Saturday, 31 October 2015

Cure For Loneliness

This is an old Russian cure
better than a cup of tea,
more reliable than pills,
It was first formulated
by Leo Tolstoy in the
long winter of 1869.
A complex potion,
the recipe runs to 1,144 pages,
too long to put down here,
but you'll find it on the creaking
shelves of any library
under the heading War and Peace.

I suggest you take it
late at night,
beside an open fire,
with a map of old Russia
and a bottle of red wine.
I tried it myself
and it worked fine for me:
all the ghosts in my head
gathered round to hear
the tale of love and loss.

You could also try
some very old remedies
by Homer or Catullus,
or powerful ones
by Dante or Shakespeare
or witches brews
by Sappho or Tsvetayeva,
or complex Irish potions
by Messrs Joyce and Beckett.
Their cures hold a mirror up
to your soul -- they work
incredibly well, though
I have found them addictive,
and Beckett repeats
at odd times of the night.

These days
there is a whole
new range of panaceas:
heal-alls, cure-alls,
some are like fire,
others like ice, but
none have been
tested by time.
I do recommend
for those darkest days
the small healing potions
by Michael Hartnett.

(Tony Curtis)

Friday, 30 October 2015

The Day is Done

The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me
That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo,
Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest,
Life's endless toil and endeavour;
And to-night I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet, 
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labour,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music,
Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet,
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction,
That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Break, Break, Break

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O, well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

By Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Def Poetry - INQ - When Hip-Hop Was Fun

I came across him while googling Tom Shadyac's talks...and absolutely loved him. A month of poetry wouldn't be complete without performance poetry, would it?

Tuesday, 27 October 2015


I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear off its wrong beginnings and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocussed blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can't escape,
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

By Philip Larkin

Monday, 26 October 2015

Week 42: Finding Your Center

Choose a small object in your life that represents an important part of you. Set this object in a new place this week, a prominent spot that causes you to see it each morning. Consider its importance to you. Through this consideration, allow an idea for a kind action to blossom, be it one for you or someone else. Complete the act in the way it is meant to be done.

Reflect in your journal each day about your chosen object. Consider telling the story of how the object came into your life. Or write about your experience each day considering your object.

Sunday, 25 October 2015


There are worse things, surely,
than desire unmet
like the tip of an unlit
than the empty beat
of the morning after
like a hollow

than words
and promises
and endings left

to interpretation.

There are worse things, surely,
than the lack of a muse
to inspire tender
than letters re-read
a thousand times
for the comfort of their

than the bottle of
within quiet
and endings left

to interpretation.

There are worse things, surely,
than unfinished poetry
that sings of verse left
than the constant strain
of the wait that comes
with staring at my

than silence so
it feels like cement
and endings left

to interpretation.

(By Tania De Rozario)

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Time Can Wait A Moment Longer

The laundry can wait. So can the dishes,
Our emails and mobile phones too.
We could sit out naked by the window
if we dared, or we could catch the news,
I could watch you struggle not to doze
off during the sports announcements.
There will be plenty of time for sleep.

Since you asked, the plants are watered,
The light has stopped flickering, since
I replaced the bulb, Who knows, the dishes
might clean themselves after we are gone.
How about if we add an extra hour
to our days, so we may fill it with our sighs?
There will be plenty of time for sleep.

For now, let us settle into the dimness
of evening, our talk like the passing
of a melody from one instrument
to another. Are you worried about how
early you would have to go to work
tomorrow? Take a breath. Look at me.
There will be plenty of time for sleep.

By Cyril Wong

Friday, 23 October 2015


Dawn breaks at my window,
I lie weighing the silent minutes,
Thinking of you,
Thinking that your innocence and simplicity
Have been the Ariadne thread to the labyrinth heart.

At church I pray God and the saints, to purify my soul;
In vain; the only word which comes to mind
Is your name,
The only image which recurs, obsessing, overwhelming all,
Is that of your eyes, pale blue sea where I sail
My dreams,
And your soft scented hair is the dark forest
That ever throws my world out of its course.

