Categories
Art haiku poetry

Life, View, Haiku

I recently found a blog on haiku which also offers up writing challenges, by assigning words to construct a piece around. I hadn’t engaged in that sort of thing since high school. But I decided to try my hand at it. I learned that a) it’s harder than it seems and b) that it is fun to do once in a while. I hope you enjoy them!

  1. A view from here shows
    life, before this pandemic,
    was only illusion.

2. Life gives us views we
never chose.The scene from six
feet apart. Heart break.

Six Feet Apart, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

3. Viewed from on high this
world of ours, small and tender,
turns without reason.

The weight of this world, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Categories
Art coronavirus india Manabendra Bandyopadhyay memory Satyajit Ray Soumitra Chatterjee

My Father and Soumitra: Mourning and Memory

Soumitra Chatterjee, the quint.com

What a year this has been. After the loss of my father to covid 19, I watched a lot of early Bengali films that I had seen first with him. Although I started watching Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, I could not continue.
I remembered being a small Bengali girl in a white provincial Canadian suburb, harassed by passengers and bus drivers, as we went, in our “traditional garb” to distant movie theatres, dodging furious glances, and sometimes, spit.
In went the adults, looking forward to mother tongue, as a kitten does to it’s mother tongue. The corners and crevices of vowels, the cushions of soft consonants, were hiding places and barricades against this crazy colonial world of exclusion.
We were here in Canada, especial thanks due to the Commonwealth, the British Empire’s basket of plundered goods and destroyed worlds. We too, crossed the “kala pani” as adults sought their fortunes, safety, education.
But the film’s amazing cinematography and script, the tenderness of the camera, the unsentimental tragedy of Apu’s life, the unbelievable acting– all led to a tidal wave of empathy.
As a child, watching Apu’s life, Durga’s death, the ethos of a black and white nostalgia and memory–it was all too much. I was led by my poor father, sobbing and hiccuping to a dirty cinema lobby where popcorn and fountain soda had been temporarily replaced by tea and the even- then ubiquitous samosa.
There he soothed and comforted me, telling me that it was all a story. Apu was fine and grown up, Durga was alive, their mother too, and that they were acting. It was perhaps my first lesson in the power of story telling and the breaking down of the fourth wall.
Without my Baba’s intervention, holding my hand and smoking his cigarette, the perfect circles of smoke coming out of his mouth, I would have been disconsolate and lost in the story. For me, Satyajit Ray, Subir Banerjee, and Soumitra Chatterjee, are always intertwined in a pre-analytic moment of pure feeling.
Being only a few years away from India, nostalgia, sadness, half-memories, swirl with racism, and the always present sense of being unwanted and othered that haunted my child’s life in Canada’s public school system of the 1970s. Perhaps, since then, belonging has been tinged with both joy and sorrow. Rest in power, Soumitra.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/15/india/soumitra-chatterjee-death-covid-intl-scli/index.html?fbclid=IwAR1lEAAeOAKomv00xvTOV_VKhqmqI4JmmtEvTRmhR8YD_9P09bhN_uacaHU

Soundtrack from Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali

https://www.criterion.com/films/28021-pather-panchali

The Rest of the Trilogy
Great Kids’ Mystery Starring Soumitra Chatterjee, among others

Categories
Art Disability Fibromyalgia haiku Insomnia poetry reading

Late Night Haiku

Many people living with chronic illness, worry, and pain, experience insomnia. In fact, even children can experience it. It is a very insidious problem, and with the current state of affairs, I suspect that more people are staying awake than before. Paradoxically, even those with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia, may be unable to sleep, although they feel exhausted. Sometimes, after exertion, whether cleaning or shopping or laundry or even walks for pleasure, pain and fatigue hit like a ton of bricks. But at night, sleep can be elusive. Since I was a reader long before the internet, I often enjoyed reading at night. I still do. There is something magical about immersions in other worlds, while the world outside of oneself is sleeping and relaxed.

Reading, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

In Mexico and Cuba, the nights would be punctuated by rogue roosters, all of who seemed to suffer from insomnia, and never waited for dawn to start their proclamations! In fact, I began to wonder if the rooster- crowing- at- dawn trope was actually a myth. Or was it that ages ago, cities and countrysides were not as lit up throughout the nights, encouraging roosters to sleep?

Rooster, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2018
Insomnia, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Reading however is a great escape, if one can concentrate enough to enjoy it! I continue reading at night especially when I can’t sleep. With the closure of bookstores and my aversion to online shopping, the high-price of new novels, I have found online resources at the public library to be a great resource. I first realized that online reading was helpful in travelling, as so much weight was taken up by my books. But with the pandemic, I have resorted to online mysteries, biographies and children’s literature. Sadly, the last category is the weakest and a lot of stuff online for kids is really repetitive and badly written. Illustrated books for younger kids show a total reliance on cartoon culture and a lack of visual imagination.

