Cascade of Stars

Cascade of Stars

In Cascade of Stars Mira Mehta explores the natural world and human nature. The hundred or so poems are linked thematically within a familiar framing story, giving it a new twist. The ideas explored are:

Destinies and Decisions
Responses
Sentiments
Reflections
Tales and Fables
Time and Mind
Nature
Life and Death
Growth and Cultivation
Freedom and Captivity
To a Lover

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(Destinies & Decisions)

The Editor’s Pencil

The Author of the novel Life
Sent it for consideration
To a House of Publishing.

The Editor assigned to it
Corrected punctuation
Inserting proper pauses
For rhythm and readability,
Changing question marks of doubt
Into stops of certainty;

Improved the syntax
Rewriting muddled sentences
To make the meaning clear,
Finishing unfinished lines
To tidy up loose ends;

Simplifying relationships
For clarity and neatness,
Moderating the fantastic
With a view to realism;

Rationalised the structure
Reordering scenes
For continuity of thought and action,
Clustering all minor themes
Around a major one;

Condensing humdrum interludes
If they could not be excised,
Dramatising happenings
For maximum effect;

Redrew the characters
Recontouring personalities
By psycho-plastic surgery,
Adding and subtracting roles
As convenient to the plot;

Polished the style
Replacing words
To make scintillating prose,
Avoiding repetition
And thus the boredom factor;

Rewrote the ending
Suggesting an alternative
According to prevailing taste,
Drawing everything
To a satisfactory conclusion;

And returned it to the Author
With Compliments.

(Responses)

Duet in Two Languages

A beggar accosted
A lady in silk,
Voice rasping and urgent,
“Give me your love.”

In alarm she stepped back
And clasped her purse close.
“I beg you for kindness;
Please do me no harm.

“I live on my honour,
I speak only truth,
I am without anger
Or meanness or greed.”

The beggar drew nearer
And clutched at her sleeve.
“Virtue is luxury
I can’t afford.

“Have you felt hunger,
Have you felt cold,
Have you fought grimly
The world as your foe?

“Have you felt hatred,
Have you felt rage,
Have you felt cheated
And beaten by Fate?”

“No,” whispered the lady,
Averting her face,
And, opening her wallet,
She took out a coin.

“Go home to your comforts
And cupboards well stocked,
Your children around you,
And laughter and cheer.

“In your pious prayers
Tonight by your bed
Give thanks to your Maker
That you are not I.”

(Sentiments)

Silken Strings

Jealousy
Binds its object with tight cords,
Draws it in a close embrace
And strangles it,
Or ties it to a stake
To set it ablaze.

Love
Binds its object with gossamer,
Lets it roam at will
And puts in its hand
The end of the thread
To clue the way home.

(Reflections)

Ghosts Haunt a Queen

[Queen Vaasavadattaa,
Falsely proclaimed as dead
To enable the King
To remarry to save
The kingdom from warfare
A stratagem advised
By the King’s councillor –
Appears to her husband
In a dream.]

Not all my ghosts as yet
Are exorcised; they haunt
The leaves of books I read
With eerie cries and twist
With warpèd tongues and hissing
Whispers the stories of my childhood
Innocence, so now I cannot
View the scheming minister except
With eyes in succession wet and
Whetted by the wily
Hypocrisy of those close by
Me who wear the garb
Of righteous action, nor see the witless
King without contempt, for
Witless is not guileless, nor
Regard the woman
Victimised without the parallel
Of life where cruelty
Abounds, and I wonder
At the conceptualising mind and
The admiring audience who make
Faults virtues.

Note:  Svapnavaasavadatta, ‘Dream Vaasavadattaa’ is a 2000-year-old Sanskrit drama by Bhaasha.

 

(Tales & Fables)

To Bottle the Genie

The jar of the Genie, once unstoppered,
Released its pent spirit, which expanded
Exponentially upwards and outwards
Into freedom co-terminous with space.

No coercion, cajoling or trickery
Could return the escapee to confinement;
But were the air sucked out of its sky-room
Would it not shrink back in the vacuum?

(Time & Mind)

The Conqueror’s Causeway

Thought, that ingenious device
By which all boundaries are set at nought,
 Commanded by the Thinker
To span the struts of days and distance
Measured invisibly by missing,
Constructs bridges of brush strokes
And promenades with words for cobblestones,
Lanterning them with meaning:

Thus is time paved
And space bestridden
By Mind the Conqueror.

(Nature)

Moonshine

Last night I had a visit from the Moon.
I asked the reason why she waxed and waned.

I parallel the course of human hearts (she said):
When held in my beloved’s gaze, I glow;

When he is cold and distant, I decline
And fade to unrequited emptiness.

Yet I forgive him for deserting me;
He just obeys his orbit, as do I.

His smile upon my visage makes me beam
First shyly, then more broadly by degrees

Till I am wholly luminous again
With my own lustre, not a counterfeit.

Thus I do not reflect inconstancy
But the appointed rule of lovers’ ways.

(Life & Death)

Symbiosis

Curiosity asks
In an idle moment
Why the verdant creeper
Clings to the hoary tree,
Twining round about it,
Pliant yet tenacious.

The sturdy tree
Carries the Earth’s wide wisdom
Imbibed through deep roots
In all directions probing;
Its stance is straight,
But its boughs grow bowed
With the weight of its knowing
And sigh in the wind;
Its rustling leaves
Leave a sweet scent in the air,
But its sap runs dry.

Ah! But the dainty creeper
Feeds on its plenty,
And lightens its load;
Drinks of its essence,
And restores its fading splendour;
Climbs athwart its bulk,
And injects it with fresh growth;
Coiling tendrils,
Hung as if with floral beads
Along a leafy helix,
Grafted onto mottled trunk.

Life sustaining life;
Is there a purpose
External to each?
Is it to create
A lasting vision
For the eye and mind?

(Growth & Cultivation)

Waterfall

Plop!
I drop
Idea
And idea
Into your ear
And wait
For it
To percolate
Into your mind,
Pool there
And then
Debouch
Into a fresh
Clear spring,
The source
Of water
For your garden.
(Freedom & Captivity)
The Songbird’s Petition

The Prince of the Palace
    Found a sweet-throated songbird
And, captivated, captured it
And hid it in his rooms.

Delighted with its warbling,
He often stroked its plumage,
And for its food he stole
Choice morsels from his table.

Yet hunger gnawed the bird
And in anger based on trust
It demanded more to eat,
And pondered its escape.

The Prince, himself well-fed,
Not knowing hunger-pangs,
Refused, having naught to give
Except from his own plate.

He assured it of his care
And, bidding it be patient
For a fine feast to come,
Chid it for selfishness.

The bird, contrite, resolved
Resignation to its fate:
Clipped wings barred a life elsewhere
And it trusted in the Prince.

But its voice would not be quelled
And rose up from its throat:
“I am unsatisfied,
You must give me more.

“You caught me and must keep me,
You love me for my songs;
I am cut and captive caged
Will you also make me starve?

“Give me food to grow my wings
And build strength to fly my cage;
Then I will sing aloud for you
The song which tells your soul.”

(To a Lover)

Honey and Sweetness

How can one sunder
A stream from its flow,
A bird from its flight
Or sunset from the evening sky?

Stagnant a brook that courses still,
Feeble a bird bereft of wings,
Gloomy a dusk all grey with clouds.

And how can one part
Existence from air?
Lifeless your life without my breath,
Unlived mine without yours.

To the philosopher the thought,
To the poet its expression:
Inseparable separates,
Like honey and sweetness.

Thought formulates into expression reformulates idea;
Philosopher inspires poet vivifies pursuit of wisdom:
Independent yet depending,
As honey gives the taste of sweetness is the cause of relishing.