing and spoke.
Airs of joy never kissed that little bird.
And yet always in gentleness he woke.

Every life that in his compass lay
He blessed, though troubled was his little heart
That grief and sickness over all held sway
Yet fear, soul from soul did keep apart.

Fly, my song, and soar! Break this endless night!
In silence there more meaning lies, and strength,
Than sun and stars with all their might of light!
Bring pain. My life will measure out its length.

Without moan or groan the thought has flown!
Pain has come with all her brood to bless you,
Little bird! They will spare nor blood nor bone,
But laughing watch you taste their bitter brew.

Enter! Come! The party has not yet begun.
In comfort be not seated yet do watch
As long you will, or until all is done.
Carve upon my soul, for your help, a notch.

Watch and laugh. How he flutters, how he cries.
See tears crack the dirt upon his face.
Is it not delightful how well he lies
While he begs all for mercy and for grace?

All those for whom I care are in my sight.
Wealth and Knowledge, both in my house do shine.
But upon troubled heart they shed their light
To see but broken wings on unbent spine.

No healing touch he asks but, as of old,
He sings with open, gentle, loving heart
That beats with fear though it shines like gold
Bright from the furnace but unknown to art.

His tree is cut. His nest is gone. Nor root
Nor branch is his to grasp. Only terror,
Loneliness, and dark, are within his suit.
Say for this sad bird a simple prayer.

Ask, for him, a friend, who will walk with him
Some miles and beg, for him, a ray of light
When life and death seem, both, too harsh and dim
For him to bear the burden of his sight.

Show him not how he has strayed nor preach
To him how he may have fared if only this
Or that were done or how extend his reach.
He seeks no more than what is justly his.

Six and twenty summers in his homeland
Fair, he stayed and wandered little. And then
Six and twenty summers another land
He dared to scratch a living with a pen.

His life, a book of many colours wrought,
Spoke seldom of love and laughter, but drew
Into gardens of solitary thought
Moments of truth — blooms yellow, red and blue.

Few read long and none too deep for they feared
To see, to know, what they must see and know.
But by the light of truth he always steered
Even on dark nights when he must fly low.

The book, he knew, would close the day that he
Ran out of ink, but neither voice nor eye
Would either slow or stop but would be free.
Fear came but it never made him fly.

He paid his dues, he left some clues; he yearned
To live a life where he could sink or soar,
Though both wings did break and each feather burned
So he may be he, no less – and no more.

What he knew, what he thought, he tried to teach
But every morn he woke to wonder
What he would learn and how far he would reach
Before pot and ink he must surrender.

He did not command great hosts in battle
Or take title or govern any land
For he would not lead his men like cattle
For power make or hold unholy band.

Though the pages still may flutter, we close
Today, his book. Bless him, gentle reader
Or remember his poems or his prose
As befits a teacher not a leader.

One day, perhaps, you shall hear birdsong
Deep and sweet and know whence it stirs abroad.
Though large is the world, the truth is a gong
And much you may hear though much is flawed.

The sky is very deep, my friends, and wide;
And, though will be good, yet for us too vast
In story rapt, forever to abide.
Every bird must to his nest at last.

Many birds have flown the skies and many
Fallen down. Many birds will yet take wing
And loudly sing, but he is unlike any,
Whose song in silence will forever ring.

Aside

May I fall in love with you?
I promise if I do
I never will be true
Except only to you!

We will live a happy life
Though you may never be my wife
As long as we get drunk on kisses, dear
And never mind the beer!

And whenever I should die
Don’t you look down and cry
Because from up there in the sky
I’ll be waving to say, “Hi!”

Blown Away

Ode to The Music of the Heart

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O, my heart, if your beats could speak

What would they say, what music play?

Tight the chest and yet small drops leak

Emotion’s lay.

 

Let pain subside and patience flow

Through sunny smiles and dismal isles.

Tired, I walk, alone and slow,

These lonely miles.

 

No friend, no foe, no strife, no peace;

A clock, a path, a face, an urn.

Nor sigh nor prayer will appease.

Air, earth: both burn.

 

The flute can never curve like lips

But with silent bellows music makes

Among the dancing fingertips.

Care sleeps. Joy wakes.

 

Sweet silence in the stillness thrums.

My soul in it will ever be.

