WHAT IN THE WORLD

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Dawn, that old hooker light of the world
returns from wherever she spent the night in the world.

Dust motes randomly dance on a yellowish beam,
soft-nudging my dream to a flight from the world.

So much to do…sweep and dust, dust, and it’s
dusty again! It feels like a fight with the world.

It’s important not to be eaten, at least for today,
or be carried away by the huge appetite of the world.

In their globular bowl, small fry hang among floating
green fronds, hide in the watersprite from the world.

You chocolate mustachioed child, how I love
how your day is another big bite of the world.

Such lucky animals, those who have learned
when to be—and not be—polite in the world.

All of a sudden the day is riddled with hiccups
here as I say once again gesundheit to the world.

One eventually comes to notice the colors of dust—
so many shades between black and white in the world.

I know by a certain color of blue—and also
because we have music, something is right in the world.
.
.
WHAT IN THE WORLD

67 responses »

  1. “Dawn, that old hooker light of the world
    returns from wherever she spent the night in the world.”

    Okay, now you’ve done it. I’ll never greet the dawn again without thinking of your description of her!

    • Oh…I didn’t mean to do that , Yvonne. Anyway, dawn is probably different in Australia. Sometimes one poetic image can erase another. Here’s an antidote to my poison pen; it’s from the Australian poet Dorothea McKellar, entitled “Dawn”…it begins:

      “At the dawning of the day
      On the road to Gunnedah
      When the sky is pink and grey
      As the wings of a wild galah
      And the last night-shadow ebbs
      From the trees like falling tide,
      And the dew-hung spiderwebs
      On the grass-blades spread far and wide…..”

      Hope that does the trick. 🙂

  2. Yes, “gesundheit to the world” when there’s a hiccup! I’m glad that something is right in the world. It always is. 🙂

  3. Indeed! Something is right in the world! I love the title – “What in the world” is an expression of disbelief, wonder, amazement… And all aspects of such “What in the world” tumble from your ghazal.

    • Funny how this poetry form requires couplets that can stand singly and yet together. It allows room for favorites. Your favorite is also mine, Pauline. Thank you for your encouragement.

  4. I like the way it goes back and forth between the natural world and the human created one, winding up with a combination of both that makes the world right! I always read and then listen. Sometimes one or the other supplies a treasured kernel!

    • The “kernels” are the fascination of this poetry form, for me. It’s known to flummox the western idea of “unity” in a poem, but I like how it bridges the older ideas of unity and the newer crazy ones of surrealism. Thanks, as always, Lisa, for your reading and astute comment.

      • I recognized that you were in that form again. It’s interesting to pick out its pieces, but ultimately, it’s being able to say what you want within a particular set of constraints or rules, which is a discipline and a vocation. I’ve always noticed structure, but never paid it enough heed to be able to name it, though I knew enough when reading Mark Strand’s The Couple to know he was sending up Miss Gee. So I’m getting little lessons in form at the same time I have the pleasure of your poems.

        • What a nice thing to say, Lisa. The traditional forms in English poetry–and even this adaptation of the ghazal, are what I particularly enjoy, though the bulk of my poems are still what is called free verse. Working within the constraints of a form is liberating, in a strange way, and I’ve learned not to be afraid of iambs and rhyme, as long as they serve what I’m trying to say and not vice versa. That’s not what’s de rigueur in academic and esoteric poetry circles today, but now that I am a seasoned citizen I don’t have to care! It’s fun, to me, to play with the language, seeking fresh combinations but keeping things down to earth and in an idiom that an ordinary intelligent person might understand. There’s too little music in a lot of poetry today, and that’s what can be found in many traditional forms. Thank you for being such a supportive reader!

  5. What a delightful poem, Cynthia. Well read. Hard to isolate my favorite lines. Love it all. In my small poetry group, we always share one of our own poems and one by a favorite poet. With your permission, I’ll share this poem!!! Would you care to tell me any biographical information to pass along to the group?

