Tuesday, July 31, 2007

the right spot (meditation poem)

The sense of difficulty is a primary resource
the feeling of easiness is a second good thing
these are ingredients   we balance to cook
these are pigments   we mix whenever we paint

at the center of your life   abides Shiv (Meher Baba)
if you don't find him   you're not looking in the right spot
search for him everywhere   discover him where you might
recognize him with difficulty   or with wonderful ease

is he king or vagabond?   I couldn't tell you for sure
if he's anywhere or nowhere   seems a dullard's inquiry
whereas sometimes he's as obvious as the objects on the table
he's at other times more hidden   than sweetness in salt

Monday, July 30, 2007

I always wanted

I always wanted to do something   or be something
I always wanted to feel something   or see something

yes all were busied with   capturing the fleeting now
I always wanted to lose something   or free something

I sought you in every place   you slipped through a dozen ports
you'd always murmur "Milan something   Paris something"

your hide-&-seek was childsplay   when we were children
now weary as death   I implore the judge to plea something

Ardeo's become a vagabond   for a wayward season
you can hear him babbling soft   "conturbat me" something

dark codes

What foot will stand alone?   every face is connected in a hundred ways
each erroneous jewel   sharp friends have corrected in a hundred ways

if the atlas of earth gets revised every century   mightn't tomorrow
yon brine arouse surprise?   who'd such islands suspected in a hundred ways?

when faults are well-established   blind habit's sore knees bump such similar chairs!
each surface of the form   in the end gets detected in a hundred ways

are our love-declarations   dark codes sightless bats will emit amid daylight?
each putative beloved   soon self-de-selected in a hundred ways?

the poetry's reflection   is the pool held in view when defeat is apparent
sheer cautzpah can achieve   what was never expected in a hundred ways

in what north shines a star   whose fond gaze for Ardeo beams pure & extant?
each aspirant to song   grievous labor perfected in a hundred ways

Sunday, July 29, 2007


A certain sum of breaths   are in each life's lot
some claim the figure's inscribed   upon one's brow
the play's performed   & if maudlin seems the plot?
at least one stays absorbed   in the here & now
although thoughts might drift   one marvels at the scenery
and at times   one likes to improvise the lines
if you meet me in the park   we'll observe the greenery
but is this act two?   who knows?   I forget the signs

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday late in July

How sweetly   birds chirp in with sounds of traffic
how swiftly   morn perks up with skeins of light
again   Beijing's white fog appears prolific
again   my book's blank page bears what I write
the world accepts our heart   or disapproves
the universe (some whisper)   is a sham
the chessboard's grave despite my manic moves
I fly on ancient instinct   more than plan


Impossible to get things right
perchance it's best to let it drift
thoughts deepen in the dark of night
the interface-with-world might shift
one feels the tear & bears the rift
what self awakes in morning light?
the cloud goes slow the freshet's swift
impossible to get things right

Poem jotted on a chopsticks paper-wrapper

What if the world were made of   ice & raindrops?
what if the spheres were formed from   gold & fire?
even if seven seas were   filled with teardrops
would this dissuade all beings   from desire?
I take my noon repast   & quaff some sake
I'll northward trek   to meet my parents soon
the passage of the decades   seeks to mock me?
perchance I'll wind up   loony like Majnoon


The silk road

MId-summer   sounds of locusts through the window
late morning   haze of summer fills the sky
here in Beijing   stand many a pine & willow
there in the distance   how goes your July?
we chat on phone & g-talk   fairly often
it's gradually I glimpse   your point of view
outside dogs bark cars honk   if feelings soften
I'll send what bird   to tell my tale to you?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Reply to a friend's inquiry


soon? sooner than the moon shall return to June
but no -- my route   as self-conceived
threads first through the New World (as it's called)
California & Washington DC
and then back again to China!
the Gundecha Brothers have agreed
to my plan of bringing them to the Middle Kingdom
they fly to Beijing from Melbourne in October
I meet them, we hob-nob, they sing, I smile
only then will India consent
to take me again in her hushed embrace

am spending time with my parents yes --
right now en route to lunching w/ same
they both take daily infusions of dark medicine
brewed with antiquity floating in suspension


