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Sweet Angelica,
An overwhelm of your leafy
ramifications, waxed verdure
affections for a wayward wind.
My eyes caught the emerald glint;
now they glisten green
in a poetic apotheosis.

Should I deem you guilty
that 'twas the devil's walking stick
that sired you,
as virid envelope,
so delicate that every leaflet
would blend to a fine herb repast.

So I brave your prickly defences
in my manner of white tailed deer
and nibble of your leafy poetry.
A half mouthed curse that you sting
but your arbour rose
where none grew and I thought
you bloomed especially for me.

Rhizomes spiralled for life,
and the taste of muddied rain.
Other wanderers tried pillage
those jejune early fronds and
you recoiled in thorny armament,
a conflicted poetry I read on you.

Look at you now ...
largest leaf than any other in a North wind,
towering panicles that draw
a chorus of winged angels, quills.
These be the battlements of love
that will shed for life, in beauty

for when Summer leaves, there'll be Fall,
then the long rest of seasons.
I was struck by the leafy beauty of the Angelica tree which I came across at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on the Virginia half of Assateague Island that we visited recently.
Read further at:

The trunk and petioles bear spines, a stem modification in defence from foragers, that makes it also quite deer resistant. The spines also gave it the common name of ‘devil’s walking stick’ or ‘prickly ash’.

Here below, is a botanical poem.
We thought of us today as single cells
'Ciliating' across the universe of colour
under the coverslip of time; a microcosm
of pedalling plants or fettuccine of cells.

The hues of darkness are pink and bright,
in beach slippers tracing paths on glass,
and those springing Vorticella are flowers
we created in our fictions of science ...

But all possess a veneer bound
cytoplasm of affection, crawling like
Annelids across the void in a world
bursting in avatars of the invisible

or their transparent real selves
glowing like gemstones in the sky,
or simply opaque as we are, each
to the other under the play of light,

polarized views secreted within some
dark muddied pond, harbouring
the cells of love, shedding cuticles
of sorrow, laying the germ of tomorrow

or funneling delight in little green globes
that make food ... are food. We must be
blessed to be cytoplasm like them or cursed,
I don't know which, but it's all profound.
Blepharisma is found in fresh and salt water, is a unicellular ciliated protist and is pink due to the presence of the photosensitive pigment, blepharismin. These pink creatures are photophobic, seek out darkened areas and lose their colour or die in strong light.

Vorticella is a ciliated protozoan with a stalk that is made up of a contractile organelle which serves as a molecular spring, so it can contract. This organelle or spasmoneme is said to have a higher specific power than the engine of the average car.

Volvox is a green algae that forms spherical colonies of up to 50,000 cells and live in freshwater habitats.

Cyanobacteria are Gram-negative bacteria that obtain energy via photosynthesis, also called blue-green algae but aren’t eukaryotes like algae.

Stentors are among the biggest known extant unicellular organisms and also ciliated.

Annelids belong to phylum Annelida that includes earthworms, leeches and the microscopic polychaete worms, oligochaetes.

Cytoplasm is the jelly like substance within the cell membrane, excluding the nucleus. All together, they make the protoplasm of a cell.
A lonesome threshold,
yesterday was light as confetti / from a wedding that
bled in thirty litres of martyred roses / How long are
three hundred steps from a church, to stucco walls
the colour of sorrow?

Soil, the tint of blood,
ichor of mountain Gods, deveined for lost embrace
of roots / Wind whistling away regrets in the dust of
liberated souls / Would it sing for her, embalmed
in the bowels of earth’s sanguine hum?

April heat, weighted with a dirge
of tears salted in ocean / rusting the trumpet
and violin strings / Who will tune the piano for mass,
now that those musical men sailed before her,
in paper boat memoirs?

The Goliath tree rooted in bones,
a giant on such sustenance / gatekeeper of souls
tethered to fleshy sinews in beds of solitude /
Will she be interred in fruit, as he suppers
on her animated putrefaction?

Suffering, twice a child,
once a lady, she didn’t stay long to be swaddled
in linens of pity, cottons of commiserations /
Where will I store the enameled chamber *** for
when I grow up to be her likeness?

Nightshades, funneling viscous memories,
trumpeting in a pastel wilderness, alkaloid racket
waiting to sound in the poisons of prayerful echoes /
When will they bloom, toxic with grief of a swelling past,
so I may sleep as soundly as her?
Inspired by death in my village, remembering my grandmother ...
Cornrows forge a rhythm to the sun
and self love feels like a line dance.
A shake of tassels and silks that
unfurl in the nick of time.

Love flowers on a stalk, above, below.
The wind sweeps in an airy betrothal,
a surge and then a sway, sashay,
a whirl in the nick of time.

