Posts filed under ‘Pavi’

The Art of Disappearing

Naomi Shihab Nye

Listen (to Pavi read)

When they say Don’t I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say We should get together
say why?

It’s not that you don’t love them anymore.
You’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

Pavi writes, “Why do I feel the need to defend this poem? Because I do. Feel the need. To defend this poem. I want to apologise behind its back for its anti-social tendencies, its unabashed unfriendliness and the rich texture of its rudeness. Not the kind of poem you could lean over and strike up a casual conversation with – without getting your head snapped off for your pains. That sort of poem. The kind that urges you to the verge of a resentful rejection of civilizations neatly composed niceties (That it makes you want to laugh out loud is beside the point– and bad manners besides– like encouraging a child who has just blurted out in the middle of polite company- something importantly true and deeply inappropriate) That said- let me say also, that Bill Moyers* carried this poem folded into his wallet after living past heart surgery. Now one doesn’t carry a poem around folded into one’s wallet after living past heart surgery on account of its richly textured rudeness- does one? No. When you hear past the poem’s prickly barricade what you hear rings out with the clear purity of that monastery bell at twilight that it makes mention of. A clarion call back to What Really Matters — couched in crusty curmudgeonliness and not a little sarcasm. If this poem has a sting– then trust it. The way you trust the brief burn of antiseptic on a wound. Because life, lived attentively, can be so much more than a littleness traveling between trivialities. Read the last lines and in spite of yourself feel this world and this moment turn incredibly precious beneath your fingertips.”


*Here is the transcript of an interview on PBS where Moyers talks to Nye about her family, poetry, and this poem among other things.


September 14, 2006 at 5:58 pm 10 comments


Jorge Luis Borges

Listen (to Pavi read)

When sorrow lays us low
for a second we are saved
by humble windfalls
of the mindfulness or memory:
the taste of a fruit, the taste of water,
that face given back to us by a dream,
the first jasmine of November,
the endless yearning of the compass,
a book we thought was lost,
the throb of a hexameter,
the slight key that opens a house to us,
the smell of a library, or of sandalwood,
the former name of a street,
the colors of a map,
an unforeseen etymology,
the smoothness of a filed fingernail,
the date we were looking for,
the twelve dark bell-strokes, tolling as we count,
a sudden physical pain.

Eight million Shinto deities
travel secretly throughout the earth.
Those modest gods touch us–
touch us and move on.

Pavi writes,
“A poem about the glimpses of grace that are our unexpected and
unlikely salvation through troubled times. Mindfulness and memory he
says. Awareness in this moment and the gentle thrill-tipped
remembrance of things past that can sometimes come alive to comfort
and console us through the inconsolable. Our mortal hearts can lean
inexplicably on such little things (such little little things! where
the shape of a cloud is a blessing in an uncertain sky, and the colors
on a map can take your breath away) brief moments of beauty that throb
and swell with the implicit sensuous significance of what it means to
live in this world – to be tasting witness a participant to this
many-splendoured assault of quiet loveliness. Just the thought of
eight million beings wandering invisible and unassuming through this
earth, brushing past us light as a whisper soft as a sigh reorienting
us away from despair in all but imperceptible silver-threaded instants
is enough to make me look up from this clackety keyboard and into the
ready, steady beauty of this moment in silent wonder- and tardy


September 5, 2006 at 11:39 pm Leave a comment

All Who Seek You

Rainer Maria Rilke

Listen (to Pavi read)

All who seek you
test you.
And those who find you
bind you to image and gesture.

I would rather sense you
as the earth sense you.
In my ripening
what you are.

I need from you no tricks
to prove you exist.
Time, I know,
is other than you.

No miracles, please.
Just let your laws
become clearer
from generation to generation.

In German,

Alle, welche dich suchen, versuchen dich

Alle, welche dich suchen, versuchen dich.
Und die, so dich finden, binden dich
an Bild und Gebärde.
Ich aber will dich begreifen
wie dich die Erde begreift;
mit meinem Reifen
dein Reich.
Ich will von dir keine Eitelkeit,
die dich beweist.
Ich weiß, dass die Zeit
anders heißt
als du.
Tu mir kein Wunder zulieb.
Gieb deinen Gesetzen recht,
die von Geschlecht zu Geschlecht
sichtbarer sind.

From the ‘Book of Hours’. We also ran ‘Too Alone‘ from the same collection.


