Scorched earth used to be a military tactic —
Samson caught three hundred foxes,
and took firebrands,
and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails,
sending them through enemy fields —
but what if nature out-flames the foxes?
What if floods engulf
those waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
Hosing down used to be a police tactic —
against dissenting crowds,
with dissent almost a badge of honor,
police visor and shield
almost an admission of guilt —
ah, earth, water, air, mind — all ablaze!
No sense in wasting a poem on impeachment,
those things pass
like leaves in the wind,
Nixon, Clinton,Trump, and
by the time you read this
another fistful, maybe no doubt —
on second thought, poems too
are leaves in a high wind, sacred altitude at best.
Han Shan sent his poems floating downstream,
scribbled them on the walls of caves
wrote them on beech-bark
on the off-chance someone would find them —
Pulitzer-winner Gary Snyder for sure found them!
Floods and firestorms:
the planet is not so much burning as oscillating,
floods, the element of water,
fire would evaporate them,
but only after bringing them to boiling point,
water would quench them,
but boiling point is hardly the issue.
We are deep into future problems,
the courage of our blind denial
with water-walking ability
granted us solely in scriptures —
prediction succeeds, prophecy fails, what next?
This is to alert BrownPundit readers to a series I’ve begun on Zenpundit, my other punditry-posting place. It’s about Ioan Couliano’s argument in his book Eros and Magic in the Renaissance that the Renaissance art of Magic was essentially a matter of conjuring desire in the recipient by means of visual imagery, and that the Art has been revived with great success in the present day, in the form of commercial advertising.
Roughly speaking, then, Magic is the defendant, modernity-secularity-technology is the prosecution team — who don’t bother to call witnesses because, m’lord, it’s plain obvious that magical thinking is superstitious nonsense — and a bucket-load of TV commercials form the evidence presented by the defense.
But wait a minute — here’s magic:
Whether you’re secular or a devotee, that photographic image is magical in that a simple hand-gesture conjures up a flute. The flute isn’t there, objectively speaking — and yet there’s a flute, Krishna is quite obviously playing it, and indeed its mellifluous power of enchantment has drawn the lovely Radha to his side.
About Krishna’s flute — you may know far more than I, but at least I can point to Denise Levertov and Edward C Dimmock’s poem in Songs in Praise of Krishna — from the Bengali:
Radha is terrified on her way to the forest
O Madhava, how shall I tell you of my terror?
I could not describe my coming here
if I had a million tongues.
When I left my room and saw the darkness
I could not see the path,
there were snakes that writhed round my ankles!
I was alone, a woman; the night was so dark,
the forest so dense and gloomy,
and I had so far to go.
The rain was pouring down —
which path should I take?
My feet were muddy
and burning where thorns had scratched them.
But I had the hope of seeing you, none of it mattered,
and now my terror seems far away. . . .
When the sound of your flute reaches my ears
it compels me to leave my home, my friends,
it draws me into the dark toward you.
I no longer count the pain of coming here,
And what does all this have to do with advertising?
My response is that the Krishna and Radha in this photo were captured, and Krishna’s flute conjured, by the eye of a pro commercial guy:
JEREMY HUNTER began his career in advertising – as a television creative, working for Young and Rubicam, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy and Bates, along the way winning a number of international awards in Cannes, Venice, New York and Los Angeles. During this time he worked with some of Britain’s most iconic film directors – John Schlesinger, Ken Russell, Tony Scott, Dick Lester, Nic Roeg, Richard Loncraine as well as Oscar-winning Editor Jim Clark and photographer Terence Donovan.
That’s the resume of a contemporary magician.
In case you’re interested, the posts in my Magic and Commercials series on Zenpundit to date are:
Since on the “Brown Roundup” thread, there was some spirited discussion about baby Prince Louis and his being named after Lord Mountbatten, I was reminded of W.H. Auden’s poem “Partition”. It’s a short poem, so I’m just going to copy it out from my edition of Auden’s Collected Poems (Edited by Edward Mendelson). The poem appears on pages 803- 804 of the volume.
Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission
Having never set eyes on this land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.
“Time,” they had briefed him in London, “is short. It’s too late
For mutual reconciliation or rational debate:
The only solution now lies in separation.
The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,
That the less you are seen in his company the better,
So we’ve arranged to provide you with other accommodation.
We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,
To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you.”
Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.
The next day he sailed for England, where he quickly forgot
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.
The poem speaks for itself. The central character (never actually named in the poem itself) is Sir Cyril Radcliffe.
A translation (by Ruchira Paul) of Pakistani Feminist poet Fahmida Riaz’s poem Aqlima (daughter of Adam and Eve)
Audio in the poet’s own voice. (mislabeled as another poem).
jo Habil aur Kabil ki maa jaani hai
muqtalif beech raano ke
aur pistanon ki ubhaar mein
aur apne pait ke andar
aur kokh mein
is sab ki kismet kyun hai
ek farba bher ke bachche ki qurbani
woh apne badan ki qaidi
taptee hui dhoop mein jalte
teele par khadi hui hai
patthar par naksh banee hai
us naksh ko ghaur se dekho
lambee raano se upar
ubharte pistanon se upar
paicheeda kokh se upar
Aklima ka sar bhi hai
Allah kabhi Aklima se qalam karain
aur kuchh puchhain.
Born of the same mother as Abel and Cain
Born of the same mother but different
Different between her thighs
Different in the swell of her breasts
Different inside her stomach
And her womb too
Why is the fate of her body
Like that of a well fed sacrificial lamb
She, a prisoner of that body
See her standing in the scorching sun on a smoldering hill
Casting a shadow that burns itself into the stones
Look at that shadow closely
Above the long thighs
Above the swelling breasts
Above the coils in her womb
Aklima also has a head
Let Allah have a conversation with Aklima
And ask her a few questions.
(Aklima was the lesser known offspring of Adam and Eve, the sister or Cain and Abel)