Pollen, sparkles, pixel burst.
How do the ears of corn know,
to listen to the wind holler,
to twirl in the nick of time.

In a Caryopsis, a synopsis
of self seducing passions,
crushed to cornmeal. Floury
swirl in the nick of time.
The inspiration for this poem lay in a snippet of poetry that the wonderful actor, the late Irrfan Khan voices to a pomegranate plant in the movie Karwaan (Hindi). He say this to the sapling of Anarkali (pomegranate bud):

“They buried me alive thinking I’ll perish,
but they didn’t realise, that I’m a seed and in my burial, lay my redemption. My dear pomegranate bud, don’t be in a hurry to bloom and fruit. You will be taken to an expansive space where you can grow and flourish.”

The delicate instruction got me to think about seeds, progenitors of the future, buried and redeemed when they germinate. There are so many ways to create a seed. Love in the plant kingdom, if it can be called that, is as diverse as the plants that make up the flora of the world.

Today’s post is about corn rows in a field. Corn is a wind pollinated plant (male and female flowers occur on the same stalk and corn can self pollinate too). It would be interesting to note that the time of synchronous maturation of flowers on the stalk is termed colloquially, a nick. Tassels, silks, ears are all parts of corn flowers and Caryopsis, the fruit of the corn arranged on the cob, is a fruit body found in other varieties of grasses as well. So much for the botanical lesson for now.

On a separate note, it seems like ages when my mother braided my (then short) hair in cornrows which was unusual for my school days. It’s time consuming to braid hair thus, especially when extensions are involved (like I first saw people in Dar es Salaam wear them) hours of labour involved, but a wonderful way to wear hair nevertheless.

It was also in Dar that I danced a Kenyan style line dance that is a form of synchronized dancing where each person moves separately to rhythm. Do check the South African anthem Jerusalema that was put to this unbeatable step (to go viral online), by the Angolan dance troupe, Fenomenos de Semba (and if dancing with a plate of food is your kind of thing). The idea behind Line dancing is that it begets coexistence. I would like to imagine a kind of ‘Convivencia’, which resonates with the theme of corn love or a communal love dancing in a corn field, so to speak. (Although, Convivencia is used to denote the complex interplay of social, cultural and religious practices). We are still the same species despite the differences , like corn in a field.

Thank you for reading.
Off the shoulder of Orion onto the arm of Perseus / in sentient skin sheathing the tingle of nerves / a mortal hunger for a view of the galaxy broader than the Milky Way / an awakened pulse in a soulless being / stronger, brighter, speedier, warrior / yet now, wiser / lover / beloved / thirsting for life / unafraid of who he is / never hidden in the arrow flailing off the arm of the Archer / a philosophical spiraling through a riot of 200 billion stars / looking inwards to what he may become //

It was the existential philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) who described authenticity as choosing the nature of one’s existence and identity. He linked the concept of authenticity to an awareness of our mortality, positing that only in keeping in view the inevitability of death can one lead a truly authentic life.

Heidegger, Sartre and Camus among others have all discussed and debated the idea of authenticity, free will, freedom of action being a path to self realization etc. I enjoy the thoughts of these erudite thinkers and it brought to mind the most moving death speech ever recorded in cinematic history, that of the replicant Roy Batty from Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ (1982). It is supremely poetic and for a replicant who tried in the course of the film, to find the meaning of his life and a way to increase his lifespan, it is filled with reflection in an awareness of an authentic self and a regret in his imminent mortality. The 42 word monologue what Rutger Hauer (who plays Roy) delivered after he had his way with the original version.

Tears in the Rain

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die’.

I have enjoyed the idea of the search for a meaning of life by AI that lack human consciousness. It’s a beautiful riveting moment in the film where the empathy one feels for someone striving to be human is much more than one would feel for detective Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), who projects himself throughout the movie as less human and more of a replicant. What is authenticity? For an observer, it would be Roy Batty’s deathbed regret of not having lived to the potential he assumed he had if his lifespan were extended. It is the pain of losing his lover in the course of the film, the opportunity and the ability to show compassion to an assassin like Deckard, the hope of learning to be sentient, an escape from slavery of AI. This movie is quite a treat for the understated screenplay, the poignant moments, the inherent philosophical questions that arise. This poem is my tribute to Roy Batty who I believe, appears more human than a human would strive to be.
Note: Although the movie Blade Runner, catapulted to cult status and Tannhäuser Gate, C-beams are Sci-Fi vocabulary, Tannhäuser is in fact an 1845 opera in three acts by Richard Wagner, based on a German legends, Tannhäuser, the mythologized medieval German Minnesänger and poet. The poet spends his time alternately worshipping Venus and all things Venusian and then feeling remorse for his sins, perhaps battling with his own feelings of authenticity.

A further insight into deathbed regrets:

In the little systematic research done on the dying, Bronnie Ware’s book, ‘Regrets of the Dying’ recorded that family, relationships and authenticity matter most to the dying. An interesting essay I read this morning on the deathbed perspective, (which prompted me to look into issues of authenticity in the first place), author Neil Levy wonders if deathbed regrets are epistemically privileged and cites American philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel who provides two reasons why we should be careful about giving them undue significance. Firstly, he says, the dying might be subject to hindsight bias and secondly the dying escape the consequences of their own advice.

Levy also observes that the death bed regret is a view from the perspective of someone who is gripped by a simpler set of commitments and to quote him, ” for whom simpler pleasures – those that can be realized immediately, or come to fruition relatively quickly – retain their grip, but for whom broader commitments are absurd. The view from the deathbed comes as close as is humanly possible (for those who aren’t deeply depressed) to abandoning the sets of commitments that give more extended projects meaning.” Some food for thought.
The clouds fell from their lofty perch onto her belly / wrapped in layers of time this Matryoshka/ flouncy in snowflakes / cold startles the birds / the trains are stillborn / marshes float on ice / and nights look like silence //

She fashions a snowman / they speak in parables of time / is it shaped like a sisal string or a potter’s wheel / does it appear like a falling star / disappear like a glacier / is it syllabic conversations at dusk / or chimneys brewing clouds into sky / while fires roast limbs of arthritic trees //

Her sundial is circular / like the lunacy of seasons / His, fractalizes into uncertain snowflakes / transformed by an arrow flung far to an unknown distance / Gaia awakens in ****** spring / a forced maturity squinting at trains that furrow the land / bleeding in cherry blossoms / wealthy as the emerald leaves she wears to a country gala //

The snowman computes time / stray facts the winter wind whispered into his ear / as he melts into January’s cloak / like tears shed for sparkling fractals lost forever / The Earth believes in the manner of faith , he will resurrect on her sundial / as she kisses time into momentary stillness, turns water into ice //
My niece is besotted with Elsa from Frozen. She wears the dress over or under everything and can’t do without her crown. In the sequel to the film, Olaf the snowman gets lost in the enchanted forest where Gale, the wind spirit makes him so dizzy that he suffers an existential crisis. He concludes through his ordeal that he is yet to grow up and when he does, everything will make sense. It is easy to grow up in real life, we seem to have our paths laid out for us that we imitate in the manner of our forebears and peers. Yet, we still think about the meaning of our existence. Olaf believes it is in the soaking up of facts, to learn more and then add to this by further inquiry and action. I wonder if the measure of a successful existence is connected to how we view time..

The fact that we still think about the meaning of life is the reason they have an Olaf in a Children’s animation film. Are the answers readily available, for all that life throws at us, so we may clarify the turbid, find clarity, see the invisible ? Today’s poem is to ponder the truths held in a snow covered land, trying to make sense of time.
The streets fidget at this intersection at gazes of stone men / sweeping birds in the gusts of a smug exhalation / The signs say they aren’t meant to feed the pigeons / falling onto the pavement like confetti /hoping for crumbs of compassion //

In the morning hid behind a mask / we exchange glances of belief / truths etched in our silhouettes as the eyes / paint vivid portraits of what must exist/ in the blue, green, grey, brown / hazel or amber inlay of the other //

The times when our smiles were obscured in sunlight and streetlight / people bled onto the path in a diaphanous glow / The invisible slipped past our eyes / but not of the stone men / They have always been solid / sentinels of our displaced pulse / as we erred in the manner of stone //
At the Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in Manhattan, in the company of stone men and pigeons ~ the idea for sculpture poetry grew out of the figures that haunt the plaza that is devoid of as many people as in the days before the pandemic.
There it looms, a life like mountain/ sheathed in fynbos, all shades of green/ while the cape drags in reluctant seaweed/ and the wind makes contrails of my hair/

I ascend too with the heather, the rooibos and the hottentot/ We climb/ now a collective of exaggerated beauty/ defiant in wind, spray and fire/

There are leaves as prone as a flat lined heart/ reeds as resilient as a returning pulse/and we all watch the hope of yolk/ of a Sunday sun dipping into the ocean/promising to rise again/

We creep up the leeward and the windward/ ensconced in the spiral of a soul entropy/ determined to survive every rock and crevice/ to hoist ourselves up the flagpole of the cosmic plan/
I wove the Fynbos or the shrub vegetation of the Cape Floral Region (South Africa) in this poem dedicated to a resilient womanhood.

— The End —