Friday, April 23, 2010

Love goes toward love

Found this post on outfits inspired by Shakespeare :) Girliness AND nerdiness are compatible after all!

Link is here.


Yes yes, I'm incorrigible - I really do like Romeo and Juliet. Yes I KNOW its the most over quoted and trite play there is - but just listen to some of these lines!


If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.

Then have my lips the sin that they have took.

Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.

Monday, April 19, 2010

To do list - find some colour

Cupcake photo is from here :)


What ho! Thunder and lightning raging about outside my window, angry volcano in Iceland and 'civil strife' in Thailand - this calls for this thoroughly appropriate extract from Julius Caesar (see below). I've always liked the rhythm of the polysyndeton: "and I have seen/The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam/To be exalted with the threatening clouds".

Are you not moved, when all the sway of earth
Shakes like a thing infirm? O Cicero,
I have seen tempests, when the scolding winds
Have rived the knotty oaks, and I have seen
The ambitious ocean swell and rage and foam,
To be exalted with the threatening clouds;
But never till tonight, never till now,
Did I go through a tempest dropping fire.
Either there is a civil strife in heaven,
Or else the world, too saucy with the gods,
Incenses them to send destruction.

-- Julius Caesar

Act I Sc III


Shakespeare's good for every season - the ides of March are past and now, the darling buds of May? :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Two Poems: let down your hair

The concept of grouping poems with a shared theme or metaphor in order to better reflect on the different ways poets treat/use the same theme has fascinated me since my high school days - I loved it whenever we got to do a contrast/compare exercise for practical criticism class. So sometime last year, I began posting pairs of poems on my FB notes page - mostly revolving around themes of food and culture for food loving bibliophiliac friends. There was the cheese poem, the WCW plums poem and the pair on greek food/mythology.

Concurrently, I also posted a series on this blog on the representation of the seasons in poetry and I wroteabout the way seasons have come to embody mood, themes of death and rebirth in western art,music and literature. The second poem below, is one of the ones I came across during that time; I liked it but wound up not posting because, well, next to the powerfully written Wallace Stevens one - this one seemed to fade.

I kept the poem anyway - there was just something so intimate and evocative about the protagonist's observations on his lover's hair.

So I sat on it until last month, I opened an anthology of poetry and came across the Li Young Lee one and loved it. I read it over and over again running the different strands of thought through my fingers and luxuriating in the cadences of it and in the way the alliterative hiss of the 'h' sounds brought to the reader's ear the 'music of comb'. Yes, this was love but not the callow love of youth but a love that has lasted 'half a hundred years', a quiet unexpressive mellow love.

The two poems circle around the same theme of sensual love but do it by honing in on the small details of light, colour and daily life - showing that where love is present - even the daily ritual of hair combing is imbued with a certain beatific light.

The culture we live in today prizes youth and the way love is portrayed in most popular films and fiction is the brash red-hot love of youth, easily given over to rash deeds and words - just think Romeo and Juliet.

It's comparatively rare to see graceful portrayals of love grown old and gentle - Up (the Pixar movie) was a surprise precisely because in the first ten minutes of the film, the main characters meet, fall in love and grow old together. It was gracefully done and one of the ways the film makers showed the passing of time and their aging, was to have her hair change - step by step - from a child's short flippy brown bob, to long and wavy - a young woman's hair - then finally, grey and coiled into a neat bun.

Her hair changed but their love didn't and it was beautiful in this age of quick and easy no fault divorces, to watch their lives intertwine and their commitment to each other even in the face of hard times. They faced money problems, fertility issues, the narrowing of options in life - all the problems that beset modern marriages, in short and they faced it together.

So it is in the Li Young Lee poem, where his father watches his mother comb her hair - and even though it is not explicitly said - their love is as glimmeringly clear as silver strands in a waterfall of black hair.


Early in the morning

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher's ink.

She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
against hair.

My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers,pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.

But I know
it is because of the way
my mother's hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily,like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening.

-- Li Young Lee


The Snow Is Deep on the Ground

The snow is deep on the ground.
Always the light falls
Softly down on the hair of my belovèd.

This is a good world.
The war has failed.
God shall not forget us.
Who made the snow waits where love is.

Only a few go mad.
The sky moves in its whiteness
Like the withered hand of an old king.
God shall not forget us.
Who made the sky knows of our love.

The snow is beautiful on the ground.
And always the lights of heaven glow
Softly down on the hair of my belovèd.

–Kenneth Patchen

Friday, April 9, 2010

Come fly with me

Is it possible to miss air? Not even food or people or things but pure simple air?

Singapore is scented with the dust of the construction sites or hazy with the fumes from exhausted cars (couldn't resist that one - sorry!) or - horrors!- the salt smell isn't the sea but the sweat of the person squished up next to me on the train.

I'm suffering from a case of city fatigue and scanning my friend's pictures from his recent trip down under didn't help. Oh that album was lovely, the littoral scenes, green purples of lavender stretching as far as the eye could see, faces pink with cold and good clean air.

But you must be thinking, air can't really be captured in a photo - or can it?

Maybe it can. You can see crisp cold wind ruffling hair, infer the clean scent of lavender scented fields, the salt tang of the ocean. Your body pricks up and yearns toward the clean rush of sweetness.

Or maybe you just know - like when you see strawberries and lavender - that the air will be filled with the scent of longing. That air, light, colour and memories are inseparable elements.

Come with me. Let's take a plane ride then rent a car and drive drive drive until to lavender farms and wide blue skies.

I know its been a good week. Watched a play, read a little, was productive at work, ate great burgers for lunch. Oh and there's the first birthday party of one special little girl who showed up sometime last year all red and pouty :)

No disasters happened. The world spun on, creaking a little at times but on the whole, moving along at a decent pace.

But air? You know, it's just kind of necessary.

So yes, people, I really am that kind of a silly nut.

I just miss air.

So come fly with me and we'll go find ourselves a really sweet spot under a tree.

And breathe clean fresh eucalyptus scented acerbically cool air.


"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing - to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from - my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."
- C.S. Lewis

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday 2010

I got baptized today.


In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:9


And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Romans 8:28 and 29

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38,39


Because a sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me

Friday, April 2, 2010


LET man's soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
Th' intelligence that moves, devotion is ;
And as the other spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey ;
Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl'd by it.
Hence is't, that I am carried towards the west,
This day, when my soul's form bends to the East.
There I should see a Sun by rising set,
And by that setting endless day beget.
But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
Sin had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for me.
Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die ;
What a death were it then to see God die ?
It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ?
Could I behold that endless height, which is
Zenith to us and our antipodes,
Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is
The seat of all our soul's, if not of His,
Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
By God for His apparel, ragg'd and torn ?
If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom'd us ?
Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
They're present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them ; and Thou look'st towards me,
O Saviour, as Thou hang'st upon the tree.
I turn my back to thee but to receive
Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
Burn off my rust, and my deformity ;
Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
That Thou mayst know me, and I'll turn my face.

John Donne


It is only now that I begin to understand the deep theology locked within Donne's poems. The last 6 lines of the poem is a prayer for sanctification and disipline - one every true believer who has known his own wretchedness and who falls to his knees in a heap, prays. We ask for mercy and grace because - in the words of another poet - in the course of justice,none of us should see salvation.

Good Friday is a great and terrible celebration of the depth of our depravity and the height of God's faithfulness to His holiness, justice and love. It is a joy coloured with grief - joy that we may taste life and grief, that it took the death of Christ to redeem us from the grave.


When Jesus had spoken these words,he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "Father,the hour has come;glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh,to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth,having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

John 17:1-5