Poetry is Śūnyatā
for Family & Friends
Life and living transpires in the in/visible Śūnyatā.
Poetry is the prism that unveils the spectrums of sounds & colours of this indispensable, indelible, and inescapable emptiness.
I can ONLY hear, see & speak through the ears, eyes & mouth of poetry, I am afraid.
I do not think it would be an exaggeration, or presumptuous, on my part to profess that those who (can/do) hear, see & speak without poetry, really fail to perceive, witness, and experience the (essence of) art that life & living really is.
When I composed my very first vers libre at the naïve age of eleven, I had embarked upon the Odyssey Of Consciousness that in/pro-vokes the Realisation: the visible-intangibility is, but merely a byproduct of the invisible-tangibility.
Hence, here I am: still on the very Voyage.
And so are many others.
Hence, Bon Voyage to us!
©️ Saad Ali (Oct 2020)
*Sunyata (Sanskrit) = Emptiness / Void-ness
for All Aficionados of Art & Poetry
noun (?) – hmm, intriguing /
whosoever classified the things
into the classes that they did, i swear /
but why not! – for, to date,
in several cultures & traditions,
words ‘ve more value than people & actions /
if there were no words,
would there be (any) pictures (et vice versa?) /
imagine a lexicon without (any) words & pictures /
imagine life & living without (any) art & poetry /
apparently, she was too materialistic:
she put all my words on the noose-of-pragmatism
and deprived all my memories of frames of imageries /
words are very unnecessary,
they can only do harm –*
take my word for it /
©️ Saad Ali (Apr 2021)
i couldn’t resist the force of compulsion – yet again / (yeah: FUCK the rule about starting the first word of every new sentence with a capital first letter!) / it was just-quickly-grab-whicheverpen-situation, really / … / it’s as true a testimony to the human condition(s) as it can get – that’s my take on Lispector’s Agua Viva / (Kafka himself wouldn’t be able to resist marrying her) / (i can’t help recommending it to everyone) / i need to revisit it, though: i need to revisit her to revisit myself / the female thinker & artist is seriously suppressed in this so-called Land of Pure / it’s appalling, even heinous! / i thought the valour & vigour displayed by Shakir was commendable, though / you’ve given me a nickname of ‘the doll’. yes, it’s justified, after all. to the playful hands of the hedonists, but of course, i am only that /* generalisation, determinism, apathy – were some of the sins she was up against / she is a Szymborska, a Plath of south asia, to me / … / (how long will my next literary-fasting last, i wonder?) / … / honestly, i was rest assured that the exchanges between Umme and i were bound to result in both of us drawing inspirations, but this speed-of-light response from her, i hadn’t anticipated – i’ll admit / hers is only the second instance—thus far, in my life—when an artist has dedicated a composition to me / it’s not about ‘returning the favour’, but the fashioning and manifestation of my inspiration is due now / … / post meridiem has been rendered the norm – yet again / hmm / the title, Owl Of Pines, is justified, after all / i’ll confess, i do look forward to greeting her at 0430 every ante meridiem now / it’s unprecedented as to how comfortable i am with sharing my life-stories with her – even the most private ones, too / the candidness was mostly facilitated by the subject of astronomy/astrology / "did you know, it’s not the sun-sign, but the moon-sign which governs a person’s life?” – was how she sealed my attention / (i cannot state all the details of all our conversations here now. c’mon!) / but she thought owl of athena was a creature of fiction – even my uppagus / (i had to show her a few photos of the actual bird to try to stimulate a change in her belief system) / it’s the visual memory, above all, which has kept all manner of classic/modern/postmodern fictions & non-fictions alive to date / anyway, a (poetic) discourse on the genealogy of memory on another occasion now / … / various narratives & various variants of the SARS-CoV have been popping up (in the market), lately / but it’s the political-economy of diseases & medicines that i’m more interested in / anyway, i had better tend to the recipe for the organic herbal-remedy (ayurvedic) for protecting myself against the evils of this bastard virus / i’ve always had difficulties with putting all my eggs in the basket of the western methods of intervention & allopathic medicines anyway / … / on this note, maybe i should conclude this random tapestry of alphabets / until the sequel then / Au revoir!
©️ Saad Ali (Apr 2021)
*My literal translation of the opening two verses from Parveen Shakir’s (The Late) poem titled ‘Nickname’.
A Poem Without Punctuation
for Nikolaos, George, Leonidas & Pats
after Composition with Capital Letters by Vasyul Yermilov (Ukraine), 1915 C.E.
this is a poem without punctuation but just not that it is also a poem without any regard for capital letters it has no particular theme or a subject it is not about any particular person or a place or a thing it is more an offspring of an idea of having a ball with words and sentences without any periods and pauses and line breaks but the very idea or the rule if you like of punctuation qualifies as a theme or a subject no i wonder though if they have invented a genre for such a composition in literature i do know of a few instances though where such a practice has been observed admittedly though in the midst of this composition i ended up deviating from the original objective and inserting mostly periods commas semicolons hyphens many times by force of habit no as a consequence of conditioning more like and admittedly even composing these few lines without any regard for punctuation has been arduous i wonder though if all the history books holy books science books poetry books and what have you were written without any punctuation i wonder though if the punctuation were not invented in the first place i wonder though if the language itself were not invented in the first place i wonder though if the page didnt have any margins i wonder though if such a page has even ever existed i wonder though if poems were composed in a single continuous line vertically or horizontally or diagonally or as a combination of three or other combinations i wonder though if such a poem has been composed ever i wonder though if i would be able to compose such a poem ever well at the onset of this composition i thought i was going to be rather successful with keeping this poem theme proof but look how many themes have popped up already and i am certain the more i continue here the more themes will keep emerging so i think i should leave it now until the sequel and maybe i should seriously consider putting together an anthology with poems without punctuation but hold on as i was about to close this case another intriguing thought occurred in my thalamus how do the sentences without spaces between the words look like maybe something like this sentenceswithoutspacesbetweenthewordslooklikethis interesting admittedly this is seriously addictive let me try a few more thequickbrownfoxjumpsoverthelazydog interesting onethingonlyiknowandthatisiknownothing fabulous now what if i rewrite this entire poem without any spaces between the words i wonder though how many have thought or are thinking along these lines alright i think i need to stop by the way only if these lines were not bound by the borders of this page this poem would qualify as a single continuous sentence
©️ Saad Ali (Dec 2020)
First Published in "The Ekphrastic World Anthology" by Luzajic, L. C. (ed.) (2020)
Catching the Train to Czestochowa
after Landscape with Carriage and Train by Vincent van Gogh (Dutch), 1890 C.E.
for Monica Pisniak
1. Warsaw Fredric Chopin International Airport
I land at the Warsaw Fredric Chopin International Airport on a Summer afternoon. The hour hand on my wristwatch says 2 and the minute hand, 35—on the 7th day of June, 2017 C.E. It’s really hot today, the immigration officer whinges to me. But it’s only 22o C, I point her to the digital meteorometer. Where I come from, the average temperatures are 40o C during this time of the year across the Southern region of the country, I part the news to her. You’ll enjoy this weather then, she wishes me a pleasant stay. Of course, this is not my virgin trip to Europe, but only to Poland. But of course, I’ve brought my wardrobe of warm clothes, too.
You don’t come to give me a reception at the airport, ‘cause I told you not to. Because I wanted us to save them 35 – 40 Euros for the visits to other cities and towns that we had been planning for months—especially, The Tatras and The Jasna Gora Monastery. Hello, I’m here. The train to Czestochowa will depart in 50 minutes. I’ll see you soon, I keep the phone call deliberately short. OK, you answer the mobile phone even before the first ring completes its course. They’ve increased the toll tax again on making calls via public telephone booths here, I take a mental note, or is this how it is here in Poland? My dark-brown suitcase appears on the conveyer belt, at last. Next stop: tend to my addictions of caffeine and nicotine. Now, THIS IS HOW THE CAPPUCCINO IS MEANT TO TASTE LIKE, as I take the first few sips from my (large) first cup of coffee, I draw comparisons between the quality of life in Pakistan and Europe, and remind myself of the life that I once had had the privilege of living only nine odd years ago or so. The first few puffs of a cigarette (Marlboro Gold) make me feel guilty, … but it was the first puff in the Summer of ’08 C.E. that was the culprit … . And I make a resolution, I WILL QUIT SMOKING THIS YEAR, COME WHAT MAY!
2. The Train
I, rather prudently, place my (medium) second cup of coffee (Latte, this time) on the table, and take a window seat in a booth with a seating arrangement for four people—reliving my preferences for the mode of commuting (i.e. train), beverage and seat from when I used to make journeys during my (almost a) decade long stay in the UK. After two and a half hours, I am still the only person occupying the booth. Should I be surprised though, I think to myself? Anyway, I take the liberty of putting my black Fedora hat and dark-grey corduroy jacket on the adjacent seat. ‘Czestochowa’ means a place with a mountain on one side and river on the other side, you told me during our etymology related discussions some time ago. As I pull out Love Poems from God by D. Ladinsky from my tan leather postman bag to keep me company for the next hour or so, I take another look at the souvenir (mosaic—assorted colourful glass pieces) to reassure myself that it’s still in one piece.
By now, it has been > three and a half hours since my last cigarette. To my relief, the announcement is made: the service will make a short stop of three minutes at the next station. Do they allow smoking on the platforms here though? This is the only thought that carries any value for me at this stage.
A group of locals (of four lads and two girls) have gathered that I’m not from around the town. The skin tone, colour of hair, attire—it’s the whole package that has given my foreign presence away, obviously. They are intrigued and want to make an acquaintance as they approach me with "broken English” (as we put in colloquial terminology in Pakistan). But they are mostly interested in showing off their English (language) skills, I know. I’m here to visit my girlfriend, I unreluctantly disclose the purpose of my visit. And immediately, I’m offered the Cytrynowka (lemon Polish vodka) and we all raise a toast. This (Polish Vodka), I ought to have more of, I make a serious mental note.
In the middle of reading ‘The Moment’s Depth’ by Rabia of Basra from the anthology, I can see you blushing madly, when we hug and kiss in < 30 minutes.
And I give birth to this prose poem on the milky-white plain pages of my black leather (hardback) journal—with < half a dozen sips left in my third (small) cup of coffee (Mocha, this time).
3. The Premonition
That was the dream, I saw the other night—two weeks prior to the intended trip, to be precise. And it stayed a dream. But perhaps, the events would’ve unfolded in the same sequence, too, had the premonition been granted a chance to materialise.