The Miscarriage by Amit Majmudar

Some species can crack pavement with their shoots
Source: The Miscarriage

“if I consoled you it would make the loss

your loss”
—–
How can Amit Majmudar’s words so relentlessly tangle the insides? Each line comes loaded, “his wealth of heartbeats.”

I am currently reading his collection Dothead (2016). It has two ghazals. One of which is a “Sonzal” (to employ a term created by Majmudar). It is the combination of a sonnet and a ghazal (akin to the manner in which Sharon Dolin plays with the two forms in her sonnet/ghazal – in Burn and Dodge (2008)). His ghazals “Tastebud Sonzal” and “Pandemic Ghazal” are devastatingly beautiful. They present a unique dance between the mind and the body, forms of different types, physical as well as metaphorical, enclosed within this precarious mortality. It is intriguing that a man of science such as Majmudar oscillates so effortlessly between medical pragmatism and abstract philosophy.

Is this the way ahead for hyphenated poets – these breathtaking offshoots of clarity and creativity? Sometimes I wish there was a simple answer to this question, but often I avoid making a merit out of simplicity and embrace this amalgamation of forces.

dt1

Owl Time of Year

 

Part 1

BBT-INTJ“I am an introvert,” Owl said. Followed by silence and Robin burst out laughing. “No, really, I am,” Owl insisted.

“Oh ya! And, Obama is King of the World,” Robin got up and hugged me, while still chuckling.

“Well, in a way he is. And, I am.” Sparrow had her hand over her mouth. “I mean I am not King of the World. Obama might be. But, I am an introvert. I do not enjoy company. I am happy being on my own. In fact, I avoid people. With a vengeance.”

Robin made a faux glum-face, “Oie don’t be mean now, we have been friends for so long. We know you love us. Plus you are so social.”

“That is the whole point. I do love you. But from a distance. I care deeply. But you make me anxious. Very anxious.”

Sparrow poured us some more tea, “These red velvet cupcakes are to die for.” “Do you know Kingfisher’s birds have flown from the nest? Poor girl she is so restless now.”

***

Part 2

Later, much later, after four, or five years, this episode was narrated as the day Owl had her moment. “Remember that time she went all introvert on us.” Laughter. Hysterical giggles.

“Oh no you don’t,” Owl said, hitting Sparrow with the cushion.

—-

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Part 3

Once upon a time when Owl was young her mommy used to throw her these massive birthday parties. The cake was a basket decorated with delicate flowers. There were pink roses, blue pansies, and violets, white daisies layered over a weave so exquisite and edible. The table had heaps of treats – mushroom and chicken patties, mini burgers, sandwich rolls, animal-shaped cookies, mountains of spicy diamond cuts, sausage wraps and melted cheese straws. This was for the children. For the adults that accompanied them there were freshly fried hot puris, dahi vadas, aloo dum, chicken drumsticks and garden salad. Games were organized; a treasure hunt that had prizes at each step, passing the parcel, musical chairs and dark room.

As the silver metal hexagonal shapes on the front gate swung a bell used to ring in the front verandah. By the time the cars rolled up the gravel and came up the front porch the servers walked out with their drink trays. Each guest was welcomed with care.

Owl always had new shiny clothes. She was asked to be polite and wish everyone. However, there was a big problem. Owl did not want to meet people. Owl hid behind her mommy and refused to budge from there. As she was prodded and poked to dip her head out to say hi she would more insistently hold on to her mother’s dress. She got attached to it. Being dragged from end to end, trying to smile, but clinging on behind became a habit, till mommy got exasperated. “This party is for you. C’mon you have to make your guests feel good. Stop being so painfully shy.” Everyone in Owl’s family loved to talk – they hooted the night away, making merry with lots of noise. Owl wanted to curl. Owl wanted her books. Owl wanted that corner between the twigs and rags. And, thus, every party, every year became a dreaded affair for Owl. The more she was asked to step out the more she hid her face in the pleats.

One year, when Owl was a bit grown-up (but not-fully a grown-up) she decided to make mends. She let go of the dress she was desperately holding on to. She was amiable, friendly and almost gregarious – all to prove she was anything but shy. She did not lack confidence. She wrapped her not-want-to-meet-people into neat folds and put it in her back-jean-pocket. Mommy Owl felt a lot better. No one prodded or poked. After five hours of hopping around and eating too much Owl had a moment to herself. Everyone had left. Their pet dog Poodles was slumped on the floor. Owl leaned on him. National Geographic was playing on the television. She could get through this. As long as there were these moments – after. She could glide through events. Post these, she had the pillows, the corners, the little feel-good-factors.

—-

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Below is a letter Owl sent to me to post here on her behalf: 

Dear Universe,

A lifetime of — being social, cheerful, peppy, chirpy, for occasions — is tiresome. It is a performance. One, which I can assure you, can be skilfully mastered in order to let people (you care about) feel that you do. Because people (aka we) have been conditioned to constantly crave affirmations.

But, here’s the catch, I want to sincerely apologize if my introversion has caused you any hurt. I don’t care any less. I do think of you, often. I do miss you. But, I am not lonely when I am alone. I am happy. Content. Peaceful. Excited. All of those. And, I do love you. Very much. And, lastly, this will make you laugh out loud: this is not about you – it is about me. Funny, eh! Not. Oh ok. I tried.

Love, Owl

enhanced-buzz-5106-1390335836-8(image courtesy: buzzfeed)

Recommended Reading

Caring for your Introvert – Jonathan Rauch (an excellent piece to understand how presentations and parties are different from groups and small talk)

Why do we feel compelled to include ourselves? Susan Cain, thank you. Quiet. Introversion as a fuel for being creative.

Because I like graphic novels. And this is a simple enough explanation. How to interact with someone who tells you they are introverted.

The need to create. Why we are the way we are?

The reason why Owl sent the post: Daring Greatly.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

[If your curiosity is piqued – I am an INTJ]

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Talking to strangers

A few days back my aged taxi driver Abdullah informed me of how Hafez was far from being a purist, he was a diluter of true Persian culture, writing in an Arab form. He quoted Ferdowsi and said, “now he is the man to study for pure Persian literary gems – go read Ferdowsi and take some time away from Hafez.” I nodded remarking that maybe my summer read should indeed be the Shahnameh. He smiled, “It has no words from Arabic in it, not even remotely.” “Yes, I must immerse into it, not just the bits and pieces that I pick and choose like Rostam and Sohrab.”

After some chit-chat about Dutch weather and an Indian Summer, he started nodding his head to some internal music: “No don’t spend time on kings this summer,” he said, “read Khayyam and go all romantic.” I laughed, “Nightingales, Wine and Roses!” I exclaimed. We chuckled like conspiring children.

In the meantime my eight-year old looked out of the window.

The moment we got off, Bambi crossed his arms, “Listen Mom no talking to strangers. How many times do I have to tell you?”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Being a strong woman isn’t remarkable, it’s normal

“Please do not twist yourself into shapes to please. Don’t do it. If someone likes that version of you, that version of you that is false and holds back, then they actually just like that twisted shape, and not you. And the world is such a gloriously multifaceted, diverse place that there are people in the world who will like you, the real you, as you are.”

——

It was a stormy day. The rain pelted down, wind whipped, and grey unwelcoming clouds left without a comment. A series of unfortunate incidents unfolded: meetings that did not happen, buses that were missed, and metros that left with my reflection on their shut doors, some letters did not make it to the postbox, others I never got around to writing.

And, then there was this. This video of Chimamnanda Ngozi speaking at Wellesley College, Massachusetts.

It is the end of the day, as the reading lamp shows me the way through the words, as I navigate through theory and text, as I ask Darwish for the nth time, in my mind, where should birds fly after the last sky? ….I thank the cosmos. The weekend will bring the sun. This week will be over – like all weeks, and days, and months, and years.

All I can do is fight for my right to intellectual labor – persevere, persevere, persevere. I think of all the chapters that go into comprising a life, of Ngozi saying:

“I already knew that the world does not extend to women the many small courtesies that it extends to men.

I also knew that victimhood is not a virtue. That being discriminated against does not make you somehow morally better.

And I knew that men were not inherently bad or evil. They were merely privileged. And I knew that privilege blinds because it is the nature of privilege to blind.”

I think of being in a position of privilege myself – of having, knowing, owning, partaking – how further have I come, I know more than I knew, I have more than I had. How would I fare in the percentile of privilege, and who do I benchmark it with and against? That glimmer of light cuts through the cataract of having-moved-on. A journey of determination can start in many different ways, you start for yourself, with only but the self, and soon you find that you are walking with others, and for others, for those who don’t have, don’t know, don’t own and don’t partake – and you know you need to see this to the end. Because you made it. Because you had to. There is no otherwise.

“Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get your hands dirty way.” So much work left to do.

The Body by Boston Gordon

The Body by Boston Gordon – Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics.

The Body

By Boston Gordon
March 16, 2015

There is of course the cutting of the body.
Lean away from that for a minute. Stand
in the middle of a shack on fabric row
and browse the cardboard bricks wrapped
in lace and taffeta. You can feel the taffeta
like the bustle skirt thrown at you from stage
at the burlesque show. Where you sweat
under orange show lights and notice the ordinary
nature of breasts—watch the sequins swept aside.
The breasts are bags of wine. Your breasts
are hanging hunks that you often relate to cutting.
Because people you know sometimes cut theirs
off so as not to look like you. You being a bust
and ass and legs that make a man say Ahem,
miss what’re you trying to tell me with those legs?


You’re shocked because your boyfriend fucks
you like a real man, but everyone is looking
at your hormonal fat, your body like a melting
sculpture. So you tie your shoes or lock your bike
and look down and think about the cutting.
Think that even in another body, even after
that barter with the mud wasp and surgeon,
you would still not be settled. Not just this
body, but all body. So in the fabric store
the shears make that good sound like rubbing
two nickels together and you’re back
to the six yards of burlap unfolding
on the countertop and the body steps away
from cut. Cut. It refuses to be just a body.

 

The Pond by Gregory Orr

The Pond by Gregory Orr : The Poetry Foundation.

Snapping turtles in the pond eat bass, sunfish,
and frogs. They do us no harm when we swim.
But early this spring two Canada geese
lingered, then built a nest. What I’d
heard of, our neighbor feared: goslings,
as they paddle about, grabbed from below
by a snapper, pulled down to drown.
                                                                   So he stuck
hunks of fat on huge, wire-leadered hooks
attached to plastic milk-bottle buoys.
The first week he caught three turtles
and still there are more: sometimes he finds
the bottles dragged ashore, the wire
wrapped several times around a pine trunk
and the steel hook wrenched straight as a pin.

Gregory Orr, “The Pond” fromThe Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems(2002: Copper Canyon Press, 2002). http://www.coppercanyonpress.org