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Stories

Until we meet again

By Shivani Shrivastav

River Beas in Manali. Courtesy: Creative Commons

“Whatsoever is needed on the Path is always supplied.”

~ OSHO

I read the lines again. And yet again. They spoke to me. I felt like I knew the person who had written them, even though I had not met her. Reaching out, I gently touched the lilac handmade paper on which the poetry was written in purple ink. The lines touched my heart: it was an original poem, but unfinished.

I had never felt such spontaneous poetry coming from myself, but reading these lines, I felt some lines forming spontaneously in my head. I pulled out a pen and started writing some words in the space left on the paper. The stranger’s lines and mine now matched beautifully.

*

I had come to Manali on a whim. I was between jobs — just having had my fill of my first one and not yet wanting to start the next one. Idly looking at my Instagram feed, I had seen so much of the beautiful mountains, attractive waterfalls and serene cloudscapes that I just had to get on a bus and come to Manali. I could not believe that I, Kabir Kulshrestha, in all of my twenty-eight years on earth, had not thought of visiting this slice of heaven before. Up until now, I had been passively aggressive in my daily life, cribbing about the boring routine, the never-ending work pressures and imagining that everyone besides me had near perfect lives, as evidenced by their Instagram feeds and the stories and reels they shared. For the first time ever, I felt that belief dilute a little, as I finally felt more alive with a new awareness and appreciation of my surroundings growing automatically, as I watched the greens, blues and whites of nature all around me. 

I had taken the overnight bus from Delhi to Manali. When the bus passed Kullu, I did not know, but when we reached Manali and I opened my eyes as we were entering it, I was in heaven. Or as close to heaven on earth as I could get.

All around were green mountains, tall 50-60 feet high trees, ancient paths leading to god-knows-where and the endless, cloudy blue sky. I inhaled deeply and felt some of the lethargy and humdrum sameness of the past months slide away.

Deliberately, I had not booked any hotel online, preferring to choose one upon reaching the place. The bus had dropped me in the middle of new Manali. I felt a little disappointed, surveying the hotels there. It all appeared like any other tourist town at the first glance – the same greasy restaurants, the shops selling cheap touristy memorabilia and tawdry conveniences. Fortunately, I had packed light — just a backpack of essentials and my camera bag. I decided to go off in search of a better place to stay – somewhere more authentic and closer to the real Manali experience.

After walking through a road going up and passing beside an untouched meadow with tall pines, I decided to cross over the river Beas to the other side and look for interesting homestays that I had seen pictures of on Instagram. Walking up the mountain, down the steps leading to the bridge across the raging Beas was a pleasure as I felt a bit stiff after the overnight bus ride. The tall, silent trees, some more than two arm-spans wide (yes, I had tried to hug one!) the birdcalls, the early morning pristine silence pervading the mountains and the tumultous Beas below, all framed a beautiful picture in my mind. Along the shores of the Beas were orange blossoms; I was surprised by their tenacity. Also, along the old Manali side were what looked like very interesting cafes, with names such as Nirvana, Café 1947, Bella Pasta, Dylan’s etc. Their menu boards were brightly handwritten notices or sometimes, simply blackboards on which the day’s menus were handwritten in white chalk. Their signboards were vivid splashes of hand-painted pictures, and Bob Marley and his ‘Ganja Gun’ anthem could be heard from many a café. Add to these, the colourful flowers growing beside the Beas and in the planters of the cafés by the window seats. It is not just an unforgettable scene but a nuanced one.

I promised to myself that I would visit them all one by one. Crossing over the bridge, I stopped to admire the scene — a slice of heaven on earth — the blue sky, the raging river foaming white at the edges and the tall, green, graceful sentients as far as I could see. Yes, I would definitely be back later, with my camera, but for the moment, I just wanted to enjoy being there, present with beauty inundating my senses.

With a deep breath of contentment — even the air smelled different here — I crossed over and started walking up the steep path. On both sides, cafés, restaurants and interesting shops continued up the road. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew that I would know when I found it.

