Three Poems


Jaba M. Gupta

The University of San Francisco

Copyright © 2000 by Jaba M. Gupta, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.

Coming away from the Old World
leaving behind memories --
concepts -- notions -- and friends
books that were dear, too dear to carry . . .
ground realities and flights of fancy
sailing into an unknown azure world
gliding, spreading wings
slightly rusted -- slightly bent -- with care
weighed down by myths
of belongingness -- comfort -- freedom.

Suspended in liminal space
the world is a mystery again
but one thing is certain:
there is no turning back in time.
The only path lies ahead
winding out of sight
just the bend showing
nothing beyond
like slides appearing one by one
on an overlapping screen.

Should I hold my breath
for the next step?
Is there something to wait for?
A tomorrow within today and yesterday?
I seek answers in a panacea of silence
among people content to take every moment as it comes;
I am alive in God's vibrant world
evolving with it in a sea of
faces glowing like flowers
painted on with human hands.

In search of a story
I allow myself to wander
with the fog
hovering over San Francisco's houses --
growing out of the hills --
dribbling down the window panes
floating like the missing birds
over the blue expanse of the ocean: unseen.
Seeking a story that will be mine,
like nothing that has gone before.

It is always there
in the shadow every time I look back.
But the darkness is comforting today:
hidden from prying eyes
I am alone with my memories.
There was a house somewhere far away
where I was a child
in ruins now . . .
I have often told myself.

Even if it does exist
nothing is the same --
the world has moved on,
things have changed
as have I.
The beloved faces no longer await
my return -- or call out;
the gates are barred,
great rusty locks hang heavily down
and I have lost my keys.

The years have flown:
this is another time and space --
being now is not the same
as being then.
Yet as I float
in the arms of the fog
over the golden city
of dreams and more dreams
I find myself foundering my way
across time looking into dead windows.

Today it is
a different world I see
a different 'I'
on vigil
in another time
and space
in search of a friend
among unknown faces
strange resonant voices
and polite smiles
in search of
a fusion of alien horizons
blending of discordant notes
in search of
symmetry in a maze
of tomorrows and yesterdays
barging into todays
sure as the path of a supersonic jet
searing through the clouds

Author's Note: I have been writing poetry since my early teens. Through poetry I attempt to express my philosophical and experiential interest in transition, changing horizons, shifting identities, temporal conversations, and uprootedness and alienation in immigrant life. Having lived and worked in the multi-lingual and multi-cultural society of India often provides me with intriguing perspectives on the ethnically diverse society of San Francisco, where I now live.

I first conceived the poem 'Leaving India' on the plane during the long flight from India to New York. My mind was in a mixed state of excitement: a feeling of nostalgia for the life left behind, hope for the future, and apprehension about what lay ahead! Hence the reference to liminality -- a "betwixt and between" stage. However, the poem took on a final shape later when I had taken the time to absorb the world around me, a vista of new images, mysterious and inviting at the same time.

The second poem, 'In Search of a Story,' was written on a very foggy San Francisco evening when I was really trying to write a story, but the fog outside the window panes distracted me and I let my thoughts wander. That poem and the third, 'Vigil,' try to capture diasporic experience, working from my own circumstances outward to other transnational people's situations. Those who are caught between cultures and nations find it hardest to tell their stories, because they are neither here nor there. Having left their home countries, they no longer belong as they once did, though they continue to be plagued by nostalgia; on the other hand, it will take generations of birth before they feel perfectly at home in their adopted countries.

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