The other night, while waiting for sleep, I went back to the haiku, a favourite form of poetry. After reading a few contemporary ones, I decided to try my hand at some after a long time. Here, they are.

Insomnia

  1. Late at night, breath’s sound

replaces the city’s corrosive hum

cat turning, finds core.

Cat, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

2. Insomnia is

a star, gleaming digital

more know her name than Capella’s.

3. Middlenight, riddle 

sleep. the sky holds her secrets

behind a veiled cloud.

 4. Insomnia’s leaves

are bookmarks, half-faded slumber

poems echo dream- like.

5. Insomnia, silent 

as that cat that crept in on

fog’s feet or vice versa.

6. Fog footed, insomnia’s 

friend to cat, bat, and the night

blooming jasmine.

The Reading Hour, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Categories
Art poetry

The Great Unknowing

Twilight, Kaushalya Bannerji, November 2020

I seek answers in the sky.
Astronomy. The stars hang like freshly washed clothes.
Around me cities writhe. Pandemics and empty promises
written in neon. When will they preen again?

Can you imagine our lives now?
Astronomy. Replicating the stars
Malcom lived by, Billie sang by. Harriet led by.
Stars made of the dust of a thousand footsteps.

Astronomy. Replicating the stars
that John Carlos held in his fist.
That Sandinistas, or Zapatistas, or all who steer by the stars,
used, to guide their guerilla flights.

I search the riddle above. Its colours promise answers.
Night darkens, astronomy. Replicating the stars.
Those first sailors across the bering strait,
dolphins who dance to feel their skin free.

Now refugees who pile endlessly onto boats,
repeating and repeating and repeating
to anyone who will listen. “I had to leave,
and now there is no land that will take me.”
Still flowing as humans have,
bones haunted and ashes in the mouth.

Long ago I was a girl and saw fireflies.
Astronomy of the fields and trees.
Stars we held, shared breath,
and let go. Astronomy. Long ago.

My eyes paint the urban sky visions and histories.
Astronomy. All of us, those who have left,
those who are here,those to come.
We are born of stars and to them we shall return.

Astronomy of the soil, the dust, the water, the fire, the flesh.
The great unknowing.

Astronomy, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Kaushalya Bannerji, Roof, November 2020
Categories
anti-fascism capitalism coronavirus lockdown neo-liberalism poetry Social Justice social theory U.S. Elections

The Parable of the Axe: Reflections From a Small Sliver

So, I was recently challenged to rethink the ideas I put forward in my blog about the 2020 U.S. elections. In fact, the very idea that “the battle is over, but the war goes on”,  is rooted in the validity of the present capitalist  system, a system that has proven time and time again to be morally and materially bankrupt when it comes to the common people—i.e., you and I. 

Dylan Miner, Harm Reduction

Under the circumstances of bourgeois democracy, it seems to me , a good moment to remember the adage ascribed to Malcom X, that our liberation, comes about “by any means necessary”. That is why my discomfort with the reigning social system and my belief in a better, more just and equitable future— is both a contradiction, and— a strategy, that doesn’t simply see the debate as being between reform and revolution. 

May Day, Historical Demands

Under this lens, I feel we should work on numerous fronts and through numerous ways to change society to be more inclusive, just and equitable. As we know, institutions will not accomodate progressive demands (the unsurvivable minimum wage is maintained, costs are going up, hydro has raised its rates in this winter country, evictions have resumed, tiny pandemic wage increases are long gone, public sanitation and hygiene appear haphazard and determined by market force)s.  The poor and working sectors are crammed onto unaffordable petrie dishes with haphazard service, ie, public transportation. Where is the pressure on municipal, provincial and federal governments? Why were we locked down in March for 2 months, with 1/3rd of the current covid19 cases, but now are laissez-faire, willing to make Darwin’s theory a eugenicist accelerationist’s wet dream?

Sudarshan Reuben Durayappiah, Facebook

This is the state of affairs to which we will return under the business as usual model touted by Wall street and Biden/ Harris. How ironic that Trump’s initial run was characterized by a wall, but it is the wall of money that was behind Obama and is now deployed by his Democratic successor Biden, that may be the end of Trump. 

Of course, fascism is another thing altogether. The freeing of socially temporarily unacceptable ideas regarding race, gender, sexuality, eugenics, and social engineering– guns, pandemics, starvation, trigger happy racist policing, the expansion of self-defence laws in states such as Florida, the immense wealth of private prisons and the exponential growth of Amazon, Walmart,  Facebook, What’sApp, Instagram, etc. is a cash and data grab of immense proportions. The looters of this virus are not the poor, nor the small business sector, but the mega-rich. These ultra-affluent bastards have set the tone and the stage for the rest of us. 