More than halfway up the path, I paused and stood under a tree, to rest a moment. As I looked around, I saw a vibrantly painted, two-storied wooden house. It had red doors and blue windows! It was a little distance away from the main lane, with a tiny winding path of its own. I could see feathered dreamcatchers waving in the wind, on its second-floor wraparound balcony. Automatically, my feet turned to that path. Reaching the house, I had raised my hand to knock on the door when a voice called out to me, “Hi! What are you looking for?”

Looking up, I saw a young woman, a little older than me, walking towards me. ‘Colourful’ seemed to be the theme of the place, as even she was dressed like a rainbow, albeit an aesthetic one! Her multiple bracelets and necklaces of brass and colourful threads swayed as she came nearer. She was followed by three Pahadi Bhotia dogs, in varying shades of brown.  I smiled and said, “Hi, I’m Kabir. I’m looking for a place to stay for a few days and don’t want to stay at a hotel. Could you recommend a homestay or something similar? For some reason, I was drawn to your place the moment I saw it from the path. Cute dogs there, by the way!”

The lady smiled and replied, “Thanks! I’m Ragini. This is my home and my homestay. You can stay here if you want. Are you coming from Delhi?”

“How did you guess?”

She gave a hearty laugh and said, “That is where we get most tourists from.”

“I’m from Delhi, yeah, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t call me a tourist. I prefer traveller!”

“Woohoo! Then we are kindred spirits! I think you will like it here. Come, I’ll show you the two rooms that are available. The rest are filled by a group of travellers from Spain.”

“Great! Lead the way!”

I found a home away from home there. Ragini turned out to be a wonderful host, having created a warm, welcoming space that immediately made everyone feel right at home. Having chosen the room at the back, which faced towards the mountains, I settled in. The homestay also had a small but varied library and a music corner, which hosted many impromptu musical duets in the evenings, where many a language and accent were heard.

The meals at her homestay were from all over the world.  Ragini and her helper Jigme had a real talent in that department. Every breakfast was a medley of tastes from Lebanese to Italian to South Indian, and of course, the staple offered in all mountain towns — aloo paratha[1]with tomato chutney!

I had expected the typical Maggie or paratha option for breakfast, but these were veritable feasts! Lunches I preferred to have outside, wherever I happened to be at the moment, like the other day when I followed the main path in old Manali leading up all the way to the top, past the wooden Manu temple. At the top I found a Japanese man with a modest restaurant, making sushi, which turned out to be out of this world! The second day, I went the opposite way, towards the riverbank, and had the best tiramisu of my life, after a meal of falafel and gyros.

My trip was turning out to be a discovery of tastes. Between mealtimes, I explored outside and within myself, for it was also turning out to be a time of self-discovery; I had never felt closer to myself. I met people from different walks of life, exchanging life stories and travel experiences. I walked to various places. I hiked up various slopes, sometimes to just sit at the top, admiring the landscape and letting it soothe my soul, writing, taking pictures, meditating or simply sitting.

I found that the more I sat with myself, the more I was able to appreciate the without, and the better became the quality of my creations. I went where my feet led me, sometimes by myself, sometimes with other people I met at the cafés, restaurants and stores. I was developing quite an eclectic mix of friends — there was Pedro from Mexico, hitchhiking his way through Peru, Bangladesh and now India. He had met and befriended Francine, a French professor on a sabbatical of self-study, come to India to explore yoga in Rishikesh, Tiruvannamalai and later Goa, somehow ending up in Manali! She too, had interesting stories of her own travels to share. Then there was Loki, whose Japanese name was difficult to pronounce and hence shortened to Loki, who had made Manali his home for the past two months. He was slightly temperamental – some days jolly enough to sing with us in the evenings, the others sitting with his old ukulele and playing some nameless tune over and over again.

I admired the way these people lived, following the flow and just taking in all life had to offer. The evenings were spent either with these people or with the Spanish group back at Ragini’s, with music or a night of storytelling after a delicious dinner. And such stories they were!  Enough to cause itchy feet in the most stalwart of homebodies!

