Tag Archives: Zireaux

“Be Clear, My Throat!” — The Story of Kamal, by Zireaux

I'm going to tell you the story of Kamal...

I’m going to tell you the story of Kamal…

My dearest followers, friends, subscribers, re-tweeters, and most of all, my good readers and listeners:

I’m going to tell you the story of Kamal — one of the great stories of modern American literature. I’m going to tell it through a combination of clear, explanatory text and rollicking, evocative verse, in a much abridged version of the original (the first book alone is told in 5,472 lines of structured rhyme).

It’s a story I know you’ll want to hear.

I begin with you, my small and most loyal following of readers. But of course, for Kamal to succeed — for the story to live on — it will require more readers as we go. Which means, if you’re enjoying the story, kindly request other good readers like yourself to join Immortalmuse.com as “followers” (or enter the email address in the left sidebar, or request to register here) so they can participate in the story as well. Users can unregister at any time if the story is not engaging (but it will be engaging, trust me).

I dedicate this telling of Kamal

to M.

…and to my father

Voltaire at 70. Engraving from 1843 edition of his Philosophical Dictionary.

Voltaire at 70. Engraving from 1843 edition of his Philosophical Dictionary.

In the opening stanzas, the narrator — whose name is Arcady — describes his determination to tell the story of Kamal no matter what. Even if he, Arcady, is unknown to the world, or lacks the poetic skills, or the artistic angst, or even if he sings off-key or gets his words wrong. Even if he’s past his poetic prime. Because nothing is more important in his life than the story he’s about to tell…

I – echem – be clear, unthrottled throat! –
I do not seek to hail the Muse of Epics.
I’ll sing this tale even if my notes
should make dogs howl and editors dyspeptic
and readers seize the DVD player’s remote
to watch more handsome heralds in action
(A-list artists like Lucas or Jackson,
whose instruments are loud and long
and far more profitable than any song
I could pipe!). Because my story’s ripe!
I cannot wait for that perfect type
of angel! I’ll settle for a spirit more modest
– a muse for a poet who’ll never find a goddess.

Depiction of Russian firing squad, 1849. ‘No firing squad (concoctor, it, / of Dostoyevsky’s doctorate).’ Dostoyevsky was condemned to death, lined up to be shot, and at the last minute, issued a reprieve — an event which perhaps gave birth to the intellectual.

Never? O surely I could search the Net
for inspiration – ‘scarlet AND lips,’ etcetera,
a yearning Humbert ‘Googling’ his lost nymphet
(nymphomaniacs, most cyber Jet Setters are!).
But what if heaven’s website tried to get
my own details? I’d frighten off the Sirens!
They want deformities, like Byron’s
foot, or synesthesia in childhood,
the taking of drugs and lovers like Wilde would
and friends at The New Yorker! I’ve never
been published. I’ve never been told I was clever
by courting agents. I’m married, happy and rich.
A life too tame for muses to bewitch.

A life devoid of those credentials
which writers require – the Yale-at-sea
which Melville had; or that essential
diploma of wit – the jail degree
which made Voltaire so consequential.
No war. No firing squad (concoctor, it,
of Dostoyevsky’s doctorate).
I’ve never even smoked! My name,
Arcady, itself evokes the tame
suburban streets and shade-smeared grass
which I, like Virgil’s hero, alas,
would one day flee – O what a claim! I sought
to find a richer Bucolic. Aeneas I’m not.

Robert Graves

The poet, Robert von Ranke Graves (1895 – 1985): ‘Is it true what Robert Graves once said, / that any poet over thirty’s dead?”

But hear me out – I near my autumn years!
The sun shines low upon the sea, which heaves
beneath its silver breastplate. A south wind clears
out summer’s comfort and chills the yellowed leaves
that hang like badges on trees – those brigadiers
who’ve never fought wars, but hearing
the rattle of distant canons, and fearing
their forces won’t respond to commands
untested by battle, would rather stand
tall and be slaughtered than be retired!
Perhaps my ‘sell by’ date’s expired?
Is it true what Robert Graves once said,
that any poet over thirty’s dead?

And was I ever fresh? I was! Like Spring
I was! I swear that no one’s felt more loyal
passion for her Highness Beauty! To sing
until she wept! To kiss her pink and royal
cheek! To hold her hand, two wedding rings
enfolded in our fingers! I knew,
however, these visions wouldn’t come true.
I was like the peasant who –
though well attired – must jump to view
the Princess from behind the throng.
My dress was right. My lineage wrong.
Her carriage crushed my roses. A Moses or Milton
I’m not – but nor will I sing for Paris Hilton!

Lord Byron Paris Hilton

Lord Byron (1788–1824): “. . . I’d frighten off the Sirens! / They want deformities, like Byron’s / foot . . .” Paris Hilton (born 1981): ‘A Moses or Milton / I’m not – but nor will I sing for Paris Hilton . . .’

Yet look – my story’s bucking in its chute!
My hero on its back regardless! Dare I
leave imagination bard-less and mute
just because immortal maidens care not
for a star-less suitor of scar-less repute
– and the kind of life, in truth, like an ad
for life insurance? Adventures I’ve had
in youth were mostly on computers,
or televisions (those deadpan tutors).
Professional parents; the sort who wish
their Jewish brood were less Jewish.
Their parents worked hard so we could have it all.
I thank them. Now let me introduce Kamal . . .

__________
See the complete index of episodes from Kamal, Book One

 

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“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.

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“On Being Duped by Indian Reality TV” (Returning to Auckland Tomorrow) by Zireaux

Amitabh Bachchan hosting the Crorepatti TV games how

A Turning Point in Indian TV: Amitabh Bachchan hosting the hugely popular Crorepatti TV game show

I do not write of love that’s unrequited.
No! I write of love attained then blighted.

Of beauty gained then lost; of pleasure’s throne
ascended, a million paradises owned;
of oceans crossed and golden fleeces found;
I write of Sheba bedded, children crowned;
of iridescent flashes chased and netted
and twitching with survival’s lust;
of sea-nymphs caught and dragons petted
— and all of it, alas, to dust!
The rose de-petalled, the muse beheaded!
Be clear! Be clear unthrottled throat!
Was it Stendhal or Proust who wrote
that love is sweeter in the past? But what
of love unfairly severed, cruelly cut?

Just look at this, my room -– the richly-toweled
bath, the plush sage carpet, double-doweled
furniture of fine mahogany,
the pair of tufted ottomans — and me
behind this glass-topped desk. For fifteen days
I’ve worked alone, with luke-warm thalis
served on silver-handled trays
that ride atop the housemaid’s trolleys.
That jasmine scent of Sheela Ray’s
no more infuses evening meals —
indeed no scent of hers appeals
to memory, a faithful sniffer-hound.
And Camera Joe (her mutt) is not around.1

But now I’d rather show than tell. I’ll switch
the TV on and you can see the witch
and her associate yourself…

                                              a guy,
that Irwin bloke in khaki shirt
and shorts – I cannot say exactly why
he jumps on crocs. Perhaps it hurts
their pride more than he knows? But I
say careful, mate. For untamed friends
can lead to unexpected ends!
Now this, I love. Just when you think their song
can sound no worse, and they have ceased, along

the next contestant comes to croon some more!
In fact – and it was several days before
I figured out the game – it’s not to please
our ears that these contestants whine and wheeze
(such “Idols” sing on other shows)
but rather to regale our minds with all
the Hindi songs they know
and can so speedily recall.
A Cricket clown with zinc-white nose.
Oh here’s a show, a daily serial;
the Telugu is immaterial.
One needn’t understand the words to guess
the plot – a replica of Hardy’s Tess!2

Onida's Mascot -- the Devil

Onida's advertising mascot -- a devil

“Imported genius sold to those who seek
fresh thoughts” – the definition of unique.
Originality: “A cargo traded
on seas we know not of; or think blockaded.”
Last night I saw a Hindi film, each scene
a rip-off from The Great Escape.
With booming Bachchan as McQueen;
though both these men were paid to ape
the real mastermind, I mean,
the guy who died in unpaid glory
for acting out the real story.
That’s Bachchan there, the host. His stardom stalled
but not his greed. Crorepatti it is called.

That’s Switzerland, the Pennine Alps, I think.
They must be cold. Each time the camera blinks,
her sari changes color –- watch. Were they
to flirt and frolic round those hills that way -–
she in her pink and mustard tinsel dresses
and he in flashy shirt and cape,
and all her “no”s met with his “yes”es,
the guy would be accused of rape.
O India! Your throbbing breast is
aflame with patriotic fervor!
Yet dreamers make unsound observers.
And O how worse it is –- a great charade! -–
when people pine for beauties foreign-made.

The “Midas Game.” They play for gold (how mad
this country is for gold!) And what’s this ad?
The car looks nice, but where to find such roads?
These solemn Ramayana episodes;
She spins. Her yellow frock turns Nirma-white.3
Reports of something called a “Naxalite.”4
Where are you Sheela Ray? You’re bound to be
amidst this Chyavanprash and Parlay-G!5
I found you here last week among these channels
Same time it was. A Cuban dupe.
A bumptious chef in tattered flannels
and smoking cigs. This nincompoop
was placed on academic panels
and asked for his hypotheses
on this, and his philosophies
on that, and made to think he could outsmart
the likes of Hagel, Kant, Camus, Descarte!

The show is called “False Destiny,” but I’m —
another ad, we’re running out of time
(this ad, I must admit, is quite unique.
A sneering, fork-tailed, hoofed and red-horned freak
plays mascot to a range of new TVs,
for here, I guess, the devil’s not
the villain he is overseas!) –-
but I’m afraid each fingered shot
I take, this trigger that I squeeze,
is missing –- wait! That’s her! Her show!
Look close, my reader; so you can know
the wickedness to which I’ve been subjected!
To have one’s heart exposed, impaled, dissected

"What gives us cracked Quixotes away?"

"What gives us cracked Quixotes away?"

It’s all the rage. How much the masses love
to see a foreigner made mockery of.
The premise of “False Destiny.” And there’s
Ms. Ray — this scorching sorceress ensnares
her prey by traveling to a far-off land
and picking out the perfect Frank
or Franz, Fidel or Ferdinand,
on which to play her little prank.
The first few days proceed as planned;
She stalks the streets, a tigress on
the prowl, to kill not just a fawn
but something weaker still: A talking fusion
of mediocrity and self-delusion.

What gives us cracked Quixotes away, I wonder?
What facial flush or tic demarks this blunder
of the brain? I’ve searched my face. I find
a crease from hairline to my chin, a kind
of DMZ between two warring sides6
(it even cleaves my nose’s peak!),
as though my mind were split. Two wide,
and lashless eyes, their brows oblique,
as if expression can’t decide
which way to go — and cries and laughs
at once! What other facial gaffes?
In these, my cold-ham lips, did Sheela see
the fleshly gold of gullibility?

Or maybe there’s some other misproportion?
My head is very big, like Welles’s (Orson);
and maybe one can guess the thoughts inside
from a phrenology so magnified.
In any case, this heated hostess prowls
the town in search of men like me
whose lives it seems have run afoul;
who spend each day prosaically,
convinced their talent is an owl
that flies unlighted by the sun
and thus unknown to everyone
— to everyone but this Minerva of
the East, who finds the owl in the dove.

(I’m returning to Auckland tomorrow).

