Monday, February 27, 2017

Poems of the Week ~ by Ayala and Rajani

In January, when the ban on refugees was ordered and the citizenry protested, I read a poem written by Ayala at A Sun Kissed Life, which expressed what she felt, having reached America's shores, thinking she was safely home, as the rhetoric of those weeks pulled the welcome mat out from under her feet.   Around the same time,  Rajani, who blogs at thotpurge and Phantom Road - Conversations with Marcus, wrote two poems which seemed like companion pieces for Ayala's write, so I asked them if they would honor us by sharing them.

Ayala's poem speaks from her heart to ours, especially in these political times, when the topic of refugees has been so often on the nightly news. North America is peopled by refugees from all over the world, and I can't begin to imagine how arrivals to our shores must feel, now, with the tone of targeting and exclusion being taken by government itself. Let's read.

Bury me in a pine box
breathless yet breathing.
I won't leave,
I won't go.
I rested my weary head
on her shoulders.
Her courage,
became my own.
I swam in her oceans,
I climb her hills and mountains.
I swore my loyalty,
my allegiance.
Her flag engraved across
my heart,
the stars and stripes my own.
I brimmed with emotion
and devotion.
Her outstretched arms
embraced me,
took me in.
She whispered words of inclusion,
she roared words of freedom
and love.
I am not a stranger,
this is my home.
I am an American,
I won't leave,
I won't go.

Sherry: So moving, Ayala. I am especially moved by "I rested my weary head on her shoulders." I can imagine the fatigue and relief one feels, having left one's homeland, finally arriving safely - one trusts - on the shores of one's new home.

Ayala: I am honored to have my poem featured. The first line in my poem came from a conversation I had with my father years ago. I told him I would only leave America in a pine box. The events that took place in January with the ban on immigration, and individual stories I heard of people trying to immigrate and being sent away, stirred in me a deep emotion that led to this poem.

Sherry: In me as well, Ayala. I was heartened by the many many people who marched,  demonstrated and spoke out in opposition to that ban. And we are very glad that you are here!

And Ayala, congratulations on your new baby grandson, who is a beauty, and whom you say has claimed your heart, as grandbabies tend to do.

Rajani wrote two poems that seem to flow easily from yours. Let's take a look:

It seems like chaos is swirling in an innocuous lethargy, or maybe it is so fast that it is impossible to comprehend, an approaching cyclone, its outer bands already devastating shapes, spaces and lives, unformed, unbounded and unnamed. And in its one clouded eye, reason is crying.
Chaos is the universe fixing herself, brushing the crumbs from her gown, clotting her bleeding lacerations, braiding her unkempt hair, steadying her racing heart.
Is the denial of impending doom our way of coping with the decaying now? How long will we pluck metaphors from nature, Marcus, to reassure ourselves that the laws have been tested and that they work…spring will follow winter, day will replace night and no matter what leaves, the waves will always return to our shore?
As long as we remember that it is our faith that’s holding up the sky.
silver scar on the cheek of night,
o moon,
fading is not healing

Sherry: "As long as we remember that it's our faith that is holding up the sky." I love that line!

Rajani: Sherry, thanks so much for featuring my poems here again. It has been so great to read and share poems with this group and I have learnt so much from all your contributors.

This haibun-type piece is from a series of conversations on various topics that I post on my second blog Phantom Road ( I think I offer a sceptic’s point of view on the uncertainty that seems to prevail around us and the dissonance it brings to the social fabric, creating wounds that, perhaps, aren’t going to heal easily or well. Again, while some see hope and light and swift resolution, some think war and hate and their consequences cannot be wished away.  As always with haiku, presenting what I see in such brevity is both a challenge and joy and I quite love working with this form. 