I was enthralled to hear about the diverse backgrounds all the guests came from. At first glance, they appeared like hippies, with their ragged jeans, loose kurtas, thread anklets and jute bags, but one was a particle physicist, another a music teacher, and still another a biologist! I promised myself to never, ever again to judge a book by its deceptive cover. It could be hiding the most riveting personality behind its carefree façade.

The experience dispelled my long-standing bias to an extent too, that people are as good as they appear. This belief was further shattered by a teacher from England, who had been travelling to India every year for the past 15 years, to teach English to Ladakhi children, that too without any financial interest. This year, before heading back to his home country, he had decided to go to Delhi via Manali.

I was learning that people made choices, often difficult ones, leaving comfort and the complacency of lucrative jobs to do what their hearts guide them to do. I was learning, melting down prejudices and emerging with a more open mind and heart.

It was in this frame of mind that I went out each day to shoot pictures, capturing the natural beauty of the place and the simplicity of the people living there. I also found that there was in actuality, very little that one needs to live a full life — a good set of friends, good food, an open space to sit and contemplate and live with nature to embark on a journey of introspection and reflection.

One day, I sat in a riverside café after a successful morning of breathtaking photography session. I had just finished a gruelling session of yoga with Francine and then hiked to a special place that someone had told me about, to take pictures of a waterfall. Later, I had photographed the trees – pines and oaks. I believed some of the images taken that day managed to capture the silence emanating from the trees. Totally satisfied with a morning well spent, I ordered a sumptuous lunch of tofu sandwiches with an avocado salad, to be followed by a slice of apple pie. I had never eaten so much in one meal back home! I noticed also that so much of walking around was helping my body become much healthier, even though I was eating amazing meals at least three times a day, without worrying about calories.

While waiting for my food, my eyes fell on a notice board on one of the bright yellow walls of the café. It had a big notice board on it. As I walked over to it, I heard strains of ‘Bella Ciao‘ being played on a mandolin, from a corner of the café. A local group was singing there for the evening. There were various papers stuck to the board — advertisements, people wanting a homestay, people wanting to sell stuff, like watches, a guitar and even a Canon Mach III! I found the fantastic mix of things here a sharp relief from the overly organised things back home.

As the strains of the song got more energetic, I returned to the present. I noticed that on the lilac-coloured sheet, a few lines of poetry were written in Hindi. It appeared out of place amongst the notes in English, Spanish, French and Russian. The lines were –

“It is just a bubble of water,

Which loses itself in but a moment”

As I read, I felt some words forming in my mind. I took out my green felt tip and in my bold scrawl, which I liked to believe was very artistic, jotted down some lines on the sheet –

“So live fully in the moment, don’t be sad,

These are the moments of life, don’t lose them”

 Satisfied and feeling some kind of connection to the original writer, I came back to my table to find that my order had arrived. For a while, the tofu sandwich and the food I had ordered managed to hold my full attention. But after a while, I found myself thinking about the lines on the paper as I ate.

I tried to create a mental picture of the person who had written the lines and found that I could only conjure a shadowy image. That image accompanied me as I paid at the counter, picked up my backpack and my camera and went down the path towards the river. I could not get enough shots of the foaming, dancing, raging river. In my mind, it seemed to be a young girl, full of life and poetry, dancing as she flowed through life.

The next day, for some reason, I felt pulled towards the same café. I tried to convince myself that it was because I wanted to try their Lebanese platter, but the lilac-coloured paper floats in front of my eyes. I was curious, “Would she have replied? Will I find more lines added to the poem?”

As I entered, I tried hard not to let the board be the first thing I saw, but even as I tried this, my eyes lifted that way of their own volition. And a jolt of electricity went through me — there were some more lines there! Even before ordering my food, I headed over to read them.