Awash with love, the moment comes.

Eternity.

Passing Through

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COFFEE AND CHANGE

 

 

 

He seemed to be about six and a half feet tall, but was actually at least two, perhaps three inches, shorter. It was not only the square, solid heels of his leather boots that came up to his knees, but also his wiry build that created the impression of those extra inches. His thick black hair, wild and tousled as it was, still had a healthy shine, and his shaggy black brows covered piercing black eyes that, for the moment, held a gentle expression. The soft, fawn-coloured sweater was clearly made of the purest wool, as was the elegant, jet-black overcoat that covered it. A soft, long, colourful muffler gently but effectively covered his throat, and the black, wool-lined gloves that protected his hands were of delicate, supple suede. The wind did not blow hard so early in the winter, but at his age, he feared its chilling edge that, like a razor, would slice through bone, given the slightest opportunity. While he did not drag his feet, it was obvious that the elegantly carved, thick mahogany walking stick, which rose almost to his shoulder, was not mainly for show. Although his face bore no trace of the effort of holding on to the stick, the fact that his back bent slightly, as he walked, gave it away.

Nobody in the place paid much attention to him, at first. It was a place for the younger people of the town. In the still clear light of the sun that was now low on the horizon, the T-shirts and the slacks with their unmistakably expensive logos and the soft, shiny leather of the loafers bespoke the casual elegance that was the hallmark of the youngsters who thronged there. The brass and glass coffee machine, in the open-air patio, at the back of the room, undoubtedly contained a computer chip or two, had a deliberately antiquated look, which, of course, gave the establishment itself a charming, old-world air. The synthetic, impossible combination of sitars and pianos, so popular with the pseudo-intellectuals who frequented the place, blared out of the tiny but powerful speakers that were invisibly scattered throughout the walls and ceilings. It could not have taken the old man more than a minute to cross the highly polished rosewood floor, to the coffee machine, at the back of the room. And though he made no fuss, he knew that all eyes were on him. Of course, to the casual observer, it would have seemed as though everyone seemed to be looking anywhere but at him.

Carefully, the old man counted out all of the coins he would need for his cup of coffee. He always did this even though he carried exactly the right amount of change and always put it in the same pocket of the same coat, every day. The arthritic fingers made it seem that he pushed the coins into the machine too carefully, almost grudgingly. Behind him, stood an Adonis, young, and full of spirit. Though at least 3 or 4 inches shorter, and far less muscular than the older man, the young man was being surreptitiously eyed by every woman in the room, regardless of her age and marital status. Not quite as lean as the old man, and not even nearly as elegant, the younger man was nevertheless captivating. His raw-silk shirt, with its long sleeves casually bunched up to the elbows, and absent-mindedly unbuttoned, showed smooth, rippling muscles, in the forearms, and a hard, well-defined chest. It was quite obvious that the younger man’s well-sculpted body was the result of many hours with a personal trainer in a gym.

The young man’s eyes had a glint of humour in them, and his stance, though relaxed, exuded confidence. The Adonis possessed a large roll of coins that he kept tossing between his hands, in a mechanical, distracted sort of way. Finally, he got bored of his little game himself and pushed the stack of coins into the deep and capacious pocket of his sharply creased trousers. The young man first rolled his eyes a little, and then tapped his feet, checked his cell-phone and eventually just began to stare down a the floor, as if he had suddenly found something very interesting just in front of his highly polished designer shoes. Eventually, the old man got his plastic cup, filled with coffee, out of the machine. But, as the old man began to turn away, with his coffee in one hand, and the walking stick in the other, a strange thing happened.

The walking stick did not fall, but began to slip on the highly polished floor. Had it continued moving along the trajectory on which it had started, the old gentleman who held it could not have prevented himself from falling. His reflexes, of course, were not what they used to be. His strength and grace did not help in such a situation. The younger man saw the slip almost unconsciously. It took him only a fraction of a second to realize that in moments the old man would be sprawled on the floor, bereft of his dignity as well as his coffee. In the same moment that he saw the stick slipping, though, the young man saw also the fear and the anger in the old man’s eyes. The fear was not of anything physical, but of humiliation. And the anger was directed against himself, not against anyone else. The anger was an expression of the frustration and helplessness the old man felt at that moment, for the old man, too, knew what was happening and was equally aware of the inevitable result. However, to have held the older man’s arm or to have steadied him by the shoulder was unthinkable. It would not look as bad as falling on the floor with coffee all over his clothes, but it would be just as galling. There was only one thing to do.

