"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time." (T S Eliot)
"A dark and chanted verse is what I am." (
Forough Farrokhzad)

Friday, October 19, 2012

THERE'S (SIC) MONSTERS OUT THERE


You wake up to a silent sun’s silky light
Seeping like liquid ‘round curves of curtains
That camouflage those bleak glass plates
You deploy to keep the outside world at bay.
For a moment and sometimes
Just a little longer
The infant glare and the implicit warmth
Call you out, entrancing, enticing,
Entreating a dare;
But you can’t respond
‘Cause there’s (sic) monsters out there.

The late morning’s softer bequests
Of subtle rays
Are so beautifully dispersed
That you can rise
And consider your garden’s
Daily needs and wants.
Armed with hot tea,
Cool patience, spade and fork
You can dig and weed
And nurture and water,
Making a paradise
In your own image;
But beyond the fence
There’s no reason to care –
Because you know
That there’s (sic) monsters out there.

On the few occasions
Your courage takes you out,
You can briefly withstand
The panic and the pain;
But those mere moments
Are few and hard won –
Grim respites
When your worst memories are in hiding.
Somehow your humour
Takes over the dismal stage
And you become
The most proficient player you can be –
Such perfect performances
Can make men stare,
Which reminds you –
There’s (sic) monsters out there.

When your garden’s cold
And tiring of your prods,
And your pantry has been filled
And stacked and tallied,
Your instincts turn wonderfully
To food and drink –
Although little of it finds a way
To you and only you.
Instead you bring it
To those you love without conditions –
Those dependent
On your slim hope and your firm faith.
Your charity saves them
And quenches their despair;
For, like you, they also know
There’s (sic) monsters out there.

In the insipid darkness
That follows each fear-filled day,
And primes your body clock
To give in to amiable sleep,
You can watch the electric traces
Of wild flashes outside
Your rooms pent up with candles’ scents
And flickering shadows.
Then the prayers that your god
Has waited all day to hear
Wash back over you
Like an ointment for your scars,
Making waves like massages
You can never share
Because, you know so well,
There’s (sic) monsters out there.

When it comes your sleep is deep
As though you had drowned
In a pool of sweet peace
And bottomless dreams
Composed just for you,
Where your sad history has been revised
And is different enough
To make you wish the pictures you see now
Were wholly real and fully true.
And yet you know too well
From the night’s noises in the neighbourhood
That bounce back and forth
Like lost balls in wonky computer games;
And you recognise signs in distant sirens
And in errant horns that blare:
You are indeed so right to believe
That there’s (sic) monsters out there.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

BABEL


There are pastel painted water coloured wavelengths
In the pert pulsations of a fairy-like feminine voice -
No hard hammers and twisted tongs of anvil accents
Streaming like spoken sparks from some novel new bolero.

The inflections that are there are subtle soft and smooth
And much more musical than modern method melodies,
With their rasping raps of racial ranting and rueful raging.
Instead my ears are soothed by sing-song traces
Of a foreign clime with a classical culture –
Partiality for rhythm and a beautiful bias to graces.

And yet our tongues talk best of matters of the heart.
'Tis true that for such treasures there is no limit of language
That can confine our imaginings and control our questing
To the point where all we know is black benighted bitterness.
For the heart sings only trilling arias backed by slow sweet pitched adagios
That lull the listener listless and bid him blissfully to blessing.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

ESFAHAN


It is of course much more easy for us –
Australians drive long routes without complaint.
For distance also marks our land’s estate.
So we share roads of the central plateau -
That once defined the old Persian heartland -
With open minds, but expecting rewards.
Yet the outskirts of this old capital
Defy our trust and seem, it must be said,
Disappointing – more dust, more shades of brown.
But our mindsets alter quite soon enough.

The old city’s centre is all we’d hoped:
Turquoise domes and bridges of golden stones,
Water trickling below a calm parkland.
Relics from Byzantine times add colors
To a painting of a glorious past
That caresses, surrounds, persuades us stop
And breathe it while we still have the desire.
At least four days the tourist brochures say
To see all that this place can bring to sate
Our lust for sights of Persia’s old glory.

Astounded by deep imprints on our souls,
We find a red-blossomed courtyard of peace
By an ornate caravanserai’s walls –
To which great Shah Abbas once lent his name.
The air seems cool now as we sip hot tea
Amidst gurgles from the smoking hookahs.
But we retire further to plan from our
Luxurious balcony’s vantage point
Our next advance – if that is the best word –
On gracious Esfahan’s sights, smells and sounds.

Once our allotted four days are all spent
There is only regret
That we can’t stay:
Dawdle some more in the bazaar’s caverns,
Search sharp skylines of minarets and domes,
Wander by the river from the Zagros,
Savour aromatic chelo kebab,
Absorbing saffron's uplifting flavour.
So we must quit our soft place of refuge –
To seek the next delight of Persia’s heart.

SHIRAZ


You, me, amidst roses, poets, and wine:
High on the plateau, welcoming nomads,
Shiraz gives them refreshment in the cool
Of altitude and the shade of high trees.
Ample contrast seduces
                          visitors –
Wide streets, tree-lined, in the Zand capital –
A dynasty long gone and briefly strong –
Brusque bazaar, manly mosques, without a breeze.


Great poets, not kings, define this city:
Hafez from six hundred years before us –
His tomb engraved with verses that call us
To celebrate love, wine, music – acclaim!
He speaks of a softly moving creature:
A woman whose beauty he contemplates?
As we read we see once again a glimpse
Of Persia’s rich culture and classic fame.

Saadi recalls even earlier times.
We murmur together his tomb's chief pledge
To emit the perfume of love itself,
Thrilling his mourners for one thousand years.
Mausoleums and gardens invite us –
Which poet’s flag-stone will we bend to touch
And make our tribute as all Persians do?
Surely though our gesture is in our tears.

Tears for the ways the lords of our days treat
Gentle Shiraz, its roses and poets -
Even the wine has been confiscated.
But as for me – I could get drunk on love
In this paradise of measured parklands.
If only that were not forbidden too!
How Saadi must weep at the bitter sting
When political push descends to shove.

Still, for now, there are reasons to rejoice
At the colors of the carpets and kilims -
Precious gifts of Qashqais and other tribes -
Who come in from well worn tracks of the south.
You, me, primed to revolt with deep longing,
Decide to linger near the cypress trees,
Dare to indulge desire by flower beds,
Your kiss of sweet rose water on my mouth.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

SEPTEMBER 1978


The last time I saw you
Was across six traffic streams
That jammed Pahlavi Boulevard
In the early morning rush.

You called for a taxi –
One of those multi-hire insects
That scrabbled through the streets
Of old Tehran
For a few rials a time.

You were still so beautiful
That you took my breath away,
And four cabs veered
Across those haphazard lanes
To claim your fare
And share their space with you.

For a split second I was up to pursuit,
Ready to catch you and make my plea -
Argue my case again and win your verdict –
Anything to be part of your world again.

Yet you did not see me.
You were flustered, in a hurry:
You looked angry and intense.
If only you had been relaxed
With evident moments to spare.
Then you might have seen me;
And my longing look
Might have brought forth that smile –
Perhaps even a wave or more.

And, if you had but smiled at me,
I would not have had the willpower
To set you free again … ever.