Aaj

Aaj

Today, I met her for the first time

As we sat around the fire

the young played and the old told stories

of other lovers meeting

we went around the fire

more stories, some songs

getting dark, time to go

Today, I took her to meet my mother

Sister showed her around the house

father, grandmother, brother all like her

I think they are happy

she hasn’t decided yet

Its fast for her, I’ll give her time

Today, she decided

I face her as the music plays

mother, sister, grandmother

white dresses

she made her decision, her final commitment

it was time for her to take this step

When reading this poem from an English or American perspective it can be seen as a simple love story. Boy meets girl at an innocent campfire get-together, their relationship grows and eventually they decide to marry. By employing familiar symbols we can understand the story—campfire stories, meeting the parents, white wedding dresses.

But some of these symbols, when seen from a different cultural perspective- can have widely different connotations. The title gives the clue as to what culture is involved here. “Aaj” is the Hindi word for “today.” In traditional Indian culture, it was not uncommon for a bride and groom to meet on their wedding day- many times as part of an arranged marriage. Integral in the Hindu wedding ceremony was a fire, around which both extended families sat singing songs, telling stories and playing music. The new couple walked around the fire to symbolize their upcoming journey together. To a reader familiar with this custom, mention of circling a fire would be enough to make the message clear. The couple are now married.

So where does the story go from here? The newlyweds often would move in with the groom’s extended family. Now the references to the sister showing the girl around symbolize more than a friendly tour. This is the bride being inducted into her new life. Hindu girls in this situation often faced the possibility of never seeing their family again. This new family was her family now. This gives new meaning to the groom’s giving the girl some time. He doesn’t have to do this, but wants her to feel comfortable in his home before claiming his rights as a husband.

Now the story takes a turn that only someone familiar with Indian culture would see. In India color symbolizes life: the more color, the more life. In this culture, when all the color is taken away what is left is white. White is the color of death, the color of mourning. When a person dies their body is placed on a pyre and their closest relation stands facing them. Now we understand exactly what the girl’s decision is. She only saw one way out of this arranged marriage. This was her final step.

Although much has changed in India today, the symbols and their connotations are still familiar to modern Indians. Reading the poem from this perspective reveals an entirely different story. Many people- from any culture- take their own perspective for granted. They don’t think to look at any situation from any view but their own. We can learn a lot about the world around us by looking at it from another angle.

From the Vault

It’s been a while since I posted here. I’ve been working on my new book, Nameless, a collection of short stories and poems, available now, here.

Now, without further ado, back to our regularly scheduled reactions. Today’s reaction poem focuses on a company which had a strong influence on my, and I think many people’s, childhood.

From The Vault

We watched the mothers die and elephants fly
While, with growing noses, little people kept us away from apples
And sound took its cue from a mouse with a stick
Glass left behind as a slipper or gone through, looking

More flying, since never being adult is your biggest draw
As long as the pasta comes in one long piece
Count to a hundred to sleep
Then add one, when kissed, to wake up

We pulled swords for you, played scales for you
Made the rich more poor for you
Rescued you, bare necessitied you
Sang our way through Dodger’s crew for you

You taught us to walk with fins
See beastly beauty and whole new worlds
You threw the bard to the lions
And our history to trees with souls

Then you joined forces with playthings
Left us crawling with bugs in our cars
Made us face monsters and fall in love with trash compactors
While we searched for incredible fish with the rats in the kitchen

And in between, you raided the classics
For gods, deformed bellmen, and monkey-bred heroes
Made a llama out of an emperor and a planet out of an island
Even the haunted holiday miser and the King’s sound made an appearance

Through it all we looked up to you
Bolting past the wrecks, universities, and planes
We were tangled and frozen and even brave
So be our big hero and never stop turning us inside out

Reaction # 3 to Star Trek: TNG

 

Schizoid 

trying to make us laugh by laughing at each other

Data’s beard is nowhere as disturbing as Troi’s derision

this doctor 2.0 is annoying but she gets it right sometimes

no matter how you try to convince us otherwise

you deserved that “You’ll see”, counselor

 