Then Summer runs in my veins
And the thought of your glowing lips
Weighs upon my mind
Like a warm day in June.

By Joseph Chiari

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Intimations of Immortality

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
Heaven lies about is our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees in it his joy;
The Youth who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

(William Wordsworth)

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

On The Confessional Mode Of My Poetry

My tidy psychiatrist
in his well- appointed rooms
along the highway between
the blue-ribbon suburbs of this town
tells me to write to my father, my
dead father, dead since I was fourteen.

In poems
I have written to my father
in that false voice I tell all who listen
is the one I tell the truth in.
Without props or attitude,
I address the ghost
in my veins.

Father is a baggy-trousered
clown, his tragic short life
a modern cliche; Father
Mother's one true love who outlived him
thirty years without loving again.
Proudly I tell of our house,
river at our feet, the yacht clubs,
sports cars parked like a used car lot
in our frontyard. I bell the words
as I weep for my cold days...
I'd be a screw-loose if it was all so sad.
I look for the good times and hear
myself singing beside the river,
walking on stones, searching
for rock crabs, squinting
in the sun's knives.

Because he is lost
I search for my young self, and turn
the empty years over and over
in these pages
white as hospital sheets.

My psychiatrist's a fool,
I don't make another appointment.
Three weeks later I write,
Dear Father
How sick I get of your ghost ...

(Andrew Burke)

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


My face catches the wind
from the snow line
and flushes with a flush
that will never wholly settle.
Well, that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young forever, to pass
I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
and only pretty enough to be seen
with a man who wanted to be seen
with  a passable woman.

But now I am in love
with a place that doesn't care
how I look and if I am happy,
happy is how I look and that's all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake,
my waist thicken, and the years
work all their usual changes.

If my face is to be weather beaten as well
it's little enough lost
for a year among the lakes and vales
where simply to look out my window
at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors
and to what my soul may wear
over its new complexion.

(Fleur Adcock)

Monday, 19 October 2015

Week 41: Identifying Opportunity

Sorry this got held over from last week due to technical issues. My laptop is dead I tell you, dead! And maybe unfixable except for a sum with which I might as well buy a new laptop. Sigh. I so don't need this now.

The concept for this week's action is based on the belief that positive opportunities are being presented to us daily, that these opportunities are a form of kindness to us that we need to practice identifying.

As such, spend time throughout the week looking for these opportunities in your life, even in hindsight. Choose at least one and allow it to fill your heart with wonder. To do this, you will need to pay attention to your role in its unfolding and then fulfill it. If it makes sense to do so, act on this opportunity in a way that honors both it and you.

Summarize in your journal at least three of the opportunities you identified, whether or not you acted on them. This may entail taking note of them after the fact as it's likely you will not have recognized some without the benefit of hindsight. The intention in taking time to write them down is to help you become more aware of them as they are happening.

Sunday, 18 October 2015


My work is loving the world,
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird --
equal seekers of sweetness,
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums,
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium,
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here.

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mount with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

(Mary Oliver)

Saturday, 17 October 2015

For The Sake Of Strangers

No matter what the grief, its weight
we are obliged to carry it.
We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength
that pushes us through crowds.
And then the young boy gives me directions
so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,
waits patiently for my empty body to pass through,
All day it continues, each kindness
reaching toward another -- a stranger
singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees
offering their blossoms, a retarded child
who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.
Somehow they always find me, seem even
to be waiting, determined to keep me
from myself, from the thing that calls to me
as it must have once called to them --
this temptation to step of the edge
and fall weightless, away from the world.

