Alexander Best: “Notes on Normal”

ZP_Norval Morrisseau, 1932-2007_Conversation, a serigraph from 1978

ZP_Norval Morrisseau, 1932-2007_Conversation, a serigraph from 1978

Alexander Best

“Notes on Normal”


The investment advertisement spoke of “smart risk”.

The sign on the bottled-water truck read: “Taste you can trust.”

At the townhouse complex, little notices

skewered the golf-green grass. They gave the date and time of

spraying and when the lawn would be “safe” again.


An office worker took two puffs of her cigarette then

tossed it onto the granite slab;  it was back to the salt mines.

Two beggars stood nearby.

It didn’t get ugly over the “Hollywood butt”;

another one would be along in awhile.


.     .     .


Last night I awoke;  it was slow and easy.

Down the hall, my neighbour picked out chords on his guitar.

The sound wasn’t loud;  the house was unusually quiet.

3 a.m.  Oh, but he hit the right notes!

I lay there and listened.

Then the music stopped.


My mind went this way and that.  Those years returned, and

I knew there was no playing with the facts:

how ignorant I’d been — aggressive and stupid.  And hadn’t it

gone on — and on.

Sleep came again, and took me.


.     .     .


Finally, he died.

Yes, he was old, but he’d been old for two-and-a-half decades,

since the age of forty-five.

The florid beard, silver in the black, had

given him a weight;  and he’d been listened to, the difficult



His Uncle.  The only man left of that small,

snuffed-or-petered-out generation.

And these past five years, the beard gone, his face was

crunched and unintelligible.


What a waste.

So much could’ve happened that didn’t.

Yet so much had happened that had to.

And though he felt regret — fibrous and stony — he felt also

the uselessness of regrets.


That tightly-wound, far-flung bunch, their story was told.

And the estranged pair of them — Uncle and him —

they were one and complete.


.     .     .


I told someone off the other day, really laid it on thick.

She’d been burying me in bullshit for quite some time.

Who doesn’t she despise in our society?


Now I’m doubtful. I feel guilt. Was I perhaps too…

no, I didn’t go far enough.


.     .     .


Oh privileged people —

when you extract head from navel, the

muffled hums and haws will become

well-spoken excuses.


Shut up and get on with it.

I expect more of thee!


.     .     .


Smug. It defines him.

Orthodoxy in all the obvious opinions;  a crass certitude;


And in one so young!


Facts. What he does with them is…



But now I say to myself:

Fool.  Look around.

This  is the only world he knows.


.     .     .


He was mistaken.

He’d thought it sensible to share so much — to be ‘modern’ —

with the old dear / battleaxe who’d given him Life.

But he didn’t know when to stop.

And now they are both of them



How does one repair such damage?


Learning to be silent,

this will be hard work.

But the birds, cat and dog;  the piano.

Maybe a ginger beer — she likes that —

in the backyard, when the hot days come.

It can be enough.


.     .     .


The funeral was a brisk affair;  the woman’s decline had been

gradual, her death no surprise. Still, the hour was a solemn one.

He was the brother of someone who’d known the deceased,

a stranger in a small congregation, all of whom appeared to

be familiars.  But afterward, he observed how

people departed in two distinct groups which had little or

nothing to say to one another.


His sister — the “someone who’d known the deceased” — was,

in truth, a very important person — mourner — in the pews.

But only the dead woman had known that.


Two square-looking, thirty-something women

— they’d sat in the front row —

attempted to pick him up as he

walked away from the cut-stone chapel.

One called him “distinguished”;  the other, “hot”.

The coffin was carried down the steps, and

dayglo arrows marked the route to the grave.

It was a cold, early-spring afternoon.


.     .     .


The dream startled me awake.

I had to walk around, move myself here and there.

Downstairs, I put the kettle on.


First I was hunched over, then I was on the attack.

A door, off its hinges, was my shield, then my weapon.

There was no ground yet we weren’t falling.

There was no sky yet we kept breathing.

There was no room for us, in fact,

yet we had ample space for a struggle.

And who was we?





.     .     .     .     .

Les Tendresses pour Yonge Street ( Tokens of Affection for Yonge Street )

ZP_Corner of Yonge and Dundas, Toronto, 1972, looking south_The buildings on the right side were all demolished to make way for construction of The Eaton Centre which opened in 1977.

ZP_Corner of Yonge and Dundas, Toronto, 1972, looking south_The buildings on the right side were all demolished to make way for construction of The Eaton Centre which opened in 1977.

Alexander Best




Playoffs had begun; things were looking up for The Leafs…

Ten young guys, walking south to Carlton Street. Jock-ish

In their jerseys, ballcaps, space-age sneakers.

Cases of beer: treasure borne on shoulders and heads.


The creature of them halted in front of a shop-window: leopard-bikinis and

Lacey things. Big noise from the boys, sports-monkey-like.


Two teenage girls appeared on the sidewalk, slowing down, unsure.

(Awkward experiment: elegant hair, in the style of Marie-Antoinette, combined

with denim ensembles, ‘racing stripes’ down the sides of their pant-legs.)


The guys turned from window-display toward the girls, emitting a lusty

Oh Yeah!

One of the girls (shy one) couldn’t help but grin, showing

Microchip-circuitry of railroad-tracks; her mouth was a mess. The boys

Paused — taking in this ruination of her face — glanced among themselves,

Then voiced an even huge-r Oh Yeeaahhh of instinctual approval.


Girl’s friend rummaged for an itzy-bitzy disposable camera, held it out, simply

Aimed it at the mass of boys, and clicked.

Females, a-giggle, clumped north in their trendy ‘big-foot’ shoes. The

Manimal continued its way down the street.

.     .     .



Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.”  /  “I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.”

(Publius Terentius Afer  a.k.a. TerenceRoman playwright, 195–159 BCE)


I waited for the streetcar, in Monday’s midnight mist.

Cabbie pulled up, East-African guy, insisted I get in.