Sherry: The current state of the world definitely exposes some deep and caustic fault lines. I like your line to the moon, "fading is not healing." I strive for hope, but I fear we are heading towards dark times before we turn towards the light again. I never thought I would hear the things I am hearing on the nightly news in North America. It is a shock.

pull it close, closer,
read in the pockets of its moulted skin,
this poem is not the blistered red
that chaffs your hate of hatred,
not the half sewn gut of every war
that rages against your outrage,
not a word here is the bruised head
of a hammer on unflat lies,
nor the colour of your neighbours chin
that floats in the salt of your eyes,
no punctuation here comforts a child
without home, without dream, without price;
bring it close, closer,
this poem is like air, like water, like sky,
without the burden of voices,
without the weight of tears,
it is not a soul looking for a body
so it may live again,
it is not a song searching for a melody
so it may speak again,
inhale it and feel its breath
burn with yours in your lungs,
put your hand through its lines
and feel the wetness of what was old spring rain,
and someday if you find yourself
dancing on its shoes like a laughing child,
or taut in its arms like a naked lover
asking to be unravelled in the night,
know it then, know it well,
know it as the rainbow
that braids the broken light,
there for a moment,
there like a kiss,
there, soft, softer,
then gone
before you can remember to say
its name.

Sherry: "This poem is like air, like water, like sky...." so beautiful! I feel for that refugee child "without home, without dream, without price." So many innocents are suffering, world-wide. Tell us about this one, Rajani.

Rajani: This poem was an impulsive response to some discussions and reading on the role of poets/poetry. For me writing has just been a personal journey, earnest but random, but when I see poets around me respond with passion to global events and suffering, I wonder if poetry demands a certain role, a certain voice and if it has the power, the appeal to actually have an impact on today’s complex world. And what about the space for poems that just want to be rainbows, bringing fleeting joy to their readers and then just floating away, forgotten, unless something beautiful triggers a memory of them, just as long as a smile. In fact, I’ve started debating this only recently, so I’d love to know what my fellow poets think!

Sherry:  A poem does have an impact to effect change, I believe. On the reader, when one heart - or conscience - touches another. And also in the energy it puts out into the world. And I think some poems do exist to be "rainbows", to lift the heart, to bring hope and gratitude. We need those moments in order to withstand the weightier matters we read so much about. They help us remember that life itself is a gift, and beautiful, no matter what. I hope our readers will add their thoughts to this conversation in the comments. 

Thank you, Ayala and Rajani, for sharing your beautiful poems and your thoughts with us today. You give us much to  reflect upon. In these times, poets may well be the voice in the wilderness, lending our readers a pathway towards that kinder world we all long for.

We hope you enjoyed these poems and reflections, my friends. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. Thank you for featuring us here, Sherry. Hopefully humanity's voice will be heard.

  2. Most of us reject the inhumanity being shown right now, Ayala. I hope this all comes to an end very soon, and we return to an America we recognize.

  3. Awesome poems that make my heart glad, yet sad. Bravo! What is happening in the United States right now will help no one-so sad.

    I am 62, an older American who can't afford to retire even though I am (because I can't find a job.) I'm middle class, and getting hit every which way by taxes, insurance, and general cost of living. I have never owned my own home and the cost of rent has become outrageous. Obamacare didn't work for me, or my roommate who is 58, a college graduate and struggling since his layoff of his over 10 year job because it went overseas. These are just a few of our difficulties of the last 3 years but one needs a job to survive. The middle class has paid enough we need a break!

    It hurts to know that all the energy wasted on this election won't do any good. At this age I know too well how long the government can drag it's feet no matter who is president. I can't imagine being a veteran, having children, or a large family living like I do. But it's my life and I'll never give up trying to be happy because if I'm not, I only have myself to blame for leaving this planet without enjoying it.

    I don't know what I'd do if someone told me I couldn't become an American, or come into this country. I'm not going to pretend I know what it feels like, (me, who's never been out of the US) but your poetry has given me an idea. Thank you Ayala and Rajani for having a voice and thank you Sherry for amplifying those voices.


    1. And thank YOU, Bekkie, for the honesty and authenticity and openness of your comment! Wishing you MUCH happiness.

  4. Thanks so much for featuring my poems Sherry. I would like to add that I did not write them with the situation in any particular country in mind. I do hope though that humanity learns to heal and love, and I do wonder about the role, if any, poetry has in that process!

  5. Wow, what a wonderful feature this week! Ayala, I love your poem "I am an Immigrant - I am an American." Really this is a poem of today. The last eight lines of the poem really move me. I feel the strength of those words! And yes, humanity's voice needs to be heard.

    And, Rajani, in the poem of yours that Sherry featured I feel the cycle of life....spring will follow winter, day will replace night..... Ranjani, can I ask you a question? In this poem you address a "Marcus," and I wonder if Marcus is a real person or is symbolic for the reader of your poetry. Your second poem really speaks of nature in such a profound way.

    Ayala and Ranjani, thank you (both) for being such supporters of PU.

    Sherry, love the way you weave the words of poets into these excellent features!

    1. Thanks so much Mary, appreciate your question. That poem is from my blog Phantom Road. All the posts there are structured as conversations with a fictional Marcus. The adapted haibun format gives me space to express thoughts that perhaps are more difficult (for me) with regular poems. You can find them at

    2. Mary, thank you, as always, for your appreciation. The earth and diversity of talent we have to draw from in this community means I will never run out of features.....I Hope!

    3. Darned autocorrect.....I meant the wealth of talent......

    4. Thank you for explaining "Marcus," Rajani. Now I understand.

  6. As poets, I suppose we can only observe, feel what we feel and, if moved to do so, try to express our emotion in words. Hoping that perhaps it will resonate with some readers, offer hope or comfort, highlight something that needs changing and maybe even inspire someone to stand up or write a letter in response. Thank you, Rajani, and Ayala, for sharing what you wrote. Your experiences and feelings I know will resonate globally, as displacement and struggle is happening everywhere. Far too many homeless people on this planet.

  7. All the three poems shared here have their after effects..the words expressed shake the mind and make us more committed to writing and reading more..Thank you Sherry for this wonderful feature with Ayala and Rajani...

  8. This feature leaves me breathless.

    The first "Bury me in a pine box / breathless yet breathing. / I won't leave, / I won't go.' is all too possible for our newest Americans, and your poem, Ayala, takes a stand. I would love to stand in a sea of placards saying "I am not a stranger." This poem may speak for many. If the threat ever reaches your door, call on me.

    And Rajani--well you know how much I love these two poems that face the fading of morality (before the fading of existence) with the demand for healing instead--whether that healing feels like chaos or like a kiss. What power, what a gift.

    Sherry, I love how you think and combine and synthesize! Thank you.

    1. You are most welcome, my friend. I knew these offerings would resonate with you.

  9. I do love this feature.. and though I do understand the struggle of people in every country and outside out countries we have to help each other. What is worst with the travel ban is that it did it from a point of security risk when in reality it's something else. It shows in how many people sees it. Security is of course a concern, but we will not be more secure by painting everyone that's different as murderers. The ban is not concern but the first step in ostracizing people on a broader scale.

  10. Sherry, I know you plan and prepare these features in advance, but my goodness what a wonderful follow-on this is to my last Moonlight Musings, which asked whether poetry can save the world. These three poems are a great demonstration of how important it is that poets keep responding to what is going on in the world. As Bjorn suggested recently, each poem might save a bit of it.

    Please, people, take time to go back to that discussion too, as a wonderful, inspiring late comment came in from Biswajit Mukhopadhyay, which completes the discussion splendidly and deserves to be read.

    (Mary, thank you for the question about Marcus. I have wondered too. As Rajani knows by now, I am always captivated by her conversations at the Phantom Road blog.)

  11. Thanks Rosemary... that was an interesting comment that you referred to. I'm one of the sceptics though, not because I think poetry is not powerful enough to change the world but because I wonder at its reach in these times, beyond becoming an echo chamber of poets reading poets. But I do hope that will change and more people will once more embrace the beauty and strength of poetry.

  12. The comments at Moonlight Musings are truly part of this conversation, so illuminating and intelligent. We write because we must and can only hope our words reach someone in the world and make a difference. It is interesting how both of our features arrived here so fortuitously close together. I love when that happens!

  13. I am so glad to read the post with three wise and insightful poems. Am also glad to read the conversation in comments. I don't think any one thing is going to "save the world". Each person must follow their inclination to contribute something that is life giving and sustaining. Poetry is one contributor, and each poet exposes his/her heart to others. For me, it's a lot about my own salvation. My hope that as I refine, understand myself better i may be more prone to give, to "save" what needs saving.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Thank you Sherry for the way you combine and expose poems that make us think and nourish us.


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