søndag, juli 31, 2005

Monet Refuses the Operation

Doctor, you say that there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and changes our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

-- Lisel Mueller

A web version, with graphics and sound, can be found at here.

fredag, juli 22, 2005

In the light of recent terrorist attacks

'On Laws (The Prophet, Chapter 13)'

Then a lawyer said, "But what of our Laws, master?"
And he answered:

You delight in laying down laws,
Yet you delight more in breaking them.
Like children playing by the ocean who build sand-towers with
constancy and then destroy them with laughter.
But while you build your sand-towers the ocean brings more sand to the shore,
And when you destroy them, the ocean laughs with you.
Verily the ocean laughs always with the innocent.

But what of those to whom life is not an ocean, and man-made laws are
not sand-towers,
But to whom life is a rock, and the law a chisel with which they
would carve it in their own likeness?
What of the cripple who hates dancers?
What of the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer of the
forest stray and vagrant things?
What of the old serpent who cannot shed his skin, and calls all
others naked and shameless?
And of him who comes early to the wedding-feast, and when over-fed
and tired goes his way saying that all feasts are violation and all
feasters law-breakers?

What shall I say of these save that they too stand in the sunlight,
but with their backs to the sun?
They see only their shadows, and their shadows are their laws.
And what is the sun to them but a caster of shadows?
And what is it to acknowledge the laws but to stoop down and trace
their shadows upon the earth?

But you who walk facing the sun, what images drawn on the earth can hold you?
You who travel with the wind, what weathervane shall direct your course?
What man's law shall bind you if you break your yoke but upon no
man's prison door?
What laws shall you fear if you dance but stumble against no man's
iron chains?
And who is he that shall bring you to judgment if you tear off your
garment yet leave it in no man's path?
People of Orphalese, you can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the
strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?

-- Kahlil Gibran

In the light of recent terrorist attacks, there have been various
denunciations of fundamentalist and extremist ideologies, especially
the Islamic variety. IMHO, no matter what religion or philosophy it
subscribes to, extremism is dangerous, because it leads to conflict,
intolerance and violence.

Several articles in recent editions of prominent news sources have
attempted to analyse what drives seemingly normal young men to such
extremes, and they seem to come up with common themes: youthful
rebellion, spiritual yearning, immigrant isolation, racial
discrimination, sexual repression and existentialist crises.

IMHO, the primary cause for these young men to blow themselves up is
none but the oldest criminal motive, that which caused Cain to slay
Abel: envy. Envy that their own orthodox beliefs, which aims at
suppressing every human pleasure and instinct, do not bring them
happiness, whereas supposedly inferior cultures seem to be doing so
much better.

Gibran condemns those who would impose arbitrary morality on humanity
"the cripple who hates dancers", and ends the chapter ends on a
resounding blow for personal freedom of the human spirit, within the
limits of self-restraint, "tear off your garment yet leave it in no
man's path".

Raj contributed this to Minstrels