POEM: Wet Market

Water snakes writhe in a plastic pan of clear water.

Massively muscled fish lie eye-up, tail jutting over air, as torsos rest on a bed of shaved ice.

The stout fish lie next to a more flexible species that are nestled into each other, which — in turn — are next to eels that are tangled in each other.

A cat alternately stalks and sprints, testing the air with an upturned nose and the safety of approach with timid feet.

Eyes up, the cat considers a plot to leap-snatch a tiger prawn.

When, like manna from heaven, a small fish — so fresh that it’s capable of “plotting” its escape in muscle spasms more than with its ill-oxygenated fish brain — flips itself off the shallow tin tray onto the ground.

The cat, an instinct-guided missile, snatches the fish in its jaws and runs through a narrow gap in the wall to a favorable dining haunt.

POEM: Winter Dusk

Stalk-stubbled field dusted white.
Four in the afternoon,
yet drifting into night.
How’s dark descend so soon?
Visible breath eddies
from lips dry and cracked.
Shoulders shrugged up ready —
cold collar cataract.
Light of low sun passes
through the barren hardwoods.
Moving like molasses,
people wear all their soft goods.

POEM: The Jnani Knows

The jnani knows:

  • what rests on the far side of “I’m just” is a lie.
  • one must be as conscientious in destruction as in construction.
  •  the portals of sensation are also doors to heaven and hell.
  •  a person dies once in this world, but many times in his mental world.
  • there’s a profane rot in every unquestioned idea held sacred.

POEM: Skipping Stones

I’ve skipped stones —
flat stones with rounded edges,
side slung with a snapping twist of torso,
watching the bounce – bounce – bounce of bounding rock.

Choosing a stone,
rolling it in one’s palm,
feeling its heft;
that’s where the skip is made,
in quiet contemplation of the right rock.

POEM: Cave Days

Stars framed by the dropped rock chasm in the cave roof.

A smoky man and smoky woman sit,

staring up at that rhomboidal field of stars —

a window to the infinite.

They can’t imagine by what means the picture has changed,

when they awake in the middle of the night.

But neither can they grasp how tongues of flame eat wood and glow heat,

and yet they’ve learned to spark fire.

Springtime Haiku

breezy days
cool air weaves its way
through the pines


birds abound,
passing through again,
heading home


the spring thaw
muddy ground squishes


dripping leaves,
patter of bulbous rain;
din of spring


color bursts,
fatal assault upon
dreary days

POEM: One Life at a Time

The man on a metaphorical soapbox said, “Aren’t you concerned about the afterlife?”

I replied, “My hands are full with the duringlife.”

Of course, nobody thinks about the beforelife,

because that requires acknowledging your parents made a bi-backed beast.

[Not you. You’re a single-backed beast in this story.]


BOOK REVIEW: Sonnets by Sri Aurobindo

SonnetsSonnets by Sri Aurobindo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This booklet collects together the 88 sonnets written by Sri Aurobindo. Aurobindo was a guru who set up his ashram in Pondicherry because he was on the lam from the Brits, and Pondicherry was under French control at the time. Sri Aurobindo is a karma yogi (yogi of action and good works) who – together with a partner who the community came to call “Mother” – set up Auroville with the intention of making it a utopia.

The eighty-eight sonnets are arranged in two parts. The first seventy-four were written in the 1930s and 40s, and part II consists of 14 sonnets that were written between 1898 and 1909. The sonnets of the first part are more mystical and also more stream of consciousness. The poems of Part I use vivid language, but aren’t always easy to follow – if one is seeking a coherent meaning from each. The sonnets of part II are less sophisticated (and more easily interpreted) and feature a degree of angst that is completely absent in the latter poems (latter chronologically, earlier in the volume.) The sonnets presented are in varying styles. While they are all fourteen lines of pentameter, the rhyme scheme varies.

At the end of the book there are notes on the collection as a whole, as well as short notes on individual poems. There is also a short section in the back that shows a few of the poems under edits so that one can gain a little insight into the poet’s sausage-making process.

I found these poems intriguing to read. As I suggested, they aren’t always easy to interpret but they have a thought-provoking spirituality to them as well as some beautiful use of language. One needn’t necessarily have an interest in Sri Aurobindo to enjoy the poems, although they are overwhelmingly of a mystical / spiritual nature.

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