Poems by Kamar Sultana Sheik

Mother’s Blood

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

I knew my mother
Had fed me her very blood
For all infants suckle;

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After I relished the wonderful
Dish of spicy fish
That she had cooked in the day
And had waited without partaking it
To serve me first;
After I returned.

I spotted the wound
On her hand,
Where the fish-bones had drawn her blood
And now was hurting painfully
And I knew that for a second time
She’d willingly given her blood to feed me.

And then I sat in awe
As I realized
This may not have been
Just the second time.

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Electric Train Window

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

In big black letters
Painted on yellow paint
It displayed the not-so-important, almost deserted station’s name…

The stone sign-board at the platform’s far end
Standing as dirty as only
An electric train station platform name board
At the fag end of day,
Can get.

It also housed the cloth cradle
Made of a dirty sari
Holding the station’s platform dweller-cum-vendor’s infant
Sleeping unblinking
Used to having the passing trains’ sirens
As its noisy lullaby

While his mother sold her wares
Alighting on one side
And getting down on the other
With enough coins
To buy food for herself
And her little one;

One fleeting instant
Of the drama of life
From an electric train window,
In a two minute stop…

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The Stove

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

It had looked to me always like some kind of a furnace
Designed for some kind of sacred ritual;

Before the noisy ‘pump’ stove that gave us arm-aches
Before the ‘wick’ and kerosene model that made our fingers burn with blisters
Trying to pull up the wicks through the metal tubes.

Before the sparkling stainless steel
‘Best Flame’ came to my mother’s Kitchen
After many years of a better income.

The simple firewood stove made out of bricks and cement
And a coat of ‘Gobi’*

Meal after meal she made upon it,
Ignoring watering eyes and pouring sweat,
Complaint-less, performing the sacred ritual of preparing
Food for her family.

Every year a day before the 10th of Muharram**
After her evening prayers,
The stove was given a fresh coat of red mud-paste
To herald in the New Year***;
The color stuck to her hands for days…
And in my memory
All these years.

* Gobi – Whitewash with yellow pigment in it; the overall effect is orange
** 10th of Muharram : considered the heralding of the Muslim New Year.
Considered an auspicious date for new beginnings
*** New Year : the 10th of the month of ‘Muharram’ marks the beginning of the
Muslim New Year in the Islamic Calendar

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Mercy

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

What is Mercy?

Mercy is when
The loudly cawing crows
Surrounding their prone
Half-alive group member
Did not
Peck him to death
With stinging mean pecks
As is the Crow Custom
But dispersed and flew away
Leaving him alone
To die in peace in the Night.

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Immortal Identity

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

What brings with it, Old Age?
Dim eyes staring from a wrinkled visage;
A wobble in the leg, a tremble of the hand
Hard of ear, slow to understand?

An easy tear, a brittle voice
Than saggy shoulders, no better choice;
Worry on the mind, trouble in the heart,
Tired of the World, of playing the Part???

What brings with it, Old Age?
Enlightened eyes in a wise visage;
A rightful step, a generous hand
A compassionate Ear, the Power to withstand!!!

A knowing smile, an affectionate pat
A witty joke and advice with that!!!
A soft spoken word, of comfort;
One balmy Blessing, when someone’s hurt!!!

Mellowed feeling, a soothing voice!
Not with vibrant vigor filled, but with patient poise!!!
Peace of Mind, a Holy heart;
In Higher Worlds, ready to play the Part!!

A gentle laugh, a loving chide,
A steady Spirit, tested and tried!
Thoughtful kindness, humble pride
Truth within, Truth outside!!!

Lesser than Youth, but greater still;
Not obstinate wilfulness, but Strength of Will:
Fast-fading Beauty, young age brings;
Of Immortal Beauty, Old age sings!!

The bones that were born to decay,
What matter if they get old and gray???
The Spirit, if its Eternal Youth can retain-
Why fear, shall It not be Born again and again???