I smiled as I read, for even as I read, I was formulating the next few lines. And this went on, till we had completed three poems, and I had tasted all the dishes in the café. I felt as if I really knew her, but I did not write my number or pen a request to meet. I did not want to scare her away with my ardour.

The next day, I had this weird feeling, a type of intuition, as if something was changing, something was about to end and a new phase about to begin. Although I could not understand the feeling, I went about my day as I usually would. There was a crowd in the corner of the café that held the board.

I waited for the people to move away so I could see the board. As the people shifted, I caught a glimpse of the board. There was a single fresh lilac sheet there. Only one line appeared to be written on it. I rushed near and read it. It said – “Whatsoever is needed on the Path is always supplied.” It was a quote by Osho.

Suddenly, I felt a prickling sensation at the back of my neck, like someone was looking at me. I immediately turned back. As I did so, I saw a girl turn towards the door and step out. She held a lilac paper in her hand — the last completed poem. It took a little while for me to get through the throng of people crowding the place. That day was a live show, so there was a big crowd there.

As I opened the door and stepped out into the dusky evening, a sudden brisk shower started. I saw her get into an auto and move across the bridge. I tried going after her, but the sudden downpour had increased the traffic on the bridge and she blended into the crowd. I rushed back inside the café, to the single sheet on the board, took it off and scanned it hurriedly, as if to find some hint of who she was, her name, number, something, anything! As I turned it over, I found two words written in the same purple ink. ‘Leh Market’. I smiled. I had my next destination. I knew I would be meeting her again. When, how, I did not know. But somehow, I also liked the not knowing. And the search began again. With a new poem, in a new city!


[1] Wheat flatbread stuffed with spicy potatoes

 Shivani Shrivastav is a a UK CGI Chartered Secretary and a Governance Professional/CS. She loves meditation, photography, writing, French and creating.

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Interview

 When a Hobo in a Fedora Hat Breathes Tolkien…

In Conversation with Strider Marcus Jones

Strider Marcus Jones
i'm come home again
in your Lothlorien

Strider Marcus Jones wrote these lines about an idyllic utopia that was named Lothlorien by JRR Tolkien in Lord of the Rings. Jones writes beautiful poetry that touches the heart with its music and lyricality and recreates a world that hums with peace, beauty, acceptance and tolerance – values that have become more precious than gems in the current world of war, strife and distress. He has created his own Lothlorien in the form of a journal which he has named after the elfin utopia of Tolkien. An avid reader and connoisseur of arts, for him all his appreciation congeals in the form of poetry which draws from music, art and he says, perhaps even his legal training! Let us stride into his poetic universe to uncover more about a man who seems to be reclusive and shy about facing fame and says he learns from not just greats but every poet he publishes.

What started you out as a writer? What got your muse going and when?

In my childhood, I sought ways to escape the poverty of the slums in Salford. My escape, while gathering floorboards from condemned houses every winter and carrying them through back entries in crunching snow to our flat, above two shops for my dad to chop up and burn on the fire was to live in my imagination. I was an explorer and archaeologist discovering lost civilisations and portals to new dimensions our mind’s had lost the ability to see and travel between since the time of the druids. Indoors I devoured books on ancient history, artists, and poetry from the library. I was fascinated by the works of Picasso, Gauguin, Bruegel and many others and sketched some of their paintings. Then one day, my pencil stopped sketching and started to compose words into lines that became “raw” poems.  My first mentor was Anne Ryan, who taught me English Literature at High School when I was fourteen. Before this, I had never told anyone I was writing poetry. My parents, siblings and friends only found out when I was in my twenties and comfortable in myself with being a ranger, a maverick in reality and imagination.

When I read your poetry, I am left wondering… Do you see yourself in the tradition of a gypsy/mendicant singing verses or more as a courtly troubadour or something else?

I don’t have the legs to be a courtly troubadour in tights and my voice sounds like a blacksmith pounding a lump of metal on his anvil.

