Sky

Sharpening the Lens Cavafy Style

Poem Review
Together we wait…
[Source – Pixabay]

Waiting for the Barbarians

By C. P. Cavafy

Translated by Edmund Keeley

*

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

*

Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?

Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?

*

Because the barbarians are coming today.

What’s the point of senators making laws now?

Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

*

Why did our emperor get up so early,

and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,

in state, wearing the crown?

*

Because the barbarians are coming today

and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.

He’s even got a scroll to give him,

loaded with titles, with imposing names.

*

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today

wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?

Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,

rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?

Why are they carrying elegant canes

beautifully worked in silver and gold?

*

Because the barbarians are coming today

and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

*

Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual

to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

*

Because the barbarians are coming today

and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

*

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?

(How serious people’s faces have become.)

Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,

everyone going home lost in thought?

*

Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.

And some of our men just in from the border say

there are no barbarians any longer.

*

Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?

Those people were a kind of solution.


Steady like a statue.
[Source – Pixabay]

Waiting to take a stand, sitting comfortably, letting the waves cover with silt our body, mind and soul, we continue waiting, living.

Glaring caustically at the silt, we regurgitate pompously.

Unable to cross the maze, we burn the walls down, unable to touch the sky, we pull it to the ground.

Waiting for them to distinguish between the truth and hearsay, to dust off our earnest intentions, to demystify our vision, we humbly stretch and wait.

In waiting for an autonomous lustrous life, we steadily pass by, dulling our society.


C. P. Cavafy, “a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe” (as per his friend E. M. Forester), wrote the poem “Waiting for Barbarians” in 1904, juxtaposing the past with our modern thoughts, superimposing the ancient image on the now, yes the now, swiftly jolting the reader from slumber and questioning “this wait”.

*

The leaders in ancient Greece, the poem shows, await desperately, in static opulence, for the Barbarians to come and take over everything and to begin mending every disaster, but when they don’t come, the city dwellers are aghast as now they will have to tackle problems and take decisions on their own.

And so the free individual, waiting for an external source to revitalise the life, takes a dip in the bright, glittering mirage, dreading, complaining, ignoring, barricading, adjusting all the while, and refusing to end “the wait”.

But let us not wait anymore…


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Regina Spektor’s Musical World and Addressing the Hero – Part IV

Coverage

Hero calling hero!
[Source – Pixabay]

The hero is in hiding, asleep, has forgotten or has been brainwashed because only that could explain the hero’s silence; the dead silence is complementing the darkness ostentatiously.

And no surprise, right? This darkness is overwhelming, too huge, so vast, damn cruel, heartless/soulless, steady and conniving that the heroes have all locked themselves up in the epics, legends and myths.

Dejected and weak they have turned their backs, criticising the critics, they hopelessly work to earn a living, measuring their quiet success every fiscal year, waiting for the golden retirement when they will finally wake up… or maybe they will not.


Regina Spektor is calling out to all the heroes to wake up, rise and fight, to accept the responsibilities of actions they so unconsciously take, to wage a war against inequality one little step at a time.

*

Listen to Apres Moi before reading further –

*

I (uh) must go on standing
You can’t break that which isn’t yours
I (uh) must go on standing
I’m not my own, it’s not my choice

Be afraid of the lame, they’ll inherit your legs
Be afraid of the old, they’ll inherit your souls
Be afraid of the cold, they’ll inherit your blood
Apres moi le deluge, after me comes the flood…

Regina Spektor

Revolutions, the downfall of monarchies, totalitarian leaders, genocides… mankind’s history is a presence in the absence, it is ever-looming, reminding us of the foundation on which we are now building smart castles (with Alexa or Google Nest Hub or the gadget you prefer).

Apres moi le deluge is a French phrase that means ‘after me, the flood’ and is attributed to Louis XV of France; one of the explanations suggest its nihilistic connotation that says, ‘Ruin, if you like, when we are dead and gone’ and the other links it with Halley’s comet and the impending French Revolution of 1789.

Here, Regina Spektor talks about the far-reaching presence of history and how we cannot ignore it for long.

She sings a few lines of a Russian poem when reaching the crescendo; it is a poem by Nobel laureate Boris Pasternak, titled ‘February’ –

Black spring! Pick up your pen, and weeping,
Of February, in sobs and ink,
Write poems, while the slush in thunder
Is burning in the black of spring.

Translated by Lydia Pasternak Slater, Boris’s sister

An intense song that resonates across and holds your thoughts, it seems as if the song is urging us folks to stand up against the odds without delay, asking us folks not to mellow down.


Listen to Us

*

They made a statue of us
They made a statue of us
The tourists come and stare at us
The sculptor’s mama sends regards
They made a statue of us
They made a statue of us
Our noses have begun to rust

We’re living in a den of thieves
Rummaging for answers in the pages
We’re living in a den of thieves
And it’s contagious
And it’s contagious…

Regina Spektor

Thieves are untied clandestinely, inconspicuously, invincibly, heartily like no other group on this planet, working religiously, solely for their profit.

The one charismatic, luring fact, among other things, is the freedom they give to every individual thief, showing no concern for each other, but keeping a check and standing in solidarity if the deal is profitable.

Regina Spektor rightly diagnosed this behaviour as contagious; the song is giving a warning, it is a reminder. Wake up dear heroes, at least to rub off the rust on your noses.


Listen to Small Bills

*

His destiny was just too big to spend
So he broke it into smaller bills and change
By the time he’d try to buy the things he needed
He had spent it all on Lucy’s and weed and
He had spent it all on chips and Coca-Cola
He had spent it all on chocolate and vanilla
He had spent it all and didn’t even feel it…

Regina Spektor

May the heroes win the peculiar, surreal, boorish individual battles that they are fighting again and again and again.


Listen to Hero

*

Hey, open wide, here comes
Original sin
(Vrrr)
Hey, open wide, here comes
Original sin

It’s alright, it’s alright
It’s alright, it’s alright…

I’m the hero of the story
Don’t need to be saved…

Regina Spektor

Listen to this song when the sky is orange-pink, dimly twinkling, armouring up for the dark night; listen to this song when the sky is whitish-blue, brightly warm, breathing lightly, gently healing the hero.


Read more –

Alex Millar’s translation of the poem February.

Lessons in Creativity I Learned from Regina Spektor by Caitlin Cowan.

R


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Moony Clay

Moon’s cloudy carpet.
[Image by Jagriti Rumi]

Now a clear dot… now hazy… mixing with the clouds through and through, then beaming alone gloriously. Splattering moony clay, then rubbing it, greasing with it the deep dark sky.

Mirroring all the romantics and dream-talkers, the moony clay moulds itself to fit into the beholder’s eyes and patient hearts. It listens, nods and registers its reply with the artist.

Moony clay – an assiduous storyteller, slowly moving away – happily builds the wavy waves and like a sand clock shows the slipping time its way.

Singing joyously, dancing leisurely, the moony clay creates and fills the heart with hope, lost in splendour.

See how it re-shapes, re-writes its journey, certain of uncertainty in knowing… in knowing it all. 


Images by Jagriti Rumi


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The Dragon, Dandelions And The Twist In The Story

The dragon thought she was dreaming.
Image by Lilawind from Pixabay

While walking through the green pastures, the valley of colourful flowers, the dragon suddenly found herself in the desert where the scorching sun stroked her, burnt the sand, splashed mirages everywhere…

… when a strong stroke of warm air tossed the dragon off the ground reminding her that she has wings, which she then fluttered, crossing a gush of gold dust, she closed her eyes for a wink of a second and the world around her changed…

… as she saw the sky-scraping waterfall in front of her, amazed she thought am I dreaming, but did not wait for the answer and plunged towards the waterfall, shouting in joy and adding to its rhythm.

Oh, dragon you are so lucky, here the winters never seem to end and when it does, it is followed by another winter.

Who is asking for the spring? It will be a blessing if I see autumn.

Oh, autumn! The ocean of orange leaves crumple and swirl in my mind all the time, but what I see is the dry hypnotised land, grey and white, and dark and mossy.

Why cannot I be the witness of a twist in my story?

The dragon soared into the air; neither the hail nor the lightening could stumble her once, and crossed the clouds, the drumming music muffled soon as the lush rainbow appeared in full gusto.

You have got wings dragon, probably that is why you can bring twists in your story.

Ah! I have been walking since that cloud burst forced me to leave my hideout and I am still walking. The path I took glistened with frost and I fell twice.

Rough stairs took me up the mountain and just where I stopped to rest, I saw some dandelions dancing, happy about something.

When I smiled with them I was reminded of a wish and at the same time, the rising wind whispered a message, overwhelmed I resumed my journey, my story.

Happy, dancing dandelions.
Image by DaphoGo from Pixabay

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Ambitious? Yes.

Flash Fiction

The flowers are ambitious by nature.
Image by Marisa04 from Pixabay

Gori knows not where the path leads to, the wet air, the dusky flora, and the mysterious tunes do not guide either.

Soaking in the newness she walks forward.

And why is it that we always choose to walk ahead, why does not the uncertainty collapse us?

If we stop to rest, if we feel defeated, if we turn back embarrassed and ashamed, we still reach, in some time, at the glorious hour of a beginning.

The tired, wounded, and sullen eyes once again look up, once again fathom the depth, once again find the path.


Taking the rope bridge, climbing the echoing mountains, crossing the glassy rainbows, Gori saw that valley where her loved one awaited her.

The gush of wind cheered her, the dew heavy leaves blessed her, the clouds played the drums for her.

And why does it seem that the whole world dances when we dance and the whole world moans when we moan?

How come we hear the call when there is a concrete silence around us, when facts dispel hope and when dejection raises a toast?

In anger the head is alone, when rejoicing the heart holds it all.


The illusion rudely reveals the reality and Gori faces the brazen cold marshland.

What happened to the beautiful valley, to the lover’s promise, to the perfect dream? Hush! The monster rises, its shadow darkens Gori’s faith.

Thundering sky strikes with lightening that Gori catches with her bare hands. Heaving, she runs towards the monster.  

Why is life so epic, so grand, so ambitious? Why do the storytellers talk about ‘once upon a time’?

If the legends appear amused by the mundane, then how many of us are at folly for it is the ordinary that becomes extraordinary?

The tales have never ceased to be melodious, we live perpetually enchanted.  


Gori starts walking, leaving behind the triumphant air, gravity shining on her forehead.

She resumes the journey as a narrow track becomes visible to her now, a solo night jasmine tree on the way, showers her with its flowers, Gori takes its fragrance along.

Gori knows not where the path leads to, soaking in the passionate silence she walks forward.  

Are the night jasmines very ambitious to wait for and shower a victorious warrior and not anyone else? Yes, they are.  

*

Shine-shine, you two!
[Source – Pixabay]

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Cid Corman’s Blue Aerogrammes

Coverage

Blue mail-call.
[Source – Pixabay]

In a thin air-light piece of blue paper words were written, no space wasted, legibly shinning, beautifully written. It was for everyone, Cid Corman called it direct poetry.

A Selection –

If these words

don’t remember you—

forget them.


The leaf at last gets

the drift of wind and so

settles for the ground.


I wear the mask of

myself and very nearly

get away with it.


There is no end and

never was a beginning – so

here we are – amidst.


Rain-drops. Each

makes a point

of silence.


You are here – just as

I had imagined –

imagining me.


Nothing ends with you —

every leaf on the ground

remembers the root.


We wear out

but the sky

looks as new

as ever.


A COUPLE

She keeps coming home

to me – of all things – and I

remain home for her.


Has it ever

occurred to you

you’re what is oc-

curring to you?


Dear aerogrammes fly!
[Source – goodreads]

Cid Corman wrote for and ran the magazine Origin. He followed a lovely rule, he replied to each and every letter that the magazine received within 24 hours, if he couldn’t, he didn’t do it at all.

Lucky must be the ones who got his answer, that too in the form of direct poetry. The book, Famous Blue Aerogrammes, is about these replies.

I have just read a few of these, still I can say that it continues to create magic… blue feathery magic that makes you smile.


Read more about Cid Corman here.


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