In the belly of all beginning, big as a pea, is the child inside;
rolling salt of the spume, of tears, of the sea, is the child inside.

The trouble with floating?  Habits accrue against floating, they
grow like barnacles, heavy, sinking the glee of the child inside.

The dark in a stranger much older, much larger, manipulates,
teaches a sorrow, impresses a dark tyranny on the child inside.

Replace the true face, deface with tattoo, learn what to do, and
for others change or cover the caged agony of the child inside.

Even the seemingly suave may be suddenly taken with urges
unkempt to disrupt Miss Manners At Tea, by the child inside.

A tiny detector of bogus, though paused or muted at times,
still writhes against snake oil and hyperbole in the child inside.

Call me by name, please notice I came, I was here
I am me!… persists the perennial plea of the child inside.

Toddle first, toddle last, time siphons the juice from the bloom;
still there, still at work, is the sweet bumble-be of the child inside.

59 responses »

  1. Addressing the work of all our life times here dear Cynthia – and so very beautifully! When you pick up the paintbrush again you must still keep writing poetry, you have a way of striking deep with your words and rhythms!

    • I am hoping to pick up the brush again, Pauline, getting closer to doing so. But I will probably never give up on poetry….it’s number one on the list of bad habits I love. Soon…your winter, my summer, may prove to be a time of first little steps on the way to re-discovery. I am always encouraged by you.

    • I am so glad you picked up on that particular phrase, Bruce, and that you think it succeeds just the way I hoped it would. If we live to be old enough, I’m pretty sure that yearning will come to be a reality. I have occasional glimpses of its happening already.

  2. Cynthia, your wisdom and the words from it, flow so easily and effortlessly that a reader like me can understand…..a million thanks for reassuring the child inside that there is someone who knows of its existence….

    • This ghazal form lends itself to a forthrightness and flow that I really like, Shubha. We sometimes forget the child inside; it’s good to remember, it exists, and it really is a partner in the struggle toward maturity in these days when we hope for an ascendancy of the wiser grown-ups. Thank you, as always, for coming to read and for your very kind comment.

  3. I was moved by the poem. Some of us are so vulnerable. No one asks to be born and some of us find we are not welcome when we get here, yet we are expected to get on with it regardless.
    Such an experience this thing called life. It is so different for each of us inside even if it looks the same outside. Can someone complain they were not known if they were too afraid to introduce themselves? I am daring to speak up and losing friends because of it but how exhilarating to speak up. Also,we look out through the same eyes all through the journey but we keep changing.
    Compassion, strength, and a sense of humor are essential. A big bag of gold is always useful too.

    • You were ‘moved by the poem’ to a precious, priceless comment, Sharon. The whole idea of being unwelcome, or somehow not belonging, lives in many hearts, I think. And also, the notion that others should intuit what we want or need even though we don’t express it. I do know what you mean about speaking up and losing friends: been there; done that. But it is indeed far better than stewing in ornery juices. I like your trinity of compassion strength and humor….and that business of a big bag of gold ? Spot on….though I wouldn’t know too much about how that works! 🙂

  4. I’ve been re-rereading this one Cynthia and thinking about it. It suggests several things to me: a celebration of the child in us, a regret that this freshness must be stifled, a return to the child in old age, but also an awareness that such naivety is not all good, that the childish ego must be first tamed and then become self-regulating. I suppose your poem holds up an example of how we might think and leaves us to figure out what we are going to do about it. I like that.

    • You have expressed your chain of thoughts in a way that matches well the form of the ghazal. It is meant to present discrete couplets linked only by their penultimate rhyme and repeated phrase. The refrain links the couplets, as a chain of beads that should render the meaning as something complex and underlying, eluding simple summation but quite present. I’m so glad it worked that way for you! Thanks, John.

      • This brought a lot to my mind as I read it, Cynthia. The subject matter had me thinking, inevitably, of Eliot’s Animula, although you have a very different theology to that grumpy old Anglican! I also thought of Malick’s film The Tree of Life – both the sense of a dark presence of adults on the childish soul, and the enduring sense of ‘the child inside’ existing through the adult’s life. I wonder if you have seen it… Finally, I like your above description of the design of the ghazal – ‘eluding summation’, but no less the wondrous for that.

        • I can see those associations clearly, now that you have mentioned them, Andy. Malick’s The Tree of Life is not a film I have seen, but I am familiar with its story. (I have never watched movies much and now, in my dotage, almost never do.) From what I have heard, that film is very like poetry…even a ghazal. And you’re quite right about that business of having a different theology to Eliot, though Animula is full of wonderful poetic language and imagery, I think. The conflict of nature and conventional society is elementary in my thinking these days, and everywhere I look I see assumptions about it that preclude reconciliation…the trick is to recognize what is a game, and what is not, I guess. You are in a position these days to watch the development of that dynamic first hand. I hope you’re enjoying it!

          • Well, thanks for the good wishes (and thoughts to ponder). Enjoying it I am – there is, as you say, a great deal of conflict and dynamic in this business of socialisation!

  5. I found this quite heartbreaking to begin with, Cynthia but then the ending! “the sweet bumble-be of the child inside” – my favourite bit, definitely. You are so insightful – this was as rich as ever. Thank you.

  6. Such a beautiful poem Cynthia, flowing like a life itself. That ‘child inside’ never leaves as the life flows from one generation to another. That child is the best part of us 🙂

  7. I hope the child inside always stays with me, it lets me see the world through a sort of wonderment. Maturing is fine and dandy, but I like the early years – being playful and willy, exploring and enjoying a sense of freedom. It’s wonderful Cynthia – you bring forward thoughts that most of us never give a moments notice too. Happy weekend my friend.

  8. I’ve read this poem four times now, intentionally at different times of my day/night. I’ve noticed that for me it does bring out what ever emotion I’m feeling, much more. I too love the bumble-be, and the way you expressed the influence on a child’s heart, how easily swayed. How hard it is to let that sway fade. I also am reminded of what a difference it is to grow up now, than when you or I were young.
    This is such a great piece of work, of heart.

    • Yes, it seems as everything goes faster, the growing-up of each generation becomes different. I have a sister fifteen years younger than I, and sometimes it seems we didn’t even grow up with the same parents, in the same house. When I read of your own experiences with your children, I am amazed at what’s required of parents these days. Thank you so much for your thoughtful reading and comment.

  9. This evocative poem becomes all the more poignant when one thinks of the countless children who have been traumatized by war, violence and abuse (including sexual) beyond civilized belief. Sorry to sound such a downer of a note here, but we who are so fortunate as to have ‘survived’ our childhoods with some sense of longing for lost innocence should thank our lucky stars that “there but for the grace of God [or fate] go I.”

    • I must say I don’t personally have any longing for lost innocence since, for me, innocence was lost forever at a very early age. But I do believe there is something good and true— maybe even stubbornly so— at the core of life that I am here calling the child inside. It is what survives and overcomes the inevitable suffering from which not one of us is immune. It is faithful and hopeful and ready to jump into the game and play it again, even though there are two sides to the coin, and we know it’s a coin toss. I, for one, do thank my lucky stars. Every day.

  10. Brilliant, playful. Pure Cynthia.

    (Note to self–repeating a mantra is good; steal the idea, adapt it to prose (a complete set of hammers is required for this delicate operation) and pass it off as your own. It isn’t fair that only Cynthia can be brilliant. And playful.)

    • Anyone who comes up with that wonderful metaphor of “a complete set of hammers” needs no help from me.

      All my life people have “stolen” my ideas and passed them off as their own. I’ve learned to consider it a compliment (which is what it is, thank you, dear Prospero) unless there’s a possibility of filthy lucre involved. But such profit taking is an impossibility in the realm of poetry. Besides, you can’t steal ideas in reality (nor copyright them either, contrary to what some people think.) The idea of the repeated mantra is part of the ghazal form in poetry….which I stole from the poet Shahid Ali. I don’t know where he stole it from, but like all the people Shakespeare stole from, and Shakespeare himself, he’s gone to his reward.

  11. As I get older, I find that gift of the child to be so important. One of the prayers for a baptism is that the child retain the gift of joy and wonder in creation and I take creation to be broad. I think too many people lose it. My nephew remarked once that his father (my brother) was child like and that was why the grandkids so loved him–he was like them. Unfortunately, it was clear he did not mean it as a compliment. There is a balance between losing and keeping the child, as John mentions. have been sick and not checking the blogs regularly. So glad I didn’t miss this one!

    • That’s a lovely baptismal prayer. It does seem that some don’t understand how wisdom and real maturity is often childlike. I remember a teacher who tried to impress us once with the difference between the words “childish” and “childlike.” Those who have not forgotten, like your brother, are very fortunate. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been ill. I hope it isn’t so serious as to keep you from your beautiful garden, and in full health, soon.

  12. I’m going to have to think about this one, Cynthia. It’s a ghazal, of course, and that causes some interesting twists in the rhythm and logic of the poem. It’s well done. But there are some whirlpools in here that are not light, although the first time I read it I smiled. It’s pretty obvious that this is not only about the child inside, although it is about the child inside, and the experience of the child in the womb, but also about birth as a metaphor and how that relates to the experience of coming into life. The mother, unnamed, is also important in a stanza or two. Like I say, I’m going to have to do some thinking. There are depths here that are not so obvious on the surface.

    • I am aways amazed at the effort you expend to analyze poems,Thomas, truly yeoman’s work! I don’t think this one warrants a gleaning for some unity of meaning, and that’s precisely because it is a ghazal. It is meant to defy our typical Western academic logic. For example, you are finding birth and motherhood here, and those were quite far from any intention of mine in the writing. Still, it’s a possibility—again because of the nature of the ghazal, which can take a reader…wherever he or she is wont to go. I am honored that you came to read and thought about it. Your comments are always interesting and welcome, but please don’t feel obliged to say more. You said the first time you read it, you smiled. I like that. A lot. 🙂

  13. Poignant again Cynthia and oh how much nourishment that inner child needs in us all to maintain balance and harmony in all life situations. Please pick up your paint brushes again! 😊

    • Thanks, Karen. The idle paint brushes are a long sad story, but time heals and brings us back to what we need to do. I am happy to hear that you are moving into tutoring others in the wealth of skills that you possess! 🙂

  14. My husband, Dan, always says that he is still a child playing in the hay loft; so this poem relates well to his experience. Shakespeare also wrote that the last age in the seven ages of man is second childishness.(No, Dan isn’t there yet!) I enjoy children immensely, specially my own grand-children, they have freshness vitality and innocence which one hopes they will be able to retain as they are taught the necessary skills needed to survive in society. So, yes indeed lets nurture that child inside each and every one of us. Your hit the hammer on the head – awesome!

  15. Ghazals are one of the most complex forms of poetry known to humans. Each verse is complete in itself even as they are interlinked, and they end with same words but with drastically differing purports. The movement is swift, not unlike a mountain stream, and yet they carry amazing volumes of meanings. The last verse usually includes the name, or the assumed name, of the poet, and a conclusion that might (or might not) have a bearing on the whole in retrospect. In short, they remind me of grenades.

    When I am reading your poetry, I get stuck with each verse, nay, each phrase as I move further. The assortment of metaphors, symbols, imagery and aphorisms with each turn and twist, and the emotions embedded in between the parentheses, leave me breathless and pondering. I believe, the themes have a wider human significance. And although the gazelle of ghazal can carry astounding weights of (mostly personal) grief, ecstasy and enlightenment, the subject of this poems calls for a lioness of some other form unique only to poets like Cynthia Jobin.

    • I like the ghazal, and it’s just as you say, a thing of complexity. Shahid Ali, who wrote them in Urdu, but also in English as he developed and became an accomplished, well known poet, here in the USA, made it his mission to adapt this form to English. At the time, many were trying to write ghazals in English but ( as with the poor abused haiku) they were bastardizing it and taking it all over the place. Shahid explained the strict rubrics for the form and eventually published a whole volume of ghazals in English himself. The form is as you explain it so well above. The one thing I rarely adhere to, is the business of including my name in the last couplet. Perhaps when I take a pseudonym that will feel like a more comfortable thing to do.

      Thank you very much, umashankar for coming to read, and for your comments— which are always deep and rich with wonderful associations and philosophical thought.

  16. Going through the comments on your posts is almost as interesting as your poems. And, as is often the case, they bring forth a variety of interpretations and responses. Just happy to be reading these compositions.

  17. Would so love to tap into the lightness of spirit of the child inside, but “barnacles, heavy, sinking” is how it is with me. I look at sweet, happy children and think how sad it is that we have to grow up and learn the truth of it. You put it so poetically.

      • I’m certainly happier in my older age, Cynthia, more emotionally level, happy with my lot, etc, but my eyes are wide open to the realities of the universe and the microcosm that is the human race.

  18. Cynthia, I always resonate with your poetry… sometimes on such a deep level that I can’t put it into words. This one truly moved me. Again, anything I say would just be cliches… not always easy to express what’s coming from the intuition, the higher self. Guess that’s where poetry comes in once again. You inspire me!

    • That’s lovely, Betty. I’m not big on over-analysis of poems; there’s enough of that going on in academia, and it kills poetry for a whole lot of people at an early age. When a reader says that he or she was moved by a poem, especially a poem that someone took the time to carefully craft, that’s what it is all about, in my book. Thank you!

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