No money, I told him.  Shift was over, he said.  “You and I, we go in the

Same direction,” he assured me. Small as a boy, he was confident like a man.


Inside the car, passing the famous hockey-arena…

Do you know this is a ‘gay area’ where you are standing on the corner?”

Oh, really?” my mild response.


Left hand on the steering-wheel, he extended his right and placed the tips of his

Slim fingers on the vulnerable spot where my neck joins my breastbone.

Let me see you” — his tone was oddly reverential.


I unbuttoned my shirt. He ran his hand over my chest and stomach.

Ah,” he said gravely, “I am touching you, beautiful forest!”

The car skirted a grove of highrise apartment blocks, swinging onto the bridge that

Leads to a more sky-wide part of the city.


He patted my zipper: “Show me this one.”

He held my sex; it changed size. Chain of lights moved north, another south, on the

Riverside-highway below us. He considered me, in the palm of his hand:

Alabaster plus two jewels,” he said. “ — but not so hard!” he added, joy flashing in his

Eyes. Our road lay arrow-straight, and luck – the traffic was serene.


I began to touch him, at the navel-gap in his shirt.

No.  This cannot. I am married.” — he spoke in a hush.

Maybe I’m married, too,” I said. “You are wearing no ring,” he observed.

True.” And I touched him again.


Please do not,” he said firmly. Then, with a radiant smile showing teeth of

Stained ivory: “You will make us an accident…We must not have such a

Tragic romance!”

He refreshed me with these words. The car smelled of fake pine; radio-voice

Rhapsodized about a computer.


He caressed my thigh with his free hand. I told him my name; he, his; the

Bible came into it. When I was let out, he tapped a

Farewell-flourish on the car-horn.


A poet wrote: “It is only the sacred things that are worth touching.”

Thank you, stranger of the City, for revealing my body as sacred again.

In touching it you touched my soul.

ZP_Xaviera Hollander, the so-called Happy Hooker_She lived in Toronto during the mid-1970s and her liberated, guilt-free approach to sex was exactly what Toronto the Good needed_The Yonge Street Strip, mainly between Gerrard and Dundas, was the most honest zone in the city - a place of risqué fun and sleaze.  Some of those qualities of random adventure and weird spontaneity still existed on the Yonge Street of the late 1990s - and the poet hopes he has captured a little of that in these three poems...

ZP_Xaviera Hollander, the so-called Happy Hooker_She lived in Toronto during the mid-1970s and her liberated, guilt-free approach to sex was exactly what Toronto the Good needed_The Yonge Street Strip, mainly between Gerrard and Dundas, was the most honest zone in the city – a place of risqué fun and sleaze. Some of those qualities of random adventure and weird spontaneity still existed on the Yonge Street of the late 1990s – and the poet hopes he has captured a little of that in these three poems…



It was along by the Zanzibar Tavern…

Delivery van struck a man. Soft-hard sound, and he

Flipped through the air as if juggled.


Magnificent. People spun ’round.

He wasn’t out-cold; dusted himself off, embarrassed.

He began to walk; straightaway teetered, fell

Crumpled against a newspaper box.

Blood on his neck; humanity gawked.


An efficient person called the hospital on his pocket-phone.

The van-driver was sorry, impatient.  


An old man and woman — he reedy, she petite — approached the  

Injured one: “What is your name, dear?” said the woman, bending.

What is my name? — What is my name?!?”

Don’t, now…you’ve had a shock,” she said.


The man’s accent was distinctive; words in the shape of fear.

He’d’ve hailed from a dozen lands — to be precise.


The woman gestured for her mate to lean down with his good ear:

He can stay with us…The children are gone — they needn’t know.”

Her husband’s eyebrows went up; held themselves aloft; settled down.

Yes…I don’t see why not.”


The nameless fellow was arranged into the ambulance by two delicate,

Burly attendants. The couple was helped in next; one guy taking the

Old lady’s patent-leather handbag, the other the

Old gentleman’s cane.


(1999 – 2000)

ZP_Yonge Street, Toronto, in the 21st century_Looking south from the corner of Yonge and Gerrard

ZP_Yonge Street, Toronto, in the 21st century_Looking south from the corner of Yonge and Gerrard

Alexander Best: “The Soul in darkness”: 12 poems

Sherbourne Street vacant lot 1Sherbourne Street vacant lot 2Vacant lot, Sherbourne Street vacant lot 3

Alexander Best

“The Soul in darkness”


He’s destroyed his health — that much is plain.

A cough that never really leaves,

those hollows under his eyes.

Oh, it wasn’t any one thing he did…

but it all adds up.


Many of his habits were simple.

Taking his tea and a smoke by the window

while the sun rose, after a night of prowling.

He’d bring coffee to homeless guys with

winning, tooth-fractured smiles.

He’d talk to cats in the laneways;  crouched down,

scratched them under their chins.

When money was scarce, still he managed

to buy drinks for charming strangers whose charm vanished

once they asked if he could lend them sixty bucks…


It was no one thing, true,

yet it all added up.

Life diminished him,

no matter what.


.     .     .


Each day brought some small joy or other.

What people called boredom

he called freedom to roam.

He listened to the water rush along the gutter toward the grate

— it was full of energy and romance.

At night when it rained,

he heard the wet wheels of traffic going this way or that

while he lay in his bed.

The city-hall tower was many blocks away,

but once in a while he heard the bell striking the hour,

and it pleased him.

He thought to himself:

this must be what it’s like to live forever.


.     .     .


They started out as friends.

Nearly always, it was good times.

Each trusted him whom he didn’t know.

By the end, they’d hurt one another a lot.

Accidental hurts? It was hard to tell

— but they hit their mark.

By the time it was really over, they’d become strangers

of the type that make up the faceless throng.


.     .     .


The number of times I’ve looked on people with desire.

Turning a corner. In a streetcar, an elevator.

At the cinema, courthouse.

In a glance, I’ve given myself to hundreds, and

I’ve taken thousands.


.     .     .


A beggar asked for change. I rummaged in my pockets.

He took a good look at me, in my old wool greatcoat;

declared:  A blank cheque’ll do.

I smiled, gave him a two-dollar coin.

Noisily my awful boots squish-squished as I

strode up the street.

We both chuckled.


.     .     .


Nothing is clear to me.

Even the cloudless sky.

Every wall is a mirror.

So many years have passed that

some things are easier — time is thoughtful.

But nothing is clear.


.     .     .


The thought of living without him was unbearable.

And yet, that’s just what they’d been doing, for years.

Out of solitude came a knowledge he felt with his whole body:

their love was for all time.

Everywhere he went, he walked with a light step.


.     .     .


I waited.  On the bench

by the massive oak tree.

Noone came.

I stayed too long,

my feet were like lead going home.

But memory calls.

I must go back.


.     .     .


The one dearest to him was ill.

Said his head throbbed, like it was his heart

— a loud beating,

outside his body.

He knew what that was like.


.     .     .


He went out on a limb — the old oak tree.

He sighed. Looked at the rope held coiled in his hand.

A nighthawk squawked.

That’s the wisdom I needed, he whispered aloud.

He lowered himself to the ground, with care

— didn’t want to sprain an ankle.


.     .     .


In the darkness of his room,

one after another, he strikes wooden matches,

leans each one against the inside of a small copper pot.

They spark, then swell to a crisp.  And he says to himself:

Lovely they are, their whole life long.


.     .     .


Meal done, now’s the hour;  some light in the sky still,

and man-made glows begin to warm each room.


spirit’s gone to my belly

— words don’t come…and that’s that.


Poem, shall we lie down, you and I?

And write ourselves tomorrow?


.     .     .

The poet in 2008

The poet in 2008

Editor’s note:

I wrote these poems in 2003 during the years when I went from one temporary job to the next and was numb from emotional distress in my personal life.  I seemed only to “camp” wherever I was living;  I moved seven times between 1999 to 2009.   Putting furniture out on the street I would find what I needed for my next room on another curb.  Everyone has crises in his or her life and we respond variously – with adequate action or with the inertia and blah mechanisms of Depression.  I believe that this sequence of poems reflects – in its pensive, wistful, and “world-weary” tone – the influence of Constantine Cavafy (Konstantin Kavafis) whose poems in translation I was discovering at the time.  These poems wrote themselves;  my pen moved across the page of its own accord.   The gift of composing Poetry has meant my survival;  I am most grateful for that.

.     .     .     .     .

Poemas para El Día Internacional de la Mujer: una poetisa anishinaabe que deseamos honrar: Joanna Shawana / Poems for International Women’s Day: an Anishinaabe poet we wish to honour: Joanna Shawana

ZP_Manitoulin Island artist Daphne Odjig_Echoes of the Past_Daphne Odjig_Pintora indígena de la Isla de Manitoulin_Ecos del Pasado

ZP_Manitoulin Island artist Daphne Odjig_Echoes of the Past_Daphne Odjig_Pintora indígena de la Isla de Manitoulin_Ecos del Pasado

Joanna Shawana / Niimkiigiihikgad-Kwe

(Anishinaabe poet from Wikwemikong, of the Ojibwe-Odawa First Nations Peoples, Mnidoo Mnis/Manitoulin Island, Ontario)

Grandmother Moon”


During this cold dark night

Grandmother Moon sits high

Above the sky


Our Grandmother

Surrounded with stars

Emphasizing the life of the universe


As the night comes to end

Our Grandmother Moon slowly fades

Over the horizon


To greet Grandfather Sun

To greet him

As the new day begins


Grandmother Moon will rise again

She will shine and guide me on my path

As I walk on this journey.


.     .     .


Joanna Shawana / Niimkiigiihikgad-Kwe

(Poetisa anishinaabe de Wikwemikong, Mnidoo Mnis/Isla de Manitoulin, Ontario, Canadá)

La Luna – Mi Abuela”


Durante esta noche fría y oscura

La Luna Mi Abuela se sienta

Alta en el cielo


Nuestra Abuela

Está rodeada de estrellas

Que hacen hincapié en la vida del universo


Como cierra la noche

Lentamente Nuestra Abuela La Luna destiñe

Encima del horizonte


Para dar la bienvenida al Abuelo El Sol

Para saludarle

Como comienza el nuevo día


Ella saldrá de nuevo, La Luna-Abuela,

Brillará y me guiará en mi camino

Como ando en este paso.


.     .     .


All I Ask”


My fellow woman

My sisters

I am weak

I am hurt

All I ask of you is


Hear what I have to say

Hear what I have to share

I am not here

To be looked down

I am not here

To be judged

For what had happened to me

All I ask of you is


Hear what I have to share

My fellow women

My sisters

Listen to my words

See the pain in my eyes

All I ask of you is


Hear what I have to say

Hear what I have to share

Help me

To get through my pain

Help me

To understand what is happening

Help me

To be a better person

So please

Hear what I have to say

Hear what I have to share.


.     .     .


Todo lo que te pido…”


Mi compañera

Mis hermanas

Soy débil

Estoy dolida

Todo lo que te pido es

Por favor, escucha lo que tengo que decir

Escucha lo que tengo que compartirte

No estoy aquí

Para ser mirada por ustedes por encima del hombro

No estoy aquí

Para ser juzgada de

Lo que me había pasado

Todo lo que les pido es

Por favor, escuchen lo que tengo que compartirles,

Mis compañeras, mis hermanas,

Escuchen mis palabras

Vean el dolor en mis ojos

Todo lo que les pido es

Por favor,

Escuchen lo que tengo que decir

Escuchen lo que tengo que compartirles

Ayúdame a

Superar mi sufrimiento

Ayúdenme a

Comprender lo que pasa

Ayúdenme a

Ser una mejor persona

– Entonces,

Por favor,

Escucha lo que tengo que decirte,

Escuchen lo que tengo que compartir con ustedes…


.     .     .




Hidden secrets

Hidden feelings

Hidden thoughts


Why do people need to hide

Their secrets

Their feelings and thoughts?


What are people afraid of?

Afraid of their own secrets

Afraid of their own feelings and thoughts


How can one person reveal?

To reveal their secrets

To reveal their feelings and thoughts


There is no reason to hide their secrets

There is no reason to hide their feelings

There is no reason to hide their thoughts.


.     .     .




Secretos escondidos

Sentimientos escondidos

Pensamientos escondidos


¿Por qué la gente necesita ocultar algo?

Ocultar sus secretos, sus sentimientos y sus pensamientos


¿De qué tiene miedo la gente?

Tiene miedo de sus propios secretos,

Tiene miedo de sus corazonadas y sus ideas


¿Cómo revele una persona?

A revelar sus secretos

A revelar sus pensamientos


No hay razón para ser una tumba

No hay razón para engañarse a sí mismo sus sentimientos

No hay razón para esconder sus pensamientos.


.     .     .


“Wandering Spirit”


This wandering spirit of mine

Wanders off to the world of the unknown

The unknown of today and tomorrow


This wandering spirit of mine

Waits to hear your voice

Waits to listen for what will be said


This wandering spirit of mine

– Help me to discover the unknown

– Help me to understand

What the unknown needs to offer


Help this wandering spirit

That wanders off to the world of the unknown

That wonders what the future holds


This wandering spirit of mine

– Help me find peace and harmony

– Help me find tranquillity in life.


.     .     .


“Espíritu vagabundo”


Mi espíritu vagabundo

Se aleja al mundo de lo desconocido

Lo desconocido de hoy, de mañana


Este espíritu mío errante

Está aguardando tu voz

Está aguardando por lo que diremos


Espíritu mío, espíritu vagabundo

– Ayúdame a descubrir lo desconocido

– Ayúdame a entender

Lo que lo desconocido necesita ofrecerme


Ayúda a este espíritu errante

Que se aleja al mundo de lo desconocido

Y que se pregunta lo que va a contener el futuro


Este espíritu mío, mi espíritu andante

– Ayúdame a encontrar la paz y la armonía

– Ayúdame a encontrar la tranquilidad en la vida.

ZP_Tree of Life by Manitoulin Island artist Blake Debassige

ZP_Tree of Life by Manitoulin Island artist Blake Debassige_El Árbol de la Vida_por el pintor indígeno Blake Debassige de la Isla de Manitoulin


Walk with Me”


Come and walk with me

On this path

Which I am walking on


We might slip and fall

To the cycle

That we once lived in


Let us

Help each other to understand

What we have been through


Let us walk together

Come and hold my hand

Hold it tight and never let go


Come and walk with me

Let us find what our future holds for us

Let us walk together on this path.


.     .     .


Camina conmigo”


Ven – camina conmigo

A lo largo de este camino

Donde estoy caminando


Resbalemos y caigamos

Al ciclo

Que estaba nuestra vida


Ayudémonos a comprender,

La una a la otra,

Lo que salimos adelante, lo que sobrevivimos


Caminemos juntos,

Ven – toma mi mano –

Agárrate bien – nunca suéltame la mano


Ven – camina conmigo

Busquemos lo que habrá para nosotros en el futuro

Caminemos juntos en este camino.



.     .     .

Joanna Shawana moved down to Toronto in 1988.  She began writing in 1994.  A single parent, and now a grandmother, she has worked for an agency providing services to Native people in the city – Anishnawbe Health Toronto.  Her bio. from her book of poems Voice of an Eagle states:  A Catholic upbringing clashed with Native heritage teachings, which confused her path.  However, through the years she gained more knowledge from her Native elders and began to clearly understand what it meant to be Nishnawbe Kwe (Native Woman).  Thus, her journey in stabilizing her identity began…   Joanna writes:  ” When I look back and see what I have left behind, inside I cry for the little girl who witnessed that life, the teenager who was abused, and the woman who almost gave in, but I know now that my inner strength will never allow me to leave my path.  Healing is a continuous part of life and it will be so until the day comes that the Creators call me.  So as you travel along your path,  remember – do not give in or give up! ”


Joanna Shawana fue víctima de mucho maltrato durante su juventud, también como una mujer joven.  Desde 1988 ha vivido en la ciudad de Toronto donde trabaja con la agencia indígena Fortaleza de Anishnawbe Toronto.  Dice:  ” La curación es una parte continua de la vida y ésa será hasta que el día que me llamarán los Creadores.  Entonces, mientras viajas en tu camino, recuerda –  ¡no te des por vencido y no dejes de intentar! ”


Translations into Spanish / Traducciones en español:   Alexander Best

.     .     .     .     .

कबीर “The Songs of Kabir”: translations by Rabindranath Tagore and Robert Bly

February Still Life 1February Still Life 2

Naturaleza muerta del invierno, febrero de 2013, Toronto_Winter still life, February 2013, Toronto

Naturaleza muerta del invierno, febrero de 2013, Toronto_Winter still life, February 2013, Toronto


“The Kabir Book:  Forty-Four of the Ecstatic Poems of Kabir” (1977) – versions by Robert Bly, based on Rabindranath Tagore’s “The Songs of Kabir” (1915).


“The Songs of Kabir” (published in 1915) translated by Rabindranath Tagore, assisted by Evelyn Underhill, from Bengali versions of the original Kabir Hindi-language poems.


In the selection that follows, Bly’s versions of Kabir are first, followed by Tagore’s.  The first-verse quotations – which appear between the Bly and the Tagore – and each with a Roman numeral then a number, refer to Tagore’s source for his Kabir poems – that is, Santiniketana: Kabir by Sri Kshitimohan Sen, in 4 parts, Brahmacharyasrama, Bolpur, published in 1910-1911.

.     .     .

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive.

Jump into experience while you are alive.

Think…and think…while you are alive.

What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before death.


If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,

do you think

ghosts will do it after?


The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic

just because the body is rotten –

that is all fantasy.

What is found now is found then.

If you find nothing now,

you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.

If you make love with the divine now, in the next life

you will have the face of satisfied desire.


So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,

believe in the Great Sound!

Kabir says this:

When the Guest is being searched for,

it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that

does all the work.

Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.


I. 57. sâdho bhâî, jîval hî karo âs’â


O Friend! hope for Him whilst you live, know whilst you live,

understand whilst you live: for in life deliverance abides.

If your bonds be not broken whilst living, what hope of deliverance in death?

It is but an empty dream, that the soul shall have union with Him

because it has passed from the body:

If He is found now, He is found then,

If not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death.

If you have union now, you shall have it hereafter.

Bathe in the truth, know the true Guru, have faith in the true Name!

Kabîr says: “It is the Spirit of the quest which helps;

I am the slave of this Spirit of the quest.”

.     .     .

Friend, please tell me what I can do about this world I hold to,

and keep spinning out!

I gave up sewn clothes, and wore a robe,

but I noticed one day the cloth was well woven.

So I bought some burlap, but I still

throw it elegantly over my shoulder.

I pulled back my sexual longings,

and now I discover that I’m angry a lot.

I gave up rage, and now I notice

that I am greedy all day.

I worked hard at dissolving my greed,

and now I am proud of myself.

When the mind wants to break its link with the world

it still holds on to one thing.

Kabir says:

Listen, my friend,

there are very few that find the path!


I. 63. avadhû, mâyâ tajî na jây


Tell me, Brother, how can I renounce Maya?

When I gave up the tying of ribbons, still I tied my garment about me:

When I gave up tying my garment, still I covered my body in its folds.

So, when I give up passion, I see that anger remains;

And when I renounce anger, greed is with me still;

And when greed is vanquished, pride and vainglory remain;

When the mind is detached and casts Maya away, still it clings to the letter.

Kabîr says,

“Listen to me, dear Sadhu! the true path is rarely found.”

.     .     .

I played for ten years with the girls my own age,

but now I am suddenly in fear.

I am on the way up some stairs – they are high.

Yet I have to give up my fears

if I want to take part in this love.


I have to let go the protective clothes

and meet him with the whole length of my body.

My eyes will have to be the love-candles this time.

Kabir says:

Men and women in love will understand this poem.

If what you feel for the Holy One is not desire,

then what’s the use of dressing with such care,

and spending so much time making your eyelids dark?


I. 131. nis’ din khelat rahî sakhiyân sang


I played day and night with my comrades, and now I am greatly afraid.

So high is my Lord’s palace, my heart trembles to mount its stairs:

yet I must not be shy, if I would enjoy His love.

My heart must cleave to my Lover; I must withdraw my veil,

and meet Him with all my body:

Mine eyes must perform the ceremony of the lamps of love.

Kabîr says:

“Listen to me, friend: he understands who loves.

If you feel not love’s longing for your Beloved One,

it is vain to adorn your body, vain to put unguent on your eyelids.”

.     .     .

I have been thinking of the difference

between water

and the waves on it.

Rising, water’s still water, falling back,

it is water, will you give me a hint

how to tell them apart?


Because someone has made up the word

“wave”, do I have to distinguish it

from water?


There is a Secret One inside us;

the planets in all the galaxies

pass through his hands like beads.


That is a string of beads one should look at with

luminous eyes.


II. 56. dariyâ kî lahar dariyâo hai jî


The river and its waves are one

surf: where is the difference between the river and its waves?

When the wave rises, it is the water; and when it falls, it is the same water again.

Tell me, Sir, where is the distinction?

Because it has been named as wave, shall it no longer be considered as water?


Within the Supreme Brahma, the worlds are being told like beads:

Look upon that rosary with the eyes of wisdom.

.     .     .

What has death and a thick body dances before

what has no thick body and no death.

The trumpet says:  “I am you.”

The spiritual master arrives and bows down to the

beginning student.

Try to live to see this!


II. 85. nirgun âge sargun nâcai


Before the Unconditioned, the Conditioned dances:

“Thou and I are one!” this trumpet proclaims.

The Guru comes, and bows down before the disciple:

This is the greatest of wonders.

.     .     .

Why should I flail about with words, when love

has made the space inside me full of light?

I know the diamond is wrapped in this cloth, so why

should I open it all the time and look?

When the pan was empty, it flew up;  now that it’s

full, why bother weighing it?


The swan has flown to the mountain lake!

Why bother with ditches and holes anymore?

The Holy One lives inside you –

why open your other eyes at all?


Kabir will tell you the truth:  Listen, brother!

The Guest, who makes my eyes so bright,

has made love with me.


II. 105. man mast huâ tab kyon bole


Where is the need of words, when love has made drunken the heart?

I have wrapped the diamond in my cloak; why open it again and again?

When its load was light, the pan of the balance went up: now it is full,

where is the need for weighing?

The swan has taken its flight to the lake beyond the mountains;

why should it search for the pools and ditches anymore?

Your Lord dwells within you: why need your outward eyes be opened?

Kabîr says: “Listen, my brother! my Lord, who ravishes my eyes,

has united Himself with me.”

Cuando se forman carámbanos en el tejaroz llega pronto la Primavera.  When icicles form at the eaves Spring can't be far off...Toronto, February 28th, 2013

Cuando se forman carámbanos en el tejaroz llega pronto la Primavera. When icicles form at the eaves Spring can’t be far off…Toronto, February 28th, 2013

Friend, wake up!

Why do you go on sleeping?

The night is over – do you want to lose the day the same way?

Other women who managed to get up early have

already found an elephant or a jewel…

So much was lost already while you slept…

And that was so unnecessary!


The one who loves you understood, but you did not.

You forgot to make a place in your bed next to you.

Instead you spent your life playing.

In your twenties you did not grow

because you did not know who your Lord was.

Wake up!  Wake up!

There’s no-one in your bed –

He left you during the long night.


Kabir says:   The only woman awake is the woman who has heard the flute!


II. 126. jâg piyârî, ab kân sowai


O Friend, awake, and sleep no more!

The night is over and gone, would you lose your day also?

Others, who have wakened, have received jewels;

O foolish woman! you have lost all whilst you slept.

Your lover is wise, and you are foolish, O woman!

You never prepared the bed of your husband:

O mad one! you passed your time in silly play.

Your youth was passed in vain, for you did not know your Lord;

Wake, wake! See! your bed is empty: He left you in the night.

Kabîr says:

“Only she wakes, whose heart is pierced with the arrow of His music.”

.     .     .

Knowing nothing shuts the iron gates;  the new love opens them.

The sound of the gates opening wakes the beautiful woman asleep.

Kabir says:

Fantastic!  Don’t let a chance like this go by!


I. 50. bhram kâ tâlâ lagâ mahal re


The lock of error shuts the gate, open it with the key of love:

Thus, by opening the door, thou shalt wake the Belovéd.

Kabîr says:

“O brother! do not pass by such good fortune as this.”

.     .     .

There is nothing but water in the holy pools.

I know – I have been swimming in them.

All the gods sculpted of wood or ivory can’t say a word.

I know – I have been crying out to them.

The Sacred Books of the East are nothing but words.

I looked through their covers one day sideways.

What Kabir talks of is only what he has lived through.

If you have not lived through something – it is not true.


I. 79. tîrath men to sab pânî hai


There is nothing but water at the holy bathing places;

and I know that they are useless,

for I have bathed in them.

The images are all lifeless, they cannot speak; I know,

for I have cried aloud to them.

The Purana and the Koran are mere words;

lifting up the curtain, I have seen.

Kabîr gives utterance to the words of experience;

and he knows very well that all other things are untrue.

.     .     .

When my friend is away from me, I am depressed;

nothing in the daylight delights me,

sleep at night gives no rest –

who can I tell about this?


The night is dark, and long…hours go by…

because I am alone, I sit up suddenly,

fear goes through me…


Kabir says:

Listen, my friend,

there is one thing in the world that satisfies,

and that is a meeting with the Guest.


I. 130. sâîn vin dard kareje hoy


When I am parted from my Belovéd, my heart is full of misery:

I have no comfort in the day, I have no sleep in the night.

To whom shall I tell my sorrow?

The night is dark; the hours slip by.

Because my Lord is absent, I start up and tremble with fear.

Kabîr says: “Listen, my friend! there is no other satisfaction,

save in the encounter with the Belovéd.”

.     .     .

The spiritual athlete often changes the colour of his clothes,

and his mind remains grey and loveless.


He sits inside a shrine room all day,

so that the Guest has to go outdoors and praise the rocks.


Or he drills holes in his ears, his beard grows enormous and matted –

people mistake him for a goat…

He goes out into wilderness areas, strangles his impulses,

and makes himself neither male nor female…


He shaves his skull, puts his robe in an orange vat,

reads the Bhagavad-Gita –

and becomes a terrific talker.


Kabir says:

Actually, you are going in a hearse to the country of death –

bound hand and foot!


I. 20. man na rangâye


The Yogi dyes his garments, instead of dyeing his mind in the colours of love:

He sits within the temple of the Lord, leaving Brahma to worship a stone.

He pierces holes in his ears, he has a great beard and matted locks, he looks like a goat:

He goes forth into the wilderness, killing all his desires, and turns himself into an eunuch:

He shaves his head and dyes his garments; he reads the Gîtâ and becomes a mighty talker.

Kabîr says: “You are going to the doors of death, bound hand and foot!”

.     .     .

I don’t know what sort of a God we have been talking about.


The caller calls in a loud voice to the Holy One at dusk.

Why?  Surely the Holy One is not deaf.

He hears the delicate anklets that ring on the feet of

an insect as it walks.


Go over and over your beads, paint weird designs on your forehead,

wear your hair matted, long, and ostentatious,

but when deep inside you there is a loaded gun,

how can you have God?


I. 9. nâ jâne sâhab kaisâ hai


I do not know what manner of God is mine.

The Mullah cries aloud to Him: and why?  Is your Lord deaf?  The

subtle anklets that ring on the feet of an insect when it moves

are heard of Him.

Tell your beads, paint your forehead with the mark of your God,

and wear matted locks long and showy: but a deadly weapon is in

your heart, and how shall you have God?

.     .     .

The Holy One disguised as an old person in a cheap hotel

goes out to ask for carfare.

But I never seem to catch sight of him.

If I did, what would I ask him for?

He has already experienced what is missing in my life.

Kabir says:

I belong to this old person.

Now let the events about to come – come!


III. 89. mor phakîrwâ mângi jây


The Beggar goes a-begging, but

I could not even catch sight of Him:

And what shall I beg of the Beggar He gives without my asking.

Kabîr says: “I am His own: now let that befall which may befall!”

.     .     .

The Guest is inside you, and also inside me;

you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.

We are all struggling;  none of us has gone far.

Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.


The blue sky opens out farther and farther,

the daily sense of failure goes away,

the damage I have done to myself fades,

a million suns come forward with light,

when I sit firmly in that world.


I hear bells ringing that no-one has shaken,

inside “love” there is more joy than we know of,

rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds,

there are whole rivers of light.

The universe is shot through in all parts by a single sort of love.

how hard it is to feel that joy in all our four bodies!


Those who hope to be reasonable about it fail.

The arrogance of reason has separated us from that love.

With the word “reason” you already feel miles away.


How lucky Kabir is, that surrounded by all this joy

he sings inside his own little boat.

His poems amount to one soul meeting another.

These songs are about forgetting dying and loss.

They rise above both coming in and going out.


II. 90. sâhab ham men, sâhab tum men


The Lord is in me, the Lord is in you, as life is in every seed.

O servant!  put false pride away, and seek for Him within you.

A million suns are ablaze with light,

The sea of blue spreads in the sky,

The fever of life is stilled, and all stains are washed away;

when I sit in the midst of that world.

Hark to the unstruck bells and drums!  Take your delight in love!

Rains pour down without water, and the rivers are streams of light.

One Love it is that pervades the whole world, few there are who

know it fully:

They are blind who hope to see it by the light of reason, that

reason which is the cause of separation–

The House of Reason is very far away!

How blessed is Kabîr, that amidst this great joy he sings within

his own vessel.

It is the music of the meeting of soul with soul;

It is the music of the forgetting of sorrows;

It is the music that transcends all coming in and all going


.     .     .

The small ruby everyone wants has fallen out on the road.

Some think it is east of us, others – west of us.

Some say, “among primitive earth rocks:, others – “in the deep waters.”

Kabir’s instinct told him it was inside, and what it was worth,

And he wrapped it up carefully in his heart cloth.


III. 26. tor hîrâ hirâilwâ kîcad men


The jewel is lost in the mud, and all are seeking for it;

Some look for it in the east, and some in the west;

some in the water and some amongst stones.

But the servant Kabîr has appraised it at its true value,

and has wrapped it with care in the end of the mantle of his heart.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Poemas de amor en el idioma quechua: Ariruma Kowii y algunos versos “para construir el futuro”

Ariruma Kowii

(Poeta quechua, nace 1961, Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador)

Algunos versos de su obra “TSAITSIK: poemas para construir el futuro” (1993)

ZP_Valentine's Day 2013.B

“Canción de Amor” (Poema 12)


Kay kausay

mana alli kajta


ninanta allikachini

chaimanta kanta juyani.


Lo que más amo de tí

es tu forma de decir

que las cosas

que vivimos

en la actualidad

están mal.


Watashka, tukuchishka

runakunata, mashkajujta

tapujujta rikushpa

maypipash maskakuimanta

kanta juyani.


Lo que más amo de tí

es tu forma de indagar

cuántos presos

cuántas sentencias

se han dado

aquí y allá.





sumaj alli killkaymanta

kanta juyani.


Lo que más amo de tí

es tu forma de escribir

las denuncias

las consignas

que ayudan

a protestar.


Llajtapaj kaparishna

ñukataka juyanimi


shina kashkamanta

kanta juyani.


Lo que más amo de tí

es tu forma de decir

que me amas

como el grito fuerte

del pueblo, cuando sale

a combatir.


Watay wasipi kajpipash

kanpaj juyaika

kishpirij kausaishina

punchashna kuyurin

kurajiwanmi kuyurin

chaimanta kanta juyani.


Lo que más amo de tí

es tu franca libertad

que se agita con valor

tras las rejas

que nos priva

de nuestro amor.


.     .     .


“Poema 18”


Kan rijpika

pishi wairapaj shimikunata ninka

pishi kachisha, wakisha, tuashi ninka?


Si tú te vas y me dejas

quién bautizará al viento de la manana kachisha?

quién bautizará al viento de la tarde waskisha?

quién bautizará al viento de la noche tuashi?


Kan rijpika

pishi pachata jarkanka

pishi kanpaj samaita

fuyutashna kacharinka

ima pachashi kanpaj

churajunakunata kuntin



Si tú te vas y me dejas

qué voz, qué caricia detendrá

el tiempo?

Qué neblina volverá a emanar

tu aroma?

Qué momento volverá a vestir

con tus encantos?


Kan rijpika

kirupaj llantu llakilla


urpikunapaj tazinpash

chushaj sakirinka


ñana kutin tikramunkach.


Si tú te vas y me dejas

la sombra del árbol que nos protegía

no volverá a ser feliz

el hogar de los gorriones quedará


ni una alondra volverá a reposar

en su cálido seno.


Kan rijpika

tutapaj fuyu

ñukapaj shunkuta chiriyachinka

paipaj makipi


tukurij juyaykunata

wañujujta rikunkami.


Si tú te vas y me dejas

el soplo apresurado de la noche

helará el fuego de mis venas

me ahogará en sus brazos

su carcajada será

el último testigo que observe

el desvanecimiento

de mis sentimientos.


Kan rijpilca

Tukuillami Tukuillami

Shuj Tukunka

Tukuilla, ñuka lla kiwanmi



Si tú te vas y me dejas

todas las cosas tendrán que cambiar.

su forma, su contenido, todo!

Ellas volverán a nacer

a imagen y semejanza

de la tristeza mia!


.     .     .


“Poema 25”



saber que estabas conmigo

era muy hermoso

a ratos

no importaba que te encontraras


el tiempo, la distancia

estaba repleta de tí,

de aquel:

solo tú me haces sonrojar

que exagerado eres…déjame

Te prometo que, veras!

me encanta…!

de aquella manera tan peculiar

de reposar tu cabeza sobre mi pecho

de tus miradas de golondrina

rehuyendo la impenetrable vegetación

de mis pupilas

del suave murmullo de tu piel

habitando como diosa en la mía!


Ñukanchij juyaika


muskuishinami karka




kausaj karkanchij

kan, ñuka

ishkantij shujllashna


shujllakashpa sinchi

na sinchi kausaykunata

allichishpa ñaupaman






saber que estabas conmigo

era muy hermoso

a ratos

no importaba que te encontraras


porque tú

igual que las palabras o el silencio

estabas en todas partes conmigo:

despertando la curiosidad, el murmullo

sorprendido de los tuyos

y los míos

despertando en ellos


de interrogaciones

que no distraían nuestra atención

nada, nada importaba

Ssguíamos tú y yo

sumergiendo nuestras manos

construyendo nidos

que ansiaban despertar en cielos diferentes

hilvanando cercanos planetas

con el cálido amor de tus adentros

atrayendo vertientes que inunden

la fuente engendrada por nuestros encuentros.


Kan, ñukawan


shujllashna kashpa

mana alli yuyaikunata


chaupita yallishpa

mushuj pachamamapi


rinata yacharkanchij

chai mushuj pacha


inti taita, pura mamapash

kushilla chaskinata yacharka

ñawi, ñawi rikushpa


shinami ninata yacharka:


Juyaika sumaj allimi

juyaika kallari

tukuri, kausaymi kan

chaimanta kankunaka


allitapacha wakaichinami


shina kachun

tukui shunkuwan

juyanami kankichij.


Tornando lo complejo

en una sutil escaramuza

que caía vencida por un beso



Todo era sencillo y diferente

tú y yo éramos sagrados

y en esta unidad quisimos ser

los cómplices más fieles para sostener

la vida!

Y no fue




ishkantipi juntarirka

chaimanta karu

karupi kajpipash

shunkuka kushilla

yariaj, yariaj

kausanata yacharka

chai jawa




ñukanchij juyaita





Qué red ha emboscado

el tíbio hogar de tus caricias?

Qué tarde ha logrado empozar

la lozanía de tu aurora

en la aguzada noche?

Por qué

si tú me amas

dejas caer el velo de la tarde

para que nos separe?

Diluyes nuestro calor

para que se desborde

podas tus suspiros y los míos

para matar su aroma?



Hoy tu recuerdo llega a mí

como el abrazo solidario

de una amiga o un amigo.


Ahora el mañana

será menos hermoso que ayer

porque tú

ya has partido!


tal vez yo vuelva

a buscar

mis huellas

para seguir como un río encabritado

tras la vida…!




ñukanchijpaj juyaita

fitichun sakishkanki

ima nishpa


juyarina pujyuta

tujyachun sakishkanki,

shamui rikui

kanpaj shunkuwan


ñukanchijpaj juyaita


kasilla sakirishka

ñana kuyurinchu






kayaka ñana

kaynashna kankachu


chushaj puncha

jayaj, jayaj

punchami kanka

ñuka kausaypash

chaki, maki

yuyai, illajshnallaj

allimanta, allimanta

Kaiman chayman rijun

kayachari, ñuka


kausayta katishpa


kutin kutin



.     .     .     .     .

Todos los poemas © Ariruma Kowii

Sunqupa Harawinkuna / Poemas de amor en la lengua quechua – de un poemario por Lily Flores Palomino / K’ancharina

ZP_Valentine's Day 2013.D

Lily Flores ( nace 1937, Abancay, Apurimac, Perú )

La primera poetisa que escribó junto en quechua y español, dijo La Sra. Flores Palomino/K’ancharina en el año 2009:

“Sigo escribiendo en idioma incaico – mi pluma es pionera e inagotable en quechua.”


Dos poemas de amor – del poemario “Troj de poemas queshua-castellano” (1971):



Taki hina kusi, ratu pasaj

t’ika hina, hajchirimuj mana tupaykuna

samp’a weqe hina, tuyturimuj

tukuy atij, hatun Apu hina.


Khuyayaqa muspha muspha kausaymi,

rijchasqapas puñasqapas mosqoqakuymi

khuyayaqa asirikuspa wañuymi

manachayqa, killkakunawan tipasqapas wañuytajmi.


Khuyayqa takin, hajchirimuj t’ikapiwan

hinallatajmi, sumaj qapaj ancha kusipas

phajchirimuspa tukukuypas khuyayllatajmi

hinallatajmi ñakarispa wañuypas.


Khuyayqa apukunatapas umanchaymi

llullulla sumaj q’apariytajmi

ancha nanachikuypas waspirichiymi

wañuypas, sami kaypas, khuyayllatajmi.


.     .     .




Alegre y fugaz cual canto

radiante y sensible como flor,

frágil y quebrantoso cual llanto

poderoso y supremo como Dios.


Amar, es vivir delirante

soñar despierto o dormido,

amar, es morir sonriente

o es morir enclavado.


Canto, flor radiante es amar,

perfumes y aleluya lo es también,

fragmentarse y morir es amar,

Calvario y muerte lo es también.


Amar es bendecir a Dios

lo es, bálsamo de ternura,

amar, es blasfemia a Dios

o es vapor de amargura,

Gloria o muerte es amar.


.     .     .


”Munakusqaymi Kanki”


Llakiy thanichij

purisqaypi samarinay

waqayniypas thanichij

qaritaj kachi yakutaj.


Allin wiraqocha munasqaymi kanki

mana qantaqa, manan pitatas munaymanchu.


Yachanin qampa kasqayta

sumajllata llamiyuwajtiki

llanllalla wayrapa ch’allaynikiwan

t’ijrakamuyniki khipuchawajtin

allin qaripa marq’anampas kanman hina.


Ñoqataj khuyakuyniywan kutirichiyki

ancha samiraj, qanman qokuspa

phiña phiñaña, churakujtinkupas

uquykipi kay, warmiman rijchajkuna


Munakusqaymi kanki, tayta qocha

suyawasqayki hinallapuni suyaykuwanki

ruphapakuyniy thanichiwanaykipaj

qan rayku shayna kasqayta

mancharikuna anqash, ñoqa munakusqay.

ZP_Valentine's Day 2013 F

“Eres mi Amado”


Consuelo de mis penas

refugio en mi andanza

sociego de mi lamento

hombre y salada agua.


Arrogante señor, eres mi amante,

no puedo a nadie amar que no seas tú.


Siento ser tuya

cuando me dejo acariciar

con tu fresca y suave brisa

cuando tus olas me envuelven

cual brazos fuertes de un gran varón.


Yo con ternura te correspondo

cuando feliz me doy a tí

aunque celosas puedan estar

todas las musas que guardas tú.


Eres mi amado, inmenso mar.

Espérame siempre como lo haces

para refrescar mi febril estado

sentido por tí

– monstruo azul, amante mío.

.     .     .     .     .


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