Monthly Archives: March 2015

David Hollywood of Bahrain Confidential reviews Corpoetry

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David Hollywood, my friend and fellow poet from the Bahrain Writers’ Circle (BWC) has the happy post of being the resident poet for one of Bahrain’s best known lifestyle magazines, Bahrain Confidential. David, as all of us in the Second Circle Poetry Group know, is an impassioned and accomplished poet with his book Waiting Spaces available in both print and Kindle editions. And, of course he has been writing poetry for Bahrain Confidential for several years now.

You can imagine, I was overjoyed when Bahrain Confidential told me that he was going to review Corpoetry, my collection of poems published by Ex-L-Ence Publishing. I was also a little intimidated. Now that I’ve seen his review – which I hope you’ll check out – I am absolutely and utterly delighted.

David and I share approximately the same vintage, so he picked up on references that were old hat but which I’ve explained in notes to those who are of a younger persuasion. The one poem that he, and a number of others, particularly enjoy is Big Cheeses.

Which poem or poems resonate with you? Do let me know. Also, if you’re inclined, do please send in a corporate situation and I can create a poem for you. If you prefer to write your own poem, leave it here in the comments section where it can be featured.

Here’s the review!

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With the link: http://www.bahrain-confidential.com/home/bookreview-corpoetry-by-resident-poet-david-hollywood/

Enjoy! And once again thank you David Hollywood

 

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The Lament of Gilgamesh

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This poem was written when I was in Bahrain in the 1980-90s. The Legend of Gilgamesh has fascinated me for quite a long time and continues to do so.

For those who don’t know it, here’s a quick run-down garnered from Wikipedia: The Epic of Gilgamesh is a poem from Mesopotamia and among the earliest known works of literature. Scholars believe that it originated as a series of Sumerian legends and poems about Gilgamesh king of Uruk – which is in present day Iraq.

The story revolves around a relationship between Gilgamesh and his close friend Enkidu, with whom he undertakes many dangerous quests that incur the displeasure of the gods. In one of these quests the two friends kill the Bull of Heaven and so to punish them the gods have Enkidu killed. The latter part of the epic focuses on Gilgamesh’s distressed reaction to Enkidu’s death, which takes the form of a quest for immortality. In this quest Gilgamesh tries to learn the secret of eternal life by undertaking a long and perilous journey to meet the immortal flood hero, Utnapishtim and his wife, who are among the few survivors of the Great Flood, and the only humans to have been granted immortality by the gods. Gilgamesh comes to the twin peaks of Mt Mashu at the ends of the earth through the mountains along the Road of the Sun. He follows it for twelve “double hours” in complete darkness. Managing to complete the trip before the sun catches up to him, Gilgamesh arrives in a garden paradise full of jewel-laden trees; in another legend this is the place referred to as ‘Dilmun’.

Gilgamesh notices that Utnapishtim seems no different from himself and asks him how he obtained immortality. Utnapishtim tells an ancient story of how the gods decided to send a great flood – very similar to the Flood in the Bible and Noah’s Ark. The main point seems to be that Utnapishtim was granted eternal life in unique, never to be repeated circumstances. After instructing his ferryman to wash Gilgamesh and clothe him in royal robes, Utnapishtim prepares to send him back to Uruk. As they are leaving, Utnapishtim’s wife asks her husband to offer a parting gift. That’s when Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh of a boxthorn-like plant at the very bottom of the ocean that will make him young again. In some stories it is the pearls that are considered the “grapes of the sea” that will grant immortality. Gilgamesh obtains the plant by binding stones to his feet (very similar to how the early pearl divers of Bahrain used to descend to the sea bed) so he can walk on the bottom of the sea. He recovers the plant and plans to test it on an old man when he returns to Uruk. Unfortunately, when Gilgamesh stops to bathe, the plant is stolen by a serpent, which sheds its skin as it departs. There is a lot more and it is a far more complex epic than I have placed here.

In the Epic, Gilgamesh returns to Uruk, however, in my imagination, he never really leaves and the following poem draws on several myths around ancient Bahrain, using different names by which it was or supposedly was known – Dilmun, Tilmun, Nidukki, Kur-ni-tuk. Those interested may explore these further through that wonderful resource the Internet.

South, south he rushed

To the midst of the sea

To the place of the rising sun

To the place where some day

A king would live like a fish

Twelve double hours away.

 

The fifth king of Uruk was Gilgamesh

Descended five times from the time of the flood

And son of the goddess Ninsun

He sailed for a day

He sailed for a night

He sailed in search of Dilmun.

