Answering Neruda

XV

But is it true that the vests
are preparing to revolt?

Yes, amidst cry-gas sprays and baton charges
To marry light-refracting suits
Whilst,
Light wishes only to touch skin
And reflect its pursuit

Why does spring once again
offer its green clothes?

For lovers to see
And metaphorize their feelings of love
Say,
“I want
To do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.”

Why does agriculture laugh
at the pale tears of the sky?

Because some tears are
Too beautiful
Too sacred
Too happy

How did the abandoned bicycle
win its freedom?

In the electric fields of recycling;
In the democracy of rebirth

-Inosha Ijaz

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The first sun ray

It’s not just light. It’s warmth; warmth nourishing the leaves that drip, flowers that blossom, waves that womb, birds that sing and eyes that sparkle, vows. It’s the visible manifestation of classic tranquility deaf to echoes of shattered or could be shattered vows. These are the vows made by you and made to you. When the first sun ray merges with those special bonds that palpate in every cubic millimeter of existence on Earth, you realize its reason enough to live, and most importantly, smile.

 -Inosha Ijaz

The ocean that is me

I am an ocean that ebbs and flows

like life

Some will stand on shore

And watch me

distantly

Some will let my tides

Embrace their skin

Some will sail on me

Like kites do on sky’s deeps

Some will be the rocks

That will shred me droplets

When I crash on them

Unconsciously

Some will massacre my fish

And envenom coral seas

Some will drop a secret tear

Endlessly

But some

like a milk drop amongst white

blood drop amongst red

will only breathe out breath

my tides breathe in and feed on

to live

to live

to live

nothing less

 

-Inosha Ijaz

 

The punctuation song

There’s exclamation made love
feeding on rainbow fires
that rush through every nerve strand

Comma love is common too
pausing the spectral view
among other things
when sunbeams overflowing eye
lip the moisture of skin

lucky few
stand in the way of moon light
dip in the mystery of moon ripples and
stars
in an ellipsis made love
for a momentary eternity

there’s love of quotation marks too
igniting fire from within
desperately
hoping to duplicate moon

but full stop-love is what fascinates me most
for it pushes to the edge –
edge of word
edge of thought
edge of breath
and like a magical sentence
with a heartfelt snap
into a nostalgia made of glitter or dust
ends

-Inosha Ijaz

 

 

Response to Neruda’s “Book of Questions”

 Tell me, is the rose naked

or is that her only dress?

 

The rose is dressed with a

Many layered nakedness

That can be un-layered and thus,

Undressed

 

Why do trees conceal

the splendor of their roots?

 

Perhaps intimacy isn’t

For public display

 

 Who hears the regrets

of the thieving automobile?

 

Heart beats with

A history that has clipped wings

 

Is there anything in the world sadder

than a train standing in the rain?

 

Yes.

Charlie Chaplin, walking in the rain.

 

-Inosha Ijaz

You and I

you and I, we are a forever made poem
of silence
no word can fill
no voice can recite
no time can caress to a motion
for you and I, we are a forever made poem
of stillness
envied by those with wings
and wheels
and air to breathe
for you and I, we are a forever made poem
0f airlessness
breathing in and out
each other
in a lustless passion of worship
we are our own temple
our own god
for you and I, we are a forever made poem
of love
and nothing less.

Inosha Ijaz

Surviving the circus!

*First published in The Nation, Sri Lanka

We love definitions. We love to metaphorize those beyond definition,like artists often do. We are all artists, thus. It’s engraved in the deepest dents of our beings, but only a handful lets that persona surface. This surfacing of the artist in you and me occurs many a times at the most unexpected,random circumstances. Pacifia circus, (although not the most glorious event I’ve witnessed during the course of my being) that had been running for nearly two weeks at the Raddolugama grounds, surfaced the artist in one of the spectators;“life is a circus, don’t you think?”, he queried the other. The other smiled agreeably.

The performance ran for nearly three hours. There were songs, comic acts by the shortest dwarf performer and many thrilling flicks for pure entertainment of the audience. The announcer claimed at the start of it all that his team had taken up the challenge of performing in front of a live audience, incredibly risky tasks, at the stake of their lives in the worst case scenarios,not to boast their heroism, but as an occupation thanks to which they earn and thus, survive. Some of the performers-they loved the thrill, we could tell. The others howbeit, were in it to make a living out of it; to survive, as the announcer rightfully acknowledged. That struggle, that massive effort they collectively face and put up with is remarkable. You see then how, when one is pushed by adversity, the battle begins. Not the sort that involves gun powder and bullets and bombs. It’s the sort of battle that many fear to engage in; a battle ofvoice to be heard and spirit to be lifted.

