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Poetry for the Peeps! Of Spiders and Refugees

Autumn is a time when spiders look for warm places to spin their webs and lay their egg sacs. I’ve always been terrified of large and hairy spiders but outside among the plants they design the most beautiful webs which catch the dew or frost of colder times. While, I’m not a fan of spider infestations, one or two small ones don’t terrify me. In fact Charlotte’s Web was a fantastic book from my childhood which probably had an indirect benefit of saving some spiders’ lives, if not the lives of pigs!

Fall is a time for hunkering down and gathering resources for the spring, like plants and animals. After all, we are animals too. But what if you have nowhere to call your own, like so many “migrant” and refugee populations? Brushed off like spiders, refugees are existing in dreadful conditions in camps and detention centers in countless countries. This piece below by Fady Joudah puts it simply.

Refugee Boat, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
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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

Autumn’s Corner

We are entering into the beginning of fall, turning the corner of summer into autumn’s path. This bizarre pandemic year with its spring lockdown, cool early summer, and sweltering July and August is bringing a September of extremes to us! I am hoping for a warm sunny fall that stretches out for as long as possible! Thought I’d share the poems of two poetesses, giants in their own right!

Summer’s End, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020

Song for Autumn, Mary Oliver

Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now
how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for

the fires that will come—six, a dozen—to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
stiffens and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its long blue shadows. The wind wags
its many tails. And in the evening
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Autumn Wind, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020

Perhaps the World Ends Here, Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No Matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
…It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
 

Study in Green, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020

A fall gallery

These are a few recent pieces, as I enjoy one of the most colourful autumns I have seen. We are turning the corner into winter soon… I hope you all enjoy this visual homage to the seasons. And a huge thank you to all of you who’ve allowed me to celebrate 3500 hits to this blog!

Smoke bush, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Wind storm, Kaushalya Bannerji
Autumn Hills, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Anything for me? Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Pines, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
The Master Painter, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Park Path, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Autumn/Series, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Autumn/Series, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Sunset Through the Trees, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Through the Trees, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Autumn Sunset, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Constellation: The Great cat, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
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A Walk in the Park

We went to the park the other day. Storing up the sunshine of these beautiful days while we can, like squirrels with their nuts. The ups and downs of the meadows and trees, the glint of the sun on the tiny river and all around, little inhabitants of our world, scurrying to save stores for a cold winter. The park was full of scampering feet and half-glimpsed little chipmunks and squirrels, a few late monarchs enjoying the flowers and sunshine of early October and some ducks intent on sharing the loot of a solitary fisherman. Fall’s beauty is fleeting.

I found a poem I really liked, about autumn, from poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). The translation is from the German by Scott Stewart, 2017. I’ve accompanied it with my drawings of our park visit.

Autumn at the Park, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Autumn Day

It is time, Lord. Summer was grand.

Now lay your shadow on the day,

and bathe your fields in the wind.

Let the late harvest linger.

Give it two more southern days.

Make it full and bring her

final sweetness into those heavy vines.

If you have no house now, you never will have one.

If you are alone now, you will always live alone,

Reading late in the fading light. Writing letters with no end.

Wandering dark alleys.

Restless and uneasy. A leaf on the wind.

Feast, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Autumn Snail, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Sunflowers (variation), Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Autumn at the Park, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Willow by the River, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Sunset Through the Trees, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
A Rainy Twilight, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
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Autumn

Today’s piece is sharing some poems which have been part of our English poetry canon for centuries and decades. Some I had to study in school, and thus happily rediscovered in adulthood. My mother suggested me a beautiful poem by John Keats, Ode to Autumn. I share it below. A beautiful cadence of the English language and evocative images. Here it is

Ode To Autumn, John Keats

season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; 
Conspiring with him how to load and bless 
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; 
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, 
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, 
And still more, later flowers for the bees, 
Until they think warm days will never cease, 
      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells. 

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? 
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find 
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, 
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep, 
   Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook 
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers: 
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep 
   Steady thy laden head across a brook; 
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look, 
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours. 

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they? 
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,— 
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; 
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn 
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft 
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; 
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft 
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft; 
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Falling, no glasses! Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Day in Autumn, Rainer Marie Rilke/ trans. Mary Kinzie

After the summer’s yield, Lord, it is time
to let your shadow lengthen on the sundials
and in the pastures let the rough winds fly.

As for the final fruits, coax them to roundness.
Direct on them two days of warmer light
to hale them golden toward their term, and harry
the last few drops of sweetness through the wine.

Whoever’s homeless now, will build no shelter;
who lives alone will live indefinitely so,
waking up to read a little, draft long letters,
and, along the city’s avenues,
fitfully wander, when the wild leaves loosen.

Chinese lanterns, fall bloom, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019
Musici di San Marco, Alberto Lizzio
Leaving, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Autumn Song, W.H. Auden , 1936

Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse’s flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone,
But the prams go rolling on.

Whispering neighbours left and right
Daunt us from our true delight,
Able hands are forced to freeze
Derelict on lonely knees.

Close behind us on our track,
Dead in hundreds cry Alack,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.

Scrawny through a plundered wood,
Trolls run scolding for their food,
Owl and nightingale are dumb,
And the angel will not come.

Clear, unscaleable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cold cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.

Leaves, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

The Time of Year thou Mays’t in me Behold ,William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Autumn, cat, salt lamp, aloe, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019