Sunday, 8 May 2016

Mother's Day 2016

The year has earmarked days, a quota for
remembrance – fathers; soldiers from the great wars
and smaller battles; women; sisters; mothers;
all manner of ties up on the calendar
for a few hours only, and nothing more.

Your shirt’s loosened, it flutters in the breeze,
billows a farewell. I’ll take the anxieties,
the heartache and the loneliness I’ll keep,
and hand you the excitement as you leave.
It’s one of many partings, nothing more.

We’ll keep it ultra-casual, you and I
cut the drama out in each of our goodbyes
I’ll never let you see my lashes, spiked
wet in disarray, dismay in my eyes.
I’ll say it with a tighter hug, nothing more.

I know you won’t look back, but if you do
I’ll be in the doorway looking straight at you;
wait till the shirt’s a speck too small to show
and its blue vanishes into a vaster blue,
then I’ll turn and watch the phone, do nothing more.

My love’s an amulet, a verse, a charm,
a silken thread against your skin, your arm,
it binds but it also leaves you free - to come
and go, stop at my threshold, but I am
defined and changed by that one thread, nothing more.

In years from now, maybe a decade hence
will you have time to make time for remembrance?
Mark out a certain day in a certain month
and call? And we’ll speak with a wistful warmth
then go back to our days, say nothing more?

A long ago friend, an EFL teacher, taught me what first language interference was.  Only in my case I don't really know how the first language is defined, and she couldn't help me identify it either. Whatever I write in, at that moment it feels like my first language, and I can spot the other standing right there windmilling its arms and trying to get in not one, but several words, maybe even whole sentences in edgeways. It doesn't make for controlled writing.  And maybe it's not even just language but a whole swathe of cultural baggage. First culture interference, more like.

I can see for myself that the above is based loosely on the principles of the ghazal, the radif motif in the repetition at each stanza-end, but the question is what am going to do about it?  Will it get better if I fiddle around with the structure? Will I be able to tweak it even if I wanted to? Write it as it comes is less of a goal and more of a compulsion, how does one begin to change that?

Last month I heard an established senior Arab poet say of a younger poet, that he writes in English but his Arabic shows, and the senior's tone was one of regret -  as if it's a loss if a non-native speaker of English writes in a language other than his mother tongue. As if it's a loss for both Arabic and for the individual.  But people are the way they are, poets are the way they are, may be poems are the way they are too, who knows? And it's probably best to leave them like that instead of prodding them into being something else.

Happy Mother's Day to all mums here, and to those who parent even though they may not be biological ones.


  1. What's wrong with writing in another language? That someone knows more than one is an accomplishment. Most people can't even master their own language, let alone two or more.

    1. Personally I believe everyone should write whatever they want to, in whichever language they are comfortable with. Some people might feel that the mother tongue is the best medium for expression, they assume that it is the language where the individual attains the highest level of proficiency. That assumption need not always be true.

  2. Hi Nila - and you're writing for an audience ... the nuances we can think about if we can relate to our language - the people you're writing for ...

    ... and here (for now) it is the most diverse and spread language in the world - where so many cultures read and can understand ...

    I most certainly don't have a problem with your verse - be it d-Verse or as is ...

    I was frightened and lazy as a kid - wish I'd been pushed into another language ... and as Alex says we're not all that good at the one's we use ...

    But we communicate and mix and match here and we learn from each other in blogland - probably more so than elsewhere ... certainly I read things I'd never have read in my 'normal life' ...

    Cheers and keep on versing for us - Happy Mother's Day to all women, and let our men enjoy their time too .. Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary,

      I get the feeling the blogland is more open and more accepting of diversity than the real world is...or maybe it's that we tend to frequent the blogs of like-minded people more - a case of birds of a feather flocking together.

      In real life one doesn't get that choice one has to deal with people as they are and as required...Ciao

  3. Your writing above just flowed from the heart. It did not feel forced or overworked. I really enjoyed this piece- made me think and that's a good thing. Take care

    1. Thank you for that feedback. Nice to know. Most stuff posted here, except for those for a blogfest like A-Z, are done so without too much editing and over analysing.

  4. Enjoyed this. Lovely flow. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you for reading. Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. I believe that the two languages/cultures enrich. Add flavour and savour to those of us who struggle with one. A decided positive in my eyes. And thank you.

    1. For me too, definitely. The more the merrier. I actually love reading Arab writers who write in English because of the Arabic 'showing' through their writing, it brings a lovely lyrical quality to it. I also don't think that their native tongue 'loses out' because they are not writing in it.

      Thanks for being here!

  6. Hi Nila! Beautifully written as always. I especially loved mother and daughter being strong:
    I’ll never let you see my lashes, spiked
    wet in disarray

    And your discussion on first/second language was interesting. I'm pretty sure if I tried to write in French my English-ness would come through, too, so what? I don't think we can ever speak like a native unless we are one!

    Happy Mother's Day to you!! (Your son is growing fast!)

    Denise :-)

    1. Thanks, Denise! Yes, sometimes I feel he does that too fast for me to keep up!

      If you wrote exclusively in French say, would you consider your English readership/publishing losing out on your potential (English) writing? For me that was the odd thing. When a person is ready to write in her native tongue, she is ready (or vice versa). No-one can force this. Nor would the piece be necessarily any better if it were written in the native language.

      I write in both my native tongue and English, and the story/poem kind of fits its own medium/language and what feels right in English does not quite come together in Bengali, and vice versa.

      Have a great week!

  7. A lovely tribute to motherhood, Nilanjana. Thank you for sharing it with us. I wish I could express myself so beautifully. Have a lovely week.

    1. Thanks for your warm words and for being here Nicola.Wish you a great week too!

  8. Such a powerful poem and beautifully written! One would never know English isn't your native language.

    1. Thank you for visiting. Pleased you enjoyed the poem.

  9. Your poem brought a lump to my throat - boys do wear blue so often dont they? You put across the emotions so well that language and form becomes irrelevant. But then what do I know about language, its nuances, its finer points - a Bengali who writes in English while thinking out the dialogues in Hindi...

    1. Mine wears blue practically all the time :) and that's high praise re language and form...It's probably going straight to my head now :)

      Thanks for the lovely compliment!