Bloor Street Hoarding (Pun Intended), Kaushalya Bannerji, Summer 2020

The amount of sheer misery that haunts and weighs down our planet these days  is a collective mourning for our little daily freedoms, and our big ones, like international travel. A grief for our departed too. Of course, lockdowns and restrictions unaccompanied with food and shelter support, are fundamentally class genocide, and exercises in social obedience. That’s because while things are being strangely locked down, dedicated COVID 19  facilities have not been made, shelter has not been put in place for the homeless during the winter season, affordable housing remains as elusive as ever for  those struggling with poverty and food banks are begging those a little better off to help those less fortunate with cheap processed food—often laden with chemicals and toxins that we already know so much about. 

Meme, Pinterest

During a winter where people are being forbidden to socialize indoors, municipalities are stopping snow removal services, leaving hundreds of thousands of “inner city” dwellers with minimal ways to get around during this upcoming pandemic winter. We can point our self-righteous fingers south of the border, or also , take a moment to look down the street and see our own worlds floundering. 

https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canada-s-rate-of-homelessness-may-be-higher-than-reported-nanos-survey-1.5060801

It’s hard for me to end this piece on a positive note. I hope, in my lifetime we will see the world played, not as an endgame, but as the beginning of a glorious festival of labour, shared humanity, a culture of non-violence and social support and a celebration of spirit. “From each according to [their] abilities, to each according to [their] needs”. May we, trees, and slivers alike, see ourselves rooted in this grieving and resilient earth, and not wielded, by sinisterly banal elites.

Remedios Varo, Banqueros en Action/Bankers in Action, 1962
Kae Tempest, 2020

For an excellent follow-up piece with lots of information:

Naomi Klein, November 2020
Categories
anti-fascism Democracy U.S. Elections united states White Supremacy

The Battle is Over, but the War Goes On!

The battle is over , but the war goes on…
The biggest thanks goes to the ordinary people, who stood in lines for hours during a deadly pandemic, or negotiated on-line voting for the first time, those who kept the faith through the humble act of counting; and the Black, Muslim, Indigenous, Chicano, and Mexican peoples of the United States, whose citizenship has come through so many trials by fire…even the media showed some restraint.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press, 2020

It’s a good day to let out our collective breath. Many people must be celebrating this day, knowing that four more years of the festering cheeto are out of the picture. But not a time to rest on the laurels of this election. Now the soil has been aerated, as it were, planting the seeds of another world, is possible. Let’s hope the people of the United States are up to what could be a pivotal moment in their history. In the meantime, let’s enjoy this moment repudiating violent misogyny, open nepotism, and white power!

Favianna Rodriguez, Voices Are Power, 2015
Alex Brandon, Associated Press, 2020
If you sang the song,
The way it was written And you march along,
To the beat of the drum 
Someday soon, you gonna wake up singin'
Battle is over, but the war goes on
Everybody plays follow the leader 
What if the leader has a gun

Remember when you jumped,
To the 8 o'clock whistle 
Battle is over, but the war goes on
You close your eyes when you hear the thunder
 Cry in the rain
And smile in the sun
 Who do you fool, but me and you brother?

The battle is over, but the war goes on
If talk was money, you'd be a millionaire
If thoughts could kill, there'd be no one here
So many thinkin' evil and talkin' jive
But its in only true love, this old world can stay alive
The battle is over, but the war goes on
The battle is over, but the war goes on
The battle is over, but the war goes on
Dorothea Lange, The New Black Family, 1930s
Doreatha Lange, Unemployment Line, 1930s
Categories
Uncategorized

Fall Beauty

I love the myriad colours of fall. Along with early summer, there is so much variety in textures, hues, and scents. The scents of fall are unique to our Northern climate; just as tropical humidity carries the echo of over-ripe vegetation, the fall is a time of life buried beneath the insulating carpet of leaves, readying itself for the next rebirth. Similarly, moisture, the covid related decrease in pollution and the sun’s position in this season make for early but spectacular sunsets.

Carpet, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Carpet 2, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Evening Canopy, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
November Sky, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

As we inch toward the December solstice, the days are growing darker. A good time for reading, for drawing, and appreciating the warmth we housed people take for granted. The dark days are not my favourite!

Here I share a poem, Plums by Gillian Clarke, about the stone fruit which is harvested at the conjuncture between warmth and chill.

When their time comes they fall
without wind, without rain.
They seep through the trees’ muslin
in a slow fermentation.

Daily the low sun warms them
in a late love that is sweeter
than summer. In bed at night
we hear heartbeat of fruitfall.

The secretive slugs crawl home
to the burst honeys, are found
in the morning mouth on mouth,
inseparable.

We spread patchwork counterpanes
for a clean catch. Baskets fill,
never before such harvest,
such a hunters’ moon burning

the hawthorns, drunk on syrups
that are richer by night
when spiders pitch
tents in the wet grass.

This morning the red sun
is opening like a rose
on our white wall, prints there
the fishbone shadow of a fern.

The early blackbirds fly
guilty from a dawn haul
of fallen fruit. We too
breakfast on sweetnesses.

Soon plum trees will be bone,
grown delicate with frost’s
formalities. Their black
angles will tear the snow.