I feel and relate to being gypsy and am proud of my Celtic roots passed down to me from my Irish Gypsy grandmother on my Father’s side who read the tea leaves, keys, rings, and other items telling people’s fortunes for years with scary accuracy. I seem to have inherited some of her seer abilities for premonition.

Like my evening single malt whiskey, age has matured the idealism of my youth and hardened my resolve to give something back to the world and society for giving me this longevity in it. The knocks from the rough and tumble of life have hardened my edges, but my inner core still glows like Aragorn’s calm courage and determination in the quest to bring about a more just and fairer world that protects its innocent people and polluted environment. Since Woody Guthrie, Tom Waits and Bukowski are influences I identify with deeply, I suppose I am a mendicant in some of my poetry but a romantic and revolutionary too, influenced by Neruda, Rumi, Byron, and Shelley shielded by The Tree of Life in Tolkien’s Lothlorien:

THE HEAD IN HIS FEDORA HAT

a lonely man,
cigarette,
rain
and music
in a strange wind blowing

moving,
not knowing,
a gypsy caravan
whose journey doesn't expect
to go back
and explain
why everyone's ruts have the same
blood and vein.

the head in his fedora hat
bows to no one's grip
brim tilted inwards
concealing his vineyards
of lyrical prose
in a chaos composed
to be exposed,
go, git
awed
and jawed
perfect and flawed,
songs from the borderless
plain
where no one has domain
and his outlaw wit
must confess
to remain

a storyteller
that hobo fella

a listening barfly
for a while,
the word-winged butterfly
whose style
they can't close the shutters on
or stop talking about
when he walks out
and is gone.

whiskey and tequila
with a woman who can feel ya
inside her, and know she's not Ophelia
as ya move as one,
to a closer and simplistic,
unmaterialistic
tribal Babylon,

becomes so,
when she stands, spread
all arms and legs
in her Eskimo
Galadriel glow,
sharing mithril breath,
no more suburban settlements
and tortured tenements
of death,
just a fenceless forest
and mountain quests
with a place to rest
on her suckled breasts,
hanging high, swinging slow.

war clouds HARP
through stripped leaves and bark,
where bodies sleeping in houseboat bones
reflect and creak in cobbled stones:
smokey sparks from smoked cigars
drop like meteorites from streetlight stars,
as cordons crush civil rights
under Faust's fascist Fahrenheit’s.
 
one more whiskey for the road.
another story lived and told

under that
fedora hat
inhaling smoke
as he sang and spoke
stranger fella
storyteller.

You seem to have a fascination for JRR Tolkien. You have a poem and a journal by the name of Lothlorien. Why this fascination? Do you think that JRR Tolkien is relevant in the current context? We are after all, reverting to a situation similar to a hundred years ago.

Yes, on all counts. Tolkien and his Lord of The Rings trilogy have been part of my life since I first read one summer when I was twelve years old.  My young mind, starved of adventure and elevenses in Salford’s slums, willingly absorbed the myths and magic, lore’s and legends beguiling me to enter the ‘Age of Man’. This living in a time of relative peace alongside other, more ancient races with musical-poetic languages reflected part of my own reality in living through the Cold War decades under the impending doom of nuclear annihilation where daily life often felt the shadows cast by the Cuban Missile Crisis, war in Vietnam, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and famine in Biafra.

Sauron’s evil eye and invading armies echo an outgoing President Eisenhower’s ominous warning to curtail the influence and corruption of the banking-military-industrial-complex. Instead, Martin Luther King and President John F Kennedy were assassinated and a surveillance state and gilded slavery ideology is being imposed globally using artificial intelligence. Ancient civilisations in Iraq and Libya have been destroyed for control of oil and to maintain global Petro dollar power. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings is just as relevant today in Ukraine, Yemen, and Syria and as it was through the slaughters of Verdun, the Somme and Flanders Fields. It is a warning that good must prevail over evil and this burden is borne by those with courage and conviction who cannot be corrupted.  

What is your Lothlorien? What does poetry mean to you and your existence?

My Lothlorien is a more peaceful world, with more tolerance of other individuals and cultures. Not perfect by any stretch but a place where people laugh, have their neighbours back and work with each other. A place of social justice and equality, music, poetry and art. It is no place for racism, sexism, ageism, corruption, or war. A kind of homestead with birdsong, forest, mountains and rivers, preferably in the French Pyrenees or Alaskan Bush. A place of words composed into poems and stories read and spoken, passed down and added to by each inspired generation in the Native American tradition. Poetry is all about communication and community in my existence. We are caretakers of our words and the world.

You have used Orwell, Gaugin and many more references in your poetry. Which are the writers and artists that influence you the most? What do you find fascinating about them?

Individuality of expression through fiction, poetry, art and music fascinates me. Now, at 62 years of age so many have influenced my poetry with or without me knowing or realising it. These include:

From the past – Chaucer, Tennyson, Shelley, Keats, Blake, W.B. Yeats, Auden, Langston Hughes, Hart Crane, Sexton, Plath, Kerouac, Heaney, Lorca, Orwell, Dickens, Dylan Thomas, Tolkien, Steinbeck, Heller, Donaldson, P.D. James, Ian Rankin, Vonnegut, Dostoyevsky, Rilke, Rumi, E.E.Cummings, Neruda, Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Miles Davis, Thelonious  Monk, John Coltrane, Dylan, Tom Waits. So many.

From now – They know who they are. I have published their work in Lothlorien Poetry Journal.

You play instruments — saxophone and clarinet? Does that impact your poetry?

Saying I play instruments is a huge stretch of the imagination. I get strange notes out of my saxophone and clarinet that must sound like a hurricane blowing in anyone’s ears. My black Labrador, Mysty, covers her ears with her paws but I enjoy trying to play. I love jazz music, anything from the 1920s to early 70s, but Miles Davis, Monk, Coltrane, Mingus, and Ornette Coleman took jazz music to a level that transcends mortality.

Jazz music continues to be a profound influence in my poetry. I will explain how.     

Does any kind of music impact your writing?

In some way, unbeknown to me, jazz music, particularly that of Davis, Monk and Coltrane runs parallel to and interweaves with the rhythms of how I think when I write poetry. It closes my mind to the distractions of the outside world. The sound of those perfect and imperfect notes opens a door in my mind, I close my eyes, float into this dark room and my senses fill with images and words, which hover in the air like musical notes where I conduct them into rhythms and phrases bonded to a theme. Some become poems, others disintegrate into specks of dust, the moment gone. Sometimes, the idea and train of thought sleeps in my subconscious for years. This happened with my poems “Visigoth Rover” and “Life is Flamenco” which come from   my sojourns randomly wandering through Spain but were born years later listening to Paco playing Spanish guitar and Flamenco music which is another key influence in my poetry.

VISIGOTH ROVER

i went on the bus to Cordoba,
and tried to find the Moor's
left over
in their excavated floors
and mosaic courtyards,
with hanging flowers brightly chameleon
against whitewashed walls
carrying calls
behind gated iron bars-
but they were gone
leaving mosque arches
and carved stories
to God's doors.

in those ancient streets
where everybody meets-
i saw the old successful men
with their younger women again,
sat in chrome slat chairs,
drinking coffee to cover
their vain love affairs-
and every breast,
was like the crest
of a soft ridge
as i peeped over
the castle wall and Roman bridge
like a Visigoth rover.

soft hand tapping on shoulder,
heavy hair
and beauty older,
the gypsy lady gave her clover
to borrowed breath, 
embroidering it for death,
adding more to less
like the colours fading in her dress.
time and tune are too planned
to understand
her Trevi fountain of prediction,
or the dirty Bernini hand
shaping its description.