    • Hello Judy…How nice of you to want to share this poem! This is an example of the ghazal in English (other examples and an explanation of the form can be found under “categories” on the side bar) and I have now reached that certain age where I don’t know what to say when someone asks about bio. 🙂 …though there’s plenty of info on my “Miscellany” and “My Book” pages.
      Thank you so much for coming to read and comment, and if you do decide to share this poem with your group, I hope they will enjoy it. Thanks again!

  6. Here is to a “new” dawn and the oh so many colors of the dusty world!! I can totally relate – couldn’t help but laugh at the “sweep and dust, dust” trying our darnedest to get rid of the stuff.

  7. Dawn, that old hooker light…Oh I love this reminding me of my favourite poet. “The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep”. Brilliant Cynthia! 😊

    • Your comment has me all excited, Karen. I have a great love for the poetry of Rumi, but in addition to that, the fact that he wrote in Persian and the language Urdu is derived in many respects from Persian and is the chief language of ghazals….which I am trying to learn to write here…well! your saying that this poem reminds you of that is just fabulous! It encourages, not only emotionally, but also craft-wise. Thank you very, very much! 😀

  8. I was hoping to find this week a ghazal about hookers, and I was not disappointed. I also had a hankering for dust motes, which have yet to take their rightful place in the pantheon of poetry (if you exclude Milton and some bits in the Bible), and was rewarded richly; however, I was not expecting the chocolate mustache, as purply (think blue on steroids) açaí mustaches are more common in my neighborhood.

    • Reading your comment I am pleased to think it’s almost as if I had written this ghazal with you in mind, my dear Prospero. I did think you were a fan of fine chocolate, but perhaps the acai has stolen your exotic-fruit-loving heart. I must admit a purple mustache seems very much in keeping with your magic charlatan fashionisto image. At any rate, I hope you are remembering, in the gloom of November, that we do still have music.

      • In the Miltonian darkness of November it’s a habit of the mentally deranged to think that all poetry, some left wing manifestos, and most pornographic journals are written specifically for them. Pure coincidence (which may be wonderfully expressed in ghazals and, regrettably, poor translations of Mein Kampf, for example) is what a spark is to a stick of dynamite. The delirious, the misunderstood, the craven, the heliotropic–all susceptible to misinterpret the secret innuendo of fanciful words (wrapped in a cadaverous tomb of fanciful words) which thereby leads, some years later, to a growing conglomeration of comorbid psychoses–which are hard to ignore. That’s why there’s music–the last refuge of a lunatic.

        • Indeed November is Miltonian, a brilliant metaphorical stroke on your part. And we heliotropics who do not live in the tropics have all we can do to hang on. It captures perfectly the lost paradise syndrome. It’s grey; it’s brown. It portends unwanted social occasions , missed, lost childhoods and panics of anticipation. I wish I knew the cure, but I don’t, as I am not a psychoanalyst—not even a charlatan one— only a mere versifier. Maybe it’s not music we need, after all. Maybe just breathing, and listening…. in hopes of hearing silence, and our own hearts’ beating.

          • The only cure for madness is more madness, and this can be doled out in the Miltonesque months (around the early hunger pangs of winter) or on the sunless days of some unforeseen eclipse, naturally. But spring, a Burnsian season, is also a good time for one to escalate one’s small shards of madness into fully developed syndromes worthy of the best psychoanalysts and their best jacquard velvet couches–then one can hear one’s heart beat.

            • I would always avoid velvet couches, jacquard or otherwise, but I do like your notion of the small shards of madness, and how they might be assuaged by an unforeseen eclipse. We can only hope for such a phenomenon. (Perhaps Ariel could intervene.) In the mean while, I will stand strong with the words of one of my mentors, The Madwoman of Chaillot, who said: Nothing is ever so wrong with the world that a sensible woman can’t set right in the course of an afternoon.

              • La Folle de Chaillot! That’s my aunt. Auntie Chaillot.