Reading, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Reading , Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Categories
Art Autumn, fall Colourful coronavirus

The Colours of Autumn

This year the colours of autumn are as beautiful as ever. But the rhythm of the year seems so disrupted by the coronavirus and climate crisis in so many places. This year the colours of fall seem to invite one in. I return, like the seasons, to drawing parks, morning glories, evening skies, and of course, the little mews/muse! Like so many artists of colour in Canada and the USA, I join a commitment to witness both the beauty and hard times we are all going through. Resistance does not always have to be confrontation, though that too has its moments. In daily life, taking the time to feel and see the world–both inner and outer– has joined the weekly practice of the continuing semi-isolation of the coronavirus. I share some recent pieces below.

Fall at the Park, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
The Feather, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Fall Kitten, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Autumn Glory, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Night Sky, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Dream, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Categories
Art celebration love poetry

One Hundred Posts Against Solitude!

Gourd, Kaushalya Bannerji, October 2020

Today marks a very special day for me. It is the occasion of my hundredth blog post. I started this project as a labour of love and as a way to contribute to a culture of resistance, love, and hope for a more just and equitable world about a year and a half ago. I had no idea when I started, that Covid19 would make life so unrecognizable for so many. There is virtually no territory that has not been affected by this bizarre scourge and the even more crazy-making ways in which it has (not) been dealt with by the powers that be.

As a result my participation on the blog has been uneven, my attention veering between the initial shock of the pandemic, to racial /casteist/ islamophobic and economic violence all over the world to days of personal ill-health and grief, as I continue to mourn the passing of my father and my partner’s father during this difficult time and to worry about the bleak economic times we are in. Even bankers are speaking of recession.

 I thank those of you who’ve joined me both from the humble beginnings for sticking with me, to those of you checking out this blog for the first time today! While the coronavirus swirls around us, equally harsh and invisible ideas are making themselves manifest. Many of those ideas are amplified through the Internet. Ideological manipulation through social media networks, internet surveillance and tailored advertising… All that is intrusive and prying, is marketed as convenience. This is truly a time of commodities, not people.

Some say the darkest hour is before the dawn. That is why your human accompaniment of this blog and the sharing of it, is such an important part of this creative and rich journey.  So eartotheground is an antidote to those forces of death, disrespect and despair. These three forces make up the holy trinity of psychological fascism that accompanies corporate monopolization and centralization of power in militarist and vigilante backed dictatorships.

While the world awaits the results of the election in the United States, we  all seem immersed in a depression that “experts” call ‘pandemic fatigue’. I characterize it as ‘cruelty fatigue’, for surely this coronavirus has exposed the the meanness and pettiness of class and caste inequality, the banal brutality of racial oppression experienced by so many Black, Indigenous, South and East Asians, the virulent misogyny of courts and citizens; the core of rottenness that is at the center of our social organization and structure. And the hunger for redistribution of material resources that is the very real hunger, of millions, for food.

Antonio Berni, The Demonstrators, Argentina

  To celebrate this hundredth post, I share some poems today that remind me, and hopefully you as well, that in spite of a time when any judge anywhere  can be called “pro-life” while being “pro-gun”— we are being shown  a world where language— and thus the lives we lead— have been turned upside down. These miserable ironies must not delimit our world.

Personal autonomy over birth control including abortion is a woman’s individual and private right. It cannot be alienated from her without re-premising the law on slavery, that is, ascribing the ownership of her body to another— the only legal system by which humans were de-autonomized and dehumanized for profit. 

Candido Portinari, Cotton Pickers, Brazil

The following poems hail from different times and places. But the one thing these writers all share is a belief in justice, truth, witness, and hope— the cornerstones of a culture of love and solidarity. Humour, rage, love,  and humanity are intertwined in the following verses below.

Suicide note from a Cockroach in a low income Housing Project,  Pedro Pietri (Borinken/US)

I hate the world I am depress I am deprive I am deprave I am ready to propose to the grave Life is too complicated to proceed Fate is the only medicine I need to feel good Seriously speaking I’m seriously seeking The exit to leave this eerie existence My resistance is low and will not grow Rent Control My Ghost Will Haunt You
 I hate the world I am dejected I am rejected I am neglected and disrespected Ever since these damn  liberals got elected And corrected nothing really important I am starving I am no good at robbing I have no ambitions These damn housing projects Are responsible for my nervous condition 
I hate you credit cards Because of you there is a pain in my brain Because of you all the minority groups Own a television set and will not let me sleep At night watching the late late show at full blast I hate the world I hate the world I hate the world I am disgusted I totally busted 
The welfare department Will not handle my case I am homesick for the past When radios used to be a luxury For the minority groups And there were no such things As the late late show 
Oh how I hate those damn Anti poverty  programs I am hungry My folks are hungry My friends are hungry Every member of our generation Is a victim of starvation We are down and out without a future To look forward to WE ARE THROUGH 
I attend over ten funerals everyday I don’t have time to send  my black Melancholy suit to the cleaners anymore That is how bad the situation is And all because all of a sudden Everybody wants to be somebody This is ridiculous this is absurd Why should our race be erased to make America  a beautiful place
 for everyone but us We are the real American We was here before columbus We was here before general electric We was here before the ed sullivan show We are older than adam and eve Noah also took Cockroaches into his ark Why should we be denied co existence??? 

