Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Early Winter Shi

Rainy dark night   but the rain almost done
listening to Beethoven   having arrived
again at the street that I've come to call home
still lingering a while with the radio   I've
along with the brood of companion dropsouls
fetched up once more on the penultimate night
of a year in a still-youthful century whose
real design if half-sensed remains hidden from sight

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ave Maria Sans Photograph

Gunot's Ave Maria on the radio
Christmas eve again is here
Christ Jesus imagined for ages though
no photo's available where
one might contemplate his visage
while pondering his message

no one texting from the manger
there's no YouTube Magi clip
& what's really rather stranger
Google Maps touched not the trip
there's some post about a star
I can't see it from my car

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"The rose without its thorn" [sonnet]

The rose without its thorn is not a rose
the heart without its ache is not a heart
the stream's no more a stream unless it flows
the plum's hardly a plum except it's tart

that mirror is a mirror which displays
whatever face or form you place before it
the mirror of the heart likewise arrays
a floral vision when you fetch a floret

the path of love seemed easy   quoth Hafez
at first    until the obstacles kicked in
who hasn't felt the truth in what he says?
who doesn't know the tumult of the spin?

when heart goes reeling in its twirl of trouble
the dream of easy love pops like a bubble


"Pomp and Circumstance" [sonnet]

Another day appears in which to love you
another day emerges from the deep
the sky again (that canopy above you)
is ready when you waken from your sleep

the earth beneath is ready for your footfall
the atmosphere awaits to your every word
the field is ready either for your football
or (if you're feathersome) your song O bird!

O bird! O fish! O deer within the thicket!
O heart within the pulchritude of night!
O theatre! we've arrived & here's the ticket!
a thousand times we strive to get it right!

another day (the curtain's now ascending)
I love you! at another poem's ending

"Dumb luck" [a sonnet]

If the purpose of my existence is to love you
is it dumb luck that you've appeared before my eyes?
with rich earth beneath your feet & blue sky above you
do you need dramatics of sunset & sunrise?

there are suns & moons in my heart & many a star
there's a universe that I haven't yet quite explored
I can wend the roads of the world since I've got a car
but what vehicle's apt to plumb the ways of the Lord?

if the heart is the key for walking the path of truth
while yet God's unknown & unknowable! tell me this
if one earnestly seeks to quaff the fountain of youth
is it nonetheless pathetic to think of your kiss?

says an ignorant oaf before the gate of the queen
"though my head be dappled in dust my heart is serene"

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Elements of Attar [sonnet]

If I were to write a poem to celebrate
what delight befills my heart in your gentle gaze
which has thankfully fallen on me in my life late
what materials ought I fetch to construct that praise?

should I travel first to Himalayan heights & pluck
rustic blossoms that shine beyond pedestrian sight?
should I visit next Bhopal lakes where from soft muck
massive lotus-flowers emerge in dawn's gold light?

if I mix the essence of lotus with scent of blooms
from the heights would this suffice? or should I add
subtle tinctures gleaned at a thousand Sufi tombs?
must I hasten to Mehera's garden at Meherazad

for stray petals of roses she nurtured in God's joy?
should I mix in the morning-glories I saw as a boy?


Sunday, November 9, 2014

"The art of the quip" [boomerang poem]

Is the art of the quip now an infobahn talent?  I guess
yet its long antecedents trace back  to an ancient salon
picture please Oscar Wilde as Twitterer!  would he express
those incisive bon-mots & touchés  from sundown until dawn?
granting much one espies on the internet  merits a yawn
there's a smidgeon inspiring deep thought (not so fleetingly)  yes? 

on the chessboard of fate   am I cast as a quip-equipped pawn
with the art of the quip now an infobahn talent?  I guess

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Majnun's November Soliloquy [sonnet]

Can I pass a whole week   not seeing mashooq?
how many days flee   without her lilting voice?

