Tag Archives: poetry

Drinker of the Wind

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Some time ago when I was at the ad agency in Bahrain, I worked with some very talented artists and illustrators. One was Linda Strydom – who created the illustrations for Corpoetry and among so many others there was Francis Tiongsen, his brother David Tiongsen who is nothing short of amazing and many others who do so much more than computer graphics. If you check out their portfolios in the links provided you’ll know what I mean.

All that is by the by. Just thought I’d give some friends a plug!

This poem came about because Francis loved horses and at the same time we were doing a brochure for a real estate project created around the theme of horses, in particular the Arab. He’d created some captivating illustrations which then prompted this poem based on an old Bedouin legend.

 

 

 

 

DRINKER OF THE WIND (sharaab alrreh)

He was Erebeh, he was mystery,
The Arab steed that flew
Across the desert sands
Chasing the storm
His hooves thundering a warning
To those who had sinned
He was the first Drinker of the Wind.
His mane was midnight,
His eyes were the stars
The light from his hooves,
Four galaxies that shone from afar.
One look from him, one shake of his head
The other steeds followed wherever he led
He ruled the old dunes,
He ran wild and free
And his sinews were limned
With good honest sweat:
The Drinker of the Wind.
Long was he hunted,
Hard was he sought
And the Bedouin tribes
Over him once had fought
His was a spirit born to be free
A being not to broken, nor ridden was he.
But legends tell us,
One wild winter night
A lone Beddu approached him,
So humble, polite
And our Arab stallion
He pawed the hard dunes
And took unto him a mare
Pale as the moon
Then he left as he came
That dark winter night
Like a vision, a dream,
A mere flicker of light
Never again seen by mere men
For he truly was 
The first Drinker of the Wind.
Some say they saw him
Against the dawn sky
Some say they hear him,
When the wind rumbles by
But the Bedouin know
And their legends declare
The Drinker of the Wind
Can’t be seen anywhere

For he left as he came
On that wild winter night
When the sky was a mantle
As dark as could be
And the wind moved the dune tides
Like waves on the sea.
No moon, not a star
Shone that magical night
When the Drinker of the Wind
Disappeared from all sight
He flew up to the heavens
The night sky took him home
Where, as he was meant to
He still freely roams
The first Drinker of the Wind.

Note: The Arabian Horse – 

And God took a handful of South wind and from it formed a horse, saying: “I create thee, Oh Arabian. To thy forelock, I bind Victory in battle. On thy back, I set a rich spoil And a Treasure in thy loins. I establish thee as one of the Glories of the Earth… I give thee flight without wings.”

— Bedouin Legend

(Byford, et al. Origins of the Arabian Breed)

 

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Twig & Leaf

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All I need is a compliment… I posted a fragment from this piece on Facebook and one person’s reaction prompted me to reproduce this dramatic little dialogue that I wrote many moons ago when there were fewer high rise buildings in Bahrain, when our apartment in Muharraq looked out to the sea where dhows lounged on the beach and the causeway to the Diplomatic area was a quiet passageway and the country was asleep by ten at night.

A TWIG AND A LEAF

A bird introduced the story. It twittered: “This is the story of leaf and twig. Of self and self. Which destiny is yours dear listener? Which road to dusty death would you take?”

Twig:   “The wind blows and I move.”

Leaf:   “The breeze breathes and I dance. I quiver with its tiniest breath. Silver. Golden green. The sunlight warms me and I glory in its warmth. The moonlight shimmers on me and I play a dainty game with moonbeams. But you, you are stiff and angular. Your movements are scratchy. Scritching. And scratching. And squeaky.”

Twig:   “Just because I am more firmly set it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the wind or the sun. Or that the silver moonlight does not make dramatic patterns with me. I am strong. And you are weak. Too emotional. Too full of movement. Too light. You dance today. But all too soon that loving sun will make you wilt and you will fall and be crushed.”

Leaf:     “Drop I shall some day. But not before the sun and the wind have caressed me into the most exciting hues of green and yellow and russet, a russet that would rival a sunset. Colours that have made poets sing. What poets have sung of you, Twig?”