 
1Read more on Camera Joe.
2The producers of Indian TV serials regularly steal their plots from classic English novels, confident their audience won’t have read them anywhere before.
3Nirma washing powder, a popular brand of soap.
4Common term for communist rebel groups in India.
5Chyawanprash is a popular Ayurvedic health tonic in India; and Parle-G is the most well-known biscuit brand.
6De-Militorized Zone (DMZ)

 
Read how I met Sheela Ray at Orbits Restaurant in Auckland

 

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Epic New Zealand Poem to Hit the Airwaves on February 9

Res Publica, an Epic Novel in Rhyming Verse

Res Publica, by Zireaux

Just wanted to let you know that Radio New Zealand will begin broadcasting Zireaux’s epic novel in rhyming verse, Res Publica — read by the acclaimed Kiwi actor Stuart Devenie — on Wednesday, February 9, at 10:45am.

“Seldom does Radio New Zealand really ‘do’ poetry or verse even on a small scale,” says Executive Producer, Adam Macaulay, who admits to being unsure how Res Publica will be received by Radio New Zealand’s listeners. “But we just had to do it. From the moment I began reading the book — and discovered I couldn’t put it down — I knew we should risk it.”

Here at ImmortalMuse.com we’d like to thank Radio New Zealand for taking this risk. We encourage poetry-lovers around the world to listen to the episodes (we’d love your feedback), and hope it will make broadcasters more receptive to poetry productions in the future.

Stuart Devenie

Acclaimed Kiwi actor Stuart Devenie reads the part of narrator, Arcady Robinson

Res Publica tells the story of “seven years and fifty weeks” in the life of Arcady Robinson, an intelligent, gifted, recently married — and recently disillusioned — young poet who one day makes a revolutionary discovery at longitude 175 58′.35E, latitude 36 16′.10S, off the eastern coast of New Zealand.

The poem will air in 11 episodes, with each episode made available for free download on the Radio New Zealand website.

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“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.

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“On Reading in Mumbai” by Zireaux

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

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.

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;

…continued on Jan 11, 2011.

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

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“A Dream Before Leaving to India” by Zireaux

Ernst-Rudolph-The-Harem-Bath

The Harem Bath by Ernst Rudolph

Some lines about a dream I had last night:
Its theme makes sense, for I’ve just booked a flight
to foreign lands. The travel agent’s walls
had posters of some well-known sights — the Arc
de Triumph
, a Turkish Mosque, Victoria Falls.
“You mean, Mumbai” — the agent’s cold remark
to my ebullient greeting: “Duty calls
me to the mystic East! I must embark
(for I’m a famous poet) straight away
to Kipling’s childhood home: Bombay”

And in this dream last night, a one-eyed king
was watching a preposterous camel bring
me up the palace steps – O what a fool
that dream director! Camels in Tibet?
And naked odalisques in pools and jewel-
encrusted divans? And Sheela, dazzling, wet,
a kind of teacher at a harem/school
where I would play both royal bard and pet.
And yet, does not this crazy dream reflect
the life which I myself direct?

I own my dreams. My brain’s their sole creator;
and yet it seems some secret and much greater
force – a vulgar, fat, avuncular boss,
with bulbous nose and large caruncular ears —
an underworld controls my visions across
a dingy desk. “Tibet,” the Dream Don sneers.
Tibet? “That’s right. Majestic mountains glossed
with snow. A palace, pink and gold, appears
like frozen fire upon the vast plateau.
That’s what you’re meant to dream now. Go.”

I leave tomorrow, reader, happ’ly stuck
with Sheela and her Joe. Please wish me luck.

 

…continued on Jan 4, 2011.

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

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“On Meeting My Muse at Orbits Restaurant” by Zireaux

Auckland Sky Tower

Auckland’s Skytower, with Orbits revolving restaurant: “…a place for doughty eaters / spinning a hundred and ninety-two meters / above a revolving earth…'

On Meeting My Muse at Orbits Restaurant
by Zireaux

 

At dinner recently,
a fancy dress affair my wife
arranged (“to stimulate your life”)
at Orbits – a place for doughty eaters
spinning a hundred and ninety-two meters
above a revolving earth – a stranger queried
if I was someone famous.

                                             “No,” I parried.

But then she moved where I could see her better,
and all at once the restaurant’s lights beset her
glossy lips and shiny teeth, the streak
of jet-black vinyl hair which sashed a cheek
and veiled an eye, her sequined red camise
which shook out stars – entire galaxies! –
upon our tablecloth. My children
were struck dumb; this flashing lady thrilled them.
And then she spoke again – “I read
of you in Business Week,” she said.
“You invented _____” (I’m tempted to say;
but poetry was meant to stay
exempted from that philistine debasement
one finds in modern film: the “product placement”).

Her accent and her figure bore that treacly
trademark of America – both sleekly
made, and yet congealing where her curves
and vowels stressed more feeling than deserved.
(American women! What beautiful poses you strike
while making your noses say “Uhmigod” and “Like.”)
But something else I quickly noticed
in her face – the finest, remotest
trace of meager birth, a chink
of darkness in that sheen, the wink
of secret ancestry. I guessed
an early youth outside the West.
Sri Lanka, maybe. Or Bangladesh. Some place
economists would call a “basket case.”

“I’m actually a poet.”

                                 The phrase did flow
so easily from me – a sleigh where snow
had never been could now across the mass
of smooth white candor’s crystals pass.
Two scimitars, the eyebrows of my wife,
rose up as she set down her butter knife.
A poet! Our starry stranger draped
in pseudo-sari themes now gaped
at me; then turned and waved down curving
aisle where sat a man observing
us. A grimaced smile. His nose,
a huge proboscis, soon transposed
into a camera as he came our way.
“He says he’s a poet,” she called. “Our lucky day!”

Her name, we were informed, was Sheela Ray.
She’d traveled here to film an exposé
on foreign countries’ famous people. “Arrived
this morning – what a flight! I’m sleep-deprived,
but knew as soon as I laid eyes on you —
now there is someone I must interview.
This country is our fifth so far.
You wouldn’t believe how sick we are
of singers, athletes, news presenters.
It’s like, you know, the moment we enter —
Famous, you say? To interview?
Try John. He reads our nightly news!’”
Views and news. Were these some rhyming clues,
dear reader, that I was talking to my Muse?

She said she felt the poet was the “King
of Art.” That she’d, in fact, been hankering
to start a kind of poet’s club on-line.
Or maybe TV. But uhmigod! To find
a real poet! And one, you know, who looks
as though he’s found success outside of books
as well as in — “Really!” she cried,
above a sudden rising tide
of birthday song. “I recognized
the blaze of brilliance in your eyes.
But never did I think” — she paused,
then spoke beneath our neighbor’s applause –
“so swank a man could be a versifier.”
Enough. Suffice to say her praise went higher.

Voltaire

Voltaire at 70. Engraving from 1843 edition of his Philosophical Dictionary.

Suffice to say I took her number, agreed
to call, and possibly (“Oh please!”) to read
my latest stanzas for the Sheela Show,*
and added: “I’m half a Yank myself, you know.”
Suffice to say, I called, agreed to go
to her hotel. And Camera Joe,
who is all shadow to Sheela’s flame
(I still don’t know his real name),
had made the place a studio
whereby his vid- or voodeo
would stir me to rhyme.

                                              And Sheela Ray —
she was, her words, “quite blown away.”
Apparently my stanzas had seduced her;
she dialed her cell – “I’m calling my producer.”

Now hear me, reader: A peaceful dozen years
have passed since last I suffered Cupid’s spears.
And though I must admit the satin gown,
or rather, loose-fit shirt, a “button-down,”
which Sheela likes to sit and chat in (blind
to how it licks her thighs) — that shirt combined
with her Bengali eyes and breezy
smile (which brings to mind the easy
gurgle of purling water), her lush
black hair, the downward rush
of dark, delightful, switchblade brows
– although their presence might arouse
in me forgotten youth, I’m talking now
of poetry! Why Muses are chosen. And how.

