Back to 2007 Ghazals
I am abandoned from my country of Spanish,
The last time my father clutched at my hands
In a terraced grove, we once sighed and watched
The night sky quivered with the stars' holy breath,
Now we find only the remnants of loss:
The language of the sun-wrinkled faces in fields,
My lover undresses me, fumbling and brutal.
I'm tired of dying, I tell him in English,
Only the embers remain of them now:
A bleak season arrived when I alit at Kabul.
Here in the street, festering water and dust.
We kiss on the kilim embroidered with vines
In the city's dimness I number each star.
I weep for a history I cannot recall,
A boy waves esfand to force evil astray;
Steel tendrils of buildings, rockets at dusk
Above us in cobalt, a delicate sky
In my chamber he half-sings, Brandy, for what do you mourn?
Touch your lip, to the lip, of my wine glass
Drowned deep in Ink, the Page is Parched
Parting the Sea may be a work of Might
"Many-a-slip betwixt cup and lip"
"Your sins are washed," wicked Ahmed cries
How soft, how swift is muscle's strength dismissed in width upon its rest.
Eight minutes past its emanation birth, the sun is gone away.
Material simplicity presents the blest iconic face.
His form I see and wish for me; and pray my light as yonder break.
Expansive rush unorganized: the cosmos voids by nonchalance.
He met a stranger's narrative and greeted it with bon voyage.
How Helios can know full day is mystery if sawn in two.
Jot first and write the alpha verse; and then omega awnings tell.
Beneath trees shadows pool like black water.
Nights I pace the shore's rippled sands, watch
When you are swept into the icy depths
Shadowy figures appear in dim moonlight
Bodies plummet from a sinking freighter,
Emerging from swells in a stormy ocean,
Abode of the deity who summons thunder,
A fire's first sparks the wind will hone in grasses,
A wayward dervish stalled that was compelled
Seagulls hectored the phantoms of mariners,
Searching always for what it cannot find,
Torn from their trees by a storm
The rainbowed wings of dragonflies gleam,
A cyclone raced across the shore
It sleeps immersed in the rich, dark earth
Sat Jun 30 18:53:22 2007
Loss, exile, language, love: these themes in various linkages are universal in poetry from ancient times to the present. Brandy Bauer's two ghazals exemplify how these themes may be explored by the ghazal in English. She deploys the radif in each ghazal skillfully.
The lines of the ghazals lilt: try reading them outloud and let your voice almost sing them. The basic measure, as I scan them, is a four-beat accentual meter, although the last sher or two of "Kabul" runs to five accents. The effectiveness of the lines relies also on consonance, especially in the last two shers of "Kabul."
If you read these ghazals aloud, you may hear, as I did, the ghost of dactylic or anapestic feet: three syllables with the stress on either the first or the last syllable. The poems never break into the rocking rhythm typical of verse written entirely in anapests or dactyls. ("Hiawatha" anyone?)
If you are tuned, as am I, to the placement of commas in a sentence, you'll notice extra commas in lines 1, 2, and 4. Ahmed told me that he had put the commas in as markers of rhythm; leaving them seems appropriate to guide the reader's eye and tongue. I hope you will notice some of the play of sound in "Wine Glass": the way "deep" (line 3) plays off the several "-ip" sounds is very nice. I especially like the "Page" "Parched" sequence: the vowel shifts slightly and the consoants "g" and "ch" chime well.
"Wine Glass" expresses traditional themes of wine, dream, inspiration, love, sin and salvation in translucent verse. The takhullus expresses well the tone of the poem--a wry, self-deprecating humor.
"Rest" has associations with Paradise, that universal garden, and with the Sabbath, which many of us share even if by different names and on different days of the week. Reading "Its Rest" aloud, I am struck by the strength of its rhythms. One factor that contributes to that strength is an adroit combination of one- or two-syllable words with longer ones. Perhaps because of the several references to the sun, this ghazal also has a sense of space, openness, depth.
To my ear, these two ghazals have a quick, percussive rhythm, created partially by the many sequences of syllables each receiving strong (though not identical) stress. The radif itself, "black water," is an example of this sequence. In English there are four levels of significant stress. "Water" receives the strongest stress, and "black" the next strongest. (That sequence of stresses marks an adjective-noun sequence.) "Black Water" has a mysterious, fantastic quality, of dangers that appear from dimness, night, and depths.
The syntax of the first line of "Grasses" is a bit tricky: "sparks" is a noun, and "wind" is the active subject of the sentence. Transposing the object phrase, "A fire's first sparks" to the first of the line creates suspense that resolves into the fire lit in long grasses. The last couplet (makhta) recall's Basho's haiku about a grassy battlefield. Fields of grass change and shift in the wind and light from the sky, yet they stay rooted in place. Grass becomes an apt, natural symbol for change and flow on a rooted ground.