(Doriane Laux)

Friday, 16 October 2015


The floors shone
Someone had spent all night
Polishing them
Lysol-scented air
Free from contagion
Room 412, I knock
Slide open the heavy door
My friend is wan
His face is wasted, the cheeks
Once full, show the ridges of bones
I hold him and his shoulders are hangers
His eyes are now too wide behind glasses that are too large
His hair black and thick sits too heavy on his scalp
We look at each other
And he tells me how it has been
How tough it has been
And why the journey must go on
Even though he admits
That there was one moment when he awoke
In another hospital far away
He felt fine
There was no pain, only a certain peace and he thought
This is the best time to go
But if only I could
I would have got up, shrugged off my wasted body
Walked through the eternal door
And leave this world

(Liew Suet Fun)

Thursday, 15 October 2015

What The Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days,
some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and
the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is
the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep headstrong blue, and
the sunlight pours through

the open living room windows because the heat's on too
high in here, and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries
in the street, the bag breaking,

I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And
yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my
coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a
hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What
you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come
and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss - we want
more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a
glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:

I am living, I remember you.

(Marie Howe)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Elephant Love

Fourteen thousand pounds
Shift silently
Over ruts worn deep
By the lure of water.
A behemoth link
In the tail to trunk chain,
Slinking under night's cover
Toward the wide, gentle sea.
Each massive foot,
Distinct as a thumbprint,
Hints at treetops and weather,
Speaks of dry and cracked earth,
Using sub-human decides,
He sounds out over miles,
Summoning kin to the water,
To its cool and its drinking,
To its dividing and bathing.
To its feasting and mating,
His way there is slow,
Just five miles in an hour.
Imagine the courage.
One hundred thousand muscles
And nerves all bundled together,
Trumpeting the call
To elephant love.

(Liz Granfort)

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


those people
wouldn't it be lovely
if one could
in a constant state
of we?
some of the most
can be some of the biggest
what if there was
no they?
what if there
was only
if words could be seen
as they floated out
of our mouths
would we feel no
as they passed beyond
our lips?
if we were to string
our words
on a communal clothesline
would we feel proud
as our thoughts
flapped in the breeze?

(Marilyn Maciel)

Sunday, 11 October 2015

A Different Music

Li Po, the legend of the T'ang dynasty, who drowned drunk while trying to embrace a reflection, his own, in a moon-filled pond:

full of wine
night comes
falling blossoms
fill my robes
still drunk
but getting up
I wade
after the moon
when the birds have gone
and people are few.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Lost And Found

The first few times
Being lost was frightening
Stark, pregnant
With the drama of change
Then, I didn't know
That everywhere is nowhere
Like the feeling when an ocean wave
Boils you in the sand
But as time goes by
Each occurrence of lostness is quieter
Falling from notice
Like the sound of trains
When you live near the tracks
Until one day
When a friend asks
"How often do you get lost?"
And I strain to recall a single instance
It was then that I realised
Being lost only has meaning
When contrasted with
Knowing where you are
A presumption that slipped out of my life
As quietly as smoke up a chimney
For now I live in a less anchored place
Where being lost is irrelevant
For now, only when there is a need
Do I discover where I am
No alarm, no fear
Just an unconscious check-in
Like glancing in the rear-view mirror.

(David Hollies)

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Irreverent Baking

I should be upstairs with the others, drumming up ways
to heal the world, save the animals, pray for water
in a far-off continent, devote the remainder of my days
to a catalog of restorations. But this morning, it was the matter
of scones that drew my gaze, and my feet remained
planted in the kitchen. One must never ignore the instinct
to create, is what I told myself, and soon the counter was stained
with flour, my hands sticky with dough, the house inked
with the smell of blueberry possibility, and I knew I was not wrong.
This was my prayer, my act of healing, my offering, my song.

By Maya Stein

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

When All I Can Imagine Are Hands

There is a winter within me
a place so cold, so covered in snow,
I rarely go there. But sometimes,
when all I can imagine are hands,
when trees in the forest
look like they're made of wood,
then I know it's time
to take my photograph of Akhmatova
and sling it in a bag with socks and scarves.
My neighbours must think it strange
to see me strapping on my snowshoes,
to hear me roar at the huskies
as I untangle the harness.
But when all you can imagine are hands
it's best to give a little wave
and move out into the whiteness.

(Tony Curtis)

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more, they begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

(James Wright)

Monday, 5 October 2015

Week 40: Forgive

Begin this week by jotting down anything, and I mean anything, you experience as annoying. This may seem counter-intuitive, recording what annoys you in your kindness journal. But the real blessing comes in recognizing these annoyances, seeing if they have something to teach you and then working to let go of them.

