Tag Archives: Byron

“The Exiled Mind” by Zireaux

The Exiled Mind
by
Zireaux

In this passage, the California-born narrator of Kamal digresses a moment, reflecting on what it means to be an exiled poet with the task of writing an epic poem set in his former homeland.

To M.

'...my own tableau of beasts and tribals / below a Cartouche of priests and bibles...'

‘…my own tableau of beasts and tribals / below a Cartouche of priests and bibles…’

O Reader! You know not what’s ahead.
I do! I lie awake in bed
(alone, alas – my wife is prone
these days to sleeping on her own)
and in my mind I see outspread,
just like an 18th century chart, a
detailed but vast, mapped but untread,
known but untamed world — my Carta
Magnifica
still unwritten, unread,
untold, unheard! To you, ethereal.
To me, no greater or more material
kingdom has ever existed. A giant
of countries – strong and self-reliant,
yet private, secluded, monasterial.

It is, you see, a land designed
by shifty sextant: the exiled mind,
detached but still in hearing’s range
of all the ways my homeland’s changed
(to help you better estimate
the course my former country’s on,
see stanzas sixty-six through eight
in canto ten of Byron’s Don);1
— and all these changes grow ornate
with Distance’s hyperbole,
which renders even more superbly
my own tableau of beasts and tribals
below a Cartouche of priests and bibles.
O Reader! To take you there verbally!

Just ask that convict Kenneth Lay: / Discordant views should not be scoffed at.

Kenneth Lay, former CEO of Enron Corporation, in handcuffs: ‘Just ask that convict Kenneth Lay: / Discordant views should not be scoffed at.’

But how? The country’s no longer mine;
for though our lawyers might define
our status as a “separation,”
the laws of cline transcend relation.
(How much we changed). But hear me through!
For if you pause your game controllers,
turn your headphones’ claws askew,
ignore the latest wartime pollsters’
news and from the Tube unglue
yourself – or as my son says, “off it!” –
and listen to me, no greater profit
possibly could come your way.
Just ask that convict, Kenneth Lay:
Discordant views should not be scoffed at.

Uneasy planet! East and West!
To you I make this same request:
Tranquilize your telephones,
and temple bells and megaphones
which for your soul’s devotion call.
Free your mind of Wall Street’s numbers,
the music in your shopping malls,
and SUVs, the latest Hummers
(there’s nothing wrong with feeling small),
the pills to help your loins grow bold,
your dreams of gold from daughters sold
or children’s PhDs endorsed
by foreign firms, or those out-sourced,
or what your priests or stars foretold –

ignore it, world! Ignore it all!
And hear my story of Kamal.
For you will be my orphan’s parent,
and like Cervantes’ poor knight-errant,
my hero’s born to give you pleasure,
not me – for I have seen his life
already, heard the mingled measure
of his strivings and his strife,
his strains and struggles mixed together.
Like I said – these words you read
are stains of blood. Kamal will bleed.
And if he is to long outlive me,
(and fame, you know, in yours to give me),
it’s through his pain. For he will bleed.

Kamal will bleed.
_____

Lord Byron (1788 - 1824)

Lord Byron (1788 – 1824)

To listen to the entire First Canto of Kamal, by Zireaux, read by Nick Ellsworth, click here.

1Here are stanzas 66 through 68 in Canto 10 of Byron’s Don Juan (to which the poet refers above):

I’ve no great cause to love that spot of earth,
Which holds what might have been the noblest nation;
But though I owe it little but my birth,
I feel a mix’d regret and veneration
For its decaying fame and former worth.
Seven years (the usual term of transportation)
Of absence lay one’s old resentments level,
When a man’s country’s going to the devil.

Alas! could she but fully, truly, know
How her great name is now throughout abhorr’d:
How eager all the earth is for the blow
Which shall lay bare her bosom to the sword;
How all the nations deem her their worst foe,
That worse than worst of foes, the once adored
False friend, who held out freedom to mankind,
And now would chain them, to the very mind: –

Would she be proud, or boast herself the free,
Who is but first of slaves? The nations are
In prison, – but the gaoler, what is he?
No less a victim to the bolt and bar.
Is the poor privilege to turn the key
Upon the captive, freedom? He’s as far
From the enjoyment of the earth and air
Who watches o’er the chain, as they who wear.

As mentioned in my review of Barbara Reynolds’s excellent book on Dante: ‘As talent agency, Exile (and its partner agents Poverty and Lost Love) boasts a remarkable portfolio of lyric writers, not just Virgil and Ovid, but Voltaire, Byron, Pushkin, Hugo, Nabokov, Brodsky, Soyinka, Zireaux – and this is just a sampling from the A-list.’

Note: Quite a few guesses but still no solvers of my poem: “A Little Morsel of Immortality.” First person to solve it receives a free signed copy of my next novel. -Z

—–
Published as part of the dVerse Poetry group.

6 Comments

Filed under Kamal, Book One, Poetry by Zireaux

“Love in Mumbai” by Zireaux

Love in Mumbai
by
Zireaux

(from Kamal, Book One)

To M.

My dear New Zealand, so tiny and so distant…!

It seems a “killing” (so to speak) is made / when thieves in manhole covers trade.

‘It seems a “killing” (so to speak) is made / when thieves in manhole covers trade.’

Recently I read, with these persistent
rains we’ve had, that unsuspecting walkers
wading through the murky liquid streets
— a trishaw driver, a serenading hawker,
a bride with gold-bejeweled hands and feet
— will suddenly vanish, as if an unseen stalker
snatched them from below; and — gulp — a treat!

It seems a “killing” (so to speak) is made
when thieves in manhole covers trade.

And even I, on reading this, was struck
by how these unsuspecting people, sucked
into the ground, amused my comic sense
— until I read the part about their bloated
bodies, several hours later, dispensed
into the ocean mire. This was, I noted
to Sheela afterward, a crime against
potential readers! So there and then we voted
(Sheela, Camera Joe and I) to use
my growing fame to sell these views.

And just last week, on live T.V., in front
of cheering fans, my call to action was blunt:

“Enough of this manhole madness! We can’t just shrug
our shoulders and ignore it! How many dead
will we accept expelled like grotesque slugs
into the violent sea? Deplore it!” I said.
Cry out! Complain! And my ‘Campaign to Plug
the Plunge’ – or CaPP – which I myself will head,
is meant to give a voice to those who feel
a safer fate is ours to seal!”

I gave an example of a recent victim
(a twelve-year-old girl!), recited Donnean dictums
on why one needs to take a stand (“No man’s
an island to himself,” etc.) and heard
an orchestra of sniffles. I mentioned plans
to punish thieves; and cheers drowned every word.
A lady stood up: “The fault is Pakistan’s!”
she said – but she was shouted down, which stirred
up chants assailing crime, corruption, fraud.
“Zireaux, Zireaux hai zindabad!”

And on the drive back from the new Doordarshan
studios — beside the re-claimed marsh in
which the Worli slums distend and simmer —
Sheela took my hand.

                                                        “A thoughtful, brave
performance tonight,” she said, a tiny glimmer
in her eyes despite a twilight clave
by tinted glass, which made the dim yet dimmer.
Her bangles were subdued. Her necklace gave
no glint of life, the gems no longer shone.
Just dimples on a neck of stone.

The Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai, India

The Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai, India

Her crushed silk sari, too, was now the shade
of night-sedated lake, or somber glade
(which once – an hour before — was bright with dew
reflecting studio lights). A black ice sheet,
it froze upon her curves and slipped into
the darker mystery depths around our feet.
No, just her eyes, her eyes were all that drew
the muted lights around our shared backseat,
compressed them into tiny snowball sparks
to pitch at me with her remarks.

Those eyes caught every muffled source of light
that passed outside: the phosphorescent white
of open “chemist” stalls and “sweet-mart” stores
and “ladies tailors” sashed with silk and sequins,
the clinquant jewelry shops with guarded doors;
each blazing blue-tongued welder’s torch, delinquent
cooking fires, the aircraft lights that soared
across the sunroof’s starless space, the frequent
lamps and flames of makeshift camps and each
snack-seller on Chowpatty Beach;

a smoldering moon above the Arabian Sea,
the streetlights lacing Marine Drive as we
stood still in traffic; and a double row
of faces gazing outward from their bus
like photograph transparencies; the glow
of second-story rooms; the blue stardust
of diesel fumes which hovered near, as though
to spy its kindred cloud inside with us;
Diwali sparklers tossed by servant boys.
The driveway of the Oberoi.

Where we pulled in — “Good evening to you, sir;”
and from our air-conditioned claire-obscure
we hatched into a brilliant vestibule.
And Sheela’s costume suddenly dispersed
a swarm of luminescent animalcules
around her pink silk sari; others burst
out from her spangled purse and dangling jewels.
We still held hands! We drank a nightcap first;
and then — my room. And as we talked and teased,
her eyes cast out the light they’d seized.

“This country’s, like — in love with you,” she gushed.
More drinks. More fingers squeezed. More lightly brushed
together knees.

"In every kiss a wish to die" -- Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman looking very serious in Casablanca.

"In every kiss a wish to die" -- Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman near to a kiss in Casablanca.

                                      “With me? Or my words? And tell
me, please — just what is ‘country’? Land? A figment
of the mind? A fiction meant to quell
aggression toward a mother god, as Sigmund
Freud might say? A place? A people?”

                                                                                 “Well,”
she stopped to reason what my verbal tricks meant.
“I’d have to say I mean the people of
a country when I speak of love.”

“Astutely said,” I said. “And cutely.”

                                                                                 This caused
a smile – a smile just inches from mine. We paused.
The ocean lay in clumsy camouflage
outside, the lights of passing boats too bright
against the starless cosmos. Her soft massage
of fingers.

                           “The people, Sheela?” I whispered. “Might
I not include you in that entourage?”

Her zaffer eyelids drooped. Her smile took flight;
How strange is passion! Reckless, clumsy, delirious,
absurd, insane…and yet, so serious.

Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai near to a kiss in Dhoom 2.

Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai near to a kiss in Dhoom 2.

As if our bodies grasp the repercussions
of their act; as if the fevered flush in
which we weightless grope is less a furnace
in our glands than some new atmosphere
of circumstance which heats (and burns!) us
in our mad approach. And it’s this fear,
this dread of how our lives will change that turns us
into solemn, stone-faced clowns, content to smear
ourselves in flaming streaks across the sky.
In every kiss a wish to die.

I wax too lyrical. Fact is, most lives
are serious, with heartbreak, loss — and wives
and kids; and “Sheela…I –” but just before
we plunged into the blue ionosphere
and neared that no returning point, some snore,
or constant wheeze, which we could clearly hear
but which we’d both decided to ignore,
erupted like a tractor shifting gear,
and spluttered, gurgled, hacked then brayed no more.

A shadow rose beside us. “You’re back already.”
It lifted a camera. Held it steady.

I must admit relief that Camera Joe
had woken up just when he did. Although
my will is strong, I might have found it hard
to formulate a courteous excuse.
As Sheela knew – our threesome knew – we bards
are unpredictable and might produce
immortal rhymes upon a calling card
at 3am; then thinking it refuse,
discard it somewhere, never to be found.
But not with Camera Joe around.

Portrait of Edward John Trelawny by Joseph Severn

Portrait of Edward John Trelawny by the English painter, Joseph Severn

He films each couplet mumbled in my sleep,
(“Afflatus glossed and turned,” I’ve joked) to keep
my special quirks for curious Posterity.
Why not? All Byron’s news Trelawny dispatched.
And Sterne with good La Fleur produced a parity.
And Johnson with adoring Boswell was matched.
And me? I have my Camera Joe – a rarity:
A Sony lens with grown-up body attached.
Each night he fills up half my king-size bed.

So Sheela headed home instead.

 
_____
Published as part of the dVerse Poetry Group.

8 Comments

Filed under Kamal, Book One, Poetry by Zireaux

“On Reading in Mumbai” (continued) by Zireaux

The Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai, India

The Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai, India

…continued

a smoldering moon above the Arabian Sea,
the streetlights lacing Marine Drive as we
stood still in traffic; and a double row

of faces gazing outward from their bus
like photograph transparencies; the glow
of second-story rooms; the blue stardust
of diesel fumes which hovered near, as though
to spy its kindred cloud inside with us;
Diwali sparklers tossed by servant boys.
The driveway of the Oberoi.

Where we pulled in — “Good evening to you, sir;”
and from our air-conditioned claire-obscure
we hatched into a brilliant vestibule.
And Sheela’s costume suddenly dispersed
a swarm of luminescent animalcules
around her pink silk sari; others burst
out from her spangled purse and dangling jewels.
We still held hands! We drank a nightcap first;
and then — my room. And as we talked and teased,
her eyes cast out the light they’d seized.

“This country’s, like — in love with you,” she gushed.
More drinks. More fingers squeezed. More lightly brushed
together knees.

"In every kiss a wish to die" -- Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman looking very serious in Casablanca.

"In every kiss a wish to die" -- Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman near to a kiss in Casablanca.

                        “With me? Or my words? And tell
me, please — just what is ‘country’? Land? A figment
of the mind? A fiction meant to quell
aggression toward a mother god, as Sigmund
Freud might say? A place? A people?”

                                                          “Well,”
she stopped to reason what my verbal tricks meant.
“I’d have to say I mean the people of
a country when I speak of love.”

“Astutely said,” I said. “And cutely.”

                                                          This caused
a smile – a smile just inches from mine. We paused.
The ocean lay in clumsy camouflage
outside, the lights of passing boats too bright
against the starless cosmos. Her soft massage
of fingers.

                   “The people, Sheela?” I whispered. “Might
I not include you in that entourage?”

Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai near to a kiss in Dhoom 2.

Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai near to a kiss in Dhoom 2.

Her zaffer eyelids drooped. Her smile took flight;
How strange is passion! Reckless, clumsy, delirious,
absurd, insane…and yet, so serious.

As if our bodies grasp the repercussions
of their act; as if the fevered flush in
which we weightless grope is less a furnace
in our glands than some new atmosphere
of circumstance which heats (and burns!) us
in our mad approach. And it’s this fear,
this dread of how our lives will change that turns us
into solemn, stone-faced clowns, content to smear
ourselves in flaming streaks across the sky.
In every kiss a wish to die.

I wax too lyrical. Fact is, most lives
are serious, with heartbreak, loss — and wives
and kids; and “Sheela…I” – but just before
we plunged into the blue ionosphere
and neared that no returning point, some snore,
or constant wheeze, which we could clearly hear
but which we’d both decided to ignore,
erupted like a tractor shifting gear,
and spluttered, gurgled, hacked then brayed no more.

A shadow rose beside us. “You’re back already.”
It lifted a camera. Held it steady.

Portrait of Edward John Trelawny by Joseph Severn

Portrait of Edward John Trelawny by the English painter, Joseph Severn

I must admit relief that Camera Joe
had woken up just when he did. Although
my will is strong, I might have found it hard
to formulate a courteous excuse.
As Sheela knew – our threesome knew – we bards
are unpredictable and might produce
immortal rhymes upon a calling card
at 3am; then thinking it refuse,
discard it somewhere, never to be found.
But not with Camera Joe around.

He films each couplet mumbled in my sleep,
(“Afflatus glossed and turned,” I’ve joked) to keep
my special quirks for curious Posterity.
Why not? All Byron’s news Trelawny dispatched.
And Sterne with good La Fleur produced a parity.
And Johnson with adoring Boswell was matched.
And me? I have my Camera Joe – a rarity:
A Sony lens with grown-up body attached.
Each night he fills up half my king-size bed.

So Sheela headed home instead.

 
Read previous poem about how I met Sheela Ray at Orbits Restaurant in Auckland.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine | Google Buzz

Like This!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kamal, Book One, Poetry by Zireaux

“On Fame” by John Keats

Selected for Immortal Muse by Zireaux (read Zireaux’s comments on this poem)

Portrait of John Keats by the English painter William Hilton

Portrait of John Keats by the English painter William Hilton

On Fame
by John Keats

I.

Fame, like a wayward girl, will still be coy
To those who woo her with too slavish knees,
But makes surrender to some thoughtless boy,
And dotes the more upon a heart at ease;
She is a Gypsy,—will not speak to those
Who have not learnt to be content without her;
A Jilt, whose ear was never whispered close,
Who thinks they scandal her who talk about her;
A very Gypsy is she, Nilus-born,
Sister-in-law to jealous Potiphar;
Ye love-sick Bards! repay her scorn for scorn;
Ye Artists lovelorn! madmen that ye are!
Make your best bow to her and bid adieu,
Then, if she likes it, she will follow you.

