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The Disease

Paradise Lost – Paul Gustave Dore (via Tumblr)

This poem was written somewhere between 1997 and 1999. I’d just completed my Ph.D and was living in an apartment in an old, run-down house in Ottawa.

Initially, I saw “The Disease” as a metaphor for oppressive ideas and images like J.-P. Sartre’s bad faith, Erich Fromm’s mechanical man and Albert Camus’ The Plague. The sociological notion of false consciousness also came to mind while writing it.

The poem wasn’t planned. It came, more or less, in a stream of consciousness. While tapping it out on my old Toshiba 286 laptop I remember noting just how foreboding it was getting (“rotting sky…all are doomed to die”) and not really knowing why. But I followed my instinct and didn’t delete the heavy parts.

After 9/11, I realized that this unsettling verse could be taken as a premonition. As the new millennium approached, not a few artists and sensitives seemed to be picking up something truly terrible on their radar.

That said, around the time of writing I was reading John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno. So one could say that I wasn’t foreseeing anything—just subconsciously aping the greats and their treatment of evil.

God only knows.

The Disease

I’ve watched it grow
I’ve seen it sow
true minds into despair

souls of sorrow
ladened deep
burning horrid stares

I’ve seen it work
at lightning speed
to destroy mankind’s seed

through the air
it does its deed
this is its only care

sans partiality
sans decency
Yes, this is “the disease”

You over there!
you believe you’re clear
of this melancholy breeze?

Well let me tell you
if you please
it’s a fatal,
dreadful siege

For once contracted
once enacted
you’ll go on normally
“it’s okay”
“I’m just fine”
“yes, I think I am still free”

But then, alas!
the grippe is tightened
beyond all points of ease
and shipwrecked sailors on the sea of life
all drown
irrevocably

Yes I’ve seen this blight
‘cross this land
and winds are blowing high
no apple pie nor starlit nights
will save this rotting sky
all is darkened
all are dead
all are doomed to die

Lance it fast while time remains
avoid a fearsome plight
destroy this curse
and rest assured
your mark is
for the
light

Cast it out and let us pray
“Lord give us back our sight”
Cast it out to guarantee,
Truth shall conquer might


The Disease © Michael Clark 1997 to present. All rights reserved.


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DIAMONDS ON THE GROUND

DIAMONDS ON THE GROUND

Look, look –
there are diamonds on the ground,
in the dirt, on the grass, the path, the stones.
Could it be that the stars have fallen from the sky,
that the end is very near?

No, no, my dear.  It is just the reflection of the sun
on the mica chips along this Georgia path.
Their lights will go out
as soon as the sun goes down.

Come along, come along.  We cannot dilly dally
being awed by these shiny beauties, distracted from our duties,
wondering, pondering
how the sky got on the ground.

Copyright © Sharon Warden 2008, 2013. All rights reserved.

Sharon Warden lives in Florida, where she’s actively involved in various Christian groups. In her spare time she’s a poet, musician and visual artist.


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MOON IS BLUE

moontree by earthpages via Flickr

MOON IS BLUE

Moon is blue
speckled roundabout
with yellow dots
that fly
from the center of the sun
on the other side
of the world.
They cannot land and settle,
keep bouncing
off the surface.

I scream, I weep,
I cry aloud
because there can be
no sun, no warm,
no light
on this moon,
darkness only
with cold, cold, cold.

The way it was.
The way it’s always been,
The way it will remain.

© Sharon Warden


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PILLS, PILLS – Verse by Sharon Warden

Various pills

Various pills (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

PILLS, PILLS

Pills, pills
for all my ills
fix my pains
think again.
My word,
look what happened
to Mrs. Ford!

Gonna just say no
to all the drugs
pull out the rugs
from under the props,
capsules and drops
reads my book
don’t gimme that look.

Not gonna take
plavix anymore.
Throw the beta blockers
through the door.
Out on the ground
with the hdtz,
glucosamine, chondroitin
and vitamin E –
I wanna live free
in liberty.

© Sharon Warden February 2009

Disclaimer: This is not a medical nor legal document.Those with mental or physical health issues are advised to consult an appropriate and licensed health professional. See full details in Earthpages Policy and Disclaimer.


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Asian and Middle Eastern Literature – Selections and Reflections

By Michael Clark

When a classic poem works it transcends time so we can almost be there with the poet and, in a sense, feel their feelings and see what they see.¹

The following selections of Asian and Middle Eastern literature are all English translations, which some may say is a shortcoming. But if a passage speaks to a reader, it’s a moot point whether a translation is legit or not.

One could argue that translated texts, like the Bible for instance, are part of God’s plan and previous language versions are not necessarily of any greater value.

Some scholars and pundits might be too rigid to appreciate this perspective. They could also be unaware of postmodern theories about language, specifically, the ideas of connotation and endless chains of signification. For postmoderns, all texts have open-ended meanings that depend, in large part, on the reader’s interpretation.

In addition, theologians often say that the meaning of a given text is influenced by its numinous potential. And it seems that most words – not just religious ones – within any language carry a kind of numinous potential, however great or small.²

While some old style scholars dogmatically insist on the importance of original languages, we’d do well to remember that language prowess has been used for centuries by unscrupulous elites to oppress and marginalize individuals perceived as a threat to prevailing powers, be these religious, regal or academic.

Not to say that all linguists are arrogant and self-serving! The vast majority are humble, innovative thinkers who use their abilities for the common good. Sincerely delighting in the subtle nuances of world languages, these individuals have a great gift and, obviously, much to offer.³

The authors highlighted below seem to be well aware of the arrogance of petty scholars and, more generally, to the bright and dark hues of human existence. Ancient and medieval people knew all about war, intrigue, betrayal, poverty and broken hearts. But amidst all that, their souls yearned for goodness and beauty. And their works give us profound insights into the nature of time, eternity and ourselves.

Part I

From the Meditations of Ma’arri al-Ma’arri, circa 973-1057 CE

In the casket of the Hours
Events deep-hid.
Wait on their guardian Powers
To raise the lid.

And the Maker infinite,
Whose poem is Time,
He need not weave in it
A forced stale rhyme

The Nights pass so,
Voices dumb,
Without sense quick or slow
Of what shall come.

* * *

From the Shakuntala Kálidása, circa 5th century CE

It is natural that the first sight of the King’s capital
should affect you in this manner;
my own sensations are very similar.
As one just bathed beholds the man polluted;
As one late purified, the yet impure:-
As one awake looks on the yet unawakened;
Or as the freeman gazes on the thrall,
So I regard this crowd of pleasure-seekers.

* * *

Yakamochi from the Manyo Shu, compiled 760 CE

[These] meetings in dreams,
How sad they are!
When, waking up startled
One gropes about,-
And there is no contact to the hand.

* * *

The Priest Hakutsū from the Manyo Shu, circa 704 CE

O pine-tree standing
At the [side of] the stone house,
When I look at you,
It is like seeing face to face
The men of old time.

* * *

Looking in the Lake Po Chu-I, 772-846 CE

I look at my shadow over and over in the lake;
I see no white face, only the white hair,
I have lost my youth, and shall never find it again.
Unless to stir the lake-water!

* * *

The Girls of Yueh Li Po, 701?-762 CE

The jade faces of the girls on Yueh Stream,
Their dusky brows, their red skirts,
Each wearing a pair of golden spiked sandals-
O, their feet are white like frost.

* * *

The Girl of Yueh Li Po

She is gathering lotos-seed in the river of Yueh.
While singing, she sees a stranger and turns around;
Then she smiles and hides among the lotos-leaves,
Pretending to be overcome by shyness.

* * *

A Song of War Li Po

Before the Peak of Returning Joy the sand was like snow,
Outside the surrendered city the moon was like frost.
I do not know who blew the horns at night,
But all night long the boys looked towards their homes.

Selections in Part I from A Treasury of Asian Literature, ed. John D. Yohannan. New York: Meridian, 1984.

Part II

A Simple Rustic You Seemed Wu-Chi Liu from the Book of Poetry, 10th to 6th centuries BCE

Three years I was your wife,
I never tired of household chores.
Early I rose and late I went to bed;
Not a morning was I without work.
First you found fault with me,
Then treated me with violence.
My brothers, not knowing this,
Jeered and laughed at me.
Quietly I brooded over it
And myself I pity.

* * *

Tales of Ise Collection from unknown Japanese authors, 10th century

Priestess at shrine:

Did you come here?
Or did I go to you?
I cannot recall,
was it a dream or was it real?
Was I awake or was I asleep?

Young man:

In utter darkness
my heart is clouded
and I am lost.
Was it dream or was it real?
You will have to decide.

* * *

I’d like to include one modern selection from a Pakistani poet-philosopher:

The Caravan Bell Muhammad Iqbal 1877-1938*

In bondage life shrinks to a rivulet;
in freedom, a boundless ocean.

Selections in Part II (adapted*) from Great Literature of the Eastern World, ed. Ian P. McGreal. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.

Part III

Among countless compendiums of Asian literature, standing out are Han-Shan’s Cold Mountain poems.

Han-Shan was a wanderer during the Tang Dynasty, 627-650 CE. Gary Snyder says “he is a mountain madman in an old Chinese line of ragged hermits.” But Lu Ch’iu-yin sketches a more reasonable picture by saying “No one knows just what sort of man Han-Shan was.”

Living at a place called Cold Mountain, he was known to appear at Kuo-ch’ing temple, where one of the local monks fed him scraps of food, concealed in a bamboo tube. Once, when other monks approached him, Han-Shan apparently stopped, clapped his hands and laughed, leaving behind his signature “Ha Ha” phrase.

Beat writers like Jack Kerouac picked up on Han-Shan’s verse, as did the hippies and seekers of the 1970s. And I sometimes wonder if his ideas might help us to understand some of our 21C homeless people. It’s doubtful that all street people are spiritually achieved and happy. But might some be? And, for that matter, was Han-Shan?

The following selections are from Literature of the Eastern World, ed. Leo B. Kneer. Glenview, Ill.: Scott, Foresman and Co., 1970.

7

I settled at Cold Mountain long ago,
Already it seems like years and years.
Freely drifting, I prowl the woods and streams
And linger watching things in themselves.
Men don’t get this far into the mountains,
White clouds gather and billow,
Thin grass does for a mattress,
The blue sky makes a good quilt.
Happy with a stone underhead
Let heaven and earth go about their changes.

19

Once at Cold Mountain, troubles cease-
No more tangled, hung-up mind.
I idly scribble poems on the rock cliff,
Taking whatever comes, like a drifting boat.

24

When men see Han-Shan
They all say he’s crazy
And not much to look at-
Dressed in rags and hides.
They don’t get what I say
& I don’t talk their language.
All I can say to those I meet:
“Try and make it to Cold Mountain.”

Notes

¹ This also happens with short phrases. Whenever I think of veni, vidi, vici I can just imagine Caesar standing at the top of a hill, looking down on the town he’s about to plunder.

² Consider the English word salubrious. One senses its history. It carries not only “horizontal” meaning (its current conceptual connotations) but also “vertical” meaning (a numinous mystique that resonates through the ages, across Europe back to its Latin roots). Many words seem to evoke a kind of spiritual ambiance or, if you prefer, subtle mystique. While this horizontal vs. vertical distinction is arbitrary, it suggests that words in any language hold not just conceptual plurality but also numinous potential. Jungians talk about the numinous, transcendent power of standard symbols like the mandala. But it’s quite possible that all language signifiers carry subtler, more specialized numinous potentials.

³ An interesting and informative scholar of languages whom I recently stumbled upon is Nicholas Ostler.


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Just the Colors

Just the Colors

That’s what is left – the colors;
Pink, mauve, golden gray
After the sunset
At the end of the day.

Nothing else, Lord, nothing
Left of my dreams.
Nothing left, nothing, Lord,
Of any former schemes.

The dross is burned away, Lord,
But still I cannot see
Your Face in the metal,
I yet see only me.

But thank You for the colors,
The ones You left for me
While I’m alive my eyes behold
This gracious gift to me.

Copyright © Sharon Warden 2011. All rights reserved.
Website: http://www.smarwar.net


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SEANCE

Hypnotic seance

Hypnotic seance via Wikipedia

SEANCE

At this seance you’d need a huge trashcan
To sweep up all the dirty dogs
And dustbunnies
That were conjured up out of the past –
Nasty habits, arch-splitting words and epitaphs,
Not to mention all of the lies and thieveries
That lie at the bottom of your memory.

Best to let them lay undisturbed
As they have for the past twenty years.

They won’t be extinguished
Because they are immortal.
How do you know?
Because every now and again
You’ll have a stench in your nostrils,
Look up and see one floating by
In the curlycue of your memory,
And you spit, curse it and say, “Oh damn,”
But it doesn’t flee at your command.
It floats away in its own time,
Obeying its own internal navigation guides.

You hang helpless;
Nothing to do but tarry there in your own sweat,
Waiting for it to pass.
No, no seance necessary.

Those dirty dogs rear their ugly heads
On their own.

Copyright © Sharon Warden 2011. All rights reserved.
Website: http://www.smarwar.net

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