Next, consider why it is hard to forgive. Note your responses in your journal. Then, at a quiet time some evening, perhaps in bed or just before, ask yourself if there is something big in your life over which you are holding a grudge. What are you getting from holding this grudge? What are you giving up? Are you able to let go of it?

That's the idea this week, to practice forgiving. In the same way that it is easy to forgive a one year-old for doing something like grabbing your eyeglasses, practice forgiving people this week for any "indiscretion" you feel they have committed.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator

The end of the affair is always death
She's my workshop, Slippery eye,
out of the tribe of myself, my breath
finds you gone. I horrify
those who stand by. I am fed.
At night, alone, I marry my bed.

Finger to finger, now she's mine.
She's not too far. She's my encounter.
I beat her like a bell. I recline
In the bower where you used to mount her.
You borrowed me on the flowered spread.
At night, alone, I marry my bed.

Take for instance this night, my love,
that every single couple puts together
with a joint overturning, beneath, above,
the abundant two on sponge and feather,
kneeling and pushing, head to head.
At night alone, I marry the bed.

Then my black-eyed rival came.
The lady of water, rising on the beach,
a piano at her fingertips, shame
on her lips and a flute’s speech.
And I was the knock-kneed broom instead.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

She took you the way a woman takes
a bargain dress off the rack
and I broke the way a stone breaks.
I give back your books and fishing tack.
Today’s paper says that you are wed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

The boys and girls are one tonight.
They unbutton blouses. They unzip flies.
They take off shoes. They turn off the light.
The glimmering creatures are full of lies.
They are eating each other. They are overfed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

(Anne Sexton)

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.

(David Whyte)

Friday, 2 October 2015

This Is The Face

This is the face she uses
when she wants people
to bounce off the surface
and leave her alone

This is the face she uses
to tell you she's listening
When she is really thinking
about something else

This is the face she uses
when she wants you
to back off, thus far
and no further.

This is the face she uses
to tell you she has
everything under control

And this is face that appears
when everything falls apart
When she's too tired to pretend
and when the sadness
she has kept in check
escapes its bounds

This is the face she wears
When she has no other face
in reserve.

(Jennifer Jacobs)

Thursday, 1 October 2015

A Month of Poetry

I have decided to dedicate October to poetry. After all, as Patti Digh says: "Give up the morning news for a morning poem. Just for now. You can go back to people killing each other over nothing in a month. They’ll still be doing it, but you’ll be fuller, richer, wiser, perhaps more serene in the face of it. Your vocabulary may be deeper in sheer nuance, in the miraculous juxtaposition of this and not-this."

So to kick off my month of poetry, here is one from one of my favourite poets from this part of the world (Singapore) Pooja Nansi. This one is taken from her "Love Is An Empty Barstool" which is the only reading material I took with me for the Bersih 4 rally.

Six Years On

I wonder if you would know me if
you saw me now your bones are dissolved
powder but mine still feel an ache in their pulsing
marrow for your touch sometimes in my dreams
I almost dream that you are alive again and you are
flesh and laughter, thought and blood
but look at me, Kelvin, I never shout any more
I speak slower and think harder
I listen to Robert Palmer I don't ask for answers
I wait for the universe to deliver or let me be delivered
from my expectations no I have not learned patience
but I no longer think time should keep up with me
I learnt the hard way clocks do not stop
even with death but look at me I am kind
and when I want to blame somebody for my black look,
I write but you, you haunt my poems and make me stop
I am no longer angry just sorry and I want you back
want you back want you back oh I want you back you
see it doesn't matter how long my hair is now
no I don't smoke any more and I've stopped being angry
I want to dance but you are gone and I am here
oh I am still here look at me I have learned to laugh
at mistakes, pick myself up and I am such a different colour
now but still I cannot believe in a god
who confuses being alive for being condemned
the taste of you is still blessed vivid in the cells of my tongue
you used to try to turn me to the light in my life
so look at me my dead and always alive love
oh, if you saw me now

(Pooja Nansi)