With every applaud, the performers lighten up as if inconviction that those minutes they were bequeathed with to entertain was spent valuably; that their battle was not for a lost cause. And it’s a pretty remarkable feeling, I am sure. How often do we feel as such? How often do we feel what we’ve been fighting for is, at the end of the day, worth it all? Do we even fight at all?

These circus performers are driven by consequences; thrill, applaud of the audience, money to live, satisfaction and strength to survive. We the non-performers too are driven by consequences. Not within the boundaries of live circus shows but beyond that, within the boundaries of life.

The mouth that allows three swords to enter isn’t just another mouth. The hand that picks up another hand many feet above earth while swinging in the air, isn’t just another hand. The legs that twist and turn and bend in angles un-seen ever, isn’t just another pair of legs. The acrobatics in the dizzy swings aren’t just another acrobatic. Every mouth, every hand, every leg, every acrobatic is a decision made of battling against carnage in thesurvival battle. So at the end of it all, they could say proudly “I survived”or “at least I tried to survive”.

The clichés are true; Life is hard. It never promised to be easy, anyway. What matters though is this; the dawn of a beautiful day of beautiful human beings of beautiful thoughts of beautiful feelings. What matters is the raising of a voice amidst silence, raising of a silence amidst noise,defying reason and logic sometimes to revolutionize norm. We talk, or rather boast about “living”, we lecture on how to “live”, we pretend we are happy because we “live”, when what we should rather be doing is figure out how to “survive”,first. Everything else is secondary. Everything else will follow, and when Iris Tennet noted in her poem Survival, “Life is hardenough, just to live” she might havebeen onto this sort of implication.

So is life really a circus and are we all a bunch of performers performing acrobatics desperate for applaud, a thrill, a survival means? The truth is, I don’t know. But for certain, I know this; something clinches it for us at some point in time. If it’s not too late, we’ll be much better off…not as kings or queens or others in the highest social rung of the ladder thatis Society, but as survivors. That’s worthy and worthy enough even, sometimes, I guess.

-Inosha Ijaz

On reflection (“the creation of the teacher”)

* Dedicated to Miss Dinali Nanayakkara, LISW; teacher, friend & beautiful human being

* First published in “The Nation”, 03rd June, 2012

Words, like memories, are embedded within the deepest dents of our beings and make it a point to surface at the most unexpected moments, most times, leaving “good”, “bad” or mixed emotions at the aftermath. Sometimes words and memories are mutually inclusive too, one surfacing the other and vice versa. I came across an article headed “The creation of the teacher” few years back during the ordinary level days and read it at the school assembly in appreciation of teachers on a certain occasion I cannot exactly recall, and was urged by self to read and re-read it days prior for no particular reason. The aftermath too was a mixed emotion followed by a sort of meditation on the significance of the teacher-student relationship considering personal stories stored in the memory’s recollections into account. So it’s true; words do surface memories. Here’s the writing;
The Creation of The Teacher

Author Unknown

“The Good Lord was creating teachers. It was His sixth day of ‘overtime’ and he knew that this was a tremendous responsibility for teachers would touch the lives of so many impressionable young children. An angel appeared to Him and said, “You are taking a long time to figure this one out.” “Yes,” said the Lord, “ but have you read the specs on this order?”

TEACHER :

…must stand above all students, yet be on their level

… must be able to do 180 things not connected with the subject being taught

… must run on coffee and leftovers

… must communicate vital knowledge to all students daily and be right most of the time

… must have more time for others than for herself/himself

… must have a smile that can endure through pay cuts, problematic children, and worried parents

… must go on teaching when parents question every move and others are not supportive

… must have 6 pair of hands.
“Six pair of hands,” said the angel, “that’s impossible”

“Well, “ said the Lord, “ it is not the hands that are the problem. It is the three pairs of eyes that are presenting the most difficulty!”

The angel looked incredulous, “Three pairs of eyes…on a standard model?”
The Lord nodded His head, “One pair can see a student for what he is and not what others have labeled him as. Another pair of eyes is in the back of the teacher’s head to see what should not be seen, but what must be known. The eyes in the front are only to look at the child as he/she ‘acts out’ in order to reflect, “ I understand and I still believe in you”, without so much as saying a word to the child.”

