The Ghazal Page

Index to 2012 issues of The Ghazal Page

Issue One

All text and design © 2012, by Mary Cresswell, Vivek Sharma, and Gene Doty.

Chant for the Return Home

Mary Cresswell

The seven seas aren’t what we thought they would be
packed to the gunnels with rum and rebellion.
Our tall ships fly home, flat tack in the wind.

We’ll alight and seek life in the tussocky rocks,
seek fewmets and footprints and niblets of spoor.
With no forest for shelter we’ll bivouac in the wind.

Tough trees lie flat; they clutch at the cliffs,
the grasses grow grasping and desperate —
nothing withstands the impact of the wind.

We grab hands and race for the deepest cave
hoping to lie in the light of our warmth
with the ghost of our hope left intact by the wind.

But gone means gone — we can’t sail back on the wind.
… … …
The black dog’s ears go flat in the wind.

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Your Kamuk Eyes

Vivek Sharma

I am an ancient snake, wood, flute, tongue —
Turned to bronze asp, silent ash, by your eyes.

Tremors of smiles on your lips unsettle me;
For I hear the oceans surge, crash in your eyes.

Dust-storms, forest-fires, tsunamis, apocalypse —
Created, abated by you, my Mahesh, by your eyes.

Hindi poets immortalized lotus-eyed women.
I see their similes life-size, pratyaksh in your eyes!

Sketched in kohl by Goddess Rati,
I see every Kamasutra passion flash in your eyes.

Otherwise wanton like dogs of a red-light district —
How many wag tales of devotion, confess before your eyes?

Who needs hashish, opium, wine, tea to incite angst?
Revolutions arise by an askance, an address of your eyes.

Even they who know quarks and event horizons,
Are perplexed metaphor-less before the abyss: your eyes.

Mist, myth, magic, maya, immortality, motherhood —
I see unfurl … unfold … unwind afresh in your eyes.

For you, Kavi Vivek can forsake wealth, fame, even divinity.
What are these, but trifles for him who can possess your eyes?

Version 2: Here is an alternative to the closing couplet of "Your Kamuck Eyes."

For you, Kavi Vivek can forsake wealth, fame, even divinity.
Bah! These are but trifles for him who can possess your eyes.

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Refugees in Love

Vivek Sharma

Lured by her hazel eyes, I entered her town, as a disguised refugee.
Then she married another, leaving me, a lovelorn, despised refugee

I am a Pandit forced to leave my apple orchards of Kashmir.
In my own nation I reside in shanties as a compromised refugee.

You are a Muslim dear: but weren’t your ancestors Hindus like me?
What are Pakistan Hindustan … excuses for a new domicile: Refugee?

In my veins you’ll find the trails of the so-called Aryan blood.
Do I have a homeland or am I, my inheritance, lies? Refugee?

O Beloved, you squandered me for faith, migrated to Pakistan.
To be called a Muhajir there? To become a despised refugee?

Even in America, this land of prosperity, puritans and pilgrims.
Don’t they resent Hispanics and me: often baptized refugee?

Your contradictions are so Middle-Eastern, I call you Israel or Palestine:
You've forgotten that your ancestor arrived here as an ostracized refugee!

Were Adam-Eve first exiles on Earth? Did Manu row the Ark?
Questions of faith, beloved or who was the first scribed refugee?

Can’t you see I have obliterated each trait of my ethnic self?
Yet I’m not counted as your own. Ah! To be identified refugee!

Is there no space for Vivek in your realms of religion or love?
What about the nations where we both are descried refugee?

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Mary Cresswell

Knowing far too well the snow
who would want the smell of snow?

Leave the lotus, farewell the olive,
we’ll fly to a polar hell of snow.

I look up to the overhang,
hypnotized by the spell of snow.

When it hits us, we’re always surprised:
winged horses can’t corral the snow.

You are a sweet-smelling avalanche
a veritable Chanel of snow.

Soft-skinned secrets are buried forever.
After the fall, a fell of snow.

In the crevasse I melt in your arms:
only we can tell of snow.

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Almond Breath Assassin

Vivek Sharma

(After 26/11, Mumbai attacks)

O almond-breath assassin, who roused the bloody thief in you?
How many heart-huts will you raze before tasting a relief in you?