I use to come From a very large family And now I am down To my last second cousin-in law I have been married seven times I have never been divorced All my wives and husbands Are now resting in peace None of them died from natural cause They have all been fatal casualties Of the games the great society plays 
This so called civilisation nation Has made a lonely cockroach out of me My insurance company Has informed me that they will not Insure another wife or husband I take They think I am trying to make A living out of this - THEY ARE DEAD WRONG I come from a good Non catholic Non protestant Non Jewish Home 
I have never read the holy bible I will never read the holy bible Cockroaches in their right minds Will never go near the holy bible Bible reading is a dangerous mission Is like committing suicide to get to heaven
 I once had this uncle Who was very religious He read the good book all the time One day he fell asleep reading The twenty third psalm and woke up In the hereafter the following morning 
The owner of the bible close the book on him If those are the kind of people That go  to heaven  - You can send me to hell lord
 My first wife Lived a very short life Tragedy came Separated our name The first year We started our atmosphere She was ambushed By this retarded boy Who destroyed her pride And swallow her body After she died 
My second wife Lived a shorter life When tragedy came And separated our name She was still a virgin We married in the afternoon And somebody stept on her On our way to the honeymoon 
My third wife Was taking a short cut home Thru the kitchen sink A homicidal maniac saw her While taking a drink And turned on the hot water
 My first husband Lost his sacred life In a DDT strike Coming home from the A&P for insects only I was in tears for one whole year after he disappear from the atmosphere because the day before his destiny came near his insurance policy lapsed I mailed a payment a week before he died but somebody stepped on the mailman and the payment never arrived
 My second husband was suffocated by this complicated mentally constipated fire engine impersonator who got his kicks kidnapping cockroaches molesting them sexually and throwing them into empty coca cola bottles and putting the cap back on and keeping them without air until their life was gone 
My third husband Lived a miserable life He had lung cancer Ten wooden legs One glass eye Fifty fifty vision On his good eye A weak heart A broken back Respiratory ailment Undernourished Mentally discourage Unemployed eardrums Condem features And bad breath galore from a bottle of Weight reducing pills He shoplifted At the drugstore 
I gave him a divorce Not because his health Was hazardous To my health I gave him a divorce Because he wanted Me to sell my body to science And give him the money For plastic surgery
 One week before Celebrating his last Unhappy birthday At the funeral parlor He hit the numbers For one thousand dollars Went to the hospital And paid cash for A heart transplant An eyes transplant A face transplant A legs transplant A lung transplant A rear end transplant A breath transplant And he was all set to live and let live
 For one hundred years But on his way home From the hospital Somebody stepped on him And that was the end Of his breathing career 

So you see You cannot really blame me For wanting to seduce my destiny I have nothing else to live for In this corrupted world anymore The employment situation is bad The starvation situation is worst

 It hurts to continue living like this Cockroaches are starving to death Ever since incinerators came Into the life of the minority groups In the old buildings the people Were very close to everything they had Food was never thrown away But today everything is going Into those incinerators The last family that lived here Took the incinerator To get to the first floor They do not live here anymore
 Damn those low  income housing projects Years ago suicide was never spoken But today suicide is a luxury For a heartbroken cockroach Trying to make a decent living In a low income housing project Goodbye cruel world I’m through being screwed By your crossward puzzles When the bomb comes down I will not be around 
Forward my mail to your conscience when you get one The last request the cockroach made was to be cremated So I lit it up and smoked it 
The Late, Great Reverendo Pedro Pietri!

Frame, Adrienne Rich (U.S.)

Winter twilight. She comes out of the lab-

oratory, last class of the day

a pile of notebooks slung in her knapsack, coat

zipped high against the already swirling

evening sleet. The wind is wicked and the

busses slower than usual. On her mind

is organic chemistry and the issue

of next month’s rent and will it be possible to

bypass the professor with the coldest eyes

to get a reference for graduate school,

and whether any of them, even those who smile

can see, looking at her, a biochemist

or marine biologist, which of the faces

can she trust to see her at all, either today

or in any future. The busses are worm-slow in the

quickly gathering dark. I don’t know her. I am

standing though somewhere just outside the frame

of all of this, trying to see. At her back

the newly finished building suddenly looks

like shelter, it has glass doors, lighted halls

presumably heat. The wind is wicked. She throws a

glance down the street, sees no bus coming and runs

up the newly constructed steps into the newly

constructed hallway. I am standing all this time

just beyond the frame, trying to see. She runs

her hand through the crystals of sleet about to melt

on her hair. She shifts the weight of the books

on her back. It isn’t warm here exactly but it’s

out of that wind. Through the glass

door panels she can watch for the bus through the thickening

weather. Watching so, she is not

watching the white man who watches the building

who has been watching her. This is Boston 1979.