“Lord,” said the angel, “this is a very large project and I think you should work on it tomorrow”.
“I can’t,” said the Lord, “ for I have come very close to creating something much like Myself. I have one that comes to work when he/she is sick…..teaches a class of children that do not want to learn….has a special place in his/her heart for children who are not his/her own…..understands the struggles of those who have difficulty….never takes the students for granted…”

The angel looked closely at the model the Lord was creating. “It is too soft-hearted, “ said the angel.
“Yes,” said the Lord, “ but also tough, You cannot imagine what this teacher can endure or do, if necessary”.

“Can this teacher think?” asked the angel. “Not only think,” said the Lord,. “but reason and compromise.”
The angel came closer to have a better look at the model and ran his finger over the teacher’s cheek. “Well, Lord, “ said the angel, your job looks fine but there is a leak. I told you that you were putting too much into this model. You cannot imagine the stress that will be placed upon the teacher.”

The Lord moved in closer and lifted the drop of moisture from the teacher’s cheek. It shone and glistened in the light. “It is not a leak,” He said, “It is a tear.”
“A tear? What is that?” asked the angel, “What is a tear for?”

The Lord replied with great thought, “It is for the joy and pride of seeing a child accomplish even the smallest task. It is for the loneliness of children who have a hard time to fit in and it is for compassion for the feelings of their parents. It comes from the pain of not being able to reach some children and the disappointment those children feel in themselves. It comes often when a teacher has been with a class for a year and must say good-bye to those students and get ready to welcome a new class.”

“My,” said the angel, “The tear thing is a great idea…You are a genius!!”

The Lord looked somber, “I didn’t put it there…!””
To spot a “God’s model teacher” in this money birthed century of distancing, is more than arduous. That being said, I do not intend to make an unjust generalization here. In fact, I believe wholeheartedly through knowing that there exists still, teachers showcasing all “specs on God’s order” and heart moving pearl tears. So sometimes all it takes is to dip in the memories of yesteryears stirred up by writings one is urged to read randomly, to speculate and realize that the journeys travelled would have been all the more weary if not for these inevitable meetings with a parent, a friend and a sibling called a teacher.

Extrapolating the statement to a more personal note, I cannot help but note how lucky I’ve been to have encountered few of the most endearing teachers during my school days. Amongst the many that have aided me and my fellow colleagues nurture discipline, will, commitment and a sense of ethos, I cannot help but contemplate in this memory driven moment a teacher, a human, who refused to give up on the student and child that is me, at all circumstances. No amount of bending low and touching feet can surpass or outrank that, I guess.

A poem written months prior surfaces just now, thus.

The Moment ; To Miss Dinali Nanayakkara

Care isn’t invisible

Cause I’ve seen its vapours

Progressing through the yet-to-bes

In a moment

Love isn’t unmappable

Cause I’ve mapped its contours

As heart-compass

To walk out of failure’s labyrinth

In a moment

Humaneness isn’t intangible

Cause I’ve captured its dance of colours

Waiting to waken the glimpse

Hypersomnia embowers

In a moment

Not as commentator

Cartographer or paparazzo

But as child amongst

Child and non-child

In eye sparkle

Smile curve

And teardrop

Of a heart that throbbed

And throbbed

Music of a hope-kindling-teacher-hue

For an eternity called

A moment

 

So it’s true; memories do surface words too.

Inosha Ijaz

www.inoshaijaz93@hotmail.com

 

There’s no mothers’ day, only mothers’ days

*First published in The Nation, Sri Lanka, 13th May, 2012

My mother made an interesting statement yesterday. She said; reason follows faith concluding the argument we had. The argument stemmed when I said that I find it quite ridiculous when people recite sutras like parrots without necessarily being aware of its meaning and suggested meaning or reason is a must if one is to establish faith in a doctrine, religion or whatever it is, for that matter. She begged to differ.

I was fixed on my ways. She mentioned I should tone down in my arrogant attempts to prove I’m right to people and I tried to convince her that I speak for what I believe is right and there’s a fine line between that an arrogance. The all famous endnote that implied something like “You always talk your way out of stuff. Where do you get this double-talk from?” followed and I kept my mouth shut.