And whether this coupling of Muses and poets is part
of some greater design! A Supragenic Art!
I mean, when Sheela opines – with elbows aiming
skyward from behind her neck (she’s taming
her hair, which lifts her night-shirt off her bare,
entangled legs) – “you’re like a modern Voltaire!”
(“Vous-avez lu Voltaire en Francais?” I ask.
Oui,” she says, “seulement pour un classe.”)
— then pouncing forward, trapping my hands
beneath her paws – “Your genius demands
attention! Your characters are so –”
and here zooms-in our Camera Joe
with squinting, view-finder’s grin – “they’re so alive!”
where was I? — Oh, yes, my point at last arrives –

when Sheela gives such plump and fertile views
as these, and I the crooning poet, can’t refuse
their promised tingle – their sweet, euphoric caress
of first bejeweled consciousness, a bliss
that curious room-bound species, Writing Man,
will kill for (are muses veiled in Burkhasthan?
Inspired poets maim and rape
as well as any artless ape)
— when I – stay with me, reader! – when I
cannot resist her lullabies
of tribute which, alas, produce
this metered, rhymed, ambrosial juice,
these shivers of delight – are they for me?
Or vital measures for my poetry?

 

*A popular TV talk show in India.

Read about the dream I had before leaving to India with Sheela and Camera Joe.

 

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“Wikileaks as Minotaur” by Zireaux

The Bullfight by Edouard Manet

The Bullfight by Edouard Manet

Song to Wikileaks

Look how our matador falls
    in a cloud of delirious dust!
See how our hero now crawls,
    dodging the bull’s angry thrusts!

Hurry O horsemen he’ll die
    if the aim or your javelins fail him.
Men? Only men? That’s a lie.
    One is a lady named Palin.

One with blonde tresses behind her
    once rescued her bullfighting lord.
Who can forget (don’t remind her!),
    where, in what part, he was gored?

Others ride up to the fray,
    that endangers our matador’s skin.
Shouts from the ringside — “Ole!” —
    welcome these saviors within.

Some are just clowns with red hair*
    while the others, in costumes less zany,
fight in the bull-devil’s lair,
    gallant as any Khomeini.

Hurry and save him, great riders.
    O save our beloved torero!
Slice through the monster’s black hide or
    feather its back with your arrows.

Picador: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defending America against attacks by Wikileaks

Picador: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defending America against attacks by Wikileaks

Look, O dear God, how it rises
    and kicks at the lancers who prod it.
Notice the way that he eyes us,
    puzzled why we don’t applaud it.

Look how it rears on a hind-leg,
    his fore-hooves now reaching like hands!
What! It has jumped on a wine-keg,
    leapt — O he’s leapt in the stands!

Strange how we sit there all spell-bound,
    when better to run while we can.
What is this creature, this hell-hound,
    neither quite bull nor quite man?

Snatching a spectator’s hat,
    how it leisurely strolls up the stairs.
Tying a white silk cravat,
    walking without any cares.

Walking, I say, down the streets
    of the city’s labyrinthine lanes;
kissing each lady it meets,
    twitching the tail that remains.

“Walking? But why? And to where?”
    all the bystanders ask. Its reply:
“Barrooms where maidens strip bare,
    beauties to love ’till I die.”

   
*Note to reader: I’m writing this in Australia

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“Island Song” by Zireaux

Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin

Radio New Zealand is scheduled to broadcast Zireaux’s Res Publica, Book One, performed by the great Stuart Devenie, early next year. “Island Song” is a stanza from Res Publica, Book Two.

Island Song
by Zireaux

She was mine. My island. My me
and my my-land. My rock in the sea. My high
and my dry-land. My reef, my wreck, where I,
a castaway, a refugee,
would try to forget a life-gone-awry-land.

She was mine. My island. My shy-land,
my why-land, my cosmic design-land.
And though she confined me from beckoning waves,
with her I felt free, a wandering mind-land,
unmarred by my past or scarred by its graves.

But O the regret! That I couldn’t lie
with her forever, my lie-land! That I
couldn’t be her first; and she couldn’t be
my last – an island, a die-land, for me.

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