The Cloud

January 22, 2015

   I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
         From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
         In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
         The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
         As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
         And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
         And laugh as I pass in thunder.
   I sift the snow on the mountains below,
         And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night ’tis my pillow white,
         While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
         Lightning my pilot sits;
In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
         It struggles and howls at fits;
Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
         This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
         In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
         Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
         The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile,
         Whilst he is dissolving in rains.
   The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
         And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
         When the morning star shines dead;
As on the jag of a mountain crag,
         Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
         In the light of its golden wings.
And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
         Its ardours of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
         From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest,
         As still as a brooding dove.
   That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,
         Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,
         By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
         Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,
         The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
         Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
         Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
         Are each paved with the moon and these.
   I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone,
         And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
         When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
         Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
         The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
         With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
         Is the million-coloured bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,
         While the moist Earth was laughing below.
   I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
         And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
         I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
         The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
         Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
         And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
         I arise and unbuild it again.
~~ Percy Bysshe Shelley ~~
 Written two years before he died in 1822 this is one of my favourite Shelley poems. I chanced upon it while ruffling through old books of my grandmother and started reading it, perhaps after a gap of twenty, twenty five or even thirty years.

Running Orders

July 26, 2014

“They call us now.
Before they drop the bombs.
The phone rings
and someone who knows my first name
calls and says in perfect Arabic
“This is David.”
And in my stupor of sonic booms and glass shattering symphonies
still smashing around in my head
I think “Do I know any Davids in Gaza?”
They call us now to say
You have 58 seconds from the end of this message.
Your house is next.
They think of it as some kind of 
war time courtesy.
It doesn’t matter that
there is nowhere to run to.
It means nothing that the borders are closed
and your papers are worthless
and mark you only for a life sentence
in this prison by the sea
and the alleyways are narrow
and there are more human lives
packed one against the other
more than any other place on earth
Just run.
We aren’t trying to kill you.
It doesn’t matter that 
you can’t call us back to tell us
the people we claim to want aren’t in your house
that there’s no one here
except you and your children
who were cheering for Argentina
sharing the last loaf of bread for this week
counting candles left in case the power goes out.
It doesn’t matter that you have children.
You live in the wrong place
and now is your chance to run
to nowhere.
It doesn’t matter 
that 58 seconds isn’t long enough
to find your wedding album
or your son’s favorite blanket
or your daughter’s almost completed college application
or your shoes
or to gather everyone in the house.
It doesn’t matter what you had planned.
It doesn’t matter who you are
Prove you’re human.
Prove you stand on two legs.

~ Lena Khalaf Tuffaha ~ 

Gaza July 2014


August 26, 2012


As life improved, their poems
Grew sadder and sadder. Was there oil
For the machine? It was
The vinegar in the poets’ cup.

The tins marched to the music
Of the conveyor belt. A billion
Mouths opened. Production,
Production, the wheels

Whistled. Among the forests
Of metal the one human
Sound was the lament of
The poets for deciduous language.

~ R S Thomas ~

Welsh nationalist and Anglican priest.

The Imprisoned Forest

September 3, 2010

Scratches of my pen
Like prison bars
Hold something down.
Or maybe nothing exists
Beyond what is left.:

A fear grows in me,
As I watch the last line droop
And wither, before the new one begins.

Sometimes I feel like the forest
Forsaken by its animals –
A premonition,
That brings the chainsaws.

~Aniket Alam~

— —
Published by Danse Macabre in their September 2010 editon: La Cour des Miracle

Star Gazing

September 3, 2010

Maybe some ancient astronomer
stood on a hill
and saw the stars above.
Maybe he wondered at our world,
our universe, and beyond.
And told stories of these wonders
to the children of his clan.

Maybe some ancient lover, star gazing
saw the eyes of her beloved
and remorse may have squeezed out a tear
reflecting the stars and the moon.
A kaleidoscope of memories,
diverting her thoughts back to
the stories of grandfather astronomer.

And maybe mothers told these stories
to their wide eyed wondering children.
As ancient tales and trails turned modern
maybe people still cuddled ‘round fires.
Talking about devils, gods and stars
As the flames danced in their eyes
Till the embers twinkled out cold.

And years of tear shedding
Years of storytelling, star gazing
Left the wonder undimmed and intact.
But star poems have lost their lustre
Since A-grade stars are marketed
With lasers, space ships and aliens
For 10 rupees at our local video store.

And we all watch them.

~Aniket Alam~

— —
Published in Danse Macabre’s La Cour des Miracles edition of September 2010.

The Crow on the Wall

September 3, 2010

Like the noise of a forlorn horn
Not working, it caws.
Like a glistening coal covered miner
It considers the world.
Like the twinkle of light in a gem
It expectantly eyes me.
Like an oracle cursing with a fling of his hand
I shoo it away.

~Aniket Alam~

— —
Published in Danse Macabre’s La Cour des Miracles edition of September 2010.

Little Miss Muffet discovered a tuffet,
(Which never occurred to the rest of us)
And, as ’twas a June day, and just about noonday,
She wanted to eat – like the rest of us:
Her diet was whey, and I hasten to say
It is wholesome and people grow fat on it.
The spot being lonely, the lady not only
Discovered the tuffet, but sat on it.

A rivulet gabbled beside her and babbled,
As rivulets always are thought to do,
And dragon flies sported around and cavorted,
As poets say dragon flies ought to do;
When, glancing aside for a moment, she spied
A horrible sight that brought fear to her,
A hideous spider was sitting beside her,
And most unavoidably near to her!

Albeit unsightly, this creature politely Said: ”
Madam, I earnestly vow to you,
I’m penitent that I did not bring my hat.
I Should otherwise certainly bow to you.”
Thought anxious to please, he was so ill at ease
That he lost all his sense of propriety,
And grew so inept that he clumsily stept
In her plate – which is barred in Society.

This curious error completed her terror;
She shuddered, and growing much paler, not
Only left tuffet, but dealt him a buffet
Which doubled him up in a sailor knot.
It should be explained that at this he was pained:
He cried: “I have vexed you, no doubt of it!
Your fists’s like a truncheon.” “You’re still in my luncheon,”
Was all that she answered. “Get out of it!”

And the Moral is this: Be it madam or miss
To whom you have something to say,
You are only absurd when you get in the curd
But you’re rude when you get in the whey.

— Guy Wetmore Carryl —


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