 

 

The whole café heard the tinkle of change hitting the floor. The young man had dropped all of his coins, and was busy cursing and picking them up. What nobody saw, of course, was that the coins had appeared, almost like magic, in the young man’s hand, from deep inside his pocket, and they were aimed to fall directly in the old man’s path. As he bent over, to pick up the coins, the edge of one highly polished and very expensive leather shoe hit the old man’s stick hard, pushing it perfectly upright. The strength of the push was delicately calculated to push the stick exactly the right distance, and no more. Since the shoe was hidden by the young man’s thigh, as he bent his leg, the movement was invisible to everyone else. And, just in case the movement had been too unexpected, the young man made sure that he put only that one knee to the ground. His shoulders were now at exactly the right height for the old man’s palm to rest on them, comfortably and unobtrusively. It was a good decision. For a long moment, the entire weight of the old man pressed down hard, almost crushing the younger man’s knee into the ground. The old man’s large, powerful fingers squeezed, with agonizing slowness, into the younger man’s shoulder, while he steadied himself. The younger man did not notice. His entire attention seemed to be focused on the coins lying on the floor. His eyes restlessly scanned the floor, as if searching for the rest of his money. He knew, of course, that it would be fatal to move until the old man had fully recovered himself. And then, of course, as if nothing had happened, the old man moved on.

 

 

The incident had probably lasted no more than a second or two. Already, however, pretty young hands were picking up the rest of the coins and handing them back to the handsome stranger, with dazzling smiles. But many of the people in the café were surprised at the young man’s behaviour. Not only had he been clumsy and careless, but he had not even apologized to the older man. But the young man paid no attention to the rude whispers that he heard, about himself. When he saw the older man walking away, safely, the younger man suddenly lost interest in the money on the floor. Raising his eyes, he saw the old man reach his car. The car was parked with its left side parallel to the sidewalk and, as the old man approached it, he was exactly at right angles to the door. As the older man turned sideways to allow the driver to open the door for him, very casually, he glanced at the younger man, who was still on his knee. For just a moment, the eyes of the two men locked and they smiled at each other, in perfect understanding. They each knew that they had seen themselves reflected in the eyes of the other. Youth, and old age, they seemed to say silently to each other, are both temporary. His walking stick firmly held in one hand and the steaming cup of coffee in the other, the old man waited, while the bored chauffeur held open the door for him. As the old man was about to step into the car, he moved the fingers of his left hand, in an almost imperceptible wave, to the younger man, even as the car drove off into the silence.

The old man stared into space for a long moment, as the large, powerful car moved slowly, almost majestically through the streets. Finally, he took a deep sip of his coffee. It was lukewarm. A casual touch on a button, with the little finger of his left hand, made the window begin to roll down, slowly. He waited, patiently, until it was all the way down. Carefully, holding the cup at arm’s length, he slowly tipped over the cup and poured away all of the coffee, onto the pavement below. He decided, as he drew his arm back into the car, that, for once, he felt warm enough to leave the window open. He held his empty plastic cup, with both hands, and looked at it for some time. The memory of the young man’s gesture filled him with happiness. “My cup is full,” he thought to himself.

 

 

 

 

The I of the Storm

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Water Colours

Great is the grief that floats upon the heart
Made whole in weeping red and hopeless gray.
Love finds its colours in truth without art.

The clay twists, stretches, slowly tears apart
Each breath, each tear, each small whisper that says
Great is the grief that floats upon the heart.

Much we lose and much forsake ere we part
And start to live our lies in artful gray.
Love finds its colours in truth without art.

Ungentle truth carves slowly, like God’s art,
And blades of reason do not, for pity, stay.
Great is the grief that floats upon the heart.

Smile through fire; let sighs, like storms, hide the smart
That, like loveless wheel, shapes colourless clay.
Love finds its colours in truth without art.

No vessel fit there ever is, to chart
Gray dreams in eyes that once could pray.
Great is the grief that floats upon the heart.
Love finds its colours in truth without art.