Monday, February 20, 2017


This week, my friends, we are privileged to enjoy some breathtaking poems by our very own staff member, Sumana Roy, who creates lovely prompts for us at Midweek Motif. I have been gathering her poems up like buttercups over the winter, and now there is a veritable garden of beauty for us to wander through. Sumana lives in India, and writes at SUMANAR / LEKHA. Sumana also writes beautiful translations of the poems of Tagore at her second site, SONAR TORI. Let's heat up a cup of chai, and draw our chairs in close. We don't want to miss a word.

Sumana: Thank you so much Sherry for featuring these poems of mine at Poets United. Feeling so honored. Poetry prompts at various sites are my constant source of inspiration. Some prompts force words out of me.

One such was Elizabeth Crawford’s Creativity Challenge Day 2. She chose the word 'Love' and ended saying, “Remember, we are reaching out to a world that needs to know it is loved and cherished.” Shall I say the poem wrote itself contemplating on this last sentence of hers? 

I’ll garden and tend
a few words
for you only.

Let me ignite
a spark of love
with the flint of words
that I have.

Or I’ll be the crust
and bear the pain
as my seedling words burst forth
shooting up for a sky, a sun.

I might even be the night
but I’ll write my love
in the words of stars and moon
only for you.

Or I’ll let my words be the fire flies
weaving dream by their dance
in your thirsty eyes
for a glint of light.

Sherry: Oh my goodness, but your words take me away, swooping about with the fireflies, my friend!

Sumana: It’s very important to grow, with much care, the words of love, very rare in today’s world of expletives; in the explosion of wrath and anger, the promise of warmth, forbearance, succor and space, so much needed in a relationship, is being blown away. Love is the only emotion where nothing is negative; even in darkness it helps see the twinkling light above. It can be cultivated to grow. It so often reminds me of a gardener and his hard work.

‘This Poem Is’ is another prompt-oriented poem. It was written for Sanaa’s Prompt Nights where she wanted poems or fictions based on the concept of gender, and also for Elizabeth’s Creativity Challenge Day 5 where the word for the day was ‘Meaning’ as in value. 

THIS POEM IS.........

This poem is a color, a gender and a meaning.

This poem is a tiny bloom with a color.
This poem is the upbringing of a girl.
This poem is a magnifying glass looking for a meaning.

This poem is born in fire and darkness,
but it has a will to drift in the breeze like fragrance.
It wishes to fling away its pink hue to the blue sky.
It is the core of all tints, shades and tones.
This poem is a tiny bloom with a color.

This poem is an open hearth furnace.
It is a story of heat to remove impurities.
This poem is suffocation itself and all devouring.
It knows too well how to melt iron and free will.
This poem is the upbringing of a girl.

This poem is a pair of curious eyes.
It is a hunt for the essence of all objects.
This poem never tires and has the strength of steel.
The poem doesn’t believe in hindrance.
This poem is a magnifying glass looking for meaning.

This poem is a fragrant flower
with the soul of all colors.
This poem is the magnificent life of a strong willed girl.
The poem is a quest for finding love and life’s meaning.

Sherry: I love this poem so much. It is a wonder! The upbringing of a girl, the soul of color, and the quest for meaning. Life - and poetry -  doesn't get more meaningful than that.

Adhik Kadam and his Borderless World Foundation

Sumana: I wished for a narrative touch for this poem and felt Hannah’s Boomerang Metaphors to be perfect for the theme.

Adhik Kadam, a young social entrepreneur from India, is this poem’s backdrop. He is the President of Borderless World Foundation and runs four homes for girls who lost their parents in earthquake, violence and natural death in Jammu and Kashmir. He has devoted his life to this cause in the violence-torn valley. His foundation has more than 140 girls at the four centers, and can support at least 1000+ girls in the community. He was caught and beaten black and blue, locked up, threatened by the terrorists 17 times.

The poem celebrates the indomitable spirit of the courageous yet victimized Kashmiri girls who came up triumphant against all odds, once again renewed their faith in life, and blossomed in the sweetest ways making happiness their destination: courtesy Adhik Kadam.

Sherry: I love hearing about individuals who see a need and devote their lives to meeting it. What an inspiring story! Thanks for making us aware, Sumana. Humans can be so wonderful!

