Friday, November 30, 2018

Lily Swarn writes

You Read My Eyes

You read my eyes as if they were an unpronounceable word in the thesaurus

Searching for answers to vague questions
Answers that you already knew in your heart
That heart which was lush with a nameless love

My eyes looked down from the image you had placed strategically on the wall opposite your study table
As if it's placement in your bosom wasn't enough

The chill permeated through your royal, high collared coat
And snowed around your weary shoulders
Tired with the constant gazing into my irises

Sometimes they hummed a long forgotten ghazal
Or cooed like the grey dove in your back yard
They were garrulous eyes like taunting women folk sitting around the village tandoor

The mysterious aura in the almond eyes was not because of the dark Kajal that crooned love ditties

It was the stony silence of tradition
It ricocheted and boomeranged around your steadily dimming reading glasses
Till you fell into a dream filled stupor
Your chin resting on your yearning chest 


 Self-Portrait -- Michaela Chorn


  1. Kajal (kohl) is an ancient eye cosmetic traditionally made by grinding stibnite (much like the use of charcoal to make mascara). Widely used to contour or darken the eyelids, and as mascara for eyelashes, in India mothers apply it to their babies’ soon after birth to strengthen their eyes" or prevent curses cast by a malevolent gaze.

    Kajal Ahmad is a Kurdish poet from Sulaymaniyah, Iraq (the “Paris of Iraq” or “the bride of Iraq´s cities”) – ever since the city’s foundation in 1784 by Ibrahaim Pasha Baban (and named after his father), it has been a center of Kurdish cultural enlightenment and the home of significant poets, writers, historians, politicians, scholars, and musicians. “The Fruit-Seller’s Philosophy” is translated by Choman Hardi and Mimi Khalvati:

    My friend! You were like an apricot.
    At the first bite,
    I spat out the core and crux.

    My old flame! Sometimes
    you're a tangerine,
    undressing so spontaneously,

    and sometimes you're an apple,
    with or without the peel.

    You're like a fruit knife.
    There's never a time
    when you're not
    at our dinner table.
    But forgive me if I say -
    you're a waste of time.

    Dear homeland, you're like a lemon.
    When you are named,
    the world's mouth waters
    but I get all goosepimply.

    You, stranger!
    I'm sure you're a watermelon.
    I won't know what you're really like
    till I go through you like a knife.

    A tandoor is a cylindrical clay or metal oven. The heat is generated by a charcoal fire within the oven itself, so the contents are cooked by live-fire radiant heat, hot-air convention, and smoking by the fat and juices dripping onto the charcoal.

  2. The ghazal, a type of amatory poem, is one of the most widespread and popular poetic forms, especially across the Middle East and South Asia. As a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain, it emerged as a poetic genre during the Ummayyad caliphate in Arabia (661–750). Evolving from the qasida, a much older pre-Islamic Arabic poetic form, which was typically much longer, up to 100 couplets, the ghazal commonly consists of only 5 to 15 couplets. A qaṣida was usually a panegyric for some tribe or ruler, a lampoon, or a moral maxim, and was not devoted to the theme of love. However, its prelude (the nasib), highly ornamented and stylized in form, was often nostalgic or romantic in theme, and in time, the nasibs themselves came to be written as shorter, standalone, poems, which became ghazals. They retained the qasida's verse structure, including a common end rhyme on each couplet and strict adherence to meter; however, the meter became shorter and less ponderous. The form spread throughout Muslim areas, but its introduction into Persia in 10th century (and especially in the 12th-13th centuries) marked its most significant formularazation, especially the movement towards greater autonomy between the couplets and the inclusion of the poet's pen name in the final couplet. Under the influence of Sufi poets, ghazals acquired an ambiguous spiritual context, with the Beloved being perhaps a metaphor for God or an object of sexual desire. They did not become part of the English poetic tradition until the 1990s. For instance, John Hollander, who frequently writes poems about poetic forms, wrote "Ghazals on Ghazals":

    For couplets the ghazal is prime; at the end
    Of each one’s a refrain like a chime: “at the end.”

    But in subsequent couplets throughout the whole poem,
    It’s this second line only will rhyme at the end

    One such a string of strange, unpronounceable fruits,
    How fine the familiar old lime at the end!

    All our writing is silent, the dance of the hand,
    So that what it comes down to’s all mime, at the end.

    Dust and ashes? How dainty and dry! We decay
    To our messy primordial slime at the end.

    Two frail arms of your delicate form I pursue,
    Inaccessible, vibrant, sublime at the end.

    You gathered all manner of flowers all day,
    But your hands were most fragrant of thyme, at the end.

    There are so many sounds! A poem having one rhyme?
    —A good life with sad, minor crime at the end.

    Each new couplet’s a different ascent: no great peak,
    But a low hill quite easy to climb at the end.

    Two armed bandits: start out with a great wad of green
    Thoughts, but you’re left with a dime at the end.

    Each assertion’s a knot which must shorten, alas.
    This long-worded rope of which I’m at end.

    Now Qafia Radif has grown weary, like life,
    At the same he’s been wasting his time at. THE END.

    And Robert Bly developed what he called the "tercet ghazal," which replaces the 2-hemiistich stanza (sher) with a 3-line structure, with each sher as an independent poem but each ending with the same word (radif). Here is his "Ravens Hiding in a Shoe":

    There is something men and women living in houses
    Don’t understand. The old alchemists standing
    Near their stoves hinted at it a thousand times.

    Ravens at night hide in an old woman’s shoe.
    A four-year-old speaks some ancient language.
    We have lived our own death a thousand times.

    Each sentence we speak to friends means the opposite
    As well. Each time we say, “I trust in God,” it means
    God has already abandoned us a thousand times.

    Mothers again and again have knelt in church
    In wartime asking God to protect their sons,
    And their prayers were refused a thousand times.

    The baby loon follows the mother’s sleek
    Body for months. By the end of summer, she
    Has dipped her head into Rainy Lake a thousand times.

    Robert, you’ve wasted so much of your life
    Sitting indoors to write poems. Would you
    Do that again? I would, a thousand times.


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