I saw a silhouette in the moonlight, a man who plodded snow that glowed moonlight. I was mesmerized by the vagabond -- a night-owl nomad moving by moonlight. What'd take me out into that night's cruel cold, seeing only what shone in the moonlight? A deadly urgent case must be afoot, a riddle solved solely in harsh moonlight. But maybe there's no beauty like the moon, and maybe no light flatters like moonlight. If so, the cold must be some puny stakes against the milky glow of brisk moonlight. And so I pull on boots and tug a hat to venture out amongst the pale moonlight. And seeing night as did that wanderer, I know the virtue life finds in moonlight.
And, swiftly, people come from far and near
to gather around at the sacred halls.
Some sing beloved songs; others mantra chant
’til sacred sounds are bouncing off the walls.
They read inscriptions carved into the rock,
deciphering meaning from sacred scrawl.
They’re all sure it’s sanctified from on high,
but sacred ‘s what you let hold you in Thrall.
A crack so thin that it could not be seen —
cracked into the windshield of that machine
A flaw that sits awaiting fatal fail —
the crack that pops and groans, yet still unseen
It will happen quickly; with no warning
from that disastrous crack one could not glean
An unforeseen implosion sounds sharply —
the catastrophic snap of cracked windscreen
So much depends on catching that thin gap
cracks become chasms with nothing in-between
So check your scratches and scrub that glass clean
so cracks don’t masquerade as scrape or seam
Some shake in fear that all will disappear —
from bone to soul — that all will disappear.
They hug it close, squeezing it so tightly
as to thwart the time when all disappears.
But that binding pressure only heightens
the dire urge to struggle to disappear.
Though nothing ever really vanishes,
but fades to the moment it disappears.
The secret is to be with each moment
in that slow fade, ’til it all disappears.
[Ghazal is a poetic form of Arab origin consisting of between 5 and 15 couplets. Traditionally, it is metered (how many feet per line varies from poem to poem, but shouldn’t within a couplet,) and has a rhyme scheme of AA-BA-CA-DA-etc. A common theme word or phrase across couplets is also tradition, and it often forms the rhyme. Loss and separation are among the most common themes.]
In the airport, I think I’ll find a way
to be “he who stayed” as I go away.
“Left” and “stayed” aren’t just matters of locale.
Some who stay, long ago drifted away.
Some retreat within their seats, I speak true.
Body here; mind a million miles away.
Unwalking undead, this kind of zombie.
So, the living must become runaways.
They’ll say I’m playing games of semantics,
but games are done, now I must go away.
This is a collection of 27 poems about life in conflict-riddled Kashmir. Kashmir is a territory in the Himalayas that’s governed by India, but claimed by both India and Pakistan—and, it should be noted, has a significant population of residents that want to be part of neither country. In other words, there are some who’d like to see an independent Kashmir. However, at the moment Kashmir is one portion of one of India’s 29 states, Jammu and Kashmir—a state which is, itself, tripartite (Hindu Jammu, Muslim Kashmir, and Buddhist Ladakh.)
It’s a telling quote from Tacitus with which the author begins the collection. Solitudinum faciunt et pacem appellant. I won’t claim that I didn’t have to look this up, but it means: “They make a desert, and call it peace.” The first poem echoes variations on that quote.
There are a range of poetry styles within this collection, including: rhyming verse, free verse, poetic prose, and ghazal. A ghazal is a Middle Eastern style of lyric poem which has a pattern of rhyme and is metered to be set to music; there are several in this collection. Some of the poems are sparse and some are wordy, and variety is the order of the day.
The 27 poems of this collection are divided among five parts. The book is brief (under 100 pages), and it contains only a prologue and notes (some of which are interesting) with respect to ancillary matter.
This collection paints a portrait of war and life in a war-torn locale. It’s as much the latter as the former. The title poem, “The Country With No Post Office,” suggests the sapping nature of life where the institutions of governance and civil society have broken down.
I’d recommend this collection for those who enjoy poetry, but also for those interested in the conflict in Kashmir.