Thursday, July 26, 2007

South down Da-Wang Lu

Nor emperors nor elephants come to greet me
on my night stroll south down Da-Wang Lu
this is neither Kansas   Dorothy
nor Nizamuddin Station   Mahshook

so what might have changed? is Beijing
metropolis of such sudden sentences as
pellmell squeeze through the hedge of teeth?
if no rehearsal   what's not the play?

ghazal ("This rose")

Again   the olden equation   tells its terms
as baffled interpretation   spells its terms

you've wandered   into a tower   you fail to parse?
the moment's fell indication   knells its terms

some say   the conqueror wills   what word remains
his war-cry's deep penetration   fells its terms

yes friends   can conjure a wall dubbed   making friends
who'll buy such scholars' half-bake as   sells its terms?

this rose   would never desire the bulbul's blues?
the thorn's blood-spangled elation   smells its terms

if love   perchance were the word   my flame had lost
she'd find   my gellid creation   gells its terms

Ardeo's poem was cast in   midnight's sea
what morning might he awake to   quell its terms?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

places to pray

I wandered a couple days ago into a big arena-like area in a public park in Beijing. It turns out it's the location where the Emperor (in Ming and/or Qing dynasties) would, once a year, offer prayers to the Sun.

There are four such parks -- one for Sun, one for Moon, one for Heaven, one for Earth. They're positioned in the four directions (with the Forbidden City = Emperor's abode, at center).

The Sun praying place was quite impressive. One imagines some serious geomancy may be involved.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

lychees etc. / O2 Sun books

passing notes from my day's activities in Beijing
[lifted from an impromptu email]

. . . Went this afternoon to the bookstore near my ("my" anyway) studio -- nice place called O2 Sun Books -- it has an upper floor that includes SOME books in English (not so easy to find such in China).

I got a bilingual edition of The Peony Pavillion (the story underlying a very long Chinese opera; a version of the opera had been produced in New York City [Lincoln Center] several summers ago by a Chinese director, I think it lasted for 3-4 days to see the whole thing). Was a bit tempted to get a book by Haruki Murakami (they have several of his novels) or Milan Kundera's book called Ignorance. But I'm pretty sure I've already read the latter. I figured I'll buy one book, and if I actually read the thing, then I can consider another. There were also some interesting-to-glance-at books with photographs / artwork. Ernest Hemingway's work (in Chinese translation) was being somewhat featured at the place. The Old Man and the Sea, etc.

I've spent most of the day with my parents -- which seems to be my main "job" during this (rather rare, for me) period of time. Bought for them fresh lychees, from a guy-with-cart.

[next-day postscript]:

Baoqing and I picked up XD at the airport late last night. When I showed him the Peoony Pavilion volume, he remarked that the director of the Lincoln Center production is a friend of his -- and that I had (as I knew) missed an opportunity, in not catching that production. He also played for me an audio file of music, -- singing of one of the songs of Qu Yuan (originally popularized in American Sino-literary circles by Arthur Waley's translation, "Songs of the South"). He noted that such literature (whether this Nine Songs, or the Peony Pavilion) has in recent years enjoyed some revived interest . . .

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

ghazal ("A thousand songs")

It's not enough to intone one song
          I need a thousand songs
the single thought may invoke a throng
          I need a thousand songs

if ethics connote esthetics
          as philosphers allow
it's not enough just to hum along
          I need a thousand songs

a thousand nights   and a single night
          are needed to tell our tale
the alap emerges   slow and long
          I need a thousand songs

each morning brinsg a differing mood
          where is the basic ground?
to catch the thread   and then pull it strong
          I need a thousand songs

when Raphael was starting to play
          did he return each phrase?
look at him bounce from ping to pong
          I need a thousand songs

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

blogspotting from China

There is a peculiarity about blogging via Blogspot while located in China.

It can be summarived this way: I can post, but am unable to read blogs! (including my own).

Why? (you may ask) In China, the main form of internet censorship (so far as I'm aware) inovolves some system of screening out certain URLs. Far as I can tell, no blogspot web-page is accessable here. However, the BLOGGER interface IS accessible!