Twig:     “No. That is true. No poets sing of me. I am the coarse, unlovely of the world. The bark grows hard around me. It shelters me from the sun and the wind of life. But it constrains me too. Confines the sap that flows within. Warm sap that longs to leaf sometimes. That aches to dance.

And, yet I know that if I were a leaf, I would dread the day when I should fall. Having metamor­phosed from glorious green and yellow on to russet and hectic red. Fall and be crushed. Stamped out. And forgotten. No. I would rather be a twig. And never live or love so much, so close to life that some day I shall, I must be turned to dust, ignominiously…under the foot of some uncaring, unthinking, unloving passerby.”

Leaf: “Perhaps. But twig, dear twig, to love is all. Why should it matter how you leave this world? We must all be crushed and torn some day. So live. Live and love and laugh and dance today!”

Twig:   “No. No. I cannot… And yet, should I? No. I must not. For I support the leaves.”

Squid

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A poem presented at Colours of Life 2017 – the annual poetry festival of the Bahrain Writers’ Circle.

Now I’m not vegetarian

Nor yet pescetarian

Not even a pure carnivore

I’m an eat-everything-atarian

There’s not much that I don’t adore

When it comes to the fishes

I can devour most dishes

But there is one thing I abhor

 

It’s that strange little creature

With a tentacular feature

It’s name down my throat wouldn’t slid

Although my ol’ teacher

Demanded that I just say ‘squid’

I shuddered, I quaked, I all but flaked

I felt my life, on it was staked

“Oh, please don’t make me!” I pled

 

“Why not squid, you’re so silly,” she said              

“Er…Ummm,” I so wished I were dead

“It’s so slimy, so squiggly, so terribly wriggly.”

“Oh child, it’s just all in your head.”

“No, ‘taint.” I retorted, albeit feebly

And blanched at the thought of the squid

My face on my desk I then hid

While my breath went all wheezy’n’queasy

 

Many years soon sped by

So I thought I should try

To dine on this marine delectation

So….“I’ll have calamari,” said I

With a measure of great trepidation

Along came this dish

Of the offending fish

All battered and fried to damnation

 

But…In spite of the batter

In spite of the crunch

In spite of the fact that I’d have it for lunch

The rubbery squid, it all but did

Me in… as it stuck in my throat

I gasped, I choked, I nearly croaked

And swore once more as I had before

That I’d never again eat squid!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To view the live presentation please click here.

Slow down, Life!

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Some time ago a friend sent me this poem in Urdu, which really touched a chord. Time is the highwayman that steals our lives away and when a poem like this comes along it must be shared as widely as possible. It is attributed to the well-known poet, lyricist and film director Gulzar, but I’ve had those who know more about Urdu poetry and poets than I do tell me this isn’t so. I don’t know. Whoever wrote it, it is beautiful in its original:

Here is a romanised version of the Urdu:

Ahista chal zindagi, abhi kai karz chukana baaki hai.

Kuch dard mitana baaki hai, kuch farz nibhana baaki hai.

 Raftaar mein tere chalne se kuchh rooth gaye, kuch chhut gaye.

 Roothon ko manana baaki hai, roton ko hasana baki hai.

 Kuch hasraatein abhi adhuri hain, kuch kaam bhi aur zaruri hai.

 Khwahishen jo ghut gayi is dil mein, unko dafnana baki hai.

 Kuch rishte ban kar toot gaye, kuch judte-judte chhut gaye.

 Un tootte-chhutte rishton ke zakhmon ko mitana baki hai.

 Tu aage chal main aata hoon, kya chhod tujhe ji paunga?

 In saanson par haqq hai jinka, unko samjhaana baaki hai.

 Aahista chal zindagi, abhi kai karz chukana baki hai.

 

And here’s my attempt at translating it:

Slow down, Life, slow down; there’s so much more I have to do

Some hurts, still need to be assuaged, and some commitments too.

Walking at your pace, you see, some were rebuffed and some slipped by

Those I snubbed I must placate, make others laugh who once did cry.

Some desires I need to satisfy, some duties I have yet to do

Some wishes lie within this heart, these I must bury ‘ere we’re through.

Some friendships I have made and broken, some in the mending, cracked again

Those I’ve broken, battered, hurt; their wounds, I need to heal their pain.

You go ahead, Life, I’ll follow you, what will I gain by leaving you?

Those who have a right to my breath, they need an explanation too.

Slow down Life, slow down, there’s so much more that’s left to do.

Nothing

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So here’s another old, “dark” poem. It was written to inspire a story and then I never wrote the story!

nothing-2The silence had enveloped her

In its warm black anonymity

She was safe.

No rasping voice

No sound

Penetrated it

A gag order

On insanity.

A restraining order on life.

She buried deeper into it

A mole, escaping the light. Read the rest of this entry

5 tips for writing a memoir …

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… And how I scored

The other day someone asked me if I had any tips for writing a biography or a memoir. That was a tall order. I must confess I am working on one but can no way see myself as any kind of an expert on the subject. My method, quite honestly was to plunge on. Get the story down and then work it into a somewhat linear narrative thereafter.

Why didn’t I do what I usually do, Google it? The main reason was because I didn’t want to be bogged down by external strictures, by what a regular biography should look like. I wanted the person’s own story and own voice to come through.

The memoir I am working on is almost done. But, after the question was posed I decided to see whether my method was nuts, or did it work?

I came upon an old article from AuthorHouse that suggests the following tips:

Tip #1

Have a deep interest in your subject. Don’t pick a biography subject just because you think there’s a market for that book, or because that person is currently in the spotlight. Pick someone you’re dying to know more about.

In other words, ask yourself, “If no one but me ever reads this book (or if, for whatever reason, the book is never completed), would the research itself be its own reward?”

I for one am glad to say an unequivocal YES! I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting to know my subject. We’ve had many laughs, tears, frustrations. But, overall it has been an amazing experience for me.

Tip#2

Be organized. If you’re a thorough researcher, you might interview hundreds of people and review thousands of documents. Simply dumping all those records, transcripts, photographs and notes into a folder with your subject’s name is NOT the way to go. Use a system that works for you.

Oh dear! Nope. I wasn’t that organised, but I wasn’t a total wreck either. I did/ do have separate folders. Fortunately, since we decided to keep it as a memoir, I didn’t need to interview a whole host of people so I didn’t have to check and counter-check with others who would, perhaps have given different versions of the same account, a la Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet.

Tip#3

You don’t necessarily need a new subject—just a new angle. Just because your person of interest has already been written about before (perhaps many times), it doesn’t mean there’s no place for your biography.

This didn’t apply to me or the subject, because the story is unique and there aren’t that many accounts of the person’s life for us to worry about. Besides, it is very much an authorised memoir.

Tip #4

Don’t delay, especially with interviews! Once you’ve decided that you want to write about a particular person, get started as soon as possible. Why? Because interview subjects will, unfortunately, pass away eventually. Waiting a year, a month, or even a week could result in the loss of an eyewitness or a close friend of your subject.

Again, this didn’t apply… thank God! But we had got the bulk of the story down fairly quickly. In spite of a hectic schedule, we met twice a week. My subject is a very focused individual and after a few preliminaries, we wasted no time. I am very impressed by his prodigious memory and tremendous sense of story-telling. I felt I was there, witnessing each event he talked about. That’s why sometimes we’d both end up laughing or emotionally drained.

Tip #5

Be thorough. Because, after everything you also have to write the book!  Follow leads, pursue hunches, and research your subject exhaustively—but don’t forget to write the book! At some point, you have to make a conscious decision to stop digging and start typing.

As you do your research, you might be able to fine-tune the scope of your project, which will narrow the parameters of your research.

My method was to write along. As soon as I had finished the interview sessions I would transcribe the session and keep that in a separate folder. The next day, or sometimes, that very night, I’d get into trying to “write the story” as a story.

This worked to some extent, because, after a very thorough (and I may add: sharp) review by the editor, major chunks of the book had to be moved around and rewritten. Some parts had been repeated and some were inconsistent.

To the above AuthorHouse tips, I’d add a sixth…

PLUS ONE!

Get a good editor. Preferably someone who is not associated or emotionally connected with your subject.

This was a great help for me. Because, although on reading my editor’s comments I was initially devastated, when I returned to fixing the manuscript, I found that perhaps the emotional distance had helped to bring clarity. We are always far too close to our own work – especially long pieces – to see the errors.

And that’s about the size of it. I’m sure there are many other resources for writing a biography or memoir, but if this helps even one fellow writer, I feel I will have done something today.

Memories

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In search of material from the past one comes across a mood that suddenly finds resonance in the present. It’s not prophetic but it stirs an old emotion and I wrote it when I first knew we were going to Canada. I was apprehensive at the time, not knowing then, what I know now, that I was embarking on one of the best times of my life.

Having said that, I feel that those of us who come to the Middle East, even if we put down roots here, imbibe something from the shifting sands that enters our spirits and stirs a restlessness within us that eventually makes nomads of us all. Where, beneath this great dome of sky, will I eventually pitch that tent that never needs to be unpegged again? I have sand in my toes.

A Farewell

Goodbye people of this clime

It’s time to leave you

My watch is over

The grains of rice

Destined for me, are eaten.

No more grains on these plates

Come with my name written on them.

 

I have drunk deep

Of your waters, and long.

A thirst in my heart

Has been quenched.

And now a gnawing hunger

For other pastures

Feeds at my soul.

 

I must leave

The writ has been sent

Am I manumitted now?

Or do I go to another master

Another slavery?

 

The only freedom I yearn for

Is the final escape from life

When I will hunger no more,

Nor thirst.

 

I see your trees your wastelands

Your messy beaches, your prim hotels

I know your petty interests

Your magnanimous natures

I’ve grown to love them all

And I’ve grown to love them well.

 

But I must leave now

For I can hear the sirens calling

Midnight beckons

With its own sweet, soft music

Which I must follow

Towards the harsh light

The unforgiving break of day.

Seven dangers to virtue…

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And five verses on one!

I have a very talented bunch of school friends and every day we exchange a rather large number of emails. Sometimes there are short little exchanges at other times we have long and serious discussions, we share jokes, tease each other, occasionally we have violent (and vociferous) differences of opinions and occasionally these take the form of impromptu verses.

Here’s the result of a recent exchange.

Our friend Rajpal, in the spirit of the passage of the past year when thoughts turn to introspection, sent a post that claimed there were Seven Dangers to Virtue attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.

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This was accepted by the group with sage and solemn agreement. One friend, Pavan, decides he’d add one more danger to human virtue, claiming that, “One could add another. Desire without rationality.”

Well, I thought, desire is irrational.

And so I challenged him with the following comment, “My dear friend the trouble is Desire knows no reason; it is, and therein lies the sting.”

That last phrase set off my rhymester bells and before I could control myself, out came this verse:

Heart and head they will not meet

Heart responds just to the sweet

For often when the head says no

The heart, dear heart, it will say ‘go’.

And when the heart heads for a fall

The head it says, ‘I told you so’.

Philosopher friend Pavan bats this back at me within minutes:

Crave on dear heart, for life is short
Let not the head, thy zing abort.
To fall and hurt is also gain
For what is life without some pain.

A third friend nicknamed ‘Kandy’  jumps in with:

The head and heart are never in sync
But do not let your spirit sink
Go ahead with all your zest
Get what you want and like the best.

Now I had to respond to these two and at least try hold up my end of the argument. So…

Love it!
And therein speaks the heart
For versifying is an art
Well said dear Pavan you are right
And so say artists, with all their might
’tis better to have loved and lost
To have your heart in tempests tossed
To give your might, your main, your all
Than never to have loved at all…

But…
That’s the crux of my lament
Love and desire know no reason
Nor do they follow any season
And so you prove my argument!

In leapt Avinash – not in verse – reminding us that in a battle of wills between head and heart, most times it is the heart that wins. Finally, Mallika, our master poet, counsellor and chorus all in one, rolled out the final poem in the series…

Rajpal is our conscience keeper, he
Brings us our daily homily!

To the seven evils the Mahatma bade
Us save ourselves from, Pavan could add
Another, and as is our wont, you’ll see
Our ever youthful gang of G&G
Concentrates our talent on the eighth
Far more meat in that one, i’faith.
But Avinash made the connexion plain
Desire and Pleasure are brethren twain!

But Love – that’s a whole other ball game;
And that’s the one Rohini’d blame
For the Human Condition (with apologies
to Hannah Arendt, for her treatise
Placed procreation at the level of Labour –
But Love’s a task none would abhor!)

Arun Kandy joins the team, with yours truly
Bringing up the rear, with many a rhyme unruly!

Twixt Head and Heart, both, we must agree
Are ruled by our chemical inputs; verily –
(Like Pavlov’s dogs) what we eat are we,
And our choices are really not that free!

Superb argument. Case adjourned… unless of course our readers wish to add their views here!

The Sandwich Thief

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Yesterday I read a post on Facebook (someone else’s post) that I then placed on my FB page here: https://www.facebook.com/RohiniSunderamAuthor

The post is an amusing account of two colleagues and a spat they have over a turkey & rye sandwich. I mentioned that it reminded me of some of the poems in Corpoetry, like The Water Cooler. One friend said she’d like to see what I’d make of that situation in a poem.

And so, here it is!

‘Twas in an office, I heard tell

Of a prankster ne’er do well

He stole, it seems, a colleague’s lunch

And the outcome was a bunch

Of laughs for folk like me and you

But from the posts, it seems ‘twas true

And this is how it went:

 

“Oh sandwich thief, I know you keep

Stealing my sandwiches, why oh why?

The latest one’s turkey on rye.

Grow up you thief, you sandwich thief!”

 

The thief replied, “dear Turkey ’n’ Rye

I have it here, I do not lie,

Ten bucks is all that it will take

To get it back upon a plate.”

 

The victim lashed back with a threat:

“Return my sandwich, thief, or else!

To HR I shall take my ‘plaint

And then let’s see how you will faint!”

 

The Sandwich Thief, did threaten back

“Alas, my dear, alas, alack!

For every hour that you delay

Bite by bite, I’ll eat it away.”

 

Threats then turned to psycho chat

“Why oh why are you doing this?”

The sandwich ‘napper, not remiss

“Tick-Tock” he sent a photo back.

 

But in an office, as we know

Don’t push your luck for it can go

As in this case, to HR’s top

And HR weighed in with a ‘Stop!

 

“Cease! Desist! Return the food

And we’ll not take this any further”

But sandwich ‘napper he’s a boob

Demands a pizza, silly joker.

 

Next he adds an insult in

Threatens not to eat but chew

And then in little mouthfuls spew

The sandwich in a bin!

 

“You’re the worst” our Victim sighs

“I’m not” Our Sandwich Thief replies

And in eloquent prose outlines

The corporation’s ills and its demise.

 

Now, thanks to IT and what not

HR tracked down the wicked sot

“Francis!” they name and shame the chap

“Come and see us, now ASAP!”

 

Now Sandwich Thief, he ain’t so bold

(In fact it almost makes one sicken)

“Please don’t fire me,” he folds!

The turkey made him chicken.

 

 

…a very special Lady graces my blog today… Authoress and Poetess Supreme… Rohini Sunderam…

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Thanks to Seumas Gallacher, intrepid blogger, writer, speaker, Scots…

Seumas Gallacher

…at the risk of repeating previous blog openings, I’m the most fortunate of bloggers inasmuch as my terrific Guests come from all corners, and in all guises… since this ol’ Jurassic arrived in Bahrain, I was invited to join the excellent Bahrain Writers Circle

bahrain wrters circle

…started a few years ago by Robin Barratt, who still offers great support from his home base these days back in the UK, the group has gone from strength to strength on the broad and willing administrative shoulders of David Hollywood and Rohini Sunderam… David is an accomplished Poet in his own right, and may appear at some time on this ‘ere blog…. meantime, the effervescent Rohini offers splendid illumination to my page… let me stand aside and allow her to speak for herself and her unique CORPOETRY collection…

Corpoetry_cover_Page_02

From Corporate Laughter to Corpoetry

Rohini Sunderam

This collection of poems came into…

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