Lenders continue to love their usurious way of falling
while grubbers hover above a penurious way of falling.

An ill wind blows at the lady’s presumptive tiara;
how it cackles upon her perjurious way of falling.

“I laid me down with a will,” R. L. Stevenson wrote;
Dylan Thomas raved a fume-furious way of falling.

A comedown is sometimes called a comeuppance but
my tuppence deems that a spurious way of falling.

A warning to those who topple off ladders: bracing
to save yourself is a most injurious way of falling.

When fish die, they turn upside-down and rise
in the water; this is their curious way of falling.

I dream I leap into heaped colors of newfallen leaves
fingers crossed for a windup luxurious way of falling.

97 responses »

  1. These are extraordinary lines, Cynthia. As I read them – today – I can’t help but hear them sung by Bob Dylan. They have the characteristics of song, with that driving repetition, and such a playful imagination. I also love the way you tease out different meanings of fall and falling – very pleasing! I’ll come back and read again later.

    • Bob Dylan, eh? I loved so many of his songs in the sixties, but usually if they were sung by someone other than himself! His paintings are quite remarkable, too. Thank you for all your kind words, John….lovely that you’re thinking of coming to read again.

    • That idea of bracing —or not—for a fall comes from the days when I raced in downhill events with a women’s ski team; falling—so as not to break any bones— was itself a skill! I’ve also heard that the reason drunks often don’t get seriously hurt when they fall is because they just go limp, like jelly. It’s easier on the bones, I guess. Thanks very much, Cindy!

  2. Such a way with words and images!! I love that you dream of leaping into a pile of fallen leaves – maybe this time next year you really will….. Least ye be as little children and all that! 🙂 I tried to find my favourite couplet but couldn’t choose.

    • Perhaps you could not choose a favorite couplet because these ghazal couplets are meant to be like gems on a necklace or bracelet….it would be like favoring one of the beads on your beautifully crafted light catchers, for example—impossible to do! Thank you for what you’ve said here, my friend, as always.

        • Here’s what I wrote on this blog, more than a year ago, when I attempted my first ghazal:

          Lately I have been attempting poems in the Arabic form known as the ghazal (pronounced “ghuzzle”). I have avoided it in the past because, like haiku, it has been widely misunderstood by a popular rush to adapt it to English, and fallen far from the mark in both letter and spirit. But I’ve been reading the poet Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001) who clearly explains the requirements and promulgates good examples of the ghazal in English. He’s convinced me of the possible power of the form, classically rendered, in the English language, and I am enjoying working with it as much as—though quite differently from— the sonnet.

          Shahid Ali was recognized as a fine poet in Urdu as well as English, and I gleaned a lot of understanding of the form—and its adaptation to English—from his book: “Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English.”

          I like the form for the way it can explore many facets of something. On the other hand, its strictness and repetition are some of the virtues that save it from going off the deep end of surrealistic idiosyncrasy.

      • What a wonderful way of looking at this form – gems on a necklace – each one a similar shape yet unique and beautiful. I hope when I die I fall up, like fish, and not down. I agree with, Bruce – so many ways of reading each of these couplets.

  3. (At the risk of my creating a supercilious way of falling:
    you should be very proud of these lines – and pride comes before a fall!)

    What I really wanted to say is that this is one of your best ghazals, albeit verging on the bizarre; a sort of autumnal romp. You always manage to make things work on all sorts of levels at once. Extraordinary as ever.

    • If I begin to puff up with pride after reading your lovely compliments, I hope my fall will be something like that of the little fishies.
      I should also mention that this is my first incurrence of the adjective “bizarre” — one of my favorite words! Thank you so much for a most blushworthy comment, my friend.

    • I’m glad you reminded me that pride comes before a fall….and you and I both know there is a thin veil between the sublime and the ridiculous. Why did the video/comment offered today by “mistermuse” [below] suddenly remind me of your stories?

    • Such glorious childhood memories…. (Before the age of endless raking and filling a zillion bags of them, sometimes against the wet and wind… 🙂 )
      Hope things are well with you, Lisa

      • My internet has gone wonky and I haven’t had time to fix it, so I’m checking things periodically on my iPad. Had a great visit with friends in CA and got back to a car I had to bail out and no internet. Meanwhile the kitchen remodel design proceeds….You must have some color up in Maine. WE’re still green here.

  4. This has a particular resonance for me as recently in my community singing group I’ve been learning a song called “Fall To Rise”. It highlights the number of phrases we use that include ‘falling’ – fall asleep, fall in love, etc – and suggests that really we rise rather than fall. So the inclusion of your line about the fish was particularly pertinent!