And from the latter, I can both post to my blog, and can also (and now I come to the point of this note) see if / when any COMMENT has been appended to any of my posts. But . . . even though I can (for instance, right now) notice that there is one comment appended to my latest poem posted, I cannot read the comment!

ERGO -- anyone posting a comment to my blog (which you're welcome to do; in cases where I feel like not having comments to a particular post, I'll de-select the option to accept comments to that post -- but generally, I'm happy to have 'em), is hereby invited (if you're so inclined) to email me a copy of the comment. In this way, I could have option of posting-to-blog a "reply" to your comment (or, if this becomes too complex, could send a reply via email -- will see).

My email address is:
davidrisrael AT gmail DOT com

your 'umble servant,
[first posted on 14 July]

ps -- I now see there have been 3 comments on this blog since I've arrived in China. I'm not able to read any of them, nor do I have a way of seeing who posted them. Commenters! kindly note the abive request.

ghazal ("Away from India")

Away from India   India stays   within me
I bear the cargo of Indian days   within me

what does my being require   that India harbors?
whose is the bansuri India plays   within me?

when nothing's lucid   it's time for silence's answer
no sun of knowledge disperses the haze   within me

the ancient forests long gone   olden wreaths unravel
I grasp a fiber of pearl-bestrung praise   within me

proficient music   is all I desire to weave now
the cloth of loving   discordantly frays   within me

in myriad vespers   I sought to enjoy your nearness
what wayward distance nocturnally strays   within me?

Beijing late morning   a tiny caged bird   trills sweetly
such strange captivity   endlessly sways   within me

you pull me close   I clasp paradoxical vectors
our time of union   requires much space   within me

what transient dream would I share with counterfeit sweethearts?
surreal desires should veil their ways   within me

our heat of summer gives way to your storm's invention
creative cloudbursts encourage your craze   within me

on foreign turf   a bird plummets dead   in one version
juries deliberate over the case   within me

the chance of glimpsing her beauty   arrives too softly
in twilight hours   who'll ponder her face   within me?

I flew to India   thinking to fetch bright baubles
it's me she gathered up   scattering rays   within me

now Anjanaya is black   yet anon he's orange
in any color   encourage his grace   within me

when Raphael   vaguely limned his trip   I implored him
to find in Hindustan   what may amaze   within me

in Beijing

bansuri: bamboo flute

a bird plummets dead: a songbird, separated from its beloved (in a forest of India) had been placed in a cage and taken to a far-off land. Through a messenger (through example), it learned that the way to freedom involves a dramatic act of playing dead. See the tale somewhere in Book 1 of Rumi's Mathnawi.

Anjanaya (Skt., lit. "son of Anjana") -- an epithet for the important diety and mythological figure Hanuman, who may be variously understood to be both a chief devotee of Lord Rama, and also to be (ultimately) an active form of Shiva. His temples are among the most ubiquitous throughout India. He is generally associated with the color orange; but in Bangalore, I enjoyed visiting one Anjanaya mandir [Hanuman temple] with his quite regal and ponderous image carved in black stone.

Monday, July 16, 2007

letter from Soho (Beijing): 3 kinds of smoking

Dear __

what do Chinese do on weekends? Yoga class. At least Baoqing does -- and has invited me to join a noon session. Perhaps I'll go.

My parents are now settled into the nearby Winterless (as it's called) Hotel -- my mother has a mobile phone lent by Baoqing. We installed a new SIM card in it. The phone seemingly can receive calls but not make them. So I'm phoning her from time to time. Experimentally, she seems to have more or less worked out how to send a blank SMS message to me -- which suffices as a cue to phone her. I was playing the notes of Bhairavi on saranghi for some while, and glanced at my phone/watch, noting messages. My mother had (she said) failed to get my call earlier in the morning -- except in fact I didn't phone. So who could have called her? At such point as I have her phone in hand, I can look at missed calls history.

