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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hello!--HOT, HOT, HOT--and then some :-)! Speaks to turning to the other for what we lack within . . . yin and yang, black and white, black and white . . . such "opposites" are of course,paradoxically illusory

By Amy Lowell

You are ice and fire,
The touch of you burns my hands like snow.
You are cold and flame.
You are the crimson of amaryllis,
The silver of moon-touched magnolias.
When I am with you,
My heart is a frozen pond
Gleaming with agitated torches.

If this doesn't make a case for "seeing with the heart," . . . the last line clinches it


By Ted Kooser

She had turned her face up into
a rain of light, and came on smiling.

The light trickled down her forehead
and into her eyes. It ran down

into the neck of her sweatshirt
and wet the white tops of her breasts.

Her brown shoes splashed on
into the light. The moment was like

a circus wagon rolling before her
through puddles of light, a cage on wheels,

and she walked fast behind it,
exuberant, curious, pushing her cane

through the bars, poking and prodding,
while the world cowered back in a corner.


Unapologetically strident, bordering on defense, damn proud of it, as she should be: a gorgeous study in inhabiting racist experience: highlights the arbitrary nature of linguistic markers as denotation and connotation


By Gwendolyn Brooks
 (first black writer to win the pulitzer prize)

is a title,
is a preoccupation,
is a commitment Blacks
are to comprehend—
and in which you are
to perceive your Glory.

The conscious shout
of all that is white is
“It’s Great to be white.”
The conscious shout
of the slack in Black is
"It's Great to be white."
Thus all that is white
has white strength and yours.

The word Black
has geographic power,
pulls everybody in:
Blacks here—
Blacks there—
Blacks wherever they may be.
And remember, you Blacks, what they told you—
remember your Education:
“one Drop—one Drop
maketh a brand new Black.”
        Oh mighty Drop.
______And because they have given us kindly
so many more of our people

stretches over the land.
the Black of it,
the rust-red of it,
the milk and cream of it,
the tan and yellow-tan of it,
the deep-brown middle-brown high-brown of it,
the “olive” and ochre of it—
marches on.

The huge, the pungent object of our prime out-ride
is to Comprehend,
to salute and to Love the fact that we are Black,
which is our “ultimate Reality,”
which is the lone ground
from which our meaningful metamorphosis,
from which our prosperous staccato,
group or individual, can rise.

Self-shriveled Blacks.
Begin with gaunt and marvelous concession:
YOU are our costume and our fundamental bone.

     All of you—
     you COLORED ones,
     you NEGRO ones,
those of you who proudly cry
     “I’m half INDian”—
     those of you who proudly screech
     “I’VE got the blood of George WASHington in MY veins”
     ALL of you—
           you proper Blacks,
     you half-Blacks,
     you wish-I-weren’t Blacks,
     Niggeroes and Niggerenes.



The breath catches . . . how could it not, as the poet offers to be "bruised by God?"


By Charles Wright

Clear night, thumb-top of a moon, a back-lit sky.
Moon-fingers lay down their same routine
On the side deck and the threshold, the white keys and the black keys.
Bird hush and bird song. A cassia flower falls.

I want to be bruised by God.
I want to be strung up in a strong light and singled out.
I want to be stretched, like music wrung from a dropped seed.
I want to be entered and picked clean.

And the wind says “What?” to me.
And the castor beans, with their little earrings of death, say “What?” to me.
And the stars start out on their cold slide through the dark.
And the gears notch and the engines wheel.


Yes, it's dark but what's redeeming is the lilt of the words, the truth of humanity's judgement, and the love in regret that comes after we survive a loved one :-(

The Man Who Married Magdalene


The man who married Magdalene
Had not forgiven her.
God might pardon every sin ...
Love is no pardoner.

Her hands were hollow, pale, and blue,
Her mouth like watered wine.
He watched to see if she were true
And waited for a sign.

It was old harlotry, he guessed,
That drained her strength away,
So gladly for the dark she dressed,
So sadly for the day.

Their quarrels made her dull and weak
And soon a man might fit
A penny in the hollow cheek
And never notice it.

At last, as they exhausted slept,
Death granted the divorce,
And nakedly the woman leapt
Upon that narrow horse.

But when he woke and woke alone
He wept and would deny
The loose behavior of the bone
And the immodest thigh.

Neither cynic nor pessimist would be able to resist the catapult of these words :-)


By Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

This is determination incarnate, possessed of a resolve few of us are lucky to know. the passion stuns in its ferocity . . . as much symbolic as literal

Love Sonnet XI

By Pablo Neruda

I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.I hunger for your sleek laugh,
your hands the color of a savage harvest,
hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails,
I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.
I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,
and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.