I am standing somewhere at the edge of the frame

watching the man, we are both white, who watches the building

telling her to move on, get out of the hallway.

I can hear nothing because I am not supposed to be

present but I can see her gesturing

out toward the street at the wind-raked curb

I see her drawing her small body up

against the implied charges. The man

goes away. Her body is different now.

It is holding together with more than a hint of fury

and more than a hint of fear. She is smaller, thinner

more fragile-looking than I am. But I am not supposed to be

there. I am just outside the frame

of this action when the anonymous white man

returns with a white police officer. Then she starts

to leave into the windraked night but already

the policeman is going to work, the handcuffs are on her

wrists he is throwing her down his knee has gone into

her breast he is dragging her down the stairs I am unable

to hear a sound of all of this all that I know is what

I can see from this position there is no soundtrack

to go with this and I understand at once

it is meant to be in silence that this happens

in silence that he pushes her into the car

banging her head in silence that she cries out

in silence that she tries to explain she was only

waiting for a bus

in silence that he twists the flesh of her thigh

with his nails in silence that her tears begin to flow

that she pleads with the other policeman as if

he could be trusted to see her at all

in silence that in the precinct she refuses to give her name

in silence that they throw her into the cell

in silence that she stares him

straight in the face in silence that he sprays her

in her eyes with Mace in silence that she sinks her teeth

into his hand in silence that she is charged

with trespass assault and battery in

silence that at the sleet-swept corner her bus

passes without stopping and goes on

in silence. What I am telling you

is told by a white woman who they will say

was never there. I say I am there.

Between moon and sun, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Home, Warsan Shire (Somalia/England)

no one leaves home unless

home is the mouth of a shark.

you only run for the border

when you see the whole city

running as well.

your neighbours running faster

than you, the boy you went to school with

who kissed you dizzy behind

the old tin factory is

holding a gun bigger than his body,

you only leave home

when home won’t let you stay.

no one would leave home unless home

chased you, fire under feet,

hot blood in your belly.

it’s not something you ever thought about

doing, and so when you did –

you carried the anthem under your breath,

waiting until the airport toilet

to tear up the passport and swallow,

each mouthful of paper making it clear that

you would not be going back.

you have to understand,

no one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land.

who would choose to spend days

and nights in the stomach of a truck

unless the miles travelled

meant something more than journey.

no one would choose to crawl under fences,

be beaten until your shadow leaves you,

raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of

the boat because you are darker, be sold,

starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,

be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,

make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,

stripped and searched, find prison everywhere

and if you survive and you are greeted on the other side

with go home blacks, refugees

dirty immigrants, asylum seekers

sucking our country dry of milk,

dark, with their hands out

smell strange, savage –

look what they’ve done to their own countries,

what will they do to ours?

the dirty looks in the street

softer than a limb torn off,

the indignity of everyday life

more tender than fourteen men who

look like your father, between

your legs, insults easier to swallow

than rubble, than your child’s body

in pieces – for now, forget about pride

your survival is more important.

i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark

home is the barrel of the gun

and no one would leave home

unless home chased you to the shore

unless home tells you to

leave what you could not behind,

even if it was human.

no one leaves home until home

is a damp voice in your ear saying

leave, run now, i don’t know what

i’ve become.

Home, Kaushalya Bannerji October, 2020

A Comrade is as Precious as a Rice Seedling, Mila Aguilar (Philippines)

A comrade is as precious

as a rice seedling

One of many, it is true,

but nurtured by them

whose faces grow dark,

and taut, and lined

for the sake of their rice seedlings.

A comrade is as precious

as a rice seedling

for whom the peasant’s hands

grow thick and calloused

for whom his fingers

scrape the hardened mud.

A comrade is he

for whom the peasant’s toes

get muscled and big

because, like a rice seedling,

he will grow, one of precious many,

to fill the hunger

of him who cared enough

to nurture little seedlings.

A comrade is as precious

as a rice seedling

fed and nurtured

guarded from pestilence and floods

And yes, beloved of the peasant

because a rice seedling

grows, not only to fill his hunger,

but to give birth

to other seedlings

who will give birth

to many more

who will fill the hunger

of generations of peasants

for food, and land,

and right.

Small Unfurling, Kaushalya Bannerji, October 2020

And because poetry is not only read but spoken and sung, I have included the following links to some marvelous crafters of poems and songs.          

https://www.okayafrica.com/literature-awards-jamaican-poet-gives-eritrean-amanuel-asrat-prize/?fbclid=IwAR0SqNezJDf0LuUIRIEI4ZbVqA_LpzOQ7OmJMvooyBE4jUSc2TxhXCDiNcc

Categories
Art books cuba poesia cubana poetry

Water Finds its Own Level

I’ve decided to focus on 2 poems today, They are short and remind me in some ways of the poems of Langston Hughes. Their author is woman who I had the pleasure of hearing once, a member of UNEAC(National Union of Artists and Writers, Cuba), and an inspiration herself, to a younger generation of Afro-Cuban women poets. Below, Wikipedia gives a succinct account of her career as a writer:

Georgina Herrera was born in Jovellanos, the capital of Matanzas Province, Cuba. She began writing when she was nine years old, and when she was 16 her first poems were published, in such Havana periodicals as El País and Diario de la Tarde. As Miriam DeCosta-Willis has noted, “Many of her later poems capture the pain and loneliness of her growing-up years”, during which she endured poverty, an absent father and the death of her mother when she was 14.

Aged 20, Herrera moved to Havana in 1956, and worked as a domestic; it was in the homes of her wealthy employers that she met writers, who encouraged her to publish. Early in the Cuban Revolution she became involved with the “Novación Literaria” movement, and began working as a scriptwriter at the Cuban Institute for Radio and Television.

Wikipedia, Georgina Herrera

I’ve only read a couple of short poetry books by Georgina Herrera both in Spanish, and thought I would share 2 verses that I especially like. Her fame beyond Cuba has been limited until this century, when interest in Cuban Black culture and history has burgeoned in terms of literature, arts, and social sciences. If you are interested in more of her work you might check out the following bilingual collection below. In these current pieces, the English translations are my own.

Afrocubaweb, Georgina Herrera Cardenas

A bi-lingual Spanish/English collection of Herrera’s work, entitled Always Rebellious/Cimarroneando: Selected Poems (published by Cubanabooks, a US-based non-profit company specialising in Cuban women’s literature), won the 2016 International Latino Book Award for Best Bilingual Poetry Book. Herrera has said of the collection, whose title references maroons, Africans who escaped from enslavement in the Americas: “The inspiration for the book was my life experiences, it is a definition of me.”

Wikipedia.
Las Aguas Van Cogiendo Su Nivel

Mis orishas y mis negras viejas
no necesitan
que en un rincon les pongan alimentos
ni agua para la sed.
Lo que les quema la garganta
son ganas de justicia
visto asi,
 los he puesto a viajar
no en estos barcuchos, atenazados por traficantes.
El viaje ahora es al reves. 
Puse alas a mis palabras
y en las palabras estan ellos. 

Water Finds its Own Level (Trans. Kaushalya Bannerji)

My orishas and my old black women
don’t need
a nook where they are given food
and water for thirst.
What burns their throats
are desires for justice.
Seeing them like this, 
I set them travelling
No, not on those big boats, in the grips of traffickers.
The journey now, is the reverse.
I have put wings on my words
And in my words, they are.
Water Finds its Own Level, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
GRANDE ES EL TIEMPO

Grande es el tiempo a transitar
como un camino
si de las penas partes, yendo
hacia la dicha.
Y llegas y te instalas, pero
no permaneces, vuelves, irremediable,
al primer sitio, cual si fuera
el de tu origen, donde
algo perdiste y buscas incansable
pero
no sabes qué.

Georgina Herrera, de Grande es el tiempo, La Habana, UNEAC, 1989

Great is the Time (Trans. Kaushalya Bannerji)

Great is the time
We walk as though on a road
of sorrowing parts, going
toward happiness.
And you arrive and you stay, but
you don’t belong, you return, incurable,
to the first site, as if it were
that place of your origin,
where you lost something and you look tirelessly
but don’t know
for what.
Icarus, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020

Categories
Art poetry racism survival White Supremacy

I read the news today, oh boy…

I was unfriended during the summer of “we’re all in this together” on my social media page for writing the following poem. You can have a look for yourselves. Not surprising that a white woman would find it offensive, if she feels her position somehow needs defending. This reminds me of the old story, that if you talk about racism, acknowledge its existence– you are a RACIST! This was the most common argument I heard from peers and teachers growing up non-white in the urban Canada of multiculturalism’s heyday. But, one asks– what about the police? If talking about racism makes you racist, then surely talking about crime makes you a criminal?

So it doesn’t surprise me that many of my former colleagues are so invested in a system that they think a simple land acknowledgement about Aboriginal displacement should suffice, but that people of colour speaking out about a world in which they are dehumanized moment by moment, from womb to tomb– is aggressive and anti-white, if not, “reverse racism”

Hallam Road, Necessary Neighbours, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

.Before I go on, I want to address this aspect of “cancel culture” that started not on Facebook or the internet, but in real academic institutions, the unofficial blacklists of BIPOC students perceived as too “coloured”, too “radical”, too much with a “chip on their shoulder”, too ready to “play the race card”. The blacklists of Marxist and Anarchist academics. The silencing of racial discrimination complaints by Unions filled with people who want to be the boss. As most academic unions– comprised as they are of graduate students– membership is seen as transitory. As grad students become professors, they join another more senior advocacy body, faculty associations. Teaching Assistantships and Course Directorships are replaced by contractually limited appointments (if you’re lucky) and the right to join Professors’ Unions.

Well, the race card has been played ever since race has been a central organizing force in savagely brutal Euopean centered modes of production from mercantile/slaveholding/trading /breeding capitalism. These modes of thinking about physical differences in peoples, were engineered to reduce the humanity of kidnapped, bought, and sold labour. If Black signifies “not human”, then the social whole benefits from, and is immured in, this characterization’s cosmological apartheid.

We play the hand we’re dealt, in the skin we’re in, with the consciousness we develop as our circumstances dictate. My poem is a dirge for THIS white world which nullifies our core–our humanity and personhood. Let me know if this poem touched you at all in light of the recent events of the last year!

Montreal Gazette, September 2020, Justice for Joyce Echaquan

Fuck this white world

and the sun that shines out of its ass.

Fuck this white world

which brought us here to torture and to maim

our beautiful souls.

Fuck this white world 

which pits my brown brokenness 

against your black tear.

Fuck this white world

which pits your red blood against my yellow fear

Justice for Breonna, MerlinFoof, Reddit 2020

Fuck this white world

which rips out our veins

with its sterility and the burning plastic of 

restraints applied in the u.s.,

made in china.

Internet Poster, 2020

Fuck this white world

that holds us in its restraint.

demolishes our individuality

forces us to pay

over and over again

for the privilege of being human

Categories
Art Bell's Palsy climate crisis COVID19 depression Disability music

Post-Equinoctial Saudade

No much up to writing lately, and they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

5 Septembers ago, the equinox gave me the gift of a new face. I was afflicted with a virus called Bell’s Palsy. It changed my life. We are all judged on first appearances. I used to be excruciatingly self-conscious after my face became paralysed. Even today, eating in front of people is an embarrassment. Self-esteem is a’ thing’, as they say, and for myself and many others with facial disfigurement/paralysis it is very easy to be judged and pigeonholed, leaving our self-worth hugely destroyed.

Selfie, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020

I mention this because medical science doesn’t even know how to treat/help viruses that are already here. Let alone one that was supposedly released/found in humans a year ago. In the midst of this pandemic, my pre-existing conditions are acting up too. And corona counts are surging where we are., though nowhere close to the U.S. India, Brazil or Mexican rates.

I’m too exhausted by, and weary of, words. Pandemic fatigue, citizenship reduced to disposability, rumours of electoral– and beyond– violence, in the southern neighbour; hundreds if not thousands living around us in parks in the advent of winter, climate catastrophes, and plague profits/prophets abound. 38 million people will die from hunger in India alone due to government private sector mishandling of public health measures and food security. In Canada unemployment is hitting 30 percent with little relief in site. Lockdowns without food are useless.

Below, I share some of my newer creations, tinged by both personal grief, and grief for the suffering wrought by governmental /corporate responses to human suffering on a scale unmatched in peace time. Seems more like piece time–those who can will grab what they want and the rest of us will get the pieces. Don’t need horror stories for Halloween this year.! We’re living it. I’ll let Jay Gould’s Daughter have the last word. After all, who better to bemoan dignity for the working peoples of the world than another old-times tycoon’s daughter!

On a Monday morning it begin to rain
‘Round the curve come a passenger train
On the blinds was Hobo John
He’s a good old hobo, but he’s dead and gone
Dead and gone,
He’s dead and gone,
He’s a good old hobo, but he’s dead and gone
Jay Gould’s daughter said before she died
Papa, fix the blinds so the bums can’t ride
If ride they must, they got to ride the rod
Let ’em put their trust in the hands of God
In the hands of God
In the hands of God
Let them put their trust in the hands of God
Jay Gould’s daughter said, before she died
There’s two more trains I’d like to ride
Jay Gould said, “Daughter, what can they be?”
The Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe
The Santa Fe,
Oooh the Santa Fe
The Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe
Jay Gould’s daughter said, before she died
There’s two more drinks I’d like to try
Jay Gould said, “Daughter what can they be?
They’s a glass o’ water and a cup o’ tea
A cup o’ tea,
Eeer, the cup of tea
They’s a glass o’ water and a cup o’ tea
Charlie Snyder was a good engineer
Told his fireman not to fear
Pour on your water, boys, and shovel on your coal
Stick your head out the window, see the drivers roll
See the drivers roll,
See the drivers roll
Stick your head out the window, see the drivers roll
See the drivers roll,
See the drivers roll,
Stick your head out the window, see the drivers roll
Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: A. Lomax / J. Lomax
Give a Man a Fish, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020
Homeless in the Park, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020
Icarus, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020
Snail among Aspens, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Broken Dark, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020
Jump/Push? Lockdowns without Food , Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
It could not have been the blue bird of happiness, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020