I was really pleased to get my poem Darshan published in The North (Issue 57) -January 2017 edition. It was a wonderful start to the year.
A few people have asked me how I find time to write and hold down my demanding job and get submissions out to magazines. I answer – I often forfeit sleep. I should really forfeit binge-watching Netflix but sadly it is usually – sleep.
Nevertheless, last year was a busy burst for me – after a poetic hiatus of some 20 years. I’m making up for lost time and ultimately it is an enormous pleasure. I was selected to be in an Eyewear Anthology called “Best of British and Irish Poets of 2017”, I love that title! I was very pleased to selected to be in ‘Three Drops in The Cauldron’ web poetry zine. I admire this magazine because it transports me to a place I spent a great deal of my childhood in- a sort of half-way world that is sometimes much more real than this one. Ink,Sweat and Tears selected one of my poems ‘Stranger’ to appear on International Woman’s Day 2017. That poem is about a witch.
Back to Darshan …
I was looking for a big poem to end my forthcoming collection. I had already written poems about shape-shifting, psychotic god hallunications, I had tackled poems about suffering and soul loss. I had written poems about science and belief. I wanted to write about coping. I wanted to write something about more then that – experience of the edge, the edge of coping and not not coping, the brink of madness and the feeling of transcendence.
Who is the great being at the top of the stairs and do we dare to climb up to meet them and what do we do- when we get to the top – and there is no one but our own breathlessness of the climb?
Thinking Two Things At The Same Time…
“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’
I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. There goes the shawl again!” – Lewis Caroll
The story behind the poem starts with my name Jessica. This is from the Hebrew Jesse or Yska which means ‘He Beholds’ or ‘God is looking’. I always wondered what I might ask god if I were to meet them eye to eye. I always imagine their advice to be very sage and practical like “read a good book, take a walk every day and get good sleep” and “all you need is love” – stuff like that.
The concept of Darshan comes from the sanskrit term for ‘blessing’ or ‘visitation from god’ – the power of the ‘communion’ between spirit and flesh. In Hinduism it takes the form of profound experience where you take in the presence of god (power) and this becomes a blessing and a healing.
Then there is also – of course – the fact that we are essentially alone. We evolved from small rodent like mammals and evolved the high anxiety hormones of a prey species and the aggression of social predators. We descended from trees into savage savannah, in small family groups. We are primates – our canine teeth shrank into our own brains – which became our biggest weapon. We were shaped by desert, climate, disease, desire – and fear. We huddled together, hugged and groomed each other – and made shapes in fire, in trees and made gods to help us through the night.
Wendy through the Looking Glass
I met the woman in my poem – Wendy, on a plane from Delhi to Heathrow. I had visited temples in India, been jostled and ripped off and overwhelmed. I learned from a priest in a temple in Kolkata that there was no such thing as Hinduism. That was the British word for the thousands of mini-religions that inhabited India. He told me that the correct term was Sanatana – which means eternity or infinity (that which goes on and on and on).
Wendy and I talked on the plane home, she described a series of losses, a taking off of each layer of attachment to the material world – until even her own life was to be lost. In utter despair – this woman – a pragmatic materialist- asked for help from …? She wasn’t sure what from… but it appeared in resplendent light and gave her Darshan.
My father told me later that it was important for the body to find meaning in order to live, and he doubted the objective truth of a benevolent god.
I don’t think it matters – after all…
Read a good book, take a walk every day and get good sleep, and all you need is love – stuff like that.
My Poem ‘Darshan’ is in the North (issue 57) and is the current Working Title of my forthcoming full collection.