My mother likes to prepare her own meals; my father likes to eat out at restaurants. These patterns are in place whether they are living in their Los Angeles apartment, or staying in a Beijing hotel. My father is happy in the room where there is, right at hand, a computer. For the moment, we're keeping it online all the time (my father is not so versed in doing things like opening a web browser on a PC and calling up URLs) -- the cost for all-day online-ness is not so high. Later, after he gets more used to the computer, we may revert to logging off

I'm in the Purple building of Soho. Soho is the name of a condo complex (and mixed residential/commercial area -- they seem to have appropriated the Soho moniker based on this, in a rather far-fetched linguistic borrowing) in Beijing. XD and BQ live in the Orange building. Each building is the same height and design -- distinguished only by color.

Xiaodong used to work with & hang out in a pu-erh teashop in the Green building, but he seems to have had a parting of ways with those teashop folks (I've not gotten the detailed story); instead, he's using this Purple building office condo for his business development in the sphere of pu-erh tea. He also is connected with the elegant pu'erh teashop that's right off of Tiananmen Square -- near the Forbidden City. We paid a visit there yesterday, and I gave a tin of Dutch cigars as an incidental present to Mr. Gao -- the gentleman more or less in charge of the whole block of buildings (including teashop and fancy restaurant -- as well as the Royal Art Museum where XD is nominally director) adjacent the Forbidden City.

Mr. Gao had joined us for dinner when we dined at the fancy restaurant back in January -- it was there I tried playing the instrument called zheng. But speaking of zheng (a bit like vichitra vina in how it sits horizontally -- but with many more playing strings, one for each note) -- a couple evenings ago, Zhao Tingyang, the philosophy-writer and Kewen (the editor of Life [Shenghou] magazine)'s young daughter played this instrument for us -- she played some 3 or 4 songs. There are interesting forms of meend-like and gamak-like ornamentation in this Chinese classical tradition . . .

Mr. Gao, anyway, has taken to smoking a pipe. XD was smoking a cigarette, and I was smoking a Dutch cigar -- at the teashop. So I told Mr. Gao my theory about smoking. Those who are well settled in life and have a feeling of leisure, may smoke a pipe. Those who are a bit more pressured / busy / anxious, can smoke a cigar. Those who are really harried / on-the-go / nervous, will smoke a cigarette. XD and Mr. Gao laughed. Then Mr. Gao told me his own theory. He said that a pipe is like one's wife. A cigar is like an affair with a lover. A cigarette resembles a prostitute. (It is not uncommon among Chinese to pass around a cigarette from one person to another. A cigar requires a special atmosphere to enjoy it. A pipe can be a constant companion, and is never shared.) He said that he told his wife this analysis. She then bought him a pipe to smoke. So perhaps my gift of Dutch cigars was superfluous.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

to imagine   [English shi]

I was here   before I proceeded on to India
once again I'm in Beijing   two seasons later
does this city resemble a dream occurring recurrently?
not unlike LA   it would seem a maternal reservoir
one must try some work   to imagine a place's purpose
one must seek some play   to palpate an era's pulse
can the lover perceive the beloved's innermost fantasy?
strangers fail to grasp the purport of obvious words

Saturday, July 14, 2007

amid Beijing [short English shi]

At 7 AM   the morning mist looks thick
amid Beijing   I sing the Bhairo scale
some feel it's slow   some fear life passes quick
though short its phrases   this is a lengthy tale

contemporary art in China and India

I'd like to begin assembling web-links on the noted two topics.
Will start doing so here.


Chinese Avant-garde Art Archive

Chinese Contemporary (Beijing / London / New York)

Art Scene China (Shanghai / Beijing)


Pallette Art Gallery (New Delhi)

Delhi Art Gallery

20th Century Indian Contemporary Art

Will be adding more links, bit by bit.

