Category Archives: Poetry

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A Poem in Prose on a great poem/song “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” by Bob Dylan.

© Dr Koshy AV

I should be working but feel forced to write on Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.

As a point of entry let us take what people call poetry which draws them to it like women draw men, in droves. What people mean by poetry, what women swoon over in reading Neruda is imagery and here we have a few lines that equal Neruda.

“…your flesh like silk…

and…your face like glass…”

But she is a “sad-eyed lady” and “of the lowlands” where no man comes.

Yet, all men are after her.

Who is she?

“With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims,”

Uff!

I hear the women go ‘uff! If only someone’d write about me too like that!’ Uff, uff, uff.

I remember Pater on Mona Lisa.

“The presence that rose thus so strangely beside the waters, is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years men had come to desire. Hers is the head upon which all ‘the ends of the world are come,’ and the eyelids are a little weary. It is a beauty wrought out from within upon the flesh, the deposit, little cell by cell, of strange thoughts and fantastic reveries and exquisite passions. Set it for a moment beside one of those white Greek goddesses or beautiful women of antiquity, and how would they be troubled by this beauty, into which the soul with all its maladies has passed! All the thoughts and experience of the world have etched and moulded there, in that which they have of power to refine and make expressive the outward form, the animalism of Greece, the lust of Rome, the mysticism of the middle age with its spiritual ambition and imaginative loves, the return of the Pagan world, the sins of the Borgias. She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants; and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands. The fancy of perpetual life, sweeping together ten thousand experiences, is an old one; and modern philosophy has conceived the idea of humanity as wrought upon by, and summing up in itself, all modes of thought and life. Certainly Lady Lisa might stand as the embodiment of the old fancy, the symbol of the modern idea.

This extract is taken from Walter Pater, Studies in the History of the Renaissance (Oxford: University Press, 2012). Pater referenced 1 Corinthians 10:11

Dylan has created a ‘character’ that rivals Mona Lisa, and Cat Stevens’ Lisa, Lisa, sad Lisa, Lisa… who “hangs her head and cries on (his) shoulder.” A ‘character’ who makes even Dylan, the artist who knew he was great write “my warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums, should I leave them at the gate, O sad-eyed lady, should I wait?”

It is difficult to analyse poetry at its best and explain why it moves us so intensely.
As in here. Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place supposedly to start.
She has “a mercury mouth”. Does the world slide towards mercurial or does one think of mercury rising in the mouth of the meter on the wall to show the heat increasing? In the missionary times? A veiled reference to her being a Playboy model once if this is Sara and to the missionary position or her chastity and purity in the face of the odd paradox that she makes men become like bitches, in/on heat. A mouth too can bring down kingdoms.

Eyes… that smoke and prayers that rhyme, a silver cross on the end of the chain and a voice that is like wind-chimes, she is ethereal like the skylark, whether Shelley’s or Wordsworth’s. Also American or Mexican or Spanish, with smoking hot eyes, and that cross, and those prayers…

No more someone who can be buried. No more poor having met the bard. Worthy of being carried in a palanquin, no longer fit to travel in a streetcar (un-)like Blanche in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, having become revealed as a queen but who fit enough to carry the four ends of that palanquin? None.

No man bold enough to approach her. She comes from the depths. Only the prophet, sad-eyed like her, and the poet but even he may have to set aside his pecuniary fiscal eyes and esoteric music, his gifts or valuables, and have to wait.

A virtuous woman whose bed-sheets are like metal and belt like lace, whose deck of cards – dictating her life or with which she gambles away her life – have the king and the joker but not the jack or the ace, still having traces about her of her genteel previous poverty and its hollowness shown in her face, who is street-smart, she is, this sad-eyed one, or swan. She has gypsy blood in her and her songs are flimsy like matchbooks, but her sunlight dimmed silhouette when the moonlight swims in her eyes is either so much a sight to make one stop, stand and stare or so much one that puts you off that no one will try to impress her. Scared. Irresistible.

Not the kings of Tyre, who wait as do the suitors of Portia, for a “geranium kiss,” and with their lists of their prisoners, who want sex with her and not just a loving real kiss. She was forced to compromise, but the voice who sings this poem asks why. Haunting us. “And you wouldn’t know it would happen like this!”

As a child she had flames on her midnight rug, not of boys, but of arson, and as she grew up she kept curfew, and took the same medicines her mother took as well as had Spanish manners and that mouth that suited cowboys better, than women, being mercurial. Who can resist someone like that?

The rich and the poor – the farmers and the businessmen – wanted her on their side but how did they not understand that she was beyond all ‘sides’, transcendental, with flaws – a phoney false alarm, being the true one – , yet able to fall in love with the child of a hoodlum, having the sea at her feet like woman in Apocalypse/Revelation, and not drawn to or by dead angels hiding in the closets of the rich and the poor. Blameless. Not to be persuaded.

Only one could persuade her. Not her husband. Not her past. No one fit enough to employ her. “And your gentleness now, which you just can’t help but show,” not being the kind of achievement we can put on a CV to get hired.

“Now you stand with your thief, you’re on his parole
With your holy medallion which your fingertips fold,
And your saint-like face and your ghost-like soul,
Oh, who among them do you think could destroy you?

We come to the crux of the poem. She is not Pater’s Mona Lisa, she is the Bride, as Dylan envisages her, American, gypsy, Spanish and implicitly Mexican, but also Beatrice, Dantescan and an Italian breeze, virgin Mary and fallen Magdalene, and even the prophet and poet, the singer or bard, the wandering minstrel, the troubadour, the thief – which one of the two on the cross? – and not the joker, who she is ready to share the parole of, the child of the hoodlum, is forced despite his courage and foolhardiness to ask her, therefore:

Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

Even he is treading softly, as he does not want to tread on her dreams.

I never saw the lesser poetic vehicles, poetic tropes, of the simile, questions and anaphora (repetition) used redundantly but redeemed so well as in this poem. Call me Ishmael or Queegeeg or even Quinn the Eskimo, but this poem or song is serious, sad, romantic, melancholy and leaves one unable to leave it behind. Makes you search and search desperately for a sad-eyed lady to whom you can ask, should I leave my gifts by your gate, O(r) Sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

The one you know you will never find or if you find you will always lose or have already lost before you met and can never get to keep. Unless you are like Dylan who can write a song on her to keep her forever in it like a leaf pressed in a book, dead or alive.

Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

Bob Dylan

With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes,
Who do they think could bury you?

With your pockets well protected at last,
And your streetcar visions which you place on the grass,
And your flesh like silk, and your face like glass,
Who could they get to ever carry you?

Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I put them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

With your sheets like metal and your belt like lace,
And your deck of cards missing the jack and the ace,
And your basement clothes and your hollow face,
Who among them can think he could outguess you?

With your silhouette when the sunlight dims
Into your eyes where the moonlight swims,
And your match-book songs and your gypsy hymns,
Who among them would try to impress you?

Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I put them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

The kings of Tyrus with their convict list
Are waiting in line for their geranium kiss,
And you wouldn’t know it would happen like this,
But who among them really wants just to kiss you?

With your childhood flames on your midnight rug,
And your Spanish manners and your mother’s drugs,
And your cowboy mouth and your curfew plugs,
Who among them do you think could resist you?

Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

Oh, the farmers and the businessmen, they all did decide
To show you the dead angels that they used to hide.
But why did they pick you to sympathise with their side?
Oh, how could they ever mistake you?

They wished you’d accepted the blame for the farm,
But with the sea at your feet and the phoney false alarm,
And with the child of a hoodlum wrapped up in your arms,
How could they ever, ever persuade you?

Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

With your sheet-metal memory of Cannery Row,
And your magazine-husband who one day just had to go,
And your gentleness now, which you just can’t help but show,
Who among them do you think would employ you?

Now you stand with your thief, you’re on his parole
With your holy medallion which your fingertips fold,
And your saintlike face and your ghost-like soul,
Oh, who among them do you think could destroy you?

Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands,
Where the sad-eyed prophet says that no man comes,
My warehouse eyes, my Arabian drums,
Should I leave them by your gate,
Or, sad-eyed lady, should I wait?

Songwriter: Bob Dylan. from Blonde on Blonde.

Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands lyrics © Audiam, Inc

I could write more on this as poem and music, talking of alliteration, rhyme, the keyboards, drums, the acoustic guitar, his signature voice and singing style, the bass, the versions, the covers, the imagery, the references and allusions, and inter-textuality, the frame, the contexts, the significance or importance of the song in the album and its influence on others, the figures of speech and so many other things, but it would make it boring and so leave the rest of the essay for all of you, my dear friends, to create in your minds for yourself…

COSMIC ORGASM

Bury the ghosts of the past,

Forget the cloudy future that is overcast,

Dissolve ideology and idiosyncrasy,

 Segregate thyself from world that is crazy.

Let the time cease for thee,

Find in this moment ecstasy and glee,

A new reality to dawn and spread,

Kicking out egoism and hatred.

Forget the faces and façade,

Feel that you are one of nature’s brigade,

Float in the cosmos, drifting along the current,

Drown in the euphoria of orgasm that flows in torrent.

Beyond genders and their defining organs,

Let the souls meet and mate sans interruption,

Uh uh uh aaaauh, let the souls moan in their copulation,

Let this cosmic orgasm find you bliss and salvation.

© K.Radhakrishnan

THE UNIVERSE IS BOOKS

THE UNIVERSE IS BOOKS

‘Knock, knock,’ she said.
‘Who’s there,’ he asked,
coming to the door-less opening
of the wall of books
to wall out or wall in.
‘May I come in,’ she asked.
‘You may if you like books’.
‘I do, I never met a boy
who lived in a house made of one, before.
One day, soon, I too will make my house
of my own books, like this,’ she replied.
‘Then “come in,” he said, “I’ll/they’ll give you/us
shelter from the storm.”‘
© Dr Koshy AV

The Entrancing Banyan Tree

The banyan tree,

Entangled mysteriously,

Entrancing my soul.

Surely you harbour the dryads,

Who weave their magic wands,

To render you so spectacular,

So enchanting!

Thou fantastic tree

Is it that you represent

Lovers’ love and passion?

Or profundity,

Endurance,

Strength,

Or simply closeness?

Whatever you represent,

Methinks your majestic form,

With hundreds of entwined roots,

Moving towards gravity,

Has completely bewitched me,

Becoming my inspiration,

My guiding poetic Muse.

Alien Nation : Alienation

We went into the Valley of Elah

looking for victory and reasons to carry on ,

when we got there those reasons had gone ;

they’d quietly slipped away

leaving us with nothing more to say ;

when we got back

we didn’t recognise ourselves ,

we looked at our faces in the mirror

that only showed someone else ;

all our words too had their meaning changed

for something that we couldn’t understand ,

and we who were born here

became strangers in our own land .

It’s in the waiting

It’s in the waiting He achieves the most.
When patience and persistence boast.
Screams of inactivity die away,
Peace becomes the strength that rules the day.

Faith comes face to face with fear and doubt.
Wrestling each other trying to win each bout.
Hope and worry enter in the fight.
Battle rages reaching unexpected heights.

Knowing His creation and His Word
Releases power of faith. Have you not heard?
Lifting the conflict to a higher plain.
Victory assured, no resistance can remain.

Believing takes control and proves.
Perseverance bunkers down and will not move.
Humility liberates, hope and peace.
Now His loving presence, till all time has ceased.

Way of the World

I was not familiar
with this co-walker on my morning walk
Who was striding slowly, barefoot
on a long two tiled bridge –
a road and the rail lines under it

But, his act of finishing his thoughts
and starting it again
drew me a little closer to him –
and I nearly paused my steps further
to listen to his less comprehensible sentences –
Meaningful et al

I knew
I was getting closer to him
by his truthful utterance –
as he was slicing it part by part
He was ragged, and grey of hair
Stinking badly, but
of a princely milieu

I took pause
Under His guidance
and thought about the way of the world –
Those who are self proclaimed rich, have little of their own
Those who are ragged, have all the wisdom to share

Intermission

The silent scream that takes your breath away
Is not drawn from the exhausted painting
On the priceless wall, beyond your reach,

Waiting to be stolen, like the kisses
Of an unforgettable pastel spring in Paris–
It is what we all hear, day after day

When our fallen idols choke on pretence
And burn new bridges after every blast
While prayers are lost somewhere in the clouds–

Does the ringing of bells mean anything
Anymore? The demons are within
Offering wreaths with smiles, as our thoughts

Wander through the crowded corridors of history–
Our hunchbacked selves observe the testimony
And the screaming eloquence of ancient flames.

The Madness Surrounding Me

The madness has invaded the whole world
I can see it on busy streets
In the eyes of focus oriented people
As they walk along towards their duty
Twisting and turning it over and over
Again in their minds
As if,
Such remained the driving force of Existence,
The center of the world,
The cause and the meaning of everything
That we can see and witness around us!

The madness has gained so much strength
That people have lowered their swords,
Faced with it,
Becoming as tiny
As ants are when faced with our palms!

See how they believe in their own microcosm
See how they rely on their senses
See how they dance, to the tunes of nothingness
As puppets do
To the pulls of their puppeteers!

Why, I wish,
I really do wish,
I could leave everything behind:
This madness and its tight grip on me
I wish I could leave it,
Running, fleeing, flying
Naked, free, liberated,
To there where it all has purpose
And there where reason is given its due!

Pray, I regret having forsaken the realm where I was
I regret having chosen to fall into Earth’s womb,
As like me,
Earth is confused,
Revolving she is, on herself,
As she has no other option!
She knows not why she has to keep revolving
She knows nothing of this power that rules her
Yet,
As an obedient child,
She follows her line of duty
And like her,
I walk my path
Dilligently and submissively!

But then,
The skies do show themselves as merciful
Of the madness I do get pulled out at times
Whispered in my sleep are their words and their wills
So much that
I know, I definitely do know
That someday, somehow,
I shall be thrown a ladder to climb on to
To escape this porous and invasive mass of evolving
Madness!

Where Heaven Lives

I’m eager to know about the life and likings of this abode,
all about their mundane affairs and fancy full scope.

Even the wind seems sedated when it passes through this place,
giving the inmates, some liberty to roam around at their pace.

Let my senses visit this house sailing through its crude lunette,
as it surely has a life-giving spring which has kept it retained.

Or, maybe it has a hidden talisman placed in one of its secret corner,
as I never saw before a supreme harmony of sobriety and fervour.

The charm of this refuge is inevitable, I think I’m fated to adore its glamour,
Never saw before a pure union of stoicism and high-spirited demeanor.

Wish to own a house like this, having love and longing raining on its gable,
I pray, seeing my penchant, the owner sells his house to me, it’s a plea humble.

Copyrights © May 2019 DrNikhat Bano All rights reserved.
Image credit: Google