We have such random conversations that usually end up in utter disagreement. It’s universal, I guess. But this reason-faith concept made me think. I recalled something one of the monks said when we observed sil. He questioned the crowd of the philosophy behind not carrying out the funeral traditions and rituals on Tuesdays and Fridays, and asked why this notion is so deep rooted in our collective consciousness. There were grins, no answers. The monk gave an interesting explanation. He said in India is the holy Ganges river. Hindus consider the river to be both pure and purifying. They also believed that if a dead individual’s ashes are immersed in the river, he/she will be granted salvation. Thus the Hindus immersed the ashes of the dead keeping the religious motive in the back of the mind in all days of the week but Tuesdays and Fridays. This was because in ancient times, the River Ganges was populated with Hindu Brahmans bathing on those two days making it almost impossible to immerse the ashes of the dead. So Tuesdays and Fridays aren’t that bad, after all, isn’t it? Apparently, such is the origin of the notion. Such is the ritual that has evolved so much and passed on to Sri Lankan Buddhists from ancient Indian Hindus and on the modern day, that most unreasonably and most deeply affects our mindset even out-beating the Indian mindset! I saw a smile on my mother’s face when this explanation was delivered. It was an acceptance smile, I could tell. We spoke about it later. She refused to argue against the reason because it was reasonable enough, but refused to entirely detach from these certain superstitious beliefs and myths she holds close to her heart either. It perplexed me more. Why do people believe in things that seem so unreal and unreasonable?

My mother has her ways. She has her own belief system I confess I am not really fond of. But from the first memory of her till now, I’ve seen her grow. I’ve seen her grow incredibly, perhaps far more than she’s seen me grow. I’ve seen her faith and every passing moment it too grows and I find it remarkable. When she believes, she believes so whole heartedly that it astounds me and scares me at the same time, completely. Sometimes I think to myself that it is her way of reaching to herself. It’s her way of self-support. It’s her signature style. It’s her reflection of strength and power because honestly, to believe in something that is based on solid reasons and foundations is ordinary. But to believe in something that is based on a blur or sometimes, nothing at all demands a lot of strength. One might call it blind faith and will for certain be encouraged by those very much like me, but on another level, in another outlook, it requires a lot more than one could ever contemplate. Talking of “blind faith” reminds me of the final lines of the deeply moving song “Buduhamuduruwo wadiya wagei” by Sanath and Malkanthi Nandasiri;

Dudhanan asurin, parapana nasuwath,

oba mage puthuya ane,

(you destroyed life cause of unrighteous associates,

nevertheless, you are my beloved son)

Mathu upadina daa,

magema puthu weyan,

(In a rebirth ahead, be born as my own, again)

Hoda minisaku lesine

(Only, a good human being)

Such faith is perhaps the source of a mother’s daring, my mother’s daring, to care most passionately about me, my father, her parents, her siblings, all daughters and sons of our massive family, regardless of all the wounds we’ve made in her.

In our defense, she too is not easy. She is difficult. But then again, so am I. So are we all. I learnt to dismiss all concerns brought up by her. I rebel when restricted and demand to know why. She simply says “Here’s the reason; I’m your mother and I know”. But that’s never a good enough reason for me. I’ve sensed concern and fear diffusing from her direction when I put forth my views in regard to certain aspects. But along with all that, I sense a feeling that cannot be depicted in mere words too. Maybe mothers understand us as they say, inside out, doubtless and maybe as children what we should do is put that’s difficult to rest and deal with the ease. Let the clouds of ego, rationalization and such lift so that our hearts would see that beneath all “the nagging” lays a motherhood that cares beyond the extremities of infinity.

My mother isn’t godly. She slips. She cries. She loses it more often than not. But at all few yet beautifully precious times I stand up to protect what I believe in, I walk up amidst recognition, I get on my knees and weep, I can almost feel her scent cloak me completely; the scent that I clung onto when I was no more than a fragile breath nineteen years back; the scent that I clung onto when I was in the operation theatre; the scent that I clung onto when I fell off the bicycle onto the concrete road; the scent that I clung onto when everyone laughed at the song I sang. The scent, “Kiri suwanda” one might call it. Being the proof-hunting, why-driven individual I am I’ve contemplated many a times how so remarkably well she does it; how so remarkably well she breaks all boundaries of distance, space and time and becomes, almost effortlessly. Perhaps she was partly right, after all. Reason does follow faith but only sometimes and sometimes is the key word here. By that, “Unconditional love” has never made any sense to me, but at times as these I wonder what other explanation one can come up with to define the dimensions and degrees of such an undeniable presence. I am quite frankly at a loss for words right now. Perhaps that’s what true mothers do. They leave you with so much to say that suddenly, language isn’t perfect and words don’t suffice. That’s their mystery. That’s their magic

-Inosha Ijaz

inoshaijaz93@live.com