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When the phone rings…

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

When you hear the phone ring…
Do you care for what it might bring?
Her only son, so far from home, to speak!
Some loving mother may longingly seek;
One anxious paternal ear, may strain to hear
The bubbling laughter of a much loved daughter!
A much awaited greeting to bring his way
A bosom friend from miles away!
One loving woman might patiently wait
To hear the voice of her beloved soul-mate…
One loving child his Daddy may want
When you say “cant”!

Do you see him shed an unseen tear
His hushed sob of misery do you hear?
When you feel like “not being nice”
Does your Corporation pay the Price?
The many chores of a corporate-house hold
Many of Life’s Lessons untold
Hence all calling voices treat with care
Be sure to be courteous, just and fair!
If to conquer yourself you seek
Every time, you speak
You’ll find half of Life’s Victory won
Surely before the day is done!
If on the Corporate Stage you seek to play well your part,
Be ready to serve with all your heart
At every telephone ring!
For you know not what it might bring!!!

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Cyberspace

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

He’d tried to pick one bright flower
From a Rose-bush, on his way back from school!
The thorn-prick drew blood from his thumb
The Gardener chased him halfway down the street,
Scolding threateningly!
His mother had loved Roses!
That day, she’d loved the seven-year old bleeding thumb more than anything…

Each year on Mother’s Day
He e-mails a lovely Rose,
From a Virtual Garden!
No thorn to prick his thumb!
No angry gardener chasing him:
She loves the unpricked roseless thumb, the same
Twenty years later! Wishing she could see it!

They’d play for long hours in the Compound
Making mud cakes!.His childhood sweetheart!
He’d lighted the candles on her birthday cake
And held her hair away from her face,
When she blew the four candles out!(She loved candlelight but was afraid of the flame)
And bought her the biggest rag doll in town,
With two months worth of pocket-money!

He sends a lovely Graphic Cake with bright-coloured Candles that go on an off
And writes- P.S: “You don’t need me to hold your hair now, do you?
This flame is just an animation, so it won’t burn you!!!”
“Get over this fear of fire! When you come out here, you’ll
Need to do the cooking! Ah, I’ll get you a diamond when you come.” With Love!
She’d tied up her hair tight, and joined a cookery class
And wiped her tears on the doll’s face!

They’d been the “Two peas in a pod” kind!
Sheepishly worn the dunce’s cap
Together in the classroom,
And winked at a secret joke across the Interview Room!
He takes pains to take the most time out for this bosom friend,
To send him A “bear hug” card across the miles, (they hadn’t hugged for years!)
On Friendship Day!

He did not answer his letters.(He thought e-mail was always better!)
He’d have replied the next morning,
Had it not been for that Fateful Night of Fire,
That ate with flame and smoke! Machine and Man
In voluptuous, greedy gulps!!
The diamond remained unbought, the Roses, unsent!
His arms never hugged his weeping friend!
Down with all the debris he went!

Some things simply have to be be real!
Like the firm clasp of a friendly handshake,
Like the aroma of grandmama’s freshly baked cake!
The son’s strong shoulder
Which wipes the weeping mother’s tear!
The elegant arms of the daughter
That can heal an aching heart with hugs!

No code more superior, No program more wondrous
Nothing so perfect as Nature’s Design,
Linking so well : all living, all dead!
In Eternal Time, in Ethereal Space!
What Virtual Reality, what Real Time, what Network Interface
Of what use the wonders of Cyberspace-
When Flames devour a dear one’s face,
To retrieve, is there a Database???

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What Colour???

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

What colour the widespread Sky?
The deep Sea?
What hue the Butterfly,
Of what shade the Tree?

Colourless!

The Rainbow Arc,
Garden blooms?
Firelight in the dark,
Peacock’s Plumes?

Colourless!

Of what colour, Grapes ripest!
Purest honey old,
Pearls Polished, Best
Smelted Silver, fire-burnished Gold?

Colourless!

Then what is it that does dye
The Sea Aquamarine?
Azure the Sky,
Silver the starlight and Golden, Moonshine?

‘Tis the Light in thine own Eye!
That doth hue the Sea and Sky!
The Light of radiant Joy, the shadows of Sorrow dark!
Twilight’s tinge and the Rainbow Arc!

‘Tis the Eye of thy own Mind,
That shall, every moment’s Colour determine!
Happiness, in the wedding Carnations white,
And Grief, in the funeral rose-wreaths, Red-bright!!!

With a dash of Violet Passion,
In every surge of deep Indigo determination!
Fight the Blue of Adversity,
With a splash of rich Green Prosperity!!!

Sheath fond young memories in shades of sunniest yellow!
Write all the Richness of Youth in rays of radiant Red!!!
Mark the Good Old days in brilliant Orange streaks of Hope…
Peek into the Glass, and view the panorama of Life’s Kaleidoscope!!!

‘Tis that which thy Soul, upon Earth shall shed,
Dismal grey or a Spectrum bright-
Exact to every Atom, in the Ethers shall it be Reflected
Eternal Day or Endless Night!!!

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Feelings

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

“Feelings???”
Must be the strange wincing in my heart
When the magnificently galloping steed,
Buckled, with the bullet in its bleeding flank!
And lay whinnying with pain:
While its rider ran for his own dear life
All but looking back—
In a thriller movie…

Must be the thin film of tears
That shaded my vision
From the cracking that pricked at my ears
When whip brandished skin:
And the bony bull, wide-eyed, spittle-dribbling!
Stowed unspeaking on its shoulder—
A burden too heavy for many mens’ backs.

Must be the tight twist
Of my suddenly thirsty throat,
When a rash unruly youth
Kicked a stray dog
Hard on its belly
And mocked—
Its yelping cry…

Must be the odd quickening of my pulse
When I heard a Man of Medicine
Say with a smile,
To an ailing man’s household:
“Perfectly okay: just take him home.”
And wiped a tear in spite of himself—
A moment just later.

Must be the strong urge I feel
To run straight to the
Assembly Ground
Ready for the Morning Prayer!
Upon hearing the clanging sound
Of the old School bell—
Then stop, smile, and walk away…

Must be the fuzzy sensation
That brims up in my heart
Upon seeing a solitary paw-print
Dirty, as if wet…
On my favourite pillow-case;
The paw exists no more—
The paw-print remains preserved.

Must be the aura of awe, sickly sweet
That tickles my nostrils,
When amidst tears and sympathy and ardent show
Of fervent affection,
Wreaths of red and white,
Placed at the feet of the one—
Who got not a single flower whilst he breathed.

They’re the pearls that gleam
For a fleeting second,
When a stray beam of Sunlight lights up the Ocean depths—
Before being clamped within their shells…

They’re the veins of gold! In smooth stony rock,
That glow like fiery wires,
Should the Rainy torrent, torment their sleep—
Deep in the Earth’s dark chambers.

They’re the formless gems
Hidden in the misty dewdrop,
In the unshed tear—
Behind a sunny smile!

They’re the bubbles of fragrant soap:
The froth must vanish: the perfume lingers!
Time must say its goodbye’s—
Behind the window-sill they stand watching:
Feelings!

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Places

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

I asked how many they were.
They told me Seven…
The wonderful places in the World
“Which I asked?”

“The Leaning Tower of Pisa!”
Tall and Majestic and lofty.
I knew it not-
But I knew well a Tower
That hath held me against all harm,
And my childhood Wonder.
The Erect shoulder and steady arm
That I called, ‘Father”.

“The Great Wall of China!”
Long and Winding, protecting its Countryland
I’d seen it naught
But I’d looked too well
The look in the gentle eyes
When elegant maternal arms enclosed
The Apple of her Eye.

“The Hanging Gardens of Babylon!”
What skill have those hands displayed
Those that this monument of luxury made!
Yet I wondered at the many hands
Impoverished.
That labor to plant the seeds
For Multitudes to feed…

“The Statue of Liberty, America!”
The symbol of unbound Freedom…
I thought of the Eagle that perches
Amongst the barren Stony Peaks, soaring free.
Delighting in its feat of Victory.
And of the many millionaires that live in golden prisons, trembling
At the mumbled name of Defeat!

“The Pyramids of Egypt!”
The tombs of dead, treasured
With all their earthly luxury lain beside.
I thought of those
Whose bodies own not a grave
Yet their Immortal Souls live in every mortal mind
In every shade of Pastel and every syllable etched on paper.

“The Colossus of Rhodes!”
The colossal wreck of the King.
Who built his visage in stone
Demanding the salute of every passer-by.
I smiled as I thought of the Prince
Who left his Palace to sit under a Tree that bore no fruit…
Which now receives the hearty tribute
Of Strangers who chance upon it.

“The Taj of India!”
A dream in white Marble Elegance.
Doubtless a tale of Fervent Love.
Yet, somehow the dismal cold Stone
Does not match the warm glowing heart
Of a Living Monument.
The humming kettle of a Happy Home
Whose doors welcome for Centuries to come
All feet that shall cross its threshold!

“Tis not the Place that so much matters
As its Persona.
For the place that had felt the feet
Of one beloved
May throb with the Life of another!
A Castle can be all but a wealthy Cage
And a hovel humble the magic Carpet
That shall embark on the Parapet of Freedom!

No Tomb nor Tower
Nor the elegance of the Epitaph
Not all that is erected upon the Earth
Can stand as strong
As the Mirror of the Faces and the Mortal Minds,
That brought a smile to an unsmiling face.
Like the deeds of those Hands dead,
That are etched in the Hearts
Of all living.

Its all in the hones Heart.
In the state of the merciful Mind.
In the Soul that sings of Truth
In the Hands that give.
These hold a Place
In the History of Earth
That no Place ever shall hold
Wonder, or no Wonder!
No wonder!!!

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Where is the Essence of Life?

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

In the boiling Cauldron
Where cooks the sleeping plantling in its grain,
That hath swayed happily in the breeze before one grain
Of Sand sifted slowly through the hour-glass.

In the scorching silk of the desert
That builds a tomb in its dunes,
For any weary pilgrim who might falter
Without one vital vial of water.

In the arms of the Oceans
That hug to death,
Any, that fails to steer his flailing limbs ashore,
For want of one gulp of precious breath…

In the wrathful reprimand
Of the Teacher,
That made many a grave sin
Remain uncommitted.

In the poisoned sweetness
Of the Soothsayer’s saying,
For which was paid a price
Greater than the suffering which sought sooth.

In the Hunter’s sling that shot not
The animal unarmed.
The Soldier’s sword
That killed not a fallen foe!

In the heart of the man that died not,
So his many kin may live.
The mother’s pious prayer
That brought another’s child safe, along with her own.

In the merciful eyes of the Saint
That blessed an insulting tongue.
The falling tree that shaded
The axe, until it was beheaded.

In the numbed Mind that suddenly recalls
Moments that could have been lived better-
In the Slumbering Spirit that suddenly knows
That the last sand-grain has sifted through the hour-glass.
Which topples itself up again,
To witness once more
The Essence of Life.

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What is Decadence?

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

‘Tis the Goblet,
That plays
Grave to the Grape
And Cradle to the wine!!!!

‘Tis the Grinding Wheel
That to make the finest flour,
Turns every shiny grain
To Dust!

‘Tis the Soil
That eats the flesh of the fruit
To let the seedling sprout,
And bud again!

‘Tis the Lamp
Where every drop of oil
Drunk.
Is reborn in a steady Flame.

‘Tis the Cloud,
Which for every mouthful
That it sponged of the Sea,
Pours forth in measures of watery generosity.

‘Tis the Earth that willingly devours
All crumbs from the plate of Death.
And brings forth fresh surging Life.
In every tender shoot.

‘Tis the phial of Perfume
Which holds the aroma that lay locked
In the depths of blossoms
That comes brimming, but, when they’re crushed…

‘Tis the broom of Destiny,
Which Sweeps all unwanted into nothingness.
Then, from the branches of Nature
Lays the carpet which must be beholden…

‘Tis the Sum of all Eternity
Which having broken into Infinity
Rejoins with the Whole
And stands Timeless.

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Love

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

To my heir, I hereby bequeath.
All possessions of mine named beneath:
‘Tis my Will that he shall these, in all reverence pass on.
To his pedigree when he’ll be gone.

A new-born’s mittens of woollen white,
A large yellow-and-green paper kite;
A string of pearls, a diamond ring,
An old armchair, a wooden swing.

The mittens hold the treasure of an old woman’s freckled dusky smiling joy,
When she’d knit them for the son of her dear boy…
The kite contains the wealth of sunny mornings bright
When an old man taught his grandchild to fly high, and fly right!

They speak of the glory of hearth and home and shared dreams
The diamond’s dazzle and the pearly gleams!
Like an arm wrapped in ardent consolation
The armchair shall stand in times of desolation.

With its every surge, of Life’s memorable moments shall it sing.
In mild melody, the swaying Swing.
Of the gentle oscillation of happy childhood
And the soaring heights of youthful interlude!

With these, he shall learn of the gurgling Love of pitter-patter feet
Of the chatter of childhood, bitter-sweet;
Of youthful passion, in all its depths and dimensions divine
Of the Love of the undying Spirit in all its Radiant Shine!!!

When long after, the world is a much busier place
And the son has not the time to look at his Mother’s time-worn face:
Then, someday those mittens will him remind,
That once a loving woman for her kin all the time in the world could find!!!

Then he shall tell his child of Love’s various legends,
Of its glorious beginnings and proud ends…
When another pair of hands make mittens for another pair of pitter patter feet,
Then shall be my Legacy complete!!!

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Friendship

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

If you can hear my footsteps…
Long after I cease to walk:
And know I came visiting…
And sense the soft silence of greeting-
Without having to talk.

When my mute call, you clearly heard,
And woke up, knowing that I remembered-
Sleepless, because I had not slept
Your eye watered, when I had wept.

If I can see the smiling twinkle in your eyes
When they can no longer see.
And know they’re looking for me,
And feel the fragrance that is You.
Then surely I know, you’re my Twin Soul true!

And then this bond shall still remain the Earth, upon.
After all things die, that are born:
And knowing that you without, I’ll never be whole,
I’ll be sure to follow the footprints of thy Soul!!!

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Animals

a poem by

Kamar Sultana Sheik

How would it feel to be,
At the Queen of Bees’ honey-party???
Or to be invited at Madame Lioness’s den-parlor
To take a look at her just-born cubs-with-wet fur??

If to visit their Ocean home, the Whales should ask
Or Crocodiles, on soft sands to sunshine-bask.
Enjoy Tea at the Turtle’s Place,
To engage with the Leopard in a sprint race?

From the Porpoise, swimming lessons take-
Join the Full-Moon-Night feasting in the hide-out of the Chieftain Snake;
Ask the Elephant for a piggy-back ride,
On a wintry eve, dance to a Camp-Fire by the Ant-Hill side.

If Zebras would on a Jungle Safari take,
And Beavers took supervision, our dams to make,
The secrets of Desert Survival, if a Camel told
To open her eaglet’s eyes, the Eagle, where she got the Gold?

On sunny morns, if moths and butterflies should with youngsters play,
And glow-worm and fire-fly, in darkness light our way…
If Song-Birds should music lessons take,
And Infants, cuckoos every morning awake.

Such wondrous things would have come to happen.
If only Man had not made his first weapon!
In trying to set the tune of Civilization,
Upset the harmonious harp of Creation!!!

If the Ape that had stood up, had understood,
What he had done, when he first hunted and killed for food.
If he had known, when he bound his fellow brute in fetter,
Than living in Power, living in Peace how better.

Tigers would have been welcome
At the doorstep of every human home,
And every mother let her children in the deepest Forest safely play,
For surely, any Wolf would show the way!

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