    • What a lovely idea in that song! It is interesting indeed how we use “fall” to mean so many things….and not all of them bad, for sure. One thing about this ghazal form of poetry is that the couplets stand autonomous, and it is possible to add more of them at any point. The stricture adopted in this one requires words ending in “-urious” as part of the repetition scheme. I think if I could think of a couple more appropriate “–urious” words I would indeed like to include couplets about falling asleep and falling in love…..Thanks for a great comment, H. !

  5. Like I’m doing now, tomber amoureux d’un Ghazal (une Ghazal? –help me out). Even the French use ‘to fall’ as we do: to fall in love (or fall into a bed of crisp, ruddy, rugose-veined leaves). To fall is to lose control, I suppose. Not always such a great idea though. Naturally I would have been happier with ‘to climb into love’ or to climb into a maelstrom of autumnal color. But that’s me.

    • Vous avez raison, selon votre premier instinct: je crois que l”on dit “le ghazel persan” en Français.

      Aye, there’s the rub: to stay in control or to choose to lose control. (You can’t lose control if you don’t have control in the first place, can you?.) Such an interesting idea, this falling is turning out to be. Climbing, on the other hand, seems like a lot of work. And yet, there are tons of people who do it on purpose… why?… because it’s there!

      • On Thursday–a category 3 almost 4 hurricane–and on Friday the internet is back. On Saturday, it’s out again! I’ve sent a letter threatening legal action–let’s see if that doesn’t get the attention of my internet service provider. Big deal, we had one gust of 217 knots recorded at Commissioner’s Point. Is that an excuse for laziness? Yesterday they said they were busy restoring downed lines. I didn’t fall for it.

        And speaking of falling. The film Vertigo just popped into my wind-swept mind. Jimmy Stewart, hanging on to a ledge, suspended metaphorically. A prelude to the fall.

        • I must admit I was worried about you, Prospero, exiled on your island out there under the vicious eye of Nicole. But the weather channel told me that all–in general– was well by Friday, despite the horrors of noise and wind, and I sighed a breath of relief.
          I hope your grass shack is back in order and the mud on your roof dries in a trice. As to the internet people…you know they are very slippery sorts, accountable to no one, not John Q. Public, and certainly not to an ancient magician/charlatan.
          You’ve reminded me of the film Vertigo…I can see it now….but how scary is the prelude, when now is the fall?

          • Here’s another expression I love: falling out of love.

            Example #1

            After a few harrowing hours, I fell out of love with Nicole.

            Example # 2

            Sir, I appreciate the way you dunk your lies in sugary stuff, but you must tell your elders that I’m falling out of love with their internet company.

            • The good part of falling out of love is that madness does turn to sadness which eventually turns to a kind of wisdom, and we go on. Sipping a hot cup of good homemade chicken stock also helps. The internet companies have us by the short hairs, and they know it. What the ‘ell you gonna do, eh?
              Or, as Mehitabel the cat said to Archy the cockroach: wotthehell, wotthehell, toujours gai.

    • These ghazals seem to grow by accretion, once the formal strictures have been committed to….anything that fits—memories, opinions, random sticky notes, passages encountered in reading, etc.—then becomes fair game. I often think of the works and words of other writers so name dropping seems inevitable, too. I think I mentioned Ezra Pound in the last one I wrote! Thank you for your very kind remarks, Brad.

    • At first I just randomly collect couplets, John, working mostly for a consistent line length, rhyme scheme and repeated end word or phrase. Once I have at least five of these “beads” I begin to play with sequence, and I do try out different sequences to see if some sort of strange subliminal logic will emerge…..from simple to complex, or concrete to abstract, or other. The process of sequencing often makes me sense there’s a “gap” (as if there is something a bit more to be said on the subject) and sometimes I set about creating a new couplet for it. The formal requirement seems to be any number of couplets between five and fifteen; I chuckle at the possibility of going back to one of these ghazals years after it was first composed, and tossing in a new couplet! It’s a great puzzle, and fun; very interactive between the developing work and the worker. 🙂

      • I wondered if it was like that! I can see how that would be a natural process and a lot of fun, and certainly I can imagine you adding extra ‘beads’ at a future date. Why not! Thanks for explaining Cynthia.

          • Big smiles over here Cynthia!
            I see from other comments that you are enjoying beautiful colours of fall, and blue skies. That sounds glorious. My wife and I have enjoyed a walk today though horticultural gardens which were indeed lovely but