O gentle voice   yet puissant & determined
O delicate form   yet strong & curvaceous

am I a mere cipher   in her dreamlife equation?
or could I hold for her   the frisson of a lover?
are my warblings too copious?  my hairs too gray?
my poetry too ponderous?  my heart too fraught?

do I spawn too many puzzles   all the while destiny
lightly laughs in the face of the cliché of human folly?
do I set myself up   for lugubrious dark footpaths

blindsided by absurdity   & an unrequited love?

O does my rhymeless sonnet   lack balance & reason?
so dazed & senseless   in entanglements of ishq

Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Learning to love you" [villanelle]

Am I learning to love you day by day my friend?
might I cherish you in the stillness of my heart?
is our tale of timeless love without an end?

you discovered me by strange happenstance!  we wend
an ineffable circuit   tracing part by part
am I starting to love you day by day my friend?

though my poems be vague & paltry  let me send
darkling ringlets of thought   till ringing words impart
such a tale of timeless love as knows no end

didn't Hafez intone   the heartbreak of the rend?
didn't Rumi each lambent round of longing chart?
am I growing to love you day by day my friend?

when our life meets with signs & portents  that portend
beauty's arrows let loose   like cupid's poison dart
is our tale of timeless love without an end?

in this universe   who'll say what's comin' 'round the bend?
in this dream   who sees what's the horse  & where's the cart?

if I'm learning to love you day by day my friend
could our tale of love flow on without an end?

[line 10: "the rend" = the lover]

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

clueless in paradise [gatha]

Being so simple   I'm easily astonished
being so clueless   I'm handily beguiled
in my defense   (as scriptures have admonished)
paradise comes   when you become a child

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sunrise Ceremony [sonnet]

What if I should write a quaint poem worthy of you?
would the world survive the astonishment of its lines?

what if each unpredicted phrase shone deep & true
would you instantly grasp what heart flirts in its signs?

O but what should the poem declare? might it extoll
how pure happiness in the curve your smile resides?
ought the verse proceed to bewail your injured toe?
might it recollect the gentle wash of Malibu tides?

say we dawdle beside a salt wave that astounds us

can our words nab the exactitude of its grace?
when a universe boasting cotton clouds surrounds us
& in this world what if I glimpse the ravishing face

of a love whom I can address in inadequate lines?
the benighted soul for such perfect poetry pines

Saturday, September 20, 2014

maloom  [rubai]

If maybe I am the friend of you 
I'll maybe descry no end of you
if maybe yours be mine own hid heart 
how many the ways I'll wend of you!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

"The Honeybee's Love"  [rubai]

Since life in the world is a worrisome thing    at times
the path to the friend has a definite ring    at times
where the pith of existence manifests    in duality
the honeybee's love has a definite sting    at times

Saturday, August 16, 2014

"Black cat in a coal bin"  [rubai]

Black cat in a coal bin    in a cave at night!
Can't say how your eyes gleam     with a trace of light!

Blindness is endemic     to the world at large!
Maya though systemic     is dispelled by sight!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Words Overheard in the Parking Garage
from a Passerby's Blaring Walkman

". . . a spiritual guide to mastering
the challenges of women.  We'll start
with a quote.  Isaiah says . . .

Okay but what did Isaiah say?   & what
(one wonders) might be    "the challenges
of women"?   challenges to men? (this must
be the implication    of the opaque phrase)

so would Isaiah    blithely fall in love
with a sweetheart    so young in years?
Biblical heavyweights    of the old race
of my forefathers   may've adjudicated

every point    of the arcane maze of loving
& yet the lost quote    (one must assume
whatever in the world   it happened to be)
was likely geared toward   a different crux

of ancient challenges    on the battlefield
of the love-fraught human    male heart


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Guide to Pronunciation [limerick]

The Okies have never been vague
about how one ought to say Prague
     as distinguished from Prague
     (rhymes with Indian raag
like the one sung by Tansen called Megh)


The small city of Prague, Oklahoma [population less than 3,000; land less than 2 square miles] -- said to be located at roughly the geographical center of the United States -- was the site (in 1952) of an automobile accident, with Meher Baba among the injured passengers (he and his party having been amid a lengthy drive en route from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, abortively heading for California). This bit of history is commemorated at the Avatar Meher Baba Heartland Center.