LIFE IS FLAMENCO

why can't i walk as far
and smoke more tobacco,
or play my Spanish guitar
like Paco,
putting rhythms and feelings
without old ceilings
you've never heard
before in a word.

life is flamenco,
to come and go
high and low
fast and slow-

she loves him,
he loves her
and their shades within
caress and spur
in a ride and dance
of tempestuous romance.

outback, in Andalucian ease,
i embrace you, like melted breeze
amongst ripe olive trees-
dark and different,
all manly scent
and mind unkempt.

like i do,
Picasso knew
everything about you
when he drew
your elongated arms and legs
around me, in this perpetual bed
of emotion
and motion
for these soft geometric angles
in my finger strokes
and exhaled smokes 
of rhythmic bangles
to circle colour your Celtic skin
with primitive phthalo blue
pigment in wiccan tattoo
before entering
vibrating wings
through thrumming strings
of wild lucid moments
in eternal components.

i can walk as far
and smoke more tobacco,
and play my Spanish guitar
like Paco.

Tell us about how music and language weaves into your poetry — “i’m come home again” — there is no effort at punctuation — and yet the poem is clear and lyrical. I really love this poem – Lothlorien. Can you tell me how you handle the basic tool of words and grammar in your poetry?

In my mind, music is poetry through sound instead of words. Like words, the combinations of notes and pauses have intricate rhythms and phrases. In many of my poems like “Lothlorien” and those above, I weave the rhythms and phrases of jazz music or Spanish guitar and words together with run on lines so there is no need for punctuation. This gives these poems, and many others a spontaneity and energy which feels more natural and real and has a potent, more immediate impact on the senses and emotions when combined with images and happenings. This whole process feels natural to me. It began in my early twenties, when I was listening to old Blues and the likes of Leadbelly and Robert Johnson alongside Dylan, Led Zeppelin, Tom Waits and Neil Young. These are the raw underbelly notes of my pain and anger at the world. Jazz is the mellow top notes. I hope this makes sense. It is hard to explain something that is natural to and part of who I am, so forgive any lack of clarity.

Sometimes, I just like to add a moment of mischievous fun to a serious poem as in these two:

REJECTING OVID

the fabulous beauty of your face-
so esoteric,
not always in this place-
beguiles me.

it's late, mesmeric
smile is but a base,
a film to interface
with the movements of the mind behind it.

my smile, me-
like Thomas O'Malley
the alley
cat reclining on a tin bin lid
with fishy whiskers-

turns the ink in the valley
of your quills
into script,
while i sit
and sip

your syllables
with fresh red sepals of hibiscus,
rejecting Ovid
and his Amores
for your stories.



OLD CAFE

a rest, from swinging bar
and animals in the abattoir-
to smoke in mental thinks
spoken holding cooling drinks.

counting out old coppers to be fed
in the set squares of blue and red
plastic tablecloth-
just enough to break up bread in thick barley broth.

Jesus is late
after saying he was coming
back to share the wealth and real estate
of capitalist cunning.

maybe. just maybe.
put another song on the jukebox baby:
no more heroes anymore.
what are we fighting for --

he's hiding in hymns and chants,
in those Monty Python underpants,
from this coalition of new McCarthy's
and it's institutions of Moriarty's.

some shepherds’ sheep will do this dance
in hypothermic trance,
for one pound an hour
like a shamed flower,

watched by sinister sentinels-
while scratched tubular bells,
summon all to Sunday service
where invisible myths exist-

to a shamed flower
with supernatural power
come the hour.  

How do you compose a poem? Is it spontaneous or is it something you do? Do you hear the lines or voices or is it in some other way?

Most poems come from life’s experiences and observations of people, places, nature, and events. These can be from the past, or present and sometimes premonitions of the future which often overlap depending on the theme/s and where I want it to go.

When it comes to composing a poem, I am not robotic, and neither is my Muse. I have no set time and never write for the sake of writing something each day which I find disrupts my subconscious process. A poem can begin at any time of day or night, but my preferred time to think and write is mid-evening going through to witching hour and beyond. I put some music on low, pour myself a slow whiskey and sit down in my favourite chair with pen and folded paper. I never try to force a poem. The urge to write just occurs. I don’t know how, or why. It just happens. My subconscious finds the thread, thinks it through and the poem begins to unravel on the page. I care about the poems since they care about the world and the people in it. So, I often agonise for days and in some cases years, over lines and words and structure, crossing out words and whole lines until they feel right. Editing, and redrafting is a crucial part of the writing process and requires courage and discipline. Butchering your own work feels barbaric in the moment but enhances your poetic voice and strengthens the impact of a poem on the reader.

