Friday, November 18, 2011

Jerdon’s leafbird: camouflage specialist

Like barbets leafbirds are exceedingly difficult to spot on a leafy tree. Jerdon’s leafbird (Chloropsis jerdoni) are no exception, a rather remarkable looking bird it vanishes in the canopy of leafy tree. And here I was standing under the tamarind tree armed with my camera and loosing the bird all the time wherein it was always hopping on the nearest branch. These birds are adept in imitating the calls of various other species of birds. Spotted this charming one (it’s a female) at Miligiri Forest where we had gone earlier this year for mammal census. A herd of hapless wild elephants –consisting of about 15 odd members with calves- were being chased using crackers by Tamil Nadu forest guards onto Andhra Pradesh, the favor was promptly returned by Andhra Pradesh forest guards. The elephants were reduced to elaborate ping pong played by forces of two states. In the melee the elephant raided nearby villages for stored tamarind sacks and managed to kill a villager. Miligiri doesn’t really have much of mammal population; we spotted bear scat and few bonnet macaques, or maybe we missed other mammals.

Theodore Roethke: I learn by going where I have to go...

At Woodlawn I heard the dead cry:
I was lulled by the slamming of iron,
A slow drip over stones,
Toads brooding wells.
All the leaves stuck out their tongues;
I shook the softening chalk of my bones,
Snail, snail, glister me forward,
Bird, soft-sigh me home,
Worm, be with me.
This is my hard time.

Theodore Roethke (1908-1963) was a significant influence on American artists of the 1940's and 1950's generations; he is considered as one of the greatest American poets of the twentieth century. Roethke spent his childhood helping his father in his work. He weeded greenhouse beds and gathered moss in the tract of original forest on the family property. He also roamed the game sanctuary that the family maintained. He described it in an interview. "I had several worlds to live in, which I felt were mine. One favorite place was a swampy corner of the game sanctuary where herons always nested”. Images of these crop up frequently in his poetry. He wrote, somewhere else that the greenhouse "is my symbol for the whole of life, a womb, a heaven-on-earth." Roethke was a master stylist of both free verse and fixed forms. Many of his poems are intensely lyrical and draw from the natural world in all its mystery and fierce beauty.

Once More, the Round

What's greater, Pebble or Pond?
What can be known? The Unknown.
My true self runs toward a Hill
More! O More! visible.

Now I adore my life
With the Bird, the abiding Leaf,
With the Fish, the questing Snail,
And the Eye altering All;
And I dance with William Blake
For love, for Love's sake;

And everything comes to One,
As we dance on, dance on, dance on.

Long Live the Weeds

Long live the weeds that overwhelm
My narrow vegetable realm!
The bitter rock, the barren soil
That force the son of man to toil;
All things unholy, marred by curse,
The ugly of the universe.
The rough, the wicked, and the wild
That keep the spirit undefiled.
With these I match my little wit
And earn the right to stand or sit,
Hope, love, create, or drink and die:
These shape the creature that is I

The Reminder

I remember the crossing-tender's geranium border
That blossomed in soot; a black cat licking its paw;
The bronze wheat arranged in strict and formal order;
And the precision that for you was ultimate law;
The handkerchief tucked in the left-hand pocket
Of a man-tailored blouse; the list of shopping done;
You wound the watch in an old-fashioned locket
And pulled the green shade against the morning sun.
Now in the misery of bed-sitting room confusion,
With no hint of your presence in a jungle of masculine toys,
In the dirt and disorder I cherish one scrap of illusion:
A cheap clock ticking in ghostly cicada voice.

Child on Top of a Greenhouse

The wind billowing out the seat of my britches,
My feet crackling splinters of glass and dried putty,
The half-grown chrysanthemums staring up like accusers,
Up through the streaked glass, flashing with sunlight,
A few white clouds all rushing eastward,
A line of elms plunging and tossing like horses,
And everyone, everyone pointing up and shouting!

My Papa's Waltz

The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

Journey Into The Interior

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
-- Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birch trees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.

This poem Elegy For Jane has become one of my favorite poems, the imagery is brilliant and filled with so much love…

Elegy For Jane
(My student, thrown by a horse)

I remember the neck curls, limp and damp as tendrils;
And her quick look, a sidelong pickerel smile;
And how, once started into talk, the light syllables leaped for her.
And she balanced in the delight of her thought,
A wren, happy, tail into the wind,
Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.
The shade sang with her;
The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing,
And the mould sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.

Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth,
Even a father could not find her:
Scraping her cheek against straw,
Stirring the clearest water.
My sparrow, you are not here,
Waiting like a fern, making a spiney shadow.
The sides of wet stones cannot console me,
Nor the moss, wound with the last light.

If only I could nudge you from this sleep,
My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon.
Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love:
I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover.

Scribble from my pad

Since they still make war
and wallow in greed and waste
let me sing with the birds
lie on the grass
count the stars
let me go for a long walk
on beaten trails
in the deep woods and riverbanks
and see life between little steps.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Brahminy Mynas: the temple bird

Brahminy Mynas used to be so very common once upon a time, and here I am searching for weeks and months and then chance upon one in the outskirts of Bangalore. A handsome looking bird with black tuft and penetrating eyes they are found (or should I say “used to be found”) in groups. I am wondering since these birds too are omnivorous why they aren’t found in abundance in cities as is the case with common myna.
The name Sturnia pagodarum is from its early abundance in and around temple domes ‘pagodas’ in south India. Not strictly arboreal they could be seen foraging on the ground. 

Desanka Maksimovic: I seek amnesty 

Through night and moisture
Wild geese go south
Crying in painful glory.

I feel like writing
A dark story:
Them carrying away
On their two white wings
I don’t know where,
I don’t know what
Of my soul’s dearest things
That was the English translation of Serbian poem “Migratory Birds” by Desanka Maksimovic (1898 –1993), a professor of literature and a member of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Her poetry dealt with love and patriotism, exuding youthful enthusiasm yet they were serious and sensitive. A very popular figure, so much so they made a statute of her and installed it in centre of the city despite her fervent protests. It is said that the Serbian language is best sung in the poems of Desanka Maksimovic.

 When she heard of German soldiers shooting primary school children in Kragujevac, she wrote "Krvava Bajka" ("A Bloody Fairy Tale"), a poem that speaks of the terror practiced by German army in World War II. The poem was not published until after the war had ended. 

Bloody fairy tale

It happened in a land of farmers on hilly Balkan
far, far away;
a troop of students
died martyred
on one single day.

They were all born
in the same year.
For all of them, the school days were the same:
They were all taken
to the same festivals with cheer,
they were all vaccinated
until the last name,
and they all died on the same day.

It happened in a land of farmers on hilly Balkan
far, far away;
a troop of students
died martyred
on one single day.

And only fifty-five minutes
prior the death moment,
a small troop of fidgets
sat beside their school desks
solving the same hard math quest:
“If a traveler goes by foot,
how much time he needs to rest...”
and so on.

Their thoughts were filled
with same figures and tags
and there was a countless amount
of senseless As and Fs
in their notebooks and in their bags.
They were squeezing
a whole bunch of secrets that mattered--
either patriotic or a love letter--
on the bottom of their pockets.
And everyone of them supposed
that he would for a long time,
for a very, very long time
run under the blue sky--
until all math quests on the world
were done and gone by.

It happened in a land of farmers on hilly Balkan
far, far away;
a troop of students
died martyred
on the same day.

Whole rows of boys
took each other’s hands
and leaving the last school class
went to the execution quietly,
as the death was nothing but a smile.
All friends in rows were,
at the same moment,
lifted up to the eternal domicile. 

I don’t have any more time

I don’t have any more time for long sentences,
I have no time for negotiations,
I type messages like telegrams,
I don’t have time to ignite flame,
now I bury handfuls of dying fire.
I don’t have any more time for pilgrimage,
the path to estuary is suddenly getting shorter,
I have no time to look back and return,
I don’t have any more time for small things,
Now is time to think about eternal and unembraceable.
I have no time to think on crossroads,
I can arrive only somewhere close.
I don’t have time to study anything,
now I don’t have time for analysis,
for me water is just water
as if I had drank it from a well;
I have no time to split the sky into pieces,
I see it as children see it.
I don’t have any more time for foreign gods,
I haven’t even got to know mine well.
I have no time to adopt new commandments,
the old ten are already too much for me.
I don’t have any more time to join
those that are proving the truth.
I have no time to fight against chasers.
I have no time to dream, to walk slowly.


I no longer watch the hands turn,
nor track the sun’s hot path;
day is here when his eyes return,
and night again when they depart.

Joy does not mean laughter, and
his yearning outweighing mine;
joy to me is when we’re silent,
and our hearts in tandem chime.

I do not rue that life’s rivers
will carry off my own life’s drop;
now blast youth and all to smither’s;
enthralled beside me he has stopped

I seek amnesty
For those who believe
that all are equal,
poor and rich,
weak and strong,
the untired and the untiring prisoner,
the armless and the man with both arms,
the absolved and the man who has lost his faith,
the invited
and the one who waits at the door,
for them, for myself,
for everyone,
I seek amnesty.

There are many more beautiful poems of her that can be found in the net, this blogger requests all the readers of this blog to go through them

From my scribble pad…

The coral jasmine at the temple courtyard
(ambalanadayile parijatha pushpam)

The lone coral jasmine at the temple courtyard
has an expression of amusement
at the passing devotees.
The boy in blue shirt rather watch
the flower’s merriment in the passing zephyr
despite mother’s insistence.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The black Ibis

Black ibis is quite a common bird that could be found in groups in marshy land or irrigated farms, unlike other ibis it is not very aquatic and could be found in pairs in open grassland. Spotted this one on the outskirts of Bangalore
Rene Maria Rilke: To see into the life of things

My indebtedness towards Kendra Sahitya Akademi (and Central Secretariat Library, to some extend JNU library) is rather significant –one wonders how detrimental was Delhi summer since damp coldness that ensconced dark alleys of these libraries was no less inviting!! It is in here I came to know Rilke. Rilke is a celebration of beauty of visible real world and invisible reality. The Letters to Young Poet in which he expounds his understanding of aesthetics is a must read. Here are few lines  
Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature.

In another letter he writes…

Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them. Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentation, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.

What amazing lines these…

As bees gather honey, so we collect what is sweetest out of all things and build Him. Even with the trivial, with the insignificant (as long as it is done out of love) we begin, with work and with the repose that comes afterward, with a silence or with a small solitary joy, with everything that we do alone, without anyone to join or help us, we start Him whom we will not live to see, just as our ancestors could not live to see us. And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us, as predisposition, as burden upon our fate, as murmuring blood, and as gesture that rises up from the depths of time.

Rene Karl Wilhelm Johann Joseph Maria Rilke was born prematurely on December 4, 1875and was so weak that his parents had to wait a fortnight before they dared to take him to the Church down the street for his christening. The previous year a daughter had died a week after her birth, and so Rilke’s mother watched over this newborn with excessive care. In fact, part of his names-Rene and Maria-was mother's attempt to lend him a female identity. For five years, until he went to school, she dressed him like a girl against his father's ineffectual opposition. "I had to wear beautiful long dresses," Rilke recalled many years later, "and until I started school I went about like a little girl. I think my mother played with me as though I were a big doll."
His father couldn’t become an army officer that led to lots of problems and as a mature man Rilke glossed over his father's failures, pretending that his father had actually become an officer "following a family tradition" and describing his later career as occupying a rather high position" as a civilian working for a private railroad. In the descriptive poem composed at the time of his father's death in 1906, "Portrait of My Father as a Young Man," he depicted his father in full military regalia, thus dressing him up as well!

Portrait of my Father as a Young Man
In the eyes: dream. The brow as if it could feel
something far off. Around the lips, a great
freshness--seductive, though there is no smile.
Under the rows of ornamental braid
on the slim Imperial officer's uniform:
the saber's basket-hilt. Both hands stay
folded upon it, going nowhere, calm
and now almost invisible, as if they
were the first to grasp the distance and dissolve.
And all the rest so curtained within itself,
so cloudy, that I cannot understand
this figure as it fades into the background--.

Oh quickly disappearing photograph
in my more slowly disappearing hand.

Some of his other poems…

Buddha in Glory 
Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet--
all this universe, to the furthest stars
all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,

a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.

 A Walk
My eyes already touch the sunny hill.
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-

and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave...
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

Again and Again
Again and again, however we know the landscape of love
and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names,
and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others
fall: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky.

Falling Stars
Do you remember still the falling stars
that like swift horses through the heavens raced
and suddenly leaped across the hurdles
of our wishes--do you recall? And we
did make so many! For there were countless numbers
of stars: each time we looked above we were
astounded by the swiftness of their daring play,
while in our hearts we felt safe and secure
watching these brilliant bodies disintegrate,
knowing somehow we had survived their fall.

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.

leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs-

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.

From my scribble pad…

The stray cat at the door
I am complete as life could be
the platter of the rain is mine
the shimmer of noon sun is mine.
Desires open me as much as it shuts
The ripple at the center holds million pieces
I am intact, my movement confined
to shifting thoughts   

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A tiny bird named Zitting Cisticola

A peculiar little bird –that was once referred to as Fantail warbler- about the size of sparrow found in plains and bushy terrain. It prefers a kind of sedentary lifestyle and therefore becomes difficult to spot, save for the fact of its amusing flight that draws attention. It shoots up and flies a distance and falls straight back into the bush. This bird makes a delicate and beautiful nest composed of cobwebs, growing grass and even vegetables. The chicks are known to make hissing noise –like that of a snake – when disturbed. 

The invincible Coorg of Western Ghats:

Chakke kari
Chada, chada, beva.
Kambala kari
Guda, guda, beva.


When the fruit of jack tree boils
It sings “chada chada”
When the kambala fruit boils
It sings “guda guda”

Very few Indians except maybe the Kannadigas know much about the Kodavas (Coorg). Unless of course if you have spend some time in Armed forces. Kodavas pride themselves for being warrior class. Coorg is a tiny district tucked away in the south west Karnataka bordering Kerala (this blogger had covered the yearly traditional family hockey -played between clans within Kodavas- almost 5years back). Coorg a fertile land with bounties of nature that kodava song or palame almost always opens with, expression of delight for the pleasant land they dwell that provide them with all material prosperity and comfort. 

Nothing higher can be seen,
Though one look through all the earth
Than the Mahameru hill.
Brightest amongst the flower trees
Is the brilliant Sampige.
So in all the fertile earth
Coorg a necklace is of gold.

Some children’s rhymes translated (it need be pointed out that all these poems are wonderful rhymes in original, that has playful nature embodied in its construction)

The fingers
The little finger nail is small,
The finger for the ring is gold,
The middle finger loves coins,
The fourth is Kotera,
The thumb is Murutika,
And both are gone for cheese.

The mother is black,
The daughter is white,
And the grand-daughter is like gold !

Little chickens
An old story, an old story !
Clever Brahman, an old story!
What shall i say?
I know none.
Little chickens! Little chickens !
Sing me a song!
What can i sing?
Pyong ! Pyong!

Coorg Huttari or Harvest Song

Sun and moon the season make,
Ruler over all the sky they take.
God is lord of heaven and earth.
All the joyous earnest toil
happy ryots give the soil,
our rich land is fully worth.

midst the beauteous forest trees
brightest to the eye that sees
is the brilliant Sampige
sweeter than sweetest rose,
purer than the mountain snows,
better than mere words may say
thus is Coorg the noblest land,
rich and bright as golden band
on the neck where youth doth stay
in this happy lovely realm
no misfortunes overwhelm.
Live and proper while you may !

“A stanza from different huthri
Come on, friends, lets all sing louder
Let all our bunches of canes clatter;
Come on sing all, louder and louder,
Let the gods in high heavens too hear”
Listen how the sound resounds all over,
The country’s cream of youth is here;
That one legged man too moves around,
Those squint eyed women and the blind.
Either in or off the field, all are dancing,
And a large crowd is excitedly watching”

The above song consist of words that rhymes with the rhythms of clattering cane sticks.

Gods here come from Kerala!!!
Iguthappa temple in Coorg is a prominent place of worship for Kodavas located near salubrious Kakkabe. Iguthappa the main deity of the temple is also the chief divinity for Kodavas, iggu in kodava is grain and thappa means to give. It looked like a temple that seems to evoke favor with snake gods.
Coorg is a pleasant place to roam around charmingly green and agreeable people. So while I was in Medikeri took a bus to Kakkabe, at a tea shop I asked a man, who not surprisingly happened to be a Malayali, about Iguthappa temple and presiding deity and so on. Since there was ample time –as the buses are infrequent in this part of the world –he got talking. He said, what I thought was a hilarious irony, gods here come from Kerala. He winked, probably realizing there is a humor here, and next few minutes narrated to me rather excitedly about Igguthappa who had left Kerala because he found the climate at Coorg agreeable (surely a godly enough reason!!), he was accompanied by his brothers and sister. Tired by walking for days they camped near Kakkabe, they milked the stray cow and with the rice they were carrying prepared payasam. They needed plate so they asked the owner of the property for plantain leaves who angered by the intrusion refused. Iguthappa did what gods are good at –atleast in this part of the world, he cursed. Henceforth no plantain will grow in the property; it remains so to this day. It is stuff that makes miracles I guess. All important dates are ascertained by the priest through Kerala Panchang system.

The bus halted at the dead end on the edge of the hill at the entrance of the temple, further up seemed like forest that I came to know later was Aiyengeri forest. The surroundings of the temple are sparsely inhabited by people who are into coffee and other plantations. There was a small crowd in the temple, seemed like monthly gathering or something of that sort. Famished and tired the free refreshments at the temple courtyard caught my unadulterated attention, after the fill I explored the place. You could mistake yourself to be in Kerala, the temple is in typical Kerala architect – that itself was influenced by early Buddhism. Deepastambam, vilakumadam so on, low lying triangular roof and space around the main shrine (chuttabalam) for people to rest. Like temples in Kerala devotees waited for the priest to open the nada and peek in from a rather narrow door. After an hour or so the deity was taken out for a procession around the shrine. Now this is where the Coorgy flavor overtakes and differ much from Kerala. As soon as the
idol is taken out for procession instead of stern demeanor the priest is expected to maintain, as is the case in Kerala temples -sometimes these are carried on elephants with accompaniments of nadaswaram and chenda in almost businesslike manner. The priest start a jig to my utmost consternation, he put a step here and a step there and rushed as abruptly, with the idol still mounted on his head, to one corner of the premise, while the acolytes cautioned the crowd to give way. As abruptly he started he halted at one end of the courtyard as a woman whispered her woes the priest was instant with his solution, others joined in. This went on for much of the noon as the priest circumnutated the devotees, halting for those in immediate need of favor. 

Lunch was arranged at the adjoining hall, devotees backed up as volunteers and everything handled in clockwork precision. After the lunch –spartan but delicious, I decided to walk back the verdant route, about a Km or two down caught up with a bus and was back in my hotel by the evening. Late into the night a thought start to pervade my mind…Coorg could be the place I might finally settle down!! But on a second thought you can only settle if you are unsettled!! 

From my scribble pad...

Little girl in the garden

She talks to the flowers
and to herself, and the damselfly
and all that there is to talk to
of course she realises
that language never been a barrier
everything right in its place to be picked.
and arranged into her world.
A gaiety the tiny body carries
much beyond herself,
one step back, a step in front
dance she beget and forgotten at the instance.

In the late noon of her life
when time has signalled its triumph
she will recall that everything was right in the garden

Saturday, June 18, 2011

White-napped woodpecker: its family time!!

You would mostly find White-naped Woodpecker in groups comprising mostly of siblings or parents, sometimes even unrelated young ones which they are known to tutor. Seen in well wooded country they are quite active and loud. I am getting quite lucky with woodpeckers and this one might be the seventh or eighth specie I am writing in this site. Since then I am able to gather one more information about Woodpecker and that is they tap the wood-a hollow sound, also to let know their territory. 

Eugenio Montale: Bring me the sunflower that I may transplant it

Bring me the sunflower that I may transplant it
in my saline burned ground,
and that it might display all day to the blue expanses
of the sky the anxiety of its pale yellow face.

Things that are dark long for brightness,
the bodies exhaust themselves in a flowing
of colours: these become music. To fade away
is therefore a chance among chances.

Bring me the plant which leads
to where the blonde transparencies appear
and where life dissolves like essence;
bring me the sunflower insane with light.

One of the website i visit atleast once in a fortnight is the Nobel Prize website. It’s about some amazing people. Awards may or may not be important and there may be many brilliant people who may not have got awards but the fact remains that Nobel Prize winners are mostly some very remarkable people, who have done some amazing stuff. In my younger days despite problems and craps one face in life one thing i kept an eye on was who were the Nobel Prize winners and what they have done and its implications, as also what they have to say. Many a times i used to keep paper cutting, now of course internet has made it easier. And yes their speeches became important reference points, as also initiating myself into refined reading. 

It is while i was visiting the website the other day that i came across this Italian poet (must add Swedish poet Martinson about whom i wrote in my earlier blog was also a find from this website). Eugenio Montale (1896-1981) served as an Infantry officer during World War I, when he was asked to join the Fascist forces during late 1930s he quit public life and devoted his attention to translate Shakespeare and Eliot into Italian, in the meantime he wrote some wonderful poems. Montale once remarked, "I do not go in search of poetry. I wait for poetry to visit me." 

The Lemons

Listen, the prize poets stroll
only among the trees
with uncommon names:
boxwood, privet, acanthus.
Me, I love roads that run out
among grassy ditches into
mud-puddles where kids
hunt skinny eels; lanes
that follow field-banks down
through beds of reeds and
end up in back gardens
among the lemon trees.

Best if the birds' chatter-prattle
is hushed, swallowed up
by the blue: then you'll hear
– clearer in the still air – the whisper
of companionable branches,
and catch a sense of that smell
that can't tear itself from earth,
drenching you in edgy pleasure.
Here, by some miracle, the battle
between one distracting passion
and another dies down, and here
even we who are poor
pick up our share of wealth –
and it's the scent of lemons.

Look, in these silences
which things sink into
and seem on the verge of
opening their closest secret,
you'd expect once in a while
to uncover some mistake
in nature, the world's still point,
some weak link, the loose thread
that leads us at last
to the heart of truth. Eyes
rummage in every corner:
the mind seeks agrees argues
with itself in this perfume
that floats – as day fades –
over everything; a silence
in which, in every dwindling
human shadow, a troubled
divinity could be seen.

But the image fades, and time
takes us back to the din of cities
where you see the sky only
in bits and pieces, off up
among the chimneys. Rain then
wears the earth out, dreary winter
settles down around the houses,
light grows miserly, the soul bitter,
till one day, through a half-
shut gate, you see
among the trees in someone's yard
the yellows of lemons –
and the heart's ice melts,
and with their music
the golden trumpets of sunshine
blow your bones wide open.

Do not ask us the word which in every way 

Do not ask us the word which in every way
our shapeless soul perhaps measures, and in letters of fire
may declaim it and shine like a crocus
lost in the centre of a dusty field. 

Ah! the man who goes away sure,
to others and to himself a friend,
and cares not about his shadow which the dog days
reflect across a plasterless wall!

Ask us not for the formula to open worlds for you,
only some syllable distorted and dry like a twig.
This alone is what we can tell you today,
that which we are not, that which we do not want.


I was giving a lecture
to the "Friends of Cacania"
on the subject "Is Life Likely?"
when I remembered I
was totally agnostic,
love and hate in equal parts and the outcome
unsure, depending on the moment.
Then I decided five minutes
were enough--
two and a half for the thesis
two and a half for the antithesis
this was the only homage possible
for a man without qualities.
I spoke exactly thirty-five sconds.
And when I said
that yes and no were look alikes
shouts and whispers interrupted my talk
and I awoke. It was the most laconic dream
of my life, maybe the only one not devoid
of "quality."

Often I have encountered the evil of living

Often I have encountered the evil of living:
it was the strangled stream which gurgles,
it was the crumpling sound of the dried out
leaf, it was the horse weaty and exhausted. 

The good I knew not, other than the miracle
revealed by divine Indifference:
it was the statue in the slumber
of the afternoon, and the cloud, and the high flying falcon. 

I recall your smile, and it is for me a lucid water 

I recall your smile, and it is for me a lucid water
Discovered by chance between the pebbles,
a meagre mirror in which to watch a reflection of the ivy,
and with it all I embrace a quiet white sky.

Such is my memory; I would not know how to describe,
or distant from your face as it expresses the free, innocent spirit,
Or are you a wanderer who challenges the evil of the world
and who carriers his suffering with himself like a talisman.

But this I can say to you, that the memory of your image
engulfs the animosity in a big, calm wave,
and which your image brings to my vivid memory
Openhearted like the tip of a young palm…

Winter lingers on. The sun is doled out

Winter lingers on. The sun is doled out
with a dropper. Isn't it strange that we,
lords and perhaps inventors of the universe,
to understand a piece of it, must trust
the charlatans and soothsayers mushrooming everywhere?
It seems obvious the Gods
are beginning to tire of their presumptive
children or wards.
Even clearer that, Gods or demigods,
they in turn have quit
their employers, if they ever had any.
But. . .

The Wall

To lie in shadow on the lawn
By a crumbling wall, pale and withdrawn
And spy in the weeds the gliding snake
And hear the rustle blackbirds make –
To watch in the cracked earth and the grass
Battalions of red ants at drill,
That break and form ranks, pass and repass
In busy marches on some tiny hill –
To catch, each time the leaves blow free,
The faint and pulsing motion of the sea,
While ceaseless, tremulous and shrill,
The cicadas chatter on the bald hill –
Rising, to wander in bewilderment
With the sun's dazzle, and the sorry thought
How all our life, and all its labors spent,
Are like a man upon a journey sent
Along a wall that's sheer and steep and
endless, dressed
With bits of broken bottles on its crest.

From my scribbling pad.....

Mishap with the shaving razor 

Scrapped skin pinch a drop
of blood out the throbbing vein
from the dreary task of oxygen carriers
nano matters that cleave life from death
ferrous ignited RBCs glisten under the bulb.

Aeons ago,
Time, Space and Matter encounter the laws of nature
meanwhile supernovas billions of light years afar
let itself die and condense into an
arrangement that let butterfly hold its colours.

Is it a star or is it divine
that dance in my blood?