Locals (as noted in the above ditty) are said to favor a pronunciation of Prague that pointedly differs from the standard English pronunciation of the name of the Czech Republic's considerably more famous capital city (using a hard "a" in preference to a soft "a") -- a city which was once home to the writer Franz Kafka (among others).  Possibly absurdly, my ditty relies on a reader's familiarity with certain Hindi words to clarify and illuminate this point of divergent pronunciations.  If I am not mistaken, it has been opined that denizens of Prague, Oklahoma (many of whom were Czech immigrants) intentionally invented this peculiar pronunciation variant so as to ward off any confusion of reference between their new city and the old-world capital.

Monday, July 7, 2014

July Selfie Sonnet

Where went my hair?
whence the white musch?
who can repair
Maya's fattoosh?

where went my bangs?
youth that I knew?
life's clamor clangs
who stirs the brew?

where went the days?
moons years slow seasons?
who clears the haze?
who hides the reasons?

time ebbs to naught
what glimpse were caught?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nightfall on Montana Avenue   [sonnet]

When class is over Soha speaks of love
how Ishq is a word describing tendril vines
that cling to the tree more tightly than a glove
& need it more than a tippler craves his wines

she says she went into dance because she sought
to comprehend what's human in our expression
while robotics is another strand she caught
to examine this (and thus isn't a digression)

she reconstructs the gestures of antiquity
and choreographs with freshness & elan
we're told that God has infinite ubiquity
and is himself our breath (our very pran)

can a dance class lend a glimpse of his delight?
might it deepen with the beauty of the night?

for Soha Sharif
June 24, 2014

Ishq (Arabic for "love").  Specifically, Soha (the dance teacher / scholar) explained the word Ishq as cognate to and originating in Ashagheh (the name for the plant we call Ivy).
Pran (Hindi for "breath").

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reindeer Pâté [villanelle]

Doesn't reindeer pâté
made by Francophone tribals
hold a certain caché?

naturally one must pay
for one's books & one's Bibles
and one's reindeer pâté

in this world's wide array
if the mind stalls & idles
asking what's the caché?

where's the curd amid whey?
where's the pith behind titles?
granting reindeer pâté

isn't likely to sway
your American Idols
who can't grok its caché

darling that's quite okay!
(sez the swain as he sidles)
mightn't reindeer pâté
hold a secret cache?


for Ariel McClanahan Watson

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Selfie-Birthday Boomerang Poem

I'm fifty-eight today
a sliver shy of sixty
if I've not hell to pay
I'd call that truly nifty
the world is strange & shifty!
who spreads the bright array?
a sliver shy of sixty
I'm fifty-eight today


Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Shi for Pragya in yonder New Jersey

The kind of friends I wanted in life were invariably found on social networks. I wasn't destined to have friends like Friends.
Pragya Mishra Thakur (in a Facebook status update)

My bosom chums are Facebook friends & tweeters
my cronies are all cyberspatial figments
how rarely are we "meet me on the street"ers
our friendship's toned with text plus pixel pigments

day after day we share our thoughts & notions
year after year we glimpse each others' lives
though parted by large lands & vasty oceans
we buzz one tone from far & distant hives


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Question
or, A Quip Re: "Bogus News" [gnomic verse]

If your silence-breaking    O Parvardigar!
   has thusfar never the headlines grabbed
in the New York Times   tell me how Avatar!
   has Lewinsky this precise honor nabbed?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Comic Notions & Cosmic Ruminations
after midnight: two verses

I used to quaff sake in China
although it were known then as Joe
as parrot or mocking or minah
I mime the gestalt of the flow
at midnight Malkauns clears my head
I dawdle with cyberized chess
it's not been my fortune to wed
my wife-to-be lost my address!

The sake is mild & organic
the YouTubed Gundechas intone
Machado of course was Hispanic
because God's obscure he's alone
when poets or painters depicted
the myriad conceits of creation
life liberated or conflicted
occasioned ennui or elation

Saturday, April 12, 2014

At the check-out: a hypothetical romance

If I'm falling in love with Ariel
who works at the Whole Foods market
will they write (when I've had my burial)
"he didn't know how to park it!
did he dream that a May-September
was what she would want to remember?"
yet this charmer is so exquisite
for some reason although  what is it?

She came (she remarked) from Florida
only just a few years ago
she performs on my heart a corrida
I exaggerate? yes   I know
I can't tell you how oddly she moves me
for no reason that I could explain
if the rational reader reprooves me
I'll assent   I'm a touch insane

Monday, March 24, 2014

Geek Sublime [ghazal]

They mention you've lately published Geek Sublime?
so long as it isn't penned in Greek     sublime

if function derives from form  form's sourced in grace
soul's swan gobbles worms alive    by beak sublime

what's under the veil?   brain-scrambling conceits
O rasik!  hey kavi!      take a peek sublime

when Hanuman jumped to Lanka  in one bound
he glimpsed in the grove  a fabled cheek sublime

they argued out Krishna's theft of butter    so
was Mohan a glutton?   or a sneak sublime?

with smackers long-sealed  silence festers suspense
the sequel would be  (if he should speak)  sublime

in cyber-epochs   the poets morph to sculptors
to typo is human   but to tweak  sublime

in irony's circus    things turn topsy-turvy
the beauty is gruesome    & the freak sublime

the sarangi's cry derived from one's own guts is
regardless if carved from tum or teak    sublime

when Gautam beneath a tree gave wordless teaching
the lotus he raised      showed the antique sublime

where feelings  in coded gestures  are perfected
her relish is bracing     & her pique  sublime

should Amazon drop your tome by drone we'd deem this
(in span of an hour & not a week) sublime

Earth's heirs are i.d.'d by trait   in lieu of surname
Yeshu augured     blessèd are the meek sublime

does loving derive from distance more than nearness?
what's found is banal    but what we seek  sublime

I'll grant Raphael's no Sanskritist   but dig this!
plainchanting the T.O.C. of Geek Sublime


for Vikram Chandra

"Of why and what   don't ask!"   (Hafez)

O Beloved you said     of our state   don't ask!
be a stranger!      & how we relate   don't ask!

Yet your grace is abundant     & life's benign
our misdeeds don't recall!     how we rate   don't ask!

If you hanker the key of love's pain    to grasp
ask the wick about flame!    the wind-spate  don't ask

It's Rose-season Hafez!   wisdom's last year's news
Seek the gold of now!     of why & what   don't ask!


Friday, March 21, 2014

English Shi with borrowed 1st line

Spring involves a lot of fluttering
poetry bears a modicum of typos
where there's bread there'll oftentimes be buttering
half the time we're hypers   half we're hypos!
weal & woe   while tiresome   prove requisite
for long phases of the dream-drenched tale
if your soul articulates  the heck with it!
is that when they lift the mystic veil?


poem's initial line borrowed from Rachel Dacus (via a Facebook status update)

"A journey" [rubai]

A tremor of love when the heart breaks    is my poem
a glimmer of gold that the dawn makes    is my poem
is poetry two-thirds shadow    & one-third dream?
a journey the wakening soul takes    is my poem

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"Where Google ends there God begins" [villanelle]

Where Google ends   there God begins
how much remains beyond our ken!
the wolf has fur   the fish has fins

each game requires losses & wins
each prayer winds toward a terse Amen!
where Google ends   there God begins

forget your catalog of sins
behold creation's wisdom when
the wolf has fur   the fish has fins

the alley shows a dozen pins
perhaps a strike's akin to Zen?
where Google ends   there God begins

the earth proverbially spins
hosting Avataras one through ten
the wolf has fur   the fish has fins

for ghazals like Jelaluddin's
can Anglo ears arouse a yen?
where Google ends   there God begins
the wolf has fur   the fish has fins


Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Gadgeted Society [a sonnet]

"Best tea online" reads an ad
yet one cannot drink cyber-tea!
for drinking or peeing we've had
to keep some physicality

computers & Saraswati!
how deep runs the link 'twixt the twain?
mankind's on an electric spree
that principally boggles the brain

at five in the morn I hear sirens
aha! there's a non-cyber sphere!
for wrinkles some still may use irons
for drinking some yet may use beer

plugged in & online but we're who?
we haven't computed a clue!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Fu's Palace   [English shi]

These days I pass Fu's Palace each morning   on my drive to work
Fu's Palace where my father would meet with his chorus   in years gone by

to drive through LA is to drive through the past   it's a kind of perk
but if past isn't past   is our calling it "past"   a kind of lie?

such thoughts engage this addled brain   on the drive today
if the meaning is seemingly locked away   who holds the key?

what if even the future is already past!   as some might say?
the past is past   & the present is past!   or soon will be

Fu's Palace is the name of a Chinese restaurant located on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Listening to the Night Rain [android shi]

The patter of rain     at 3 am drones on
the coolness of night     at winter's end proceeds

if fetching my laptop I joust at chess till dawn
would this be a blameworthy waste of time?   what needs

the silent yet unrelenting soul contains!
what notions the addled fruitful brain displays!

though years pass like dreams     I'm wakeful with these rains
while hidden away     are dawn's untrammeled rays

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Shih in Honor of My Art History Teacher [English Shi]

I read about James Cahill on my laptop
and recollect those bygone Berkeley days
where mind is purged of balderdash & claptrap
might truth emerge like hills behind a haze?
such hills beyond a river gleam forever!
yet parting at the shore proceeds apace
insouciant like Ni Zan in bright endeavor
who knew bland beauty doesn't lack for grace?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Laptop Requium [sonnet]

My laptop died & so I write
an android verse in solomn shade
I tried recovery tonight
but Mercury is retrograde

it saw me through some years of life
& helped me land a job (God bless!)
it didn't chance to find a wife
but joined in many games of chess

its battery's been long since shot
but otherwise it's served me fine
this good Fujitsu that I bought
way back in two thousand and nine

or was it two thousand and ten?
whatever - fare thee well old friend


postcript: the laptop's demise proved to be unwittingly exaggerated; it revived after a visit to the shop.  And this post is being typed on same.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Poets of Goa

The poets of Goa were hidden
though mutterings pelagic were heard
does poetry reach us unbidden?
a beach with no poets? absurd!

a sky without clouds is a rarity
a field without weeds is most odd
sans poets how show polite charity?
is Goa as silent as God?


This poem is responsive to a prose reflection (posted to Facebook) by Vidya Nayak (who hails from Bangalore, and is lately living part-time in Goa).  She wrote:

Was thinking I have not yet run into a Poet in Chinchinim. Or elsewhere in Goa. Not yet. The signs are all there. I have seen grown men with longish locks, stubble on chins, glasses askew, muttering at the sea. I have seen women sitting on rocks, looking into the sunset, tabloid in hand, the tips of their tongues sticking out, muttering at the sea. I have even caught myself looking into cobalt waters and seeing faint languid outlines floating and dipping beneath the sheen, muttering at the sea.
And the other day, at a party where all was merry and folks were doping and smoking and drinking and generally living it up, the host came up to me and said, you know what, you must meet this friend of mine, he's a poet.
Que sera sera.
(And to be honest, I'm missing them, my poets)


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

0 1 / 1 4 / 2 0 1 4 [poem]

We who've endured to two thousand fourteen
have lived through what cannot be easily said
at least we're enured when two thousand fourteen
comes laughingly quipping "at least you're not dead!"

the Y 2 K worries that fizzled away
have long since departed our "don't worry" head
it's true many say we've still got hell to pay
but let's be insouiciant! it's better than dread

some wizened now hobble while newlings yet spread
fresh-leafing delights as they brave the new day
through winter I've inklings tomorrow grows green
for we who've endured to two thousand fourteen

Thursday, January 9, 2014

After Rumi [rubai]

Beloved! (I said)     you became
                                                         the beautiful Idol of my life!

If you are mine    why do you talk about
                                                    (replied the beloved) your life?

Well and why do you (my rejoinder)
                                                   jab me with your jewely blade?

Because still (his answer came)
                                      your claim's a lie!   you love your life!


[Based on a literal translation done by Mehernoush McPherson, for which thanks.]