Friday, July 25, 2008

ghazal: "strategy? none known"

I was sent to hoe the field   of relentless experiment
I have yet to show the yield   of relentless experiment

unfazed with clearing the slate   we cultivate pentimenti
paintings deep-toned are congealed   in relentless experiment

fated misstarts (one might allow)?   favored pawns expendable
strategy? none known (concealed)   save relentless experiment

does each blossom bear disillusion   as its ultimate fruit?
bright of face   let nerves grow steeled   in relentless experiment

there is naught but striving coursing through   the conceit of my veins
I'm an apple cored and pealed   by relentless experiment

were the aim of the exercise   but to show a sporting smile?
is the spirit thus annealed   by relentless experiment?

alike life   at length the art displays how playing gets fruitful
shuffled cards are cut and dealed   in relentless experiment

pavement poetry has latitude   for the farthest free-throw
open hearts find lips unsealed   in relentless experiment

time's rough traffic   leaves little spaces free   for reflective thought
yet unspoiled (still unspealed)   for relentless experiment

to seek means of life in art   were a dicey enterprise
most grow threadbare (some well-heeled)   for relentless experiment

you'll know that I've met my match   when the candle weeps till morning
and the chapel bells have pealed   for relentless experiment

many wounds are sustained in battle   casualties are normal
hearts are slaughtered   dazed   or healed   in relentless experiment

thoughts recorded in antiquity   grew fleetingly lucid
when the film-like scroll unreeled   in relentless experiment

lawful wheels turn   is the universe   inflexible clockwork?
codes are scrawled   old laws repealed   in relentless experiment

some discover home past world's extreme   circularity
sends the pilgrim far afield   in relentless experiment

Raphael would admit to nautical errors readily
if unmoored he's not unkeeled   by relentless experiment

Thursday, July 24, 2008

ghazal: "each atom and breath"

The significance of a life   if hard to find
                                                      when called into question
the whole tangled-up ball of yarn   might yet unwind
                                                      when called into question

in a veil of mist remains   the reason why
                                                the drama proved tragic
or comedically toned   or both of these combined
                                                when called into question

if the error were mine   repentance wasn't lacking
                                                                while if the reason
lay deep in the script   could you please hit rewind
                                                when called into question?

there are limits to everything!   could you allow
                                                            the purpose of living?
do loquacious philosophers   turn mute and blind
                                                  when called into question?

one remembers the story   mainly in its drift
                                                                          so many details!
could each atom and breath convey   one loving mind
                                                      when called into question?

every morning sweet birds disclosed   the line that kept
                                                                    eluding my notebook
every evening pert stars returned   were they assigned
                                                        when called into question?

the old myths barely lingered   who could now explain
                                                              their signification?
under cypress and pine not one   late sage repined
                                                  when called into question

if the prison of life demands   a lengthy stay
                                                          or but a brief tenure
do they finally explain   why you were thus confined
                                                  when called into question?

every language is learned   by hearing daily sounds
                                                  perhaps it's the same here
could the terms of engagement   be cogently defined
                                                  when called into question?

although buses and cars wax lyric   I remain
                                                              a skeptical camper
are all campfire tales   comprised of tawdry twine
                                                  when called into question?

whether fast spin the wheel   or slow   is not the thing
                                                  that wrinkles my forehead
but what rankles me   is the absence of sure sign
                                                  when called into question

is the fabric of trust   thin gossamer or thick?
                                                          lives hinge on this issue
though I've yet to observe   life's ground gets undermined
                                                  when called into question

when the Buddha said emptiness   the Psalmist sang
                                                  my cup runneth over
isn't emptiness everything   words fail to find
                                                  when called into question?

the condition that Raphael   desired to place
                                                              was easy to locate
he was hoping to know a heart   completely kind
                                                when called into question

Wednesday, July 23, 2008



Wherever we slumber   the day dawns   once again
or (nestled in shadow)   dismay dawns   once again

the way of the world   is not   the way of the heart
yet in the world's echo   a way dawns   once again

we scoured the margin of wilderness   what use?
it brought but the prospect   of clay dawns   once again

Sunday, July 20, 2008

ghazal: "diplomacy's courtesy"

Responsibility must presume   a rational universe
though harboring   miracle or doom   a rational universe

what fine line exists between flexibility   and surrender?
who could gainsay how loss might fine-tune   a rational universe?

where you hold every card   we cherish diplomacy's courtesy
it's fools or inebriates who croon   "a rational universe!"

the more tortuous the slipknot   the more we're in awe of the art
philosophers but rarely buffoon   a rational universe

who flees from the sun takes a loony road   toward brilliance
night's contour necessitates a moon   a rational universe

we lately desire to think of you day and night   belov├Ęd
December long contemplates June   a rational universe

no   Raphael isn't immune to the sway   of your decency
he delights in (like many a loon)   a rational universe

Saturday, July 19, 2008

(ghazal fragment) "on my walk"

A thousand lines that I barely heard   accompanied me on my walk
a hundred signatures scrawled but blurred   accompanied me on my walk

was it the saunter of morn or eve?
                                                    toward where could such ambling stroll?
a slew of answers (yet scarce one word)   accompanied me on my walk

we went heading toward the beginning of things
                                                    after an endless spell
what at world's ending can't be deferred   accompanied me on my walk

was it the saunter of night or day?
                                                    just where might such pilgrimage end?
what spurned all question but silence spurred   accompanied me on my walk

ghazal: "in the umbral shadows"

Where is the border   between blue and green?
                                                        here in the umbral shadows
where is the ardor   between rue and spleen?
                                                        here in the umbral shadows
it's guru purnima in India
                                            moon mirror in sky   shines bright
where is the mortar   between true and keen?
                                                        here in the umbral shadows
the chirp of the bird is remedial?
                                                  the cough of the car concurs
where is the ember   between has and been?
                                                        here in the umbral shadows
the clashing of schools   if demonstrative
                                            suggests less sense than dolor
doling out tinder   to the evergreen
                                                        here in the umbral shadows
when Raphael's stymied   lend him my shawl
                                            direct him to watch the stream
where is the letter   between world and dream?
                                                        here in the umbral shadows

==== === ===== === ====

[The 1st sentence of this poem's 1st line is borrowed from Ron Silliman's Sunset Debris (appearing in Parmentier, vol. 17, no. 2, June 2008)]

(next morning) ps: this started as a rubai (quatrain), then inched its way to being a ghazal.

Friday, July 18, 2008

ghazal: "final chips"

Are you serious?   I must steal from you   the secret of how to love you?
once pocketed   I might reveal to you   the secret of how to love you

we teeter at edge of absurd designs!   the river a'flood with puzzles
float down   hearing my lone appeal to you   the secret of how to love you

in a gamble that none but you and I would recognize   at this table
final chips await (spin the wheel will you?)   the secret of how to love you

blithe years had passed   we began every sentence blindly   always uncertain
what card quiet hands might yet deal   knew you the secret of how to love you?

illusions ran deep   dim narratives curl & wind out of nightlong dreamstuff
fogged mirrors obscuring what's real   who knew the secret of how to love you?

who dine on despair remain circumspect   what rule of the game mightn't shift?
the more knots undone   the less we'll undo the secret of how to love you

who pray bow resigned who dream lie supine   who imagine ponder clouddrift
stray traces of orange or teal   imbue the secret   of how to love you

the world forgot poetry almost   would we need to reinvent the wheel?
dark language   alike woe & weal   hides too   the secret of how to love you

wave on darkling wave   incessant   fierce   oceanic currents grown fearsome
one offers both sail and keel to you   the secret of how to love you

would Raphael beg like a vagabond?   his notion wasn't to wander
his poetry shows how I feel for you   the secret of how to love you

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

a perhaps gnomicly buddhistic rubai

I can't quite distinguish   what is called me   from what is called you
please extract in English   what is called me   from what is called you
if tickled pink by the porcupine   of rhetorical death
who'd need to extinguish   what is called me   from what is called you?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

ghazal: "these summer days"

Who're chastened will keep   this conversation   just between you and I
we're facing a deep   disintegration   just between you and I

light rain falls gently these summer days   long pool a'flutter with wind
we're viewing no cheap   poor imitation   just between you and I

where nebulous work   oppresses the heart   one hopes to push on through
laid flat by great time's   steep implication   just between you and I

child-like   we should love to unravel   what makes the big clock tick!
half-crazed to unwind   such information   just between you and I

what were you seeking? where fled your purpose?   everything drifts in flux
we're drawn to maintain   a slack expectation   just between you and I

at the Guanyin Temple   north of Beijing   pilgrims and tourists stroll
who straggle notice   her indication   just between you and I

sharing cigars at a lavish dinner   talk turns lively and loud
I fail to follow   fate's dissertation   just between you and I

people mention   the Sichuan earthquake   9.6 it attained
things pique surprise   or wreak devastation   just between you and I

in the broader gamble   my small wagers   turn pale faces sunward
does loving   differ from disputation?   just between you and I

