The shape of time

My niece is besotted with Elsa from Frozen. She wears the dress over or under everything and can’t do without her crown. In the sequel to the film, Olaf the snowman gets lost in the enchanted forest where Gale, the wind spirit makes him so dizzy that he suffers an existential crisis. He concludes through his ordeal that he is yet to grow up and when he does, everything will make sense. It is easy to grow up in real life, we seem to have our paths laid out for us that we imitate in the manner of our forebears and peers. Yet, we still think about the meaning of our existence. Olaf believes it is in the soaking up of facts, to learn more and then add to this by further inquiry and action. I wonder if the measure of a successful existence is connected to how we view time..

The fact that we still think about the meaning of life is the reason they have an Olaf in a Children’s animation film. Are the answers readily available, for all that life throws at us, so we may clarify the turbid, find clarity, see the invisible ? Today’s poem is to ponder the truths held in a snow covered land, trying to make sense of time.

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The clouds fell from their lofty perch onto her belly / wrapped in layers of time this Matryoshka/ flouncy in snowflakes / cold startles the birds / the trains are stillborn / marshes float on ice / and nights look like silence //

She fashions a snowman / they speak in parables of time / is it shaped like a sisal string or a potter’s wheel / does it appear like a falling star / disappear like a glacier / is it syllabic conversations at dusk / or chimneys brewing clouds into sky / while fires roast limbs of arthritic trees //

Her sundial is circular / like the lunacy of seasons / His, fractalizes into uncertain snowflakes / transformed by an arrow flung far to an unknown distance / Gaia awakens in virgin spring / a forced maturity squinting at trains that furrow the land / bleeding in cherry blossoms / wealthy as the emerald leaves she wears to a country gala //

The snowman computes time / stray facts the winter wind whispered into his ear / as he melts into January’s cloak / like tears shed for sparkling fractals lost forever / The Earth believes in the manner of faith , he will resurrect on her sundial / as she kisses time into momentary stillness, turns water into ice //

The breath of life

Dagogo Hart spoke of Paper Planes in a moving poem, about how our breath keeps planes in the sky, how poets are daydreamers, aspiring for birds but settling for butterflies. His friend is a tree, she is deeply rooted into the Earth …
This inspired me to write a poem on breath. Poems like air, are free and free to envelop the earth.

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I breathe in life like a poem and exhale in a poem too.
The air is free and there is no price high enough for poetry,
no place far enough to reach and no heart, hard enough to caress.
It’s the inhale and the exhale that remind me of the rhythm of the Earth,
the fragrance of flowers versed in colour, the wind raising water
in the meter of waves, clouds holding the sky in rhyme, I breathe in the mud,
the dust, those that graze or slither or pounce that punctuate the land and water.
I inhale the poetry of the people, the billions of them, children crying like winds tunnels,
the homeless smell forgotten, the hungry reek of food thrown in the dumpster
outside the big stores, the brave treading their passions smell like fire, cowards hiding
in the shadows of mistrust and fear are the stench of hateful hearts, the giving are the
aroma of mother baking bread, a father teaching his daughter to ride a bicycle, a stranger
offering you their seat. The most beautiful is the inhalation of love, which like the breath is free.

The earth is weighed by this priceless feeling that cannot be vaulted in a safe
nor can it be sold for a crown, like the cover of air, that I breathe in and out every day,
unfailingly, like my life depended on it. Almost 8 billion other souls tend to agree
as they float on air or on love and they may not understand the difference
until the lungs fill with water or the heart splinters like broken glass.

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Every day is one filled with gratitude for the simplest pleasures of life. One is not short of breath until facing a respiratory illness of some sort, COVID has been a lesson in this. Yet, we think very little of polluting the atmosphere or soiling our planet. Perhaps it is because like the air, we don’t respect our capacity to love one another and like the air, love too is not felt except in it’s parsimony or in it’s absence. Humans need a great deal more humanity than the petty survival games we play, that again mean very little, until something that we take for granted, goes missing.

Embroidered in a dream

Bakhiya or ‘Shadow work’ is one of the basic stitches of Chikankari

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There’s a lightness to her hands as she weighs thread / a mess of fine cotton / she spends days unravelling it like a mystery / until she has her skeins ready to tell a story / on cloth that feels like a dream / shadow work they call it / where the patterns are hid behind a screen / she weaves in a lattice, like a window to her soul / little knots and chains that bind her to a tale / paths around paisleys in a garden of delight / as she grows flowers along the margins of her illusions / a tapestry of memory / fruit that exist in heavens arbor / pathways never meant for walking / beautiful stitches stealing love across a pastel dream

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This post is a tribute to the wonderful women artisans of Lucknow who embroider Chikan work

Lucknow is famous for Chikankari or Chikan embroidery. I have loved it ever since I first saw it. The most basic stich involves shadow work in which the cross stitch on the underside generates a pattern that is used as the right side of the fabric. There’s a beauty to how women embroider in this technique. It’s a difficult task given that the threads have to be sorted before the embroidery itself, patterns for which are stamped by a different set of artisans. I have tons of Chikan work embroidered on sarees, table covers, bed sheets etc and I treasure them all.

The taxonomy of the moon ~ faces of womanhood

She’s a vine of antique labels
ascending floral texts,
in fecund heirarchy of scented petals,
evergreen in an ideal of genus,
Her’s a Mogra spirit, born to a full moon
calendared in life’s vernacular.
Time steadily depletes her
to a crescent of a sickle in hand,
terraced to the paddies of life
where she harvests today
into yesterday’s memories.
Tomorrow may rain in promise
or light the sun for a blitz to bloom
as she charms time to a halcyon lore
of moons ahead to moons ago
that faded pink on leafy twine.
The heavens are a lofty poem
in starry nomenclature, yet,
on nights fragrant in dewy blossom
she is shy and new as she melts
into the innards of the earth,
to arise at dawn, gold as grain
and bake like a miracle on the hearth.

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The faces of womanhood
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The prompt from the Insta community I follow, was about writing a poem to the theme above for the 8th of March, accompanied by a black and white photo.

The theme made me question myself more than wax eloquent like the moon.

I realized, it never occurred to me to name a favourite flower that personified my spirit. Rain drops on a fragrant Mogra or Jasminum sambac (the Arabian Jasmine), that grew in my native land and scented my childhood, wafted through memory and made me cry a poem.

Do follow me at @davinaesolomon on Instagram for poetry. I post there before I post here sometimes and on other themes as well.

I’m sharing this as a countdown to March 8th and hope to create a few woman centric poems. Feeling inspired 🙂

The boundless is love

We steal the glow from a warm sun
and the breath from the wind.
The animals overrun the Savanna
and we, the cities of glass and steel,
but we never lack for light nor a gentle breeze.

A strange synchronicity fills poems.
You see, cut in the same cloth are we,
beings across the Atlantic or the Pacific.
We all enter naked and exhale life in death,
our songs of exile sing of homes
we lost in the love of people like us.

Love seeks expression.
Like as aging tree, we seek to fill the space
lay down roots, brighten the sky with leaves
blossom in happiness, fruit in fulfillment
but this is life, not love.

Love does not leaf nor flower, it seeks no
rooting in place. A barren tree isn’t loveless
Have you ever wondered why water simply
is or the earth exists or the sun burns?
They all do because they are,
because they can.
This is love and it is boundless

Love is six tea lights at a crimson dinner

Six tea lights and a nightingale / wrap the table in love’s sonorous luminance /

A throaty pathos she sings, of fleeting sensations / of long kisses that escape her/ a rose juice, God waters the way of her lover / as she remains the afternoon of her oath /

Her dress drips in raspberry affections / while an echo of my voice bathes dinner in a crimson glow of atonement /

Six votives petulantly spill stains / yellow light assertions of the unchangeable / flickering in passion /

Is love the sublime that rests in the shadows somewhere /
Hemmed onto a languorous song, an eternal abundance / in lyrical heartache, wafts / over mortal substitutes of a hearty dinner /

We of the world raise a toast / to the lunacy of a New Year in celebratory meals /
This month, a marker of Oxen / yoked to a duet of affections / on the day canonized by love / as aged as the oldest love song / etched onto a Sumerian tablet / lost in translation /

What is love / but that which ploughs around in these poetic spaces / steadfast
as candles, shedding light //

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Happy Valentine’s Day !

We ushered it in last night in a Sichuan inspired dinner with friends, while celebrating our own version of the Chinese New Year as well. The year of the Ox, a day dedicated to love, hence the reference to Ancient Sumer, wherein originated the oldest love poem ever recorded, ‘The Love Song for Shu-Sin’ (written c.2000 BCE).

The smart lights above the table echoed the crimson shade. it’s so beautiful that candle light burns yellow even if all around is a crimson glow.

Love feels like the magic of light around the practicality of dinner. Food is always romantic, (being the way to the heart and all). Love songs abound in tales of heartbreak which brings me to this Mexican song, ‘La Fugitiva’. For those who love the beauty of the sonorous voice of Lila Downs, you must watch/listen to this duet of hers with singer, composer, Natalia Lafourcade. This song itself is love, if a song could even be called that. I wove a bit of the translation into my own poem when the artists sing of fleeting love kisses that escape like rose water that God throws towards a lover.

I also wove in the theme of a ‘duet’ in the duo of oxen at a plough in response to a Sunday prompt by @bloodmoonjournal about ‘duet’, songs of love. Somehow all the themes that inspired me, congealed together. (I am inspired by a lot usually 😄)


On the year of the Ox, the balbale of Inanna to her brother Utu

In other compositions from that period, there are a few that recount poetic dialogue (balbale) between the Goddess Inanna and her brother, about love, desire, reason and practicality. This Mesopotamian Goddess is torn between the love she feels for a farmer and the Shepherd Dumuzi she must eventually marry. It is the year of the Ox in any case, perhaps the year of the farmer, the man at the plough, and in those parts of the world where farmers have been engaged in a prolonged battle, let’s hope it’s a winning one unlike Inanna’s balbale to her brother Utu . These beautiful compositions can easily be sourced online and I have added a few links for reference.

Further reading:

Diane Wolkstein’s translation of Queen of Heaven and Earth, ‘Her Stories and Hymns of Sumer’, full text [Harper & Row 1983], 30-49)

-https://archive.org/stream/input-compressed-2015mar28a29/done-compressed-2015mar28a29_djvu.txt

The Courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi
(D. Wolkenstein, Inanna [Harper & Row 1983], 30-49

-https://web.ics.purdue.edu/~kdickson/inanna.html

The love song of Shu-sin
-http://www.thehypertexts.com/The%20Love%20Song%20of%20Shu-Sin%20The%20Oldest%20Love%20Poem.htm

La Fugitiva, (Audio, Lyrics, Translation)
-https://g.co/kgs/fCg1fg