I have an alone path
of words
that opens up
inside me
when all noises die down.
The light is either my own
or taken from others
who have gone before.
I have now
all the time of the world
to walk forever.
I am glad
I have no hurry
to reach a destination.
I let my brown leaves
have their autumn fall,
and am ever ready
for those winter days
when they will hibernate.
Even if no spring ever shows up
I have still
so many trails
others have left for me
to enjoy the walk.

Sherry: I love that "alone path of words" that opens inside of you. How apt!

Sumana:  What I actually intended to write in "Path" was about the peace within oneself and the means to reach there. In life there must be a destination, journey and a path. Peace IS my destination. However everyday happenings, negative vibes and rat-race would not let us be there. If you have a roof over your head, provisions for square meals a day and enough time for yourself is there anything more one could desire? 

Nicholas left a comment on my poem, saying the lure of the carrot at the end of the stick is all that keeps so many billions around the world trudging towards the promise of a spring that does not come. It’s good to stop and let the lure of the carrot at the end of the stick pass. It’s useless to squander away time and energy in this race. It was not until I retired from my service and it was a voluntary retirement that I had some ‘alone time’ for myself. I try to fill most of the time with words. Sometimes my own words, sometimes others’, and enjoy the healing effect with gratitude. "Path" originates from this space. 

Sherry: It is beautiful, both poem and the space from which it came.

As the day draws to a close
The Ganga* loses herself in the sea
Poetry words blunt into prose
The night writes the stars for me

The hawk-eye is fixed on the mice
Worms shift to beaks from the bark
Flowing water hardens into ice
I’ve fireflies to write in the dark

I am glad that I was born
I am glad that I shall die
I am glad that my path was of thorn
I will never ask Thou why

*The Ganges

Sherry: Sigh. The perfection of these words takes my breath away. I especially love the deep faith in "I will never ask Thou why."

Sumana: The poem "Acceptance" is my way of dwelling on Death. This is one truth one cannot but accept. A calm resignation before crossing the bar is an absolute necessity. Accepting the gift of this life with all its blooms and thorns, Faith in God & Afterlife, for the believers, and a life lived well and without regret for the non-believers might help the passage to be smooth. I used images regarding these in the poem. I wished to see how the word elicits responses from our poets so I used it as my prompt word in one of our Midweek Motifs. 

I also strongly believe that ‘acceptance’ is never accepting the unacceptable like what the world at present is being exposed to. But strangely enough one might not find as many voices necessary to register protest against atrocities. Acceptance is a broad shouldered word and can provide shelter to the needy.

Sherry: I so admire your worldview, Sumana, and am happy that you write and spread your wise and positive message. In closing, I would like to share your poem "Gifts", because reading it is a gift to anyone who reads it.


If I could only gift
my loved ones
a little piece of full moon
that would never wane,
in a little bottle
to be kept on the table and cherished.

If I could only gift
my loved ones
a forever Spring
with never ending blooms
in a clay pot
to be hung on the veranda wall.

It may sound absurd
yet they are my gifts of word
to my loved ones
living in every corner of the world.

Sherry: What a glorious showering of gifts your poems are, from your beautiful heart, Sumana. Thank you so much for the beauty you have shared with us today, and for your contribution at Poets United, which we appreciate very much.

We hope you enjoyed these offerings, my friends. And do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Poetry Pantry #341

Late Winter Sky

Happy Sunday, Poets.  I don't know about the rest of you, but I am getting a bit of spring fever.  Once February starts winding down I am ready for a breath of spring.  In actuality we are going to have a warmer than normal winter here.  I personally love it, but it definitely is a sign of the global warming which isn't all that good for the world.

Please do look back at Rosemary's "I Wish I'd Written This" feature, if you haven't. I always enjoy Rosemary's features, but this one (in my opinion) was one of her best.  She shared "Asma Unpacks Her Pretty Clothes" by Clive James, a poet I want to read more from.  If you like thought-provoking poetry, don't miss this one.  And....leave a comment for Rosemary as well.  We ALL like to know that our work is appreciated.

Susan had a wonderful prompt this past week....LOVE.  And this coming week Sumana is inspiring us with her prompt...... NOSTALGIA.

Be sure to return on Monday to see a a really nice blog-of-the-week feature...with someone VERY familiar to you here at Poets United.  Smiles.

