Ghazal

magnolia blossom

The little boy with hemophilia
speaks in a whisper, they said.

The female traffic cop was too attractive.
People kept stopping to ask directions, I said.

While you were picking berries behind the house,
a bear walked down the driveway, they said.

A tanager, an oriole & a goldfinch, all males,
in a single tree at dusk: three flames, I said.

In Newfoundland’s only remaining ancient forest,
the trees are six inches tall, they said.

We stopped on the way home from D.C.
to read a historical marker for the Shadow of Death, I said.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

11 Comments


  1. Or is it matter of fact?

    What little boy?

    I know that traffic cop. She got married.

    At dusk there are a thousand flames.

    Towards your house?

    Newfoundland is stretched so very wide across the north, nothing is very tall.

    Yes, you both rested on a bench.

    Who could “they” be? What collective entity be you addressing, who have an allure of seeming distance (at first I thought your brothers), yet know the affairs of your yard (couldn’t be your parents)? And you fresh from the road, yet also at home.

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  2. Sorry for the typo on “hemophilia” – i input in haste and then was away from the computer for the rest of the day. I hate when that happens.

    I thought perhaps the “they” could be different each time; that’s one reason I opted for it. But I may change my mind about that. As for the oddness of the conversation, ghazals typically have very non-obvious connections between couplets.

    You really shouldn’t confuse poetry with nonfiction. Even when it’s based closely on things I’ve seen or done, it’s still closer to myth than nonfiction. I believe that’s the case with many other poets, too.

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  3. Oh I know! I’ve a big atavistic, literalistic bone in me. You’ll get much better readings from those who don’t pretend such casual familiarity. I wonder why I like to have the poet play the lead in their poems? My sense of having some relation to a poet matters.

    Your handiwork shows in the instance of your change from an historical (should you have used “an”?) waymarker to an historical marker, much more suggestive of burial and I would assume there you have put an equal amount of craft into all the other couplets. You probably weren’t traveling from D.C. either, but couldn’t resist the dig.

    My brazenness in pointing out your misspelling, stems from newfound pride of spell-check capability, by way of owning a new computer.

    If I’m the only commenter on this work, then I’m afraid the quality of your commenters has really dropped off for the moment! If thoughtless, insouciant comments could ever cause a blogger to shut down, I’d be the one to make them do so! I think I’ve really spoiled the mood on this one as I have on many thoughtful posts here and abroad. Great photo, BTW.

    Thanks too for the suggestion on how to read poetry — maybe someday it will dawn on me what you are talking about but at the moment I’m simply amazed at what myth and nonfiction, put face to face in your comparison, have to say to each other. I can’t tear them apart!

    As for ghazals, yours is my best and only idea of them. I like!

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  4. You haven’t worked your own name into the final couplet!

    I’m sure you know the late and wonderful Agha Shahid Ali’s work. (Maybe he’s the only poet one could know in the very small English ghazal field.) (My favourite: Even the Rain, which is here:

    http://www.geocities.com/kavitayan/aghashahid.html)

    I tried ghazal once, but it was so lame; and so horribly inferior by comparison to the Urdu ones… you have almost inspired me to try again.

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  5. p.s. Agha Shahid Ali’s short intro to ghazal, useful for those who don’t know much about it — e.g., the fact that each couplet is a separate entity, and that the string of couplets may not be very much related, except by the final repeated phrase:

    http://members.aol.com/poetrynet/ghazals/

    One difficult thing about ghazals is that the second line is often (not always) a kind of punchline, completing the first but also giving the reader a little jolt. Your second and third couplets seem to fit most closely with that criterion.

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  6. Bill – I wonder why I like to have the poet play the lead in their poems?
    I don’t know, but you’re hardly alone. Oddly, though, people seldom make the same mistake with first-person song lyrics.

    I do sometimes write “an” before an aspirated h to avoid the awkward-seeming glottal stop, but sometimes – as here – I want the stop. As for “historical marker,” that’s just what I’ve always called them – didn’t give it much thought.

    Please don’t ever hesitate to draw my attention to misspellings and typos. Use the Contact form if you prefer. And quit apologizing for your comments; you know I always enjoy them. All perspectives are valuable to me as a writer. I like to think my stuff is accessible to any reasonably well-educated person.

    Hi, Nancy. Yeah, Ali was one of my models here. I also like the freer versions of ghazals by folks like Jim Harrison, Adrienne Rich and Federico Garcia Lorca, though I think Ali’s recommendations for ghazals in English, in the piece you link to, are worth heeding. Apparently even Goethe wrote ghazals – it’s become a very cosmopolitan form, like sonnets and haiku. Anyway, thanks for the feedback!

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  7. I googled the Shadow of Death and got a picture of a waymarker, something I’d never heard of and thought interesting: a striking topology or feature by which to remember one’s way.

    Oh I’ll never stop apologizing for myself! I do feel that I sometimes just get silly when responding to your work. Do you ever feel like a dress maker or a tailor, or weaver of rich fabrics only to have your efforts sweat in, stained with food and wine, torn from roughnecking? I definitely feel guilty! I am enjoying your productivity.

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  8. Wow, I had no idea about the ghazal as a cosmopolitan form! And, after some quick googling, I don’t seem to like it much. Seems to boil down to couplets, with or without a repeated word at the end of the second line. Period. Possibly a hasty judgment. Anyway, thanks for telling me.

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  9. Nice poem. The photo is amazing – I was thinking something exotic – “India…lotus…hand…” – then I moused over and saw it was a magnolia blossom. Very striking.

    Reply

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