I was slated once to become a doctor   page from some lost tale
who rips the page   goes soon on vacation?   just between you and I

who arrive in life   all naked and lost   become more lost than found
while obscure remains   the destination   just between you and I

joyous cries if few   in this market-place   where misery's banal
quiet laughter brews   amid ululation   just between you and I

you resign yourself to wind and rain   you surrender to time's play
does Krishna smile on   your resignation?   just between you and I

you tour the globe   but not as a tourist   atoms twirl as they must
Columbus loathes circumnavigation   just between you and I

born in the west   we abide in the east   if all the world's a stage
this play plots many a motley station   just between you and I

alike trompe l'oeil   the scene is stunning   why should sages dub it
the poster-child of prevarication?   just between you and I

held the realm of dream merely dream   could illusion admit an aim?
philosophers   love pure complication   just between you and I

who fall into   the weave of your story   feel the tug of your yarn
hook line and sinker   aid meditation   just between you and I

each day we attend sweet sessions of thought   each night we drift in dream
who gently frames   the interrogation   just between you and I?

July grows warm   I depart the office   sitting a while outdoors
God hides from me   when's our assignation?   just between you and I

this luxury of perusing the stream   is human   chirps the bird
the stream of thought   relates its elation   just between you and I

many thoughts emerge   many thoughts subside   questions fade or linger
nor book nor scroll   exhaust the relation   just between you and I

here Raphael mimics   a wizened man   scrawling lines in China
he's squandered his life   and reputation   just between you and I


Beijing (July 5-7), Soho New Town
(begun while sitting inside Ai Weiwei's garden sculpture -- by the long pool)

The Guanyin Temple: more specifically, the Red Snail Temple (where, among other statuary, one finds a nice image of the "Guanyin with a thousand hands")

Friday, July 4, 2008

ghazal: "arabesques"

This universe seems   like your smile   overdetermined
each incident gleams   like your guile   overdetermined

who're determined   to reach your port   (soft eyes of Nirvana)
observe   how proves every hard mile   overdetermined

it barely matters what we do now   if we but love you
is homecoming's shore   from exile   overdetermined?

true poetry flows   as seamlessly   as a fleet river
where similes harbor a style   overdetermined

is the firing squad reluctant?   bullet-like kisses
transform me   I ring when you dial   "overdetermined"

the police of your eyes arrest me   crossing time's border
was my contraband   (your profile)   overdetermined?

"I smart still   recalling how hard you worked   to mislead me"
thus spake my heart's blind imbecile   overdetermined

they love you (in spite of good sense)   who crave absurd theatre
strange habits we culture   see file   "overdetermined"

for years Raphael   besotted with   mystical argot
admired arabesques   blooms his tile   overdetermined?


Here in Beijing (since May 13), I was happy to discover (in past day or so) that I can access Blogspot now! (unlike my general experience of it being blocked). Having trouble at the moment accessing Facebook (hopefully a passing phase), but nice to know the blog is, for the present, pulled into the realm of the censor-permitted infobahn ("Net Nanny" being, in some circles, the preferred term for this, i.e. vis-a-vis China's distinctive internet filtering customs).

During my recent months in India -- from return thereto (late October 2007) till coming back to Beijing (mid-May 2008) -- I was generally awash in ghazal-writing. Since landing in China, the habit has subsided to much rarer occasinalness.

Anyway, here's one latest ghazal -- partly spurred by finally getting into the somewhat popular (in highbrowish circles), but till now (when I've finally looked up the word) inevitably bewildering-to-me term noted, above, as the ghazal's radif (repeating item): "overdetermined."

"Overdetermined" has the problem (or let's just say, the characteristic) of meaning too many different things to too many different writers / thinkers / philosophers. But for purposes of ghazal poetry, this quality can perchance become more an asset than a hazard; or so my poem (perchance) posits / gambles / imagines. The word itself (amusingly) proves, in this connection, rather self-descriptive. At any rate, this concept of the "overdetermined" -- worried over (sequentially) by the likes of Freudians, Marxists, and other interesting philosophers of literature, language, culture, and dream -- seems to merit some place in the lexicon of the English ghazal; a place that could seem fairly destined (or even -- and ergo -- as it were, overdetermined).

/ / / / /

Too bad I'm not (at the moment) in a land with at-the-ready libraries & bookstores from which one might easily follow up some of the curious leads noted in the (above-linked) Wikipedia entry about this very interesting word; for instance, I've not (alas) as yet read I.A. Richards' famous book on literary ambiguity. I'm curious to grasp in what way he adapted the notion of the "overdetermined" within the framework of his ideas. Perhaps another day / moon / year I'll be situated to catch up on such.

All of this amounts to tangential annotation vis-a-vis the poem, of course.

yours always,

trivial footnote: actually posted July 5 (not 4)