June 13, 2006 at 4:00 pm Leave a comment



Listen (to Pavi read)

This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Will stop with two stolen lines from Pavi’s blog,

‘No one can make wisdom sparkle the way Rumi can.
There is such sureness, such light-footed agility to this verse.’

And relegate the rest to footnotes. ;-)

[1] :) The Irony! The bestselling poet in this youth-obsessed time and place is a a 13th century Persian poet, theologian, the head of a madrassa …
Rumi Rules!, TIME Asia.

[2] “While Barks’s stamp on this collection is clear, it in no way interferes with the poems themselves; Rumi’s voice leaps off these pages with an ecstatic energy that leaves readers breathless. There are poems of love, rage, sadness, pleading, and longing; passionate outbursts about the torture of longing for his beloved and the sweet pleasure that comes from their union; amusing stories of sexual exploits or human weakness; and quiet truths about the beauty and variety of human emotion. More than anything, Rumi makes plain the unbridled joy that comes from living life fully, urging us always to put aside our fears and take the risk to do so. As he says: “The way of love is not / a subtle argument. / The door there is devastation. / Birds make great sky-circles / of their freedom. / How do they learn it? / They fall, and falling, / they’re given wings.” –Uma Kukathas” – on Essential Rumi

Sigh! don’t you miss the ‘literal’ vs ‘poetic’ debates on translation (from the Faiz posts).

[3] There are a million ways (it would seem) to break someone’s heart, to disappoint them and hurt them. But very few ways to say, you are sorry. This was one of those, I-am-sorry poems in my mailbox. What could be better than to tell the ‘hurtee’ – just let it pass. The incident is now long lost, but the poem remains. And I am grateful. :)


June 5, 2006 at 9:56 pm 2 comments

Too Alone

Rainer Maria Rilke

Listen (to Pavi read)

I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy
I’m too small in the world, yet not small enough
to be simply in your presence, like a thing—
just as it is.

(this, the poem that fell out when I opened the book after getting
home. an unconscious echo of this evening’s thoughts- spoken and un.
this moment is holy. we see things not as they but we are- even, and
maybe especially- ourselves. rilke’s self-reflexive twist) [1]

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones—
or alone.

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.

I would describe myself like a landscape I’ve studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I’m coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtimes;

like my mother’s face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.

– From Rilke’s Book Of Hours translated by Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy

The german original,

Ich bin auf der Welt zu allein und doch nicht allein genug

Ich bin auf der Welt zu allein und doch nicht allein genug,
um jede Stunde zu weihn.
Ich bin auf der Welt zu gering und doch nicht klein genug,
um vor dir zu sein wie ein Ding,
dunkel und klug.

Ich will dich immer spiegeln in ganzer Gestalt,
und will niemals blind sein oder zu alt,
um dein schweres, schwankendes Bild zu halten.
Ich will mich entfalten.

Nirgends will ich gebogen bleiben;
denn dort bin ich gelogen, wo ich gebogen bin.
Und ich will meinen Sinn wahr vor dir …

This comes from a deeply spiritual collection of poems by Rilke. The “Book of Hours: Love Poems to God” (– his version of love mysticism perhaps?) [2].

Rilke’s choice of subjects and his precision in expressing them make themes that are often neglected in poetry (and prose) outshine more dramatic subjects and ornate writing.

“… as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose. Don’t write love poems; … rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty – describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. … – And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not.” [3]

Welcome Pavi! [4]


[1] Anaïs Nin puts it as, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

[2] As in Sufi poetry – God becomes the beloved. And there is no Without – God cannot exist without you and you cannot without God . A snippet from another poem in the collection,

What will you do, God, when I die?
I am your pitcher (when I shatter?)
I am your drink (when I go bitter?)
I, your garment; I, your craft.
Without me what reason have you?

…What will you do, God? I am afraid.

[3] Letter 1, from Letters To A Young Poet

[4] One more added to the list of people who will kill for poetry – this month has been good – Hatshepsut, Pavi … : ) Look forward to their contributions (and their own insightful commentary) in the future…

Pavi, my fellow Rilke-lover – in our very first conversation she enlightened me on the importance of precision in poetry. On the difficulty in choosing the right words/expressions in poetry. Many words can express the same physical object, but each of them can trigger a distinct emotion(al memory). And a poem works or fails based on its ability to awaken that precise emotion. What better way to introduce her, than with a Rilke recording :)

Dear Contributors, do keep sending in your lovely selection of recordings, we love being challenged, surprised and tickled by your contributions.

[5] The other Rilke we ran – You Who Never Arrived


May 18, 2006 at 4:00 pm 6 comments