Friday, July 13, 2007

after an evening viewing Chinese paintings

The world is recreated   by the brush of ink

the ground whereon it moves   is liquid emptiness

I am therefore I paint   (I paint therefore I think)

long flows the line   spanning the height of happiness

= = = = = = = = = =

for Wang Linhai

(whose Xiang Shan-area studio in
Beijing we visited last night)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

this side   [short English shi]

At 7 a.m.   the Beijing traffic   sounds oceanic
in the course of life   the human flux   looks welkin-deep
I've invited my mother   ten thousand miles   not out of panic
you accept your world   one hundred ways   this side of sleep

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

why   [ghazal]

None will unwrap the reason   why we come & go
all will presume the season   why we come & go

does the drama begin mid-sentence?   lend me a basket
flower-like let's place these in   why we come & go

the objective of the exercise   of the universe
gradually one sees in   why we come & go

every death is circumstantial   noted the naturalist
reason has room to sneeze in   why we come & go

the beloved existed before the lover discerned her
soon there was space to squeeze in   why we come & go

when you glimpse her face from the balcony   do you recognize
dream as a game to tease in?   why we come & go

wine is a gift   the foolish boistrously gargle
often they leave the lees in   why we come & go

don't ask Raphael to survey philosophy's quandary
every dilemma he's in   why we come & go

pigments   [ghazal oblique]

Foothills of conversation   who will show me?
lakeside's kelly elation   who will show me?

the rivulet of your smile   proved Himalayan
ocean of integration   who will show me?

the human world   is premised on veneer
gold-vein of veneration   who will show me?

the circling bird   soared high above the square
hawk-dive's interpretation   who will show me?

the train of thought   returned to olden haunts
to Nizamuddin station   who will show me?

when Raphael desires to limn her visage
pigments of pollination   who will show me?

(in beijing solitude)

In Beijing

At world's end   in the metropolitan deep
in Beijing   as the daylight's put to sleep
do a thousand thoughts desire to blur & blend?
let the landscape become dark   the mountain steep

10 July 2007
in beijing soho studio solitude

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Xiang Shan Cablecar   [English shi]

You can ride the Xiang Shan cablecar   for half an hour
it will lift you to the highest peak   above the world

it's a rather famous tourist spot   where looking out
the domain of human purposes   seems lost in mist

coming back you'll sit beside a lake   where fountains spout
and the willow trees & cypresses   look soft & sweet

you might wonder what to make   of all your aims & dreams
when in afternoon a little rain   is coming on

2060 miles   [boomerang poem]

Two thousand sixty miles from Beijing
our flight departs from Bangkok any minute
my parents will await me with Baoqing
Xiaodong's Soho apartment   we'll be in it
the story can't proceed   till you begin it
but once it starts   who knows what it may bring?
the wheel of fortune turns   it's time to spin it
two thousand sixty miles from Beijing

7 July 2007, 12:30 AM
Bangkok Airport

Friday, July 6, 2007

ghazal ("in every part of India")

You have left your mark   in every part of India
your delight I hark   in every part of India

in the north & south   & east & west & center
shine your light & dark   in every part of India

the accounts of Ram & Krishna   tell your story
Mahadev gleams stark   in every part of India

you have ruled Ayodhya   and you've wandered homeless
in your clothes of bark   in every part of India

you have wooed the cowgirls with your flute's enchantment
carefree as a lark   in every part of India

isn't yours   the peerless insight of the Buddha
in the Jetta Park   in every part of India?

how the dargahs & the masjids hold your presence
we're aboard your ark   in every part of India

mightn't Raphael   desire to light a lantern?
let him seek your spark   in every part of India

5 July 2007
written in Mumbai (Kandivali, Thakur Village)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

ghazal ("Our freedom")

Our freedom   is the illusion   that we nurture
we find it   in the confusion   that we nurture

everyone seeks   your blessings of abundance
from you flows all the profusion   that we nurture

the membrane of the collective   is omnipresent
regardless of the seclusion   that we nurture

what if we feel the stinginess   of existence?
you counter with the effusion   that we nurture

when taking steps to immerse in baptismal rivers
one wonders at the pollution   that we nurture

detachment   comes as the fruit of maturation
no matter what be the passion   that we nurture

we but pay mind to how   the rivulet burbles
who dreams it could be an ocean   that we nurture?

we're helpless   here in the circus of your gameshow
we founder in the delusion   that we nurture

let Raphael persist   in praising your premise
unknowing yet the conclusion   that we nurture

written 1-4 July
(in Bhopal, Delhi, Bombay)