Remembering how he felt upon writing poems for the first time, and discovering the poetry pouring out of him, he wrote this as homage to his process:


By Pablo Neruda

And it was at that age . . . poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, not silence,
but from a street it called me,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among raging fires
or returning alone,
there it was, without a face,
and it touched me.
I didn't know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind.
Something knocked in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first, faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing;
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
the darkness perforated,
with arrows, fire, and flowers,
the overpowering night, the universe.
And I, tiny being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss.
I wheeled with the stars.
My heart broke loose with the wind.

The essence that is One--with, of, for, about, around, under, topped with, diagonal to--the Universe and all sentient Beings in it

What Was Told, That 

BY JALU'L-DIN RUMI                                  Jalalu'l-din Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest. 

What was told the cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that's happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane, 

in love with the one to whom every that belong

This is as riveting and compelling an account of post-partum depression I've read: chills, pathos, tragic . . .

Anne Sexton - Unknown Girl In A Maternity Ward

Child, the current of your breath is six days long.
You lie, a small knuckle on my white bed;
lie, fisted like a snail, so small and strong
at my breast. Your lips are animals; you are fed
with love. At first hunger is not wrong.
The nurses nod their caps; you are shepherded
down starch halls with the other unnested throng
in wheeling baskets. You tip like a cup; your head
moving to my touch. You sense the way we belong.
But this is an institution bed.
You will not know me very long.

The doctors are enamel. They want to know
the facts. They guess about the man who left me,
some pendulum soul, going the way men go
and leave you full of child. But our case history
stays blank. All I did was let you grow.
Now we are here for all the ward to see.
They thought I was strange, although
I never spoke a word. I burst empty of you,
letting you see how the air is so.
The doctors chart the riddle they ask of me
and I turn my head away. I do not know.

Yours is the only face I recognize.
Bone at my bone, you drink my answers in.
Six times a day I prize
your need, the animals of your lips, your skin
growing warm and plump. I see your eyes
lifting their tents. They are blue stones, they begin
to outgrow their moss. You blink in surprise
and I wonder what you can see, my funny kin,
as you trouble my silence. I am a shelter of lies.
Should I learn to speak again, or hopeless in
such sanity will I touch some face I recognize?

Down the hall the baskets start back. My arms
fit you like a sleeve, they hold
catkins of your willows, the wild bee farms
of your nerves, each muscle and fold
of your first days. Your old man's face disarms
the nurses. But the doctors return to scold
me. I speak. It is you my silence harms.
I should have known; I should have told
them something to write down. My voice alarms
my throat. "Name of father—none." I hold
you and name you bastard in my arms.

And now that's that. There is nothing more
that I can say or lose.
Others have traded life before
and could not speak. I tighten to refuse
your owling eyes, my fragile visitor.
I touch your cheeks, like flowers. You bruise
against me. We unlearn. I am a shore
rocking off you. You break from me. I choose
your only way, my small inheritor
and hand you off, trembling the selves we lose.
Go child, who is my sin and nothing more.

Sensuality arises from the unlikeliest place; the ache from emotional connection is palpable

The Seekers of Lice 

by Arthur Rimbaud

When the boy's head, full of raw torment,
Longs for hazy dreams to swarm in white,
Two charming older sisters come to his bed
With slender fingers and silvery nails.

They sit him at a casement window, thrown
Open on a mass of flowers basking in blue air,
And run the fine, intimidating witchcraft
Of their  fingers through his dew-dank hair.

He listens to their diffident, sing-song breath,
Smelling of elongated honey off the rose,
Broken now and then by a hiss: saliva sucked
Back from the lip, or a longing to be kissed.

He hears their dark eyelashes start in the sweet-
Smelling silence and, through his grey listlessness,
The crackle of small lice dying, beneath
The imperious nails of their soft, electric fingers.

The wine of Torpor wells up in him then
— Near on trance, a harmonica-sigh —
And in their slow caress he feels
The endless ebb and flow of a desire to cry.

The anguish of this: wrapped up respect, humility spilling forth, ex post fact . . .

Those Winter Sundays


Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

[Robert Hayden was the first black poet chosen as consultant to Library of Congress in 1976.]

Bittersweet--who among us has not felt such pain?

There is a pain – so utter –
It swallows substance up –
Then covers the Abyss with Trance –
So Memory can step
Around – across – opon it –
As one within a Swoon –
Goes safely – where an open eye –
Would drop Him – Bone by Bone.

'599' by Emily Dickinson

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Christmas Day passed  and as every year past, I will myself to become one with the celebrations and spirit, but who am I kidding? I'm no closer to feeling a 'part of things.' As usual, my efforts are in vain and I fail completely,  effortlessly. It's a curious 'failure:' it nurses a consoling tinge, a melancholic and bittersweet rub on the back, pat on shoulder, as if to say, "I have something else." What exactly do I have, in not group affiliate? A blog is as ready a place to articulate it. I've always stood slightly out of step, standing at the periphery of the circle, looking vaguely in but also askance. No matter which holiday and celebration comes along, I balked at signing up for it--it would require too complete a commitment. More belief than I'm willing to invest. These occasions seem arbitrary, mere conveniences for the species. (The one exception to this, and one I celebrate with every manner of bell and whistle, balloon, favor and fervor,  gifts galore . . . is the birthday! This explosion:  from non-existence to existence . . . existential, indeed--what is more base and essential?)

About Christmas and sundry holidays, the misgivings hurtle within me, rapid-fire in relentless missive. I'm plagued by doubts: "What about all other religions of the world? Are they lesser? To anthropomorphize: if they were people, would they not feel neglected or favored, with worshippers rejecting and accepting? How to limit myself to one notion of 'God?' To what end would I "sign up" for extolling virtues of one religious leader more than another? Why this and what that . . . they're endless, my musings, some idle and others not. I feel an abiding sense of purpose and order in and of the Universe  (deigned 'God'), as much as  random chaos and happenstance, as we stumble along. The order and chaos are not binary, not mutually exclusive: one is not possible without the other.

I shudder as I write, "I'm taking on the little matter of God in a blog?" WTF? Come on now, really! My ambitions precede me . . . and come to a screeching halt. Try as I might, lending language to inchoate impression, eludes me. If I could pen verse, I'd aspire to the 13th century mystic Persian poet Rumi. In his poem, Only Breath, he cuts through it all: fissures of the mind, obliquely eyes the unnamable, unknowable, unwraps the wrapped while with a sleight of hand, wraps the unthinkable with dizzying possibility. It's worth reading for the sheer drama, each line unfurling at breakneck speed, hungry to claim and savage the 'un-claimable.' The fourteen lines below are a marvel of quiet defiant surrender.


By Rumi

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam or Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I'm at the gym, grooving to my Hindi songs, ipod cranked up. Limbs flailing on the elliptical, I'm delirious with joy, listening to the first strain of chord, recognizing a familiar but unexpected song:  'Woh Ladki', haven''t heard it in ages . . . and it's coming at me in a rush of memories from the Bollywood movie, Badshah. Clutching the handrails for support, I swoon at the lilt and melody of it, marveling how it manages to be simultaneously full of rhythm and beat. The sounds of staccato in my ear propels me further, fast and furious, elevating incline and increasing speed. I'm lost in a reverie of images about the song: the actor, Shahrukh Khan, playing it up as only the best of hams can, the entire song sequence couldn't be "cheesier."

Why the quotation marks around "cheesy?" I'm acknowledging the implicit pejorative without succumbing to it.  It's such only if we impose Western standards of decorum, protocol, and emotional restraint. In the West, opacity in expression is prized, especially for men. Women are given more berth--it's the estrogen, you know! But men are given so little allowance for displaying feelings. They may express authentic feeling if its tenor is aggressive, but what about raw and vulnerable? They're likely to be judged as milquetoast man, effeminate, a pansy, and the like. Facing recriminations such as these, I feel for those with the impulse to remain cloaked and keep feelings shuttered. A recent example: when Tom Cruise proclaimed his love on the Oprah show by jumping up and down on the couch, he was skewered left and right, by public and media, fans and foe alike. He became an overnight object of malign, ridicule, and contempt; if the cultural disdain had been measured, the collective sneer would've stretched around the planet. My dismay and bewilderment? Why was this man being reviled by the masses for doing nothing other than fervently showing love? For not just talking the talk, but walking the walk? For mirroring his actions with what he felt inside? Why was he a laughingstock? What crime was it to be open about falling in love? Should he have hid it? What is it about a man un-peeling his heart and holding it up for the world to see? Why oh why are we so uncomfortable to the point we chafe and bristle, accuse and point fingers . . . did we need him as our object of derision? Did he touch something in us we'd rather avoid? Confrontation of Self is tough. Accusation of other is easy.

Unlike the Cruise debacle, Bollywood movies and characters are rife with emotion, unadorned and golden, spilling and tumbling forth in messy disarray. For the Indian, melodrama passes for drama. Actors study the William Shatner acting method :-) Part of my marvel at the song are the snippets and slices of pictures in my mind's eye: Shahrukh gallivants about the marble floor, one-legged sashay, eagerness writ large, smiles from ear to ear in hot pursuit of the requisite woman. He sways and twirls, one arm in continual pose, head held high, undulates and pirouettes as gracefully as any ballerina. His hips swaying, swerving torso and neck bobbling . . . he's all but prancing forth with open, naked tremors of FEELING across his face, rippling down and up, back and forth. His face and body are on a mission: to inhabit and BE his emotion--damned what others think, hell with fellow actors and director talking about him. His entire Being is consonant with felt experience--and his actions follow suit. He allows himself to become and morph into emotion--no regard for "masculine" or "feminine" or "neuter," no labels, no nothing.

 He is absolute, unabashed, insisting his feelings be on display for the world stage. His commitment to exuberance, to the music he surely must be humming inside his skin, to the totality of his presence vis a vis the actress.  With this song sequence flitting in front of me, I'm swept away, the elliptical pedals gain more momentum.  What moves me so, leaves me breathless? I remember when I first watched the movie years ago, I felt a secret furtive thrill, akin to eavesdropping on a juicy bit of gossip . . . I recognize this for what it is: I rarely see people be so bare, their feelings writ large, plastered across faces and bodies, heavy draperies of self-consciousness let loose. Instead, I see faces drawn with worry. Worry that they need conceal, not reveal feelings. So when I taste this bit of unfiltered, unvarnished energy dancing about, unfurled without cares . . . what tastier treat? With this movie scene, truly I felt invited to move about freely, without abandon. What greater gift?

We're a product of our prevailing mores, values, norms. We can't escape the social womb--somersaults of cocoon and prison, turning this way and that. The challenge is to peek from behind, dig from beneath: question the status quo and the default.  What are we surrounded by as a matter of course? The lure for us:  analyze what appears the de facto. Question, question, question--and then some. We question and what's the worst that can happen? Arrive at an unsavory answer, we'll promptly discard it. Arrive at vanilla, we'll forget the undistinguished.  But what if, unexpectedly, we arrive at a revelation? Our life blossoms,  abundant possibilities fresh in tow. Everything to gain, nothing to lose; by any measure, it's a win-win fulcrum. As self-reflective creatures, we gaze inwards, outwards, and towards all--Socrates said it best: "the unexamined life is not worth living."

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Starting a blog begs the question, "what is the nature of this beast?" What propels me forth and toward? It's akin to what we all do, day by day: we invent and re-invent ourselves, honing and polishing, refining our identities and notions of "self" through narration. We tell ourselves stories about who we are, who we were, and who we want to be . . . through some intersection of these three, in a way that's palatable, we sift and sit with our inner narrative. Constantly wrestling with the 'Great divide,' conflicting pulls this way and that . . . we seek symphony within, when notes discordant splatter.

Blogs populate and hijack cyberspace because we cannot let things alone: not things within and not things without. This is the beauty of our species: striving for deeper, longer, higher--attain the elusive peak: as my 5 year nephew says in Toys R Us, circling the aisles for the umpteenth time, "I want something more better!" The relentless quest to grow is our claim to fame.

Blogging abounds and surges because it's anything but solitary. Built in is reciprocity and feedback cycle: it satisfies our need to share and be gazed at with responsiveness. In a nutshell, this is the infant/toddler/child-parent dynamic--the basis for self-esteem and interpersonal connectedness--the stuff of human relations :-) The computer screen serves as portal for our need to be mirrored:  blogs begs for human commentary, and when we're granted such, we sigh in being "met," full circle, replicating the first flush of baby swoon, gurgling in delight, rapture at being seen.

This is the eternal dance, spiraling over and over, no matter context nor content: clubs, bars, classrooms, parties, therapist-client office, families, lunches, brunches and every meal besides--eyes lock in recognition and familiarity, understanding clicks, feelings and thoughts meld as one, connections formed as disparate threads align. Hello, Cyberspace! The widest web world-wide--universal forum for human connectedness; what could be more compelling or more ambitious? What else could summon the power exhorting people to post so vigorously?

This the first time in history, to connect, we have no boundaries,  of the external world: with a stroke of the key and hit send, boom--in an instant, we've made contact, clear across the planet. Our only limit is our internal world--our inscape. When we run smack into  our inhibitions and self-consciousness, anxieties, fears of repercussions, and the like. Ever the optimist, I dream that we'll be forced to confront what we've avoided. With the external restraints of physical space shaved off, we can sharpen our blunted curves, smooth our jagged edges.

Blogging arcs the circle of the planet, lone person at a time, drop by drop, coalescing to a pool that all of us tendrils wade into en masse, as humanity is rendered luminous, no matter dark or light.