 

He wished to eat of the grapes of the sea

Those pearls from its bed would grant him

Eternal bliss and companionship

With the sage king Utnapishtim

In legendary Dilmun

In twice-blessed Dilmun.

 

Twice blessed by the god of sweet waters

Twice blessed by the god called Enki

So south he rushed south by southwest

And he met with a following wind

Until he came upon this jewelled isle

(A sad, far cry from Sumer).

 

Here the date palms stood tall sentinels

Their green arms stretched to the sky

Waving a warning from dusk until dawning

That this idyll would soon pass by.

 

But he heeded them not brave Gilgamesh

For he had reached the isle of his dreams

Then Gilgamesh dropped anchor

And entered the waters green

Where betwixt the salt through the seabed rose

The sweet waters of Bahr ein.

 

With stones on his feet down, down he dived

To the rocks where the pearl beds lay

He closed his eyes against the salt

He pinched his nose with a date palm peg

While he harvested those pearls of rose and grey

Harvested the grapes of eternal day

In the twice-blessed waters of a tiny bay

Off the island of Muharraq near Bahrain

Off the waters green that spread between

Muharraq and Bahrain.

 

How long he stayed beneath the waves

Neither he nor the sages could tell

But he took many shapes beneath the seas

Once a dugong shy then a dolphin spry

Then a shark then a dolphin again

And he sang a song a lament forlorn

Of what he saw had been done to Dilmun

And this was its burden long:

 

“Ah me Dilmun, Tilmun!

What became of your bearded palm trees green?

What became of your shingled shores?

What became of your soft undulating sands?

Of the burial mounds of your immortal clans?

Who has broken these temples and laid them bare

So that emptied and hollowed and ravaged they stare

At the sky and the taunting sun?

Ah me Nidukki!

Did the oil then come?

As Mesopotamia of old had foretold?

And is it true Kur-ni-tuk

That your pearls you forsook

For the sake of the black, black gold?”

 

And at night when a full moon is in the sky

And a Sambuk is sailing silently by

Old sailors at their fish traps say:

If you hear the shudder of an oil-tanker

Start up on a night such as this

Emanating from the sea comes a moan and a cry

And the lament of Gilgamesh.

Are Diamonds Deadly?

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Recently a friend of mine reminded me that ‘diamonds are forever’, this, for those who don’t know it, is a take on the famous De Beers slogan: A diamond is forever, coined in 1947 that has since then been hijacked by others. 

Diamonds are thought to wield powerful astrological influences over the wearer. This was something I didn’t believe in, until a series of incidents – very like those in this story – happened to me. Those incidents prompted me to write this tale, now here for yu to enjoy, believe in or not…

Diamonds are forever. Diamonds are for beauty. And diamonds are for death, despair and misery.

The tiny shards of diamonds were set in silver. A little floral pattern with, at the centre, a single, soft, lustrous pearl. At certain angles the diamond dust would catch the light and then it seemed as if a thousand stars burst forth twinkling and winking in a silver night sky. At other times a ray of sunlight would be snatched unawares and shattered into a prismatic kaleidoscope; flashing and burning, the aching carbon screaming out in silence at the agony through which it was made, then hacked at to produce a diamond to adorn some trinket to delight; whilst this, this bit of dust might just have been forgotten, had not the jeweller carefully collected it and positioned it into this flower, this ring of pain; to adorn or pay homage to a pearl—yet another product of injury.

No wonder then, that this combination of hurt and insult, pain and torture should bear a sullen grudge against humankind. Together this exquisite combination of diamond dust and pearls conspired to weave a deadly web. Spinning and whirling a million microscopic electro‑magnetic atoms were set dancing around first one flower and then another in ever widening ripples, unseen and unfelt by anything animate. This impassioned dervish like dance was somehow able to set off mild imbalances which could sometimes go off at a manic tangent…

The web was spinning. The trap was set.

The diamonds shone, in spite of being mere dust their combined sparkling could easily have been the envy of anything near a carat. Meanwhile, the luminescence of the pearls was like a softly beckoning beacon. The lady looked at them, passed them over and looked at them again…all of a sudden they seemed to be the most beautiful things she had ever seen. Was the angle right? Was a skein of light ever caught so daintily? Or, did a sudden alteration of electricity in the air set the ‘web’ spinning extra specially just for her? No one would ever know. But, one step in a certain direction leads fatefully to another and another.

Other pearls were seen. Garnets passed through her hands as though in a daze. Bright green emeralds, corals, more pearls, opals, rubies… opals, rubies… but her eyes and her hands kept straying back to that dainty set of pearls and diamond dust, diamond dust and…

”I’ll take it,” she said, “This and only this!”.