                She was a lovely woman, witty and bright, though always wrong. I think two evenings are required, minimum. Just unscrambling the many genera in the Proteaceae family would take several hours. And what is one to do with online gambling? Yes, several evenings I’d say.

                • She’s never worked evenings. Perhaps, like most nephews, you’ve not been to visit your aunt in a while—( elderly ladies are so boring, however charming in a quaint sort of way). In fact she doesn’t work mornings, either. That’s when she reads the newspaper. Her favorite edition is the one from 3 August, 1928.

                • Aunt Chaillot, like all my relatives (departed or not), is mummified in the basement. Spending time with her is neither quaint nor informative, unless Egyptian embalming techniques tickle your fancy.

    • Hi Lance….I don’t know why, but this year I am hearing more sad murmuring about the month of November than I can recall ever hearing before. It’s a short period, between the glory of crisp autumn and the gaudiness of Christmas, but one blogger has called it Miltonian and another Mephistophelean. The snows of forgetfulness haven’t yet come to cover it all up. Not yet, anyway. Not here, anyway. There is something to be said for cold blankness, or blanketing, I guess. Like the non-committal canvas you haven’t yet touched..another thing right in the world. Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

  9. Hi, Cynthia, I am back on WP only for a day or two, and quick-dipping into my favorite bloggers. So pleased to find this. What a happy poem, and happily-chosen form for the thoughts it expresses. Thank you for that chocolate moustache, and all those shades of dust (each one carrying its own dust mite, triggering its own allergic sneeze from me, and thus bringing another line of your poem to mind : )

    I may not return before Thanksgiving, so wish you a warm and grateful one.

    –O. Babe

    • Hello, hello! A treat to find your comment here this morning! Looking over the list of people I follow, recently, I was wondering where you had gone to….I did assume it was to something much more interesting than blogging, given your high spirited self, and that you would be back one of these days. Lots of the old gang of bloggers taking breaks lately, it seems, or just deciding to drop out…such shifting sands. And I see you’ve posted yesterday. I’ll be over to read. A happy Thanksgiving to you too!

      • Thank you, Cynthia. Golly, I wish I’d been up to something interesting. This was supposed to be the year I got to Italy. Now I have another year to learn Italian, I guess. More than the two Italian words I make use of too frequently.
        😮

  10. I just love this form in your deft hands and mind Cynthia. Is there any part of this world you have not touched on directly or indirectly? Amazing! And the rhythms and cadences should have Mother Earth rocking on her axis then slumbering whilst the…um… lady receiving reward for her beauty and services, spreads the light and assures us of your last line! Ah, genius!

    • I am coming to love this form, too, Rob. It seems as if it will be restrictive and tight, but in fact functions as inspiration as well…..you have to commit to one rhyme at the very beginning, but that somehow becomes an inspiration even as it is a stricture…the play of language working its magic if you just let it stew awhile, in your mind. Thank you so much for your lovely comment.

  11. I truly enjoyed the constants you’ve strung together here; most of which are taken for granted. Dawn has a love/hate relationship with just about everyone at sometime in our lives. And she highlights our loathing of dust as much as she spotlights it as it taunts us amidst her golden rays.

    • I like your thoughts about dawn, Oscar, and I concur. She can definitely be a love/hate thing. She can also be a sudden realization of what’s what, not all golden, not all dust. Thank you!

    • Thank you! It is my understanding that each couplet is supposed to be able to stand on its own, so I am glad it strikes you that way. It is always a touchy thing to adapt a form from one culture to another, but I feel a certain kinship to the ghazal in English. Jeet Thayil is a poet I have only recently come to know, but I am sure I will continue to return to his work.

  12. Cynthia, I don’t know how I missed this on the first read: You do rap!! This is totally a rap number!

    1. Read it super-fast in a shouting voice.
    2. Land really hard on the -ite/ight words.
    3. Pace and strut and gesture while reading.
    4. Don’t forget to get a friend to post it on Vimeo or Youtube.

    You go, girl!

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