Perhaps you are convinced, you are acting as scripted, you are faithful.
Have you objectively examined, the passages of belief in you?

Are you lusting for a false paradise, Kashyap's ill-fated Kashmir?
Rather than exiling that fanatic urge, did you give it a fief in you?

Wasn’t heart’s anarchy forged before wordless Snake's whisper?
Won’t you be punished again by whoever coded this mischief in you?

You uproot secular gardens, treating Vedic inheritance as infidel weed.
Will you turn Punjab into a cactus country? Is there no olive leaf in you?

How I wish you had given me a chance to prove my love is sincere!
Don’t you ever perceive a desire to converse, maybe brief, in you?

They claim you’re suicidal and my love shall stay unrequited:
Who knows, beloved! Vivek’s song might evoke a sufi grief in you.

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Deified War

Vivek Sharma

When I ask the warriors:        Why do you fight war?
They say,        it is for a beloved.          It is a justified war.

But isn't slaying humans                 a sin in every religion?
They smile at my naiveté,    avow:       It is a sanctified war.

What is your fascination with        unfurling flags over graves?
Ask Homer or Ved Vyas,         it is the poets who glorified war.

Enemy women are raped daily:      Why media never reports it?
Press ought to suppress inhuman truths.       It is a dignified war. 

Don't you know that battles destroyed     Napoleon, the British empire?
They fought for glory, we for money.       It is a commercialized war.

If the quest is of peace, then        why keep bombing the Middle East? 
It is a shock and awe measure               to banish a terrified War.

Why are millions condemned to die           at one President's war-whim?
Its of the people, for the ..., by the ... --       it is a democratized war.

Isn't the altar of War-God overrun           by blown-up bodies, refugees?
He requires human sacrifice.                   How else can be pacified War?

Give Vivek a hope for a future           without guns, bombs or wails.
Why lie?       For God, land, money, women, oil -        we'll ever fight war.

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Editor's Comments

It’s a pleasure to bring you these six ghazals in the first issue for 2012. Mary Cresswell has shared strong ghazals with us in the past; Vivek Sharma is new to The Ghazal Page, but obviously not new to the ghazal.

Mary Cresswell’s two ghazals deal with seeking shelter from storm, with human efforts for warmth against the cold elements. Her use of the tercet ghazal is especially effective. Eliding the second line of the last tercet creates a blankness, an emptiness, a silence — an opening that contains the over-flow of meaning from the rest of the ghazal. That is, the elided line exemplifies the absence of “gone means gone."

Reader response theory has been the basis of my teaching and criticism. I mention that in connection with “Avalanche” because my first response is to associate this ghazal with H. P. Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness,” as well as other literature dealing with polar weather. Perhaps the phrase, “a polar hell of snow,” reinforces this association. Understand that I'm not claiming that that is what this poem is “about.” For all I know, Mary dislikes Lovecraft. The speaker’s farewell to lotus and olive suggests a classical, an Attic, departure for the voice speaking here. The ghazal itself is a controlled avalanche of word and image.

One can be an exile — a refugee — in many ways: geographically, politically, ethnically, religiously. As Vivek Sharma’s “Refugees in Love” suggests, perhaps all humans are refugees, exiles on this planet, from our homes, our peoples, our identities, our selves. As in “Your Kamuk Eyes,” “your eyes” promise release, perhaps return. In the ghazal tradition, the beloved echoes (sometimes impersonates) the Beloved, the promise of human love a pathway to divine love. Vivek, of course, doesn’t say as much, as he is writing poetry and not mere parasitic comments like this.

All four of Vivek’s poems are rich with political, mythical, cultural references that provide a context for loss and possible recovery. For India, “26/11” has much the same significance as “9/11” has for the United States — devastating terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008. The questions addressed to the “Almond Breath Assassin” invite reply and reconciliation.

“Deified War” counters Clausewitz’s maxim that “War is … politics by other means.” Vivek’s ghazal presents war as having many dimensions and an archetypal appeal to the human psyche. War has many pretexts. Greeks vs. Trojans, Pandavas vs. Kauravas, colonists vs. indigenes — it seems the game is always on. This ghazal has the traditional Persian/Urdu form, but the intra-linear spaces express the intensity of feeling, the incredulity of the speaker in the first line of each sher that war continues millennium after millennium.

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