Monday, 6 August 2018

The death of a poet, no, two, in August

Everything doesn't please me, but some things do.
Granted, the station's lost its coordinates,
the road is a conceit of dirt, and yet -
it pleases me the old bus contains you.

You draw a single, quivery thread of pain
from my blood – weave a tree canopy
overhead; the pride of a flag flying free
from the direction of winds; a quatrain

that's also an anthem of olives, a dirge
for the lemon leaves, for fallen lintels,
ruined doorsteps. You shatter walls of cells
into a lilac leap where stars and hope merge.

Even though the old bus sputters and stops,
then dies. And the station's a long way off.


Last time I looked you were a tiny dot,
the bus-stop receding in the rear-view
and then vanishing, like things always do.
But I'd marked, and caressed the exact spot

in the dusty mirror where you had stood.
And it was more than enough to drive on.
But then a passenger screamed. A cell phone
squawked, and all canopies turned to deadwood.

The mirror's empty now, the bus is a wreck,
no station or stop, the horizon's bare -
breathe deep, breathe deep, but there's just no more air!
The flag's an ache because the shape of a speck

in glass will never again be seen, nor heard -
how will this longing ever be measured?

This is a response to "Nothing pleases me" by Mahmoud Darwish (13.03.1941 - 09.08.2008). The second death is Tagore's (07.05.1861-07.08.1941). Both are poets I deeply revere. Both became, in their lifetimes, the voice of their peoples' struggles against foreign powers/occupation. Both shaped identities, both, when they died, convulsed their nation/peoples, both transformed the prevailing literary landscapes, and both died in August. The aftermath of one death I have witnessed personally, and the other I have heard about from my family/community.


The diptych above was written as part of a MOOC I took last year and forgot about till now. My homage to both poets with it. 


I am finally back to blogging on a regular lappie instead of pebble-sized screens where 'nothing pleases me' in terms of the font size, if you know what I mean. Squint till cross eyed and then manage to decipher half a word, no, I think not, thanks very much.  Sticking to the bigger and less sleek devices. I have a pile of posts and emails to catch up on which will happen over the next week as I settle back into my old mouse potato mode...

Meanwhile, this month there's big news at Write...Edit...Publish... which is joining up with Insecure Writer's Support Group - excited to see where this partnership will lead!

Click on the links and read about the antho contest that'll run from Sept 5 to Nov 4, and the WEP Aug Challenge open right now - join us and sign up, because ooh, the fun is getting thicker!


  1. Lovely to see you back posting again.
    The world is richer for the presence of poets and diminished by their departure.

    1. True EC! but equally true - unless the previous generation goes there's no space for the new to grow. Your words reminded me of this stanza from Swinburne...

      From too much love of living,
      From hope and fear set free,
      We thank with brief thanksgiving
      Whatever gods may be
      That no life lives for ever;
      That dead men rise up never;
      That even the weariest river
      Winds somewhere safe to sea.

      I'm happy to be home quiet and back among friends again. Last couple months have been beyond hectic.

  2. Hi Nila - welcome back from your travels; Wonderful acknowledgement to two poets ... whose work resonated so powerfully with you. My #WAWTB post references poets ... and I know you'll love the Press. Glad you're back and the WEP/IWSG partnership is excellent - cheers for now - Hilary

    1. I have a lot to catch up on - especially at yours! Thanks Hilary for the company through my trips :) Have a lovely week.

  3. Hari OM
    I echo the welcome-backs! I know exactly what you mean about working the small screens... Am a huge fan of Tagore - not familiar with Darwish - something to look up! I keep thinking about WEP, but this past few months I have barely written a thing beyond keeping the blogs topped up... it may have to be a winter effort. YAM xx

    1. Tagore was a polymath, influenced Bengal and wider India like no one else since.
      Darwish is the voice of the Palestinians - I've only read him in translation of course, but absolutely spellbinding. Worth checking out if you're into poetry. Thoroughly recommended!

  4. Hello Nila. Welcome home? Glad you had such a cultural feast when abroad, but homecomming is always precious.
    A wonderful tribute to two poets you revere. Beautiful words dripping from your pen. You are quite the poet many bloggers revere.
    Looking forward to WEP/IWSG posting day. Fun indeed.

    Denise x

    1. Hi Denise and thanks, yup I'm back home and very pleased to be at rest. Cultural feast is wonderful, but the flesh is weak now and longs for familiar territory after sometime :)
      Very pleased to see WEP going places!

  5. Both made an impact on a lot of people.
    Glad you are back! I don't know if I'll have anything for WEP, but the IWSG team can help promote it.

    1. Thank you Alex. I'm glad to be back.

      It would be absolutely super if you could/did come in for WEP!!

  6. and yes, we can stop squinting to find you. Welcome back to the big screen. Excellent poem - your images of the bus receding...haunting. You honored those poets well.

    1. Thank you. Glad you liked the poetry. And that the squinting is over, gosh headache inducing :)

  7. Welcome back!

    For some reason, I was reminded by an old joke by the excellent line "But I'd marked, and caressed the exact spot in the dusty mirror where you had stood."

    Two not-so-bright men, Bob and Tom, rented a boat and went fishing. They tried several spots without luck, but on their final try, they were quite successful. Fish were practically jumping into the boat. Bob told Tom "We have to mark this spot so we can do this well the next time we come here!" Tom nodded. On the drive home, Bob asked Tom "Did you remember to mark the spot where we caught all these fish, like I told you?" Tom replied "I sure did! I carved a big 'X' in the side of the boat." Bob's eyes widened. "You idiot!" he exclaimed. "What if we don't get the same boat next time?"

    1. Haha thanks for the chuckles this morning. I love that you can read my general melancholic, whingey poetry and connect it instantly to an 'old joke' - so cool!

  8. Love this prose. Very moving. Definitely got me thinking--about life, about the shortness of it, about the things that really matter.

    1. Life is short, Darwish certainly passed away too untimely. Tagore lived a long full life, yet he was not able to see his nation's independence for which he had fought. Thanks for reading, Crystal.

  9. Replies
    1. Thank you. Very touched at your reading an old post.