You are a lawyer and in the Civil Service in UK. How does law blend with poetry?

I am a law graduate and retired legal adviser to the magistrates’ courts/civil servant who retired early. I have never practiced as a lawyer.

I never think about law when I write, but I am sure the discipline brings organisation to the orderly chaos of Spinoza’s universe that resembles the space inside my head.

Tell us about your journal. When and how did you start it?

I started Lothlorien Poetry Journal in January 2021. I publish the online rolling blog of poetry and fiction and printed book volumes — currently standing at eight issues featuring established and emerging poets and fiction writers published on the LPJ blog.

We are a friendly literary journal featuring free verse/rhyming/experimental poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and occasional interviews with poets.

We love poems about enchantment, fantasy, fairy tale, folklore, dreams, dystopian, flora and fauna, magical realism, romance, and anything hiding deep in-between the cracks.

I publish Lothlorien Poetry Journal periodically, 4-6 issues every year. Contributors to each issue (selected from the best work published on the Journal’s Blog) are notified prior to publication and receive a free PDF copy of the issue that features their work.

We nominate for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

 What do you look for in a poet as a publisher?

I look for a poet or writer’s distinct voice, that spark of originality in their theme/s, the rhythm and musicality in their language and phrasing.  I have no boundaries as to style, form, or subject – prose, rhyming, free verse, sonnets, haiku, experimental or mavericks who break the rules and write about the darker underbelly of society – if it is good and not offensive, racist or sexist Lothlorien Poetry Journal could be the natural home for your work. The best way to find out is to come to Lothlorien, have a read, and decide to submit.

LOTHLORIEN

i'm come home again
in your Lothlorien
to marinate my mind
in your words,
and stand behind
good tribes grown blind,
trapped in old absurd
regressive reasons
and selfish treasons.

in this cast of strife
the Tree of Life
embraces innocent ghosts,
slain by Sauron's hosts-
and their falling cries
make us wise
enough to rise
up in a fellowship of friends
to oppose Mordor's ends
and smote this evil stronger
and longer
for each one of us that dies.

i'm come home again
in your Lothlorien,
persuading
yellow snapdragons
to take wing
and un-fang serpent krakens-
while i bring
all the races
to resume
their bloom
as equals in equal spaces
by removing
and muting
the chorus of crickets
who cheat them from chambered thickets,
hiding corruptions older than long grass
that still fag for favours asked.

i'm come home again
in your Lothlorien
where corporate warfare
and workfare
on health
and welfare
infests our tribal bodies
and separate self
in political lobbies
so conscience can't care
or share
worth and wealth-

to rally drones
of walking bones,
too tired
and uninspired
to think things through
and the powerless who see it true.
red unites, blue divides,
which one are you
and what will you do
when reason decides.


IN THE TALK OF MY TOBACCO SMOKE

i have disconnected self
from the wire of the world
retreated to this unmade croft
of wild grass and savage stone
moored mountains
set in sea
blue black green grey
dyed all the colours of my mood
and liquid language-
to climb rocks
instead of rungs
living with them
moving around their settlements
of revolutionary random place
for simple solitary glory.
i am reduced again
to elements and matter
that barter her body for food
teasing and turning
her flesh to take words and plough.
rapid rain
slaps the skin
on honest hands
strongly gentle
while sowing seeds
the way i touch my lover
in the talk of my tobacco smoke:
now she knows
she tastes
like all the drops
of my dreams
falling on the forest
of our Lothlorien.

Thanks for your lovely poetry and time.

(This is an online interview conducted by Mitali Chakravarty.)

PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL