LAUREL LEAVES POETRY


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POET AND POEMS OF THE MONTH

LÊ PHḀM LÊ




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poetandpoemsofthemonth

SEPTEMBER 2015

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MR. JOHNSON JOHN

Mr. Johnson John is an Indian national born in Peruva, Kottayam India. He has three books of poetry in Malayalam, and a novelette in English entitled “Asexuality” published through booktrix.com. He has won two state level awards for poetry and one for his novel. He has also won as runner up in the Holland Park Press International Contest in February 2014 for his poem “Flames of No Mask”. Most recently in the UPLI Global Poetry Contest in 2015, he won the Silver Medal for the Judy Cheung Award under Category 7 (Any Non-English Form) and was also a Finalist of the Rex Valentine Award under Category 6 (Narrative Form). He is the UPLI Poet of the Month for September 2015 featuring four of his poems.

 

SELECTED POEMS

 

Denizen of the Dark

 

Street lights drill holes

through your dress,

as commuters on night buses peep

to catch an eyeful of exposed skin,

then pass on with indifference.

 

An acquired sense of shame

keeps you in dark by-lanes

from where you watch

the world goes by.

 

Those who solicit your favors

amid the stench of piss

and pheromones,

abandon you before daybreak.

 

Society stamps you prostitute,

researchers label you contagion,

cops call you a criminal,

but you are destitute and miserable.

 

Nobody knows your sorrow

none hears your yell for normalcy;

from pillar to post you run like a mad woman,

fatherless children at your breast.

 

The prophet who spoke of the first stone

may not be there in the crowd

meanwhile you swallow the insult

and entice another client with a smile!

 

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Krishna’s Supper

 

For the last handful of rice

Krishna searched in the plantain leaf

That lay dead

As the amputated yellow tongue of hunger.

 

The oil lamp in front

Shone as his insufficient knowledge

And his huge shadow swayed on the muddy wall

As the spirit of someone passed away by starvation.

 

There on the leaf appeared scenes

Of the Dark Continent

Though he was ignorant of the country and its people.

Skeletons attired in wrinkled skin

And mothers with dried up breasts and scaly teats

-The exodus,

The result of wars in which kings always win

And subjects lose on either side.

.

His hands trembled

And the ball of rice fell down.

 

By a wind.

The lamp blew out

And he sighed in comfort.

 

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True Meditation

 

‘I’m pleased, open your eyes

It’s time to stop!’

 

“Blessed is my spirit

Hearing Your blissful tone

Though I can’t see You.”’

 

‘You can’t, nor is it necessary

I speak only through conscience

Now go and work hard!’

 

“Work? No! Let me continue.

Nothing more delightful than this act

No sorrow or happiness but peace

In this extreme silence.

Like those snowy peaks far away

I’d like to stay unchanged.”

 

‘Look at the paddy fields and farmlands down!

The farmers and the blue collars

Are in better meditation than what you were in.

I’m happier with the fragrance of their sweat

Than these incense suffocating.

They hear My voice everyday from nature

Though you took fourteen years.

It’s for despair and hope

Pain and pleasure that men are born

Not for turning to statues unemotional.

Go, work devotedly

That’s the greatest meditation!

Have a family so that I can live through you

And your descendants:

Waste no time chanting hollow words!’

 

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An Old Peasant’s Soliloquy

 

The paddy fields of my memory are parched

After the harvest of sorrows

And the parrots of oblivion had gathered

The grains of dreams scattered here and there

And flew far away.

Though the sheaves of my remaining days

Are piled up for threshing

In the courtyard of solitude,

My dear, when you peck my mind

With the sharp sickle-tip

I draw mysterious pictures

By the blood oozing out

From the quivering feet of wandering thoughts

Along the arid land of life.

 

I saw September, like an old woman,

Mornings afflicted with misty cataract

And evenings wrinkled and wearied,

Carrying overload of hay

Heading towards the barn.

She paused at times,

Stared at me, trying in vain to recognize,

Muttered something in the breeze

And strolled away.

 

O my dear,

We had threshed together lots

Until the last grain falls

When by midnight the flickering flame

Of lantern begs to close its eye a while.

 

Even when the incessantly lashing Monsoon

Soaked all our hope

We waited patiently to dry up everything

On a glorious morning of comfort and leisure.

 

Before the curtain falls

You abruptly wound up your role

And our children in their own stages

Also left me alone.

 

Still, why do you pierce my mind

With the sharp sickle-tip?

 

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Flames of no Masks

 

We watched the old man on the other bank

Ritualistically washing Pema Khendup’s body

While the pyre was getting ready.

 

Students were busy piling up dry logs

In the form of a pyramid

Cut off its peak, as to serve the purpose.

 

The crematorium was at the narrow bank

Of a clear brook between two cliffs

In Khoma, a remote village in North-East Bhutan.

 

Seven teachers, principal,

And I, the only expatriate

Were resting on small rocks by the brook.

 

Four monks and their head priest at the pyre

Were incessantly chanting magic hymns.

 

I occasionally dipped my bare feet

In the icy brook that accepts the souls

From every crematorium in its bank

All along its way down to India.

 

The local wine our cooks served frequently

Warmed us against the chilling December.

 

Sometimes we shared cruel jokes

And shouted like empty pots

While our shadows shivered on the ripples.

 

The half-naked old man completed his task

And placed the body in a jute sac,

Lifted up, and carried on his back.

He slowly came along the narrow bridge,

The isthmus of life and death.

 

His dreams, mixed with drops of water and tears

Were falling on the bridge

While the wooden planks groaned.

 

It was last night, vomiting blood,

Pema Khendup, his only son, expired.

Rumor was that it was by black magic

Of some jealousy neighbors!

 

He was a bright middle secondary student

In my biology classes, the only thing I was sure,

But we were there to watch him burning down!

 

The monks urged to hurry up and finish

Before the terrible nightfall

At the haunted place.

 

The old man carefully placed the body

In a squatting position on the pyre

And kept the logs slantingly, covering it.

 

As the pyre was lighted up

We all stood up showing grave face.

 

A few boulders fell down from the hills around.

 

The dancing flames kissing Pema Khendup’s face

Had no masks but I wonder,

Even now, why most of us had!

 

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