(I know you) I say doctors aren’t people

ask any patient (and he will tell you your son is everywhere)

there’s no hope for me (my worlds overlap as yours split)

(and who’s to know it but me) but my concern is for you

 

you sent for help when you knew I didn’t want it

its you who will suffer when I begin to lose my fight

and that bothers me more than anything

my grandson knows what he doesn’t know

a dying man mourns a deathless one

 

they should have picked up on it when he was glad

but this is a love story even though you’ve missed it

trying to make us uncomfortable you’ve lost the opportunity

to break our hearts, but I will have mine broken despite your efforts

in the end he did it himself

Reaction to DFTBA records

Besides being a fan of many fiction and art works, I am also an admirer of people who promote the creativity, enthusiasm, and efforts of fans. One of these people is Wil Wheaton, who I wrote an earlier post about. Others include the vlogbrothers (John and Hank Green) and Alan Lastufka. My poem for today is my reaction to a joint effort between Hank and Alan to help YouTube musicians get their music (often fandom music) to a wider audience.

DFTBA Records

Music has been a friend

That flits in and out of my days

Our relationship seemed to end

When I started to grow

And I left band and all its trends

For sports and teenage ways

 

But then my friends began to lend

Me their favorite songs to play

I started searching for a certain blend

A favorite new flavor to know

Looking through all the labels could send

Worrying truly original artists had gone away

 

Just as my hope began to end

I found where hidden gems lay

In the unsigned, unheard, online trend

People whose talent and energy flow

My faith in music started to mend

When I hear people who said what they meant to say

 

Reaction #2 to re-watching Star Trek TNG

 

Realm of Fear

of all the things that haven’t changed

I miss psychology the least

you prance and plex and patronize

don’t you know you’re useless

no wonder he rolls his eyes

 

are you a “don’t worry, fly” psa

or a ptsd survival  guide

everyone fears, the fear is status quo

does it matter if you are to go boldly or to boldly go

as long as you get there and back without a worm attack

 

take me apart system by system

scanners functional, heart beats, then gone

connected wires, connected brain, then gone

I energize, I breathe, then gone

it’s taken me over and won’t leave

 

do I fear an enemy more than losing my mind

I’m glad the danger’s there this time

do you know I never would have woken you

anyone else; but not you, this is the bravest thing I’ve done

if harm to me means they can see, I’m stuttering

 

I don’t like the sound of this

I’ve taken a leap and saved you

but did he have to give me a new fear

spiders didn’t used to bother me

 

Reaction to Little Supergirl

I recently came across Worth1000, a creative contest site. It encourages artists and graphics designers to create something new by mashing up things that would normally be considered incompatible. For example, their Superhero ModRen contests call for artists to add superhero elements to classic paintings. The results vary from incongruous clash to subtle blend but most have something to say about how we perceive, categorize, and react to art. My reaction poem for today is inspired by the entry that most caught my eye–Little Supergirl by aards2.

Little Supergirl 

beautiful, why so far away

let me wrap you in an anchor to me

your original haunting innocence won’t sway

I can still see you through me

but your new choice gives us both a way

to an expectation of security

Reaction to/Inspired by Doctor Who

Sometimes my reaction poems start out following cannon, or sticking to specific details, but then become something more original to me. This poem/flash fiction never happened in Doctor Who. It doesn’t refer to any specific companion. It’s simply about the unique potential created by the characters and situations of the show.

December/Mayfly

He knew she wouldn’t survive. Her kind never did. The tiniest of lifespans.  Then they were gone. With all the others he could pretend it was meaningless. Dance through the whirlwind and throw them off— the majority of their limited life yet to live. Leaving him as nothing more than a summer’s entertainment. A cherished memory. Each of them just another song in his symphony. But her summer had come to an end and he had let her stay. She had carved her way past his defenses and he had let her stay. Her song was threatening to drown out the symphony and he had let her stay. She became so weak they had to stop dancing and he had let her stay. Then she was gone. And still he let her stay.