Thursday, June 16, 2016

A. V. Koshy writes

An Epic on Childhood - 26 - Regurgitation

the stars-hole punched paper of the sky at night
and in the days its unfathomable interior
vied with the bonsai of the insect world
in the little child, for attention and delight
the tiniest was endless in its detail and design
the largest was endless in its designs and details
he, in between, carried their secrets in the -cosm
scaling from low to high in a wondrous mine
nature with its mysteries he did not crack, his guerdon
love of beauty and a secret love he had for someone
who did not exist then, but seemed to him more real
drifting far from mankind, the little child needs pardon
not knowing how to relate except to poetry's tinkle
not with man, or any of the things that littered his daily life's drill
the world was strange; in it he was engulfed, as if by aliens
except when soothed by nature, love, and tales like Rip Van Winkle
father, brothers, rented house, and touch and taste and smell
sight and hearing of fairy music in imagination's round
feelings that would surge up within and leave him feeling calm
thoughts too pale for happiness, yet vast as any dell
beauty that made his head reel and women who made his heart 

and love of mother and sister in whom he believed for they never 

elfish and lost in self the little boy was, there is no doubt
but what a treasure within the ugly, he carried in his mind's cool 

we all know the story, one told at many a hearth
the little boy grew up, got lost and wandered in the dark
evil, lonely, and unable to unravel knots
but before you judge the little boy, remember you were little too 

and remember him carrying in his hand a glow worm, loved, for a 

    little warmth
while treading on the night-grass
looking at the floral-stars
dreaming of an unreal girl
who would not hesitate
to be with him found,
both forever bound.


Rip Van Winkle -- Kevin Van Hentenryck


  1. Rip Van Winkle was the subject of a short story by Washington Irving, the first American writer to gain an international reputation. (Early in his career, in 1807, he had coined one of New York’s many nicknames, "Gotham," an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "Goat's Town," but he struggled for decades before he was able to support himself financially as a writer.) Like the story about Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, “Rip Van Winkle” principally dealt with the abnegation of time. Rip was a Dutch-American villager who lived shortly before the American Revolution (1775-1783); wandering through the woods near his home in the Catskill Mountains, he discovered the ghosts of Henry Hudson's crew of the "Half-Moon" playing nine-pins (a predecessor of the American 10-pin sport called “bowling”) and drank some of their purple liquor. (On the “Halve Maen,” the English mariner Hudson had explored the Hudson river in New York for the Dutch East India Company in 1609. The following year, working for the Virginia Company and the British East India Company, he commanded the “Discovery” on a voyage to the northern latitudes, through the Hudson Strait at the northern tip of Labrador to Hudson Bay before wintering on James Bay; when the ice cleared in 1611, 13 members of his crew mutinied and set Hudson, his teenage son, and seven ill crewmen adrift in an open boat. They were never seen again. The eight surviving mutineers of the “Discovery” were arrested when they reached England, but none were convicted of their crime, perhaps because their knowledge of the sailing route and conditions were too valuable to sacrifice.) Falling asleep, Rip woke up decades later, after the war, and found the world changed beyond recognition. Living in Birmingham, England, Irving hurriedly wrote the story in an all-night fit of inspiration in June 1818, and it appeared in "The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.," which was published in New York a year later by Cornelius S. Van Winkle.

  2. Irving's father was an Orcadian from the island of Shapinsay and may have told his son the familiar tale about a drunken fiddler who joined a party of trolls inside the burial mound of Salt Knowe, adjacent to the Ring of Brodgar, and played music for them for two hours before continuing his way home, only to find that 50 years had passed. Irving may also have been inspired by a story among the Onöndowága tribe of New York (their principal village, Osininka, led Europeans to call them the “Seneca”) about a young squirrel hunter who spent a night with the "Little People," which turned out to be an entire year. As a biographer of Muhammad, Irving may have known of the "Sura Al-Kahf" in the Qur'an, which had been adapted from the story of "The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus" about early Christians who hid in a cave in 250 to escape the persecution by Roman emperor Decius and woke up two centuries later during the reign of Theodosius II, long after Christianity had become the empire's official religion. But similar tales were common around the world, including Johann Karl Christoph Nachtigal's German folktale "Peter Klaus;" the account of Honi ha-M'agel (Honi the Circle-drawer), a 1st-centurry BCE Jewish scholar (renowned for standing inside a circle he drew in the dust during a drought and telling God that he would not move until it rained, thus provoking a rainstorm; he was excused for his impiety by the Pharisee nasi of the Sanhedrin, Shimon ben Shetach; in 63 BCE, Hyrcanus II, backed by the Pharisees, besieged Jerusalem and demanded that Honi pray for the deaths of their Sadducee enemies, who supported Aristobulus II. However, Honi prayed that God "not to answer the evil prayers of either" side and was stoned to death. However, in the Babylonian Talmud, he was covered by a rocky formation and slept for 70 years.); the Irish tale of Oisin, who fell in love with Niamh and went with her to Tir Na nOg, the land of the ever-young, where he spent 200 years; the story of Epimenides, as told by the 3rd-century Epicurean philosopher Diogenes Laertius in his section on the “Seven Sages of Greece” in “On the Lives, Opinions, and Sayings of Famous Philosophers” -- Epimenides slept in a cave for 57 years but "became old in as many days as he had slept years,” though he lived to be 154, 157, or 299 years old, depending on which of the sources Diogenes cited; the 3rd-century Chinese tale of Ranka; the 8th-century Japanese tale, "Urashima Tarō.” Koshy is probably familiar with the story of the Ikshavaku Dynasy king Muchukunda, an ancestor of Rama, in the “Bhagavatam.” He defended the Devas (gods) against the Asuras (demons) for so long that his kingdom and family no longer existed, since in Heaven one year equaled 360 earth years, but the only boon he asked of Indra was that he be allowed to sleep without disturbance. After a long time, an Asura named Kalayavana inadvertently woke him up and was burnt into ashes. When Muchukunda left his cave, he discovered that he had slept so long that all creatures had become smaller.


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