II.

“You cannot eat your cake and have it too.” -Proverb

How fevered is the man who cannot look
Upon his mortal days with temperate blood,
Who vexes all the leaves of his life’s book,
And robs his fair name of its maidenhood;
It is as if the rose should pluck herself,
Or the ripe plum finger its misty bloom,
As if a Naiad, like a meddling elf,
Should darken her pure grot with muddy gloom;
But the rose leaves herself upon the briar,
For winds to kiss and grateful bees to feed,
And the ripe plum still wears its dim attire;
The undisturbed lake has crystal space;
Why then should man, teasing the world for grace,
Spoil his salvation for a fierce miscreed?


Zireaux’s comments on this poem:

Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur, shot and killed at age 25

On our gypsy-jaunt across the genres of poetry, one must pause lengthily at the divine “crystal space” that is John Keats. There’s no more appropriate theme — amidst this medium of sex-tapes and 12,479 followers on Twitter — than the theme of fame. As Shakespeare showed us, and showed Keats, too (and as Darwin confirmed some 50 years later), fame and sex are two sides of the same genitalia.

You’ll remember — of course you’ll remember, my dedicated reader — our brief encounter with Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” on Tuesday, May 31 of this year, and how, when it comes to attracting immortality, an “excess of moderation” makes for an effective babe-magnet (I remember a car dealer once telling me, “This one’s a real babe-magnet”). As I pointed out, the word “temperate” in the second line of Shakespeare’s masterpiece (“Thou art more lovely and more temperate”) is the most important word of the poem.

Keats appears to have admired the word as well, for here it is again — “with temperate blood” — also in the second line of a Shakespearean sonnet. Keats was imitating and even attempting to one-up the Master, adhering to the great one’s rhyme scheme throughout “On Fame I,” and most of “On Fame II,” only to add a distinctive flourish when concluding the latter, with an awkward albeit distinctive FEGGF pattern all to his own.

We could, in fact, look at “Sonnet 18” as a serenade to Fame. Though Fame and Immortality are different ladies, they’re still women at heart; they can still succumb to true love – and even the Gypsy Jilt, the wayward girl, the coy coquette, can sometimes transform into a faithful widow; or, if not a woman of purity, then an eager necrophiliac.

Keats's tombstone

Keats's tombstone at the Protestant cemetery in Rome

For all its self-touching and onanistic muddying of the Naiad’s grot, there’s a line in “On Fame II” that forever remains with any artist who happens to read it and who knows of Keats’s fate: “The undisturbed lake has crystal space.” It’s here, with “crystal space,” that Keats breaks free of the Shakespearean rhyme scheme – a “G” where the “F” should be – and so himself becomes a crystal space in undisturbed water. “Here Lies One Whose Name was writ in Water, Feb 24, 1821” are the words etched into Keats’s tombstone. So with his death, his immortality crystallized.

Some relevant lines from my Kamal, Book One:

Each year, reader – each year the jaundiced stare
of beat-up Poe, of Shelley gasping for air,
of sad, consumptive Keats (beside whom cries
Bernini’s fountain), of Byron as he lies
in cold ague, of Plath, that over dramatic
half-baked spouse of Hughes, and poor rheumatic
Burns (mad, but unsoused), a stunned
and bleeding Pushkin, out-dueled, out-gunned,
and other lead-filled poets: Jam
Master Jay, Tupac and Biggie, a lamb
called Lennon, that self-shooter Cobain (his head
found with no brain) and all those left dead
in bathtubs or vomit, including one – how grim! —
by ‘soap under-toe slain’ – I mean, that Doorman, Jim —

each year, my reader, they’ve glared at me! Their eyes
increased in number and ridicule. ‘There lies
a living poet,’ they’d say, ‘older, more dead than us
His name is write in air! Our scattered dusts
a far more stable substance than this living
statue able yet to write!…”

Keats made his “best bow” and “bid adieu” at a very young age. Fame clearly liked it; Immortality, too.

Add to: Facebook | Digg | Del.icio.us | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine | Google Buzz

Like This!

2 Comments

Filed under Poetry Reviews