Clutching the set close to her, her heart beating just a little bit more rapidly, her eyes shining; she hurried home feeling slightly guilty as if she had done something wrong. But what it was, she wasn’t sure.

The malevolence of that beautiful combination went into action

the very next day. The lady woke up with a sense of unease, as if she had been involved in an illegal assignation. Alongwith it a mild headache. “Oh, It’s nothing!,” she thought, “Why should I feel so wretchedly guilty about it?”. And the diamonds were put impatiently out of her mind. Other more pressing problems were at hand and needed to be dealt with immediately. As the day wore on, and the evening drew near her spirits rose.

Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes took on a heightened lustre. That evening she would wear the set. What should she wear to go with it?

She dressed, all a‑glow The pearly pink of her dress imparted a blush to her entire body and she exuded a kind of youth and ebullience she had not felt in a long, long while. The world was wonderful and somehow she was at its centre. And, holding her there on its silvery, sparkling, adamantine threads was her floral set of diamond dust and pearls—on her ears, on her hand and at her throat.

Later that evening, just at the moment when she felt that she had attained a pinnacle of emotion between herself and a kind of void that could only be thought of as the whole world, something snapped!

A minor quarrel with her husband. It marred the feeling of giddy perfection, as if a pin had scratched a mirror. Strangely. Indelibly. A sudden shrinking within herself was all that she could feel, or put her finger on.

Days came and went in a blur. Nothing seemed wrong, but nothing seemed quite right either. Deep within her heart a pin‑point of pain was minutely growing.

Her son fell ill. Something he hadn’t done for years. Feverishly she battled to bring the high night-time temperatures down. Every night for six nights she fought the fever with cold compresses and medicines. Pre‑dawn on the seventh day, from nowhere came the thought, ”Are diamonds unlucky?” Then, she said to herself, ”Nonsense, this kind of thinking is superstitious rubbish.” Her son recovered. He looked pale, but he did seem better.

Her daughter followed. A fever, a cold, a strange listlessness.

And the thought crept into her mind again: “Are diamonds deadly?” And again she brushed it off. Impatient with herself. But, now the thought bounced around in her mind like a fly. Like a fly caught in a web.

Mid‑sentence she stopped someone, mid‑sentence, discussing the weather, she shot it out, “Are diamonds unlucky?” Mid‑sentence, mid‑stream, mid‑thought.

“Yes,” came the astonishingly confident reply. “Yes”, it rang out like a death knoll clanging like a horrible bell through the hollow caverns of her being, ringing death and destruction, “YES”, then almost softly, ”I have heard something, do you remember the Hope diamond?”

Hope? There was no hope, never mind that hope was only a family name. There was no hope at all. It surely had to go. No. That was rubbish. Superstitious, foolish, middle‑ages‑type nonsense.

And yet the thought persisted, making her head ache.

‘Are diamonds unlucky?

Remember the Hope diamond?

But this is only dust.

But it is diamond dust.

Some diamonds are forever.

Is bad luck forever?

No.

Yes.

Diamonds are for death.

Diamonds are for despair.

Nonsense…Yes!

Rubbish…No!

The diamonds must go!

But they didn’t. They lay there. Silently maliciously spinning, weaving their intricate pattern of destruction. Rippling out quietly, persistently, continuously. Setting her world just slightly askew. No matter what she did or whatever happened, if it was undesirable, the diamonds would flash winking horrid and gleaming in her mind’s eye. And she would shake her head as if to rid her mind of an ever‑growing tangle that seemed slowly inexorably to mar her vision of the world.

A few weeks later her mother came to stay. Her heart grew tight as if with a sense of foreboding. Not more than two days had elapsed when it came down upon her heart with a thud. Her mother developed a sudden fever. Hack it went at her, ‘hack’ at her heart, “Get rid of the diamonds.”

Her mother’s fever rose in spite of all the medication. Bathe her brow. Give her water. Do something…Get rid of the diamonds.

It went at her like a hammer, sparkling in some stygian light, ringing out in the night, through her sleep, through her vigil, through the dark, through the light.

Finally she could take it no longer. She grabbed the tiny black box, ran with it back to the jeweller, and burst out…”Get rid of…get rid of it…” The tears streamed down her face. Her body trembled as if from a terrible effort.

The deed was done. And after a while a kind of calm settled upon her. That day the cause of her mother’s fever was diagnosed and treated correctly. But, not before the old lady was made to witness the spectacle of the shadow of Death’s face before she was flung palpitating, back into life. She was drained temporarily of all her strength, while her daughter watched helplessly aware of only one thing…a last malevolent flicker of diamond dust, still winking enticingly at her, before an empty darkness   settled into a corner of her mind.