With no further delay, let's share poetry.  Link your poem below.  Then leave a comment.  Truly it is nice to see comments....seems like more a a community that way!  Visit others who link.  And come back a few more times to see who else has posted.  And....please for sure be sure to visit those who visited you.  Enjoy your poetic day!

Friday, February 17, 2017

I Wish I'd Written This

Asma Unpacks Her Pretty Clothes

Wherever her main residence is now,
Asma unpacks her pretty clothes.
It takes forever: so much silk and cashmere
To be unpeeled from clinging leaves of tissue
By her ladies. With her perfect hands, she helps.

Out there in Syria, the torturers
Arrive by bus at every change of shift
While victims dangle from their cracking wrists.
Beaten with iron bars, young people pray
To die soon. This is the middle ages
Brought back to living death. Her husband’s doing.
The screams will never reach her where she is.

Asma’s uncovered hair had promised progress
For all her nation’s women. They believed her.
We who looked on believed the promise too.
But now, as she unpacks her pretty clothes,
The dream at home dissolves in agony.

Bashar, her husband, does as he sees fit
To cripple every enemy with pain.
We sort of knew, but he had seemed so modern
With Asma alongside him. His big talk
About destroying Israel: standard stuff.
A culture-changing wife offset all that.

She did, she did. I doted as Vogue did
On her sheer style. Dear God, it fooled me too,
So now my blood is curdled by the shrieks
Of people mad with grief. My own wrists hurt

As Asma, with her lustrous fingertips –
She must have thought such things could never happen –
Unpacks her pretty clothes.

– Clive James  
(From Sentenced to LifeLondon, Picador, 2015)

Expatriate Australian Clive James has lived in England since 1962, with occasional visits home. I heard him speak in the Writers' Week segment of the Perth Arts Festival in 2003. He was urbane, witty, pleasant, and quite lacking in self-importance despite his celebrated erudition.

He is sometimes described as a Renaissance man. As Wikipedia tells us, he is 'author, critic, broadcaster, poet, translator and memoirist, best known for his autobiographical series Unreliable Memoirs, for his chat shows and documentaries on British television and for his prolific journalism.'

You can find out a lot more detail about him in that article, and if you Google his name you'll find many other articles about him as well as speeches and pieces of journalism by him, and interviews in which he is the subject. He has been a prolific writer; his Amazon page runs into several pages.

His latest and probably last poetry book, Sentenced to Life, which this poem is from, is written in the consciousness of his impending death. He has been diagnosed with terminal leukemia as well as kidney failure and emphysema. Many of the poems raise issues about life and death – in general, and his own in particular. 

This poem, though, is not about himself but the wife of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: Asma, who was born, raised and educated in England. It is also, of course, a poem about death – many deaths. It reflects the horror and disillusionment most Westerners felt about Asma a few years ago, when her husband started looking like a dictator rather than the reformer he at first appeared to be. Since that time Asma, who had had a well-publicised reformist agenda herself, working with women's groups for instance, and encouraging education, has stood by her husband and spoken publicly in support of him.

Well, Middle East politics are complex; also it is impossible to know if she is coerced into saying these things or really believes them. At the time James wrote the poem, and even now, there is little doubt that her husband is indeed a brutal dictator and she does indeed justify him.

I chose the poem because I think it's an excellent example of a political poem. I like that it's not a rant but makes its points rationally, almost satirically. He shows us the dreadful everydayness of the evils he describes, with the torturers arriving by bus for their shifts. 

Asma was initially lauded in an article by Vogue (which later withdrew it from publication in the light of her current stance, which it declared at variance with Vogue's  principles). So we do know that she has lots of pretty and expensive clothes, the device James uses to show her distance from the lives of ordinary citizens.

Understatement can make an even more powerful poem than expressions of rage. I would almost say this is a poem of understatement – except that the second verse describes torture so unequivocally. But it is also described baldly. No need to apply extreme adjectives; the bare facts are quite frightful enough. James doesn't shirk them.

It's not a nice poem. It's not reassuring, comforting or hopeful. But, at a time when many of us are in despair about politics, perhaps it shows us an effective way to use our poetry. 

James often, it seems to me, writes primarily from his brain. But I look again, and see that his heart is also very definitely engaged. Consequently he can engage the hearts and brains of his readers too.

Asma and Bashar al-Assad

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors.