FREIBURG, CATMANDU & OTHER POEMS (SATIS SHROFF)
FREIBURG AND CATMANDU (Satis Shroff)
Freiburg: the finest spire in Christendom,
Which bombs couldn’t destroy
In two Great Wars.
Old men pulled carts with their belongings,
Along the cobbled Kaiser-Joseph-Strasse.
Women were taken to dances,
By African American GIs.
Children received chocolates.
‘Hallo Fräulein!’ did the rounds,
In poverty-stricken, ramshackled Germany.
The GIs returned years later to admire
The splendour of cities they’d bombed.
The Fräuleins were elderly ladies now,
Who frequented posh cafes, operas and lectures.
Catmandu: the all-seeing-eyes
Of the primordeal Buddha,
Still welcomes visitors
From around the globe.
The hippies have long left
This cannabis paradise of yore.
Its hotels and trekking lodges offer
Western food galore,
And fast-climbs for dudes and nerds
The Gurkhas still die under foreign skies,
For the Queen of England.
The Sherpas and porters carry the sahib’s loads,
Suffer from acute-mountain-sickness,
Or still die as unsung heroes,
As Tigers of the Snow.
The children still beg in its strets
Or work in shady backrooms,
Of outsourced fashion firms.
Cat Stevens sings as Yusuf even today.
* * * *
THE DANCE OF THE BIRCH TREES (Satis Shroff)
The naked white birch trees
Stand close to each other,
Waiting for the music
Of the Dreisam Valey wind
A gust comes,
Followed by another,
Making the trees sway,
Like a wise white woman’s long tresses,
The thin, supple twigs
That almost reach half the size of the trees,
Have a faster rhythm of their own.
The hurricane-like wind
Gathers its energy for the finale.
Ah, the upper branches
With capillary-like twigs,
As they anastomose,
Developing into a canopy,
In their movements to and fro.
In the background you see
The blue Black Forest hills,
With homesteads like dots
On the snow-covered hillsides,
That are lit now.
The blueish-grey clouds which were on the move,
Have taken a prussian blue hue.
A weak yellowish light,
Manages to break through,
Above the snowy-clad peaks.
A semblance of a sunset
In the Schwarzwald.
* * *
A TRAIN JOURNEY (Satis Shroff)
A screaming train,
Billowing smoke and sparks,
As it reaches Ghoom hill,
Descends to Darjeeling
Looping its way to lessen its speed.
What unfurls is a memorable Bergblick:
The majestic panorama of the snown peaks,
The Kanchenjunga in all its splendour.
The summits like a jeweled crown,
Bathed in golden, yellow and orange light.
A moment of revelation in life,
Shared on a particular evening,
As the sun goes down slowly,
The mountain range is glowing,
A Himalayan glow.
A feast for the eyes of the beholder,
The play of lights
Evoked by the dying sun,
Upon the massif.
* * *
MY MOM’S GARDEN (Satis Shroff)
THERE’S a microcosmos
In my Mom’s garden.
I hear her calling my name.
No, it isn’t the ‘sh’ of Sanskrit,
Nor the ‘sch’ of the Alemannic tongue.
It’s a Nepalese accent from the hills.
A French lass prounced it
With an Alsatian lash.
My Mom loved and grew roses.
In Summer the fragrant aroma
Of the pink and red roses,
Worked like aphrodiciacs.
She grew cabbages, salads and lentils,
Took delight in her abundance.
Sparrows flew around busily in summer,
Swallows flew low in winter.
Between June till September,
The torrential monsoon.
A parrot ith red eyes whirrs by,
Brings the day to an end.
The trees, shrubs and flowers are thankful
Towards Indra who has sent rain.
After Dad’s tragic demise,
She lives in an apartment in the capital.
No garden, just salbei and a few flowers
On the window sill,
As she prays to the Gods
In the Abode of the Snows.
* * *
WIN THE DAY (Satis Shroff)
WHEN you withhold yourself
You become weak,
For it is you yourself,
Who does this to yourself.
Surrender to yourself
And you have won the day.
* * *
STORM IN THE NIGHT (Satis Shoff)
I walke up and peer from my cosy room.
The trembling waves shatter noisily,
With the ebb and the tide.
The frowning cumuli gather in the vast sky.
It’s raining and the waves become choppy,
Trawlers are tossed like logs
By the furious water.
The waves thrash on the cliffs,
Which stand to attention
Like sentinels as the war rages,
The krieg of the elements.
Oblivious of the storm in the night,
I take refuge under my warm blanket,
At the seaside hotel Mon Bijou
In the isle of Sylt.
* * *
MAN’S FOLLEY (Satis Shroff)
Bloody colonial migrations in the West,
Blood feuds between white settlers
Versus the Native Sons of America.
Greed-driven ranchers and gunslingers,
Fighting for land and water rights.
This was how the west was won.
The rights of the native Americans?
Or the rights of the invading European grabbers?
The Spirit of the Wild West goes marching on.
America is yet struggling with itself.
The clash of haves and have-nots,
The greed for power of the white mainstream,
The conflict of skin and Social Darwinism
Still spills over in Ferguson,
Mother Earth watches over Man’s folley.
* * *
THE ADMONITION (Satis Shroff)
The motley mother moth
Warns the young butterfly:
‘Beware of the candle’s
The frolicking butterfly replies:
‘It’s so warm and fascinating.’
Golder, flickering flame,
Spending warmth, light and music.
It enjoys the dance,
As the circling wings sway,
And the inaudible music
Reaches its crescendo.
Flying around the burning candle,
In a trance like a Dervish dancer.
In its merry ecstatic rounds
It forgets the words,
And is singed by the flame,
When a boy opens the window.
A frail frivolous butterfly
That didn’t heed,
The warning of an elderly moth.
Wasn’t the admonition
Of Daedalus the same?
* * *
THE UNKRAUT (Satis Shroff)
On the fields are the traces
Of harvested maize.
Where the tender flowers were,
There are now brown, russet leaves,
Scattered by the wind,
From the Vale of Hell.
The leaves that gave joy
In their autumnal gaiety,
Now strewn upon the earth,
To be thrashed by the rain,
Trodden by feet in trekking boots.
An elderly lady on high heels
Wobbles and breaks her dainty femur,
Over the treacherous unkraut.
The lady is picked up
By an ambulance from the Maltese Cross.
The leaves remain to rot.
No one bothers,
As cars speed to and from
The Black Forest.
* * *
MERRY TAVERNS (Satis Shroff)
There are taverns in the hamlet,
Where the wine and beer
Make men merry,
And women in deep decolltes,
Moving their eyelashes.
I leave them to themselves,
As I flee and shun them.
My heart wants Ruhe,
I’m dying of pain,
Of longing for you.
* * *
YEARNING (Satis Shroff)
Women are like flowers:
Rhododendrons and roses.
But need you pluck everyone?
How wonderful to admire them,
Take delight at watching them,
As they bloom and wilt.
I see the Schwarzwald stream,
With its refreshing cold water,
Therein I see my countenance,
A pale man with white sideburns.
Then I see you,
A peaceful mind overwhelms me.
My heart begins to glow
With yearning for you.
* * *
ENDURING PAIN (Satis Shroff)
Nights I wake up
With terrible pain;
Don’t know where to turn.
Despite the potions from the apothecary,
Capsules from novasulfon, tincture opii,
Pancreas powder with amylase,
Oxalis mixture, hyoscyamus,
Rounded up with Lormetazepam.
I’m in Schmerz.
I kept a stiff upper lip,
When the chirurg solemnly said:
‘Your tumor is like an iceberg,
We only see the top.
Below it’s growing wantonly.
I’m afraid I can’t operate.
If we begin we’ll never end.
Too many mines in this battlefield.’
I’d been brooding after the computer tomography.
I didn’t wince.
I was in shock.
The realisation of the diagnosis
Sank slowly in my mind.
I decided to make the best of it.
No use reeling under
The shattering words.
When will my anatomical ruin fall?
That wasn’t my problem.
Till then I had time to live,
Every day to the full,
With my senses,
With my thoughts and words.
To borrow a line from John Keats:
‘The poetry of earth is ceasing never.’
The beauty and delight of living
Far exceeds the pain from a tumor,
As big as a fist.
* * *
SNOW IN KAPPEL (Satis Shroff)
At 2 o’ clock in the morning,
I look out of my window:
It’s snowing in Kappel,
In the Schwarzwald.
I see the white snowflakes,
Falling ceaselessly, silently, stealthily,
Made visible by the dim yellowish treet lamp.
A car comes crunching down the curve,
Its red rear-lights glowing.
The rooftops and house railings are covered,
As with powder sugar.
The clouds are veiled,
And Heaven has become frosty.
Ah, I sleep and wake up again,
To find the lovely hamlet
Ringed with hills and meadows,
Covered with a thick mantle of snow.
Dazzling whiteness where you look.
On such a Sunday morning,
I take my snowspade,
To clear the winding stairs:
For common courtesy demands
That passersby shouldn’t slip and fall,
On the street before your house.
We all have to kehr,
Lest others despair.
The shepherd from the Molchhofsiedlung
Has left the once-green meadows,
His hundred sheep don’t bleat anymore,
Below Maier’s Hill.
With my snow-chores done,
Followed by a hearty Black Forest breakfast,
I take a brisk morning walk,
Over the snow-clad landscape,
Respire and enjoy the refreshing Bergluft.