life’s horse

whitesheet
Click here for image source.

I can’t say that I want to grab life by the horns.
I think I would rather watch it come together
with time like the soft creases of a baby’s smile.

I would rather lay life out like a sheet,
smoothing the wrinkles with my palms
and tugging here and there to make it fit.

I don’t care to iron first.

~

I want to watch a plastic beach ball rise and fall in the waves,
being carried here and there, appearing not to move
until some hours later when only a speck is visible in the distance.

I just want to see what will happen if I let go of the reins.

Do I believe that life’s horse will find its way home?

on patience and potential

Monarch butterfly. Image source: http://www.inquisitr.com/388618/southwest-airlines-flies-late-blooming-monarch-butterfly-to-texas/
Monarch butterfly. Image source: http://www.inquisitr.com/388618/southwest-airlines-flies-late-blooming-monarch-butterfly-to-texas/

Said the lover to the beloved, who was consumed by fear of stagnating, of not fulfilling her potential, of wasting her precious time in life:

Look around you!  
 
The apple could not have been picked sooner. The cocoon could not have opened earlier. But neither is sitting still, doing nothing. Both need time to grow.
 
You are the apple of my eye
and the butterfly of my heart. 
I cannot wait until you feel for yourself the wings you are going to grow, 
and see how beautiful you are.
~
At times, we may come to feel trapped within the paths we once chose, or that were chosen for us. We may come to feel that we are idly allowing the mystery, beauty and potential life offers, to pass us by.
This piece takes some words of wisdom that we have all been fortunate to receive at some point in our lives, and adapts them into a brief story.

shukhar

Image source: http://imgur.com/gallery/49Pgl
Image source: http://imgur.com/gallery/49Pgl

Some news begins to settle,
quietly,
in the places where disbelief has left its footprint

~

you’ve gone, but in leaving you’ve taken me
one, maybe two steps further along in this life

i think i understand why they say,
shukhar,

thanks

~

i knew you, once upon a time,
or at least,
i thought i knew you a little bit

and now,
but now,

i understand there is little that was what it seemed

~

it’s like a single thread unravelling from a sweater;
one minute, it’s fine, and the next, there’s a gaping hole

except that the hole i feel isn’t in me,
it’s in the fabric of life itself
and life is coursing through,
pulling me upwards in its path

one thing comes over and again to mind:

koi aapse agar kuch maange,
to usse dedo,
aakhir, yehi to hai zindagi

if someone asks you for something,
then give it,
after all, this. is. life.

this is life,
this is life,

the one time we can love, and breathe, and aspire

the one time we can rise above our human selves
to fulfil the hopes and desires of another being

the one time we can ourselves be
compassionate; merciful

~

what did i give you,
you, who suffered
unknown to me?

what did i shower on you then,
that i now deserve to pick like fruit
the truth of your hard-lived example?

~

someone suffered, deeply, quietly,
but we did not know his mind

someone struggled, beautifully,
and we are uplifted with admiration
that we thought we knew him, even for a day.

* * *

A childhood friend has passed away. This piece is a reflection on life, death, and everything in between. Shukhar (among other things) is often said upon a person’s death, by those who follow the Shia Imami Nizari Ismaili tariqa (interpretation) of Islam (and by others Muslims well).

two poems: “Museum” and “courtyard, unedited”

Two poems: Museum and courtyard, unedited

These pieces were written while and after visiting the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada. The first, Museum, is a reflection on history, civilizations, art and interpretation. The second piece, courtyard, unedited, was penned while sitting in the Museum’s inner courtyard, and has intentionally been left unedited in order to maintain for the reader, the flow of inspiration as originally felt. It contains English as well as another Hindi-Urdu mixed language that sometimes spills onto the page. Please excuse my rough transliteration attempt as neither of these is my first language.

DSC_0412
View of the courtyard, looking up from the main floor. Copyright Asif Virani, 2014.
Photos taken in and around the Aga Khan Museum, courtesy of Asif Virani, 2014.
View of the courtyard from the second floor. Copyright Asif Virani, 2014.
DSC_0441
Up-close view of one of the metal screens/jaali on the second floor. Copyright Asif Virani, 2014.

Museum

What will the people from days to come decide to make of us,
what will they preserve in their halls?

Those gone by have become to us what remains of them,
after all tribulation and epiphany fell away into dust.

They have become what we can still understand of them.

~

There is too much left to know about knowing; not enough left to see.

We fear we are penning lines already penned by those greater than us,
a people that truly saw the truth unfold.

Nothing can be said now that has not been said before;
our efforts, mere echoes of a greater, grander voice.

What inspired these carvers, and what were they trying to say –
can we be certain that we have preserved ourselves against misunderstanding?

Did they create these shapes because those are what they saw,
or were they too, seeking to lose themselves in detailed but repetitive abstraction?

Do these patterns transcend a name?

~ ~ ~

courtyard, unedited

is jahaan mein hum upna sub kuch kho sakte hain,
sub kuch seekh  bhi saktehain

aisa husn ko bananekiliye, aisi roshni, is roshni, ki zaroorat hai

this light is something like the light of the heavens and the earth;
this light has an unnameable quality to it,
a way for all to see all

bathed in it my hand resting on the table becomes something from another world,
translucent, light diffusing outward in the place of rosy flesh

your eyes are from another time here, where patterns repeat themselves to liberate beyond eye’s capacity, where voices rise to a crescendo and we take in,

light,
light,
light, light light,

upon our hands, our face, and every
one is so beautiful here today

yahaan aake kuch bhi likhdijiye,
sub kuch shahiri banjayegi

yahaan aake kuch khaaneki zaroorat nahin mehsoos hoti,
in hawaaon, saa(n)son, is jahaan ka rooh hi kaafi hai

yahaan rehekar kuch chaate hai hum,
kuch khona bhi chaate hain

kuch cheez samaj na chaate hain hum,
kuch cheez humko yaad aatihai

kuch cheez hamaari thi, hamaari hai,
hamaare dil me se nikalke,
humhi ke aage jhoom uthi

keherahihai:

agar aapke dil mein koi baat phool ki tarha khilrahihain,
to usse khilne do;
mat sochiye

agar aapke ander koi baat hai, to aap dil ki zubaan se usse pehsh karo,
chaahe koi samje ya na samje

agar koi lafz kaafi nahin lagte,
to khudh ke lafaazon banaalo

khudh ki zubaan banaalo,

koi samje, ya na samje

~

A rough translation of courtyard, unedited:

in this place/world we can lose/forget everything of/about ourselves;
we can also learn everything

to make this kind of beauty, this type of light, this light, is needed

come here and write anything at all,
it will become poetry / anything written here becomes poetry

here, there is no need felt for eating,
these winds, breaths, the soul of this place/world is enough

staying/being here, we desire something;
also, something we wish to lose

some things we understand,
and some things, we remember

some things were ours, are ours;
some things come out from our own hearts
and have come alive/to dance in front of us

they say:

if something blossoms like a flower in your heart,
then allow it to blossom,
think not

if there is something in you that wants to be said, then use the language of your heart to convey it,
whether anyone understands or not

if no words seem enough,
then make up your own words

make up your own language,

whether anyone understands, or not

the people, us, and them

Image sourced from:  http://www.alfoart.com/golden_apple_tree_1.html
Image sourced from: http://www.alfoart.com/golden_apple_tree_1.html

Our apples are golden from your side of the orchard,
but here they are simply red like blood.

We pick what grows and move to make our bread.

When that bread turns beautifully to gold in our mouths,
we know it was only because of a prayer.

~

What can we rush along, dearest,
not the opening of a leaf, or eyes, or heart.

What of a friend, what of an enemy;
what of someone who is just like us?

What kind of strong will can we rush to bend into an embrace,
the strongest sign of an acceptance of the soul of the other?

~

It has been a long time since we pained, dearest,
since the fruit we picked so lovingly
turned to sour nothingness in our mouth.

It has been a long time since we rushed around
banging our heads on the walls,
opening books to pages we understand for comfort.

It has been a long time since we withdrew into our own,
since the trickling of ego was felt through the holes
of our pretty heart-basket.

~

They ask to know who we are right now,
to know what we would tell them, to check for hypocrisy —
to see if we feel any pain.

But we do not recall anything that has happened to us,
nothing that truly affected our minds.
Another grayness dawns, clear and cold.

If there was pain, we learned how to talk to it
long ago, as children. If there was joy
we sent it off to come again.

Won’t they understand that we are nothing right now,
that there is nothing material left to share?

We only wither and unfurl quietly as per our season,
and we are one and no one all again.

~

This piece is a reflection on our relationships with other people. How do we understand ourselves, and how much common humanity do we truly perceive in others, in “them”? What do we use to define ourselves, and what of those definitions do we use to relate to others? How do others view our blessings and “misfortunes” in relation to their own?

out of all of the unseen

Imaged sourced from http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap141026.html.
Imaged sourced from http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap141026.html.

The process by which we have
come to resolve ourselves,
is truth. There was nothing quite
so peculiar about the manner
in which we came to be.

It would seem only natural
that where one horizon ends,
another should appear.

Now, whether our realities
are stitched together with
seams, or whether they
are made of the same fabric,
we cannot say.

What matters, is what
we have chosen to give effect to,
out of all of the unseen.
What we have believed in,
has come back to seek us out.

What we want to be true,
never had two ways about it.

If we can influence the
making of the world with
our choices, then our choices
are the stuff of the world,
and ourselves, something
apart from it.

~

This piece was written shortly after watching Interstellar, a 2014 film directed by Christopher Nolan.

For those who know the language, Tere Ishq Mein, recorded on Season II of Nescafe Basement, is to my mind another way, of many ways, of accessing similar ideas.

what we know about ourselves (2014)

Raindrops on window pane. © Saara Punjani 2014.
Raindrops on window pane. © Saara Punjani 2014.

we love only that which is our own

a man, with his wife and son:
who do you think he truly loves?

~

it rains and rains

you approach, drenched and desolate,
a shelter for me, if only i would accept you

~

i wish we could say,
we are always happy with what we know about ourselves

i wish we could say,
we come with noble intention,
that we have been saving our last loaf
for the hunger of another

i wish we could say
we fall to our knees and kiss the ground,
thankful each day
for the fact that we can feel

~

sometimes when it rains
a gray runs down our face too

and sometimes,
we wish we could deny that we enjoy it

else, why would we drink the drink of self,
that warming wine of separation?

why would we continue being what we are?

~

we are, men in all of our abasement;
men, in all of our greatness

we bend lower
so that others might be jealous of our righteousness

we paint peace on our face
that they might admire our beauty as we pray

~

when everything is gray
go ask for it to be better
for someone else;

what you would have happen to you,
have it happen to someone else

oh dearest, you’ve never really been
hungry; never really been sad

you’ve never really needed anything you didn’t already have

come, smooth over the wrinkles on someone else’s face

make them yours,

and love them too.

the shower of your blessing (2014)

this, is the shower of your blessing
the one that comes down as music
needing only something off which to sound

we hover now, on the best place there is:
on the threshold, a step away from your rain,
but not fully inside of it

 

only here can we truly appreciate what you send

 

were we immersed,
we could not see how this rain drops abundantly on every leaf,
each of which curls, bows, in gratitude

were we too far away
we could not see how this rain constantly merges with itself,
ever merging into larger course

 

a trickle to a stream, a stream to a river:
instinctively, we know where this merger leads

the frame (2014)

i would love to be in your movie

see how you frame those in love?

their breath, crisp on water wings
their abode, all of nature’s backdrop
every celestial body shaamil in their moment

would that i could be the one in the frame,
the one in the midst of it all

~

their love through the lens,
the viewer twice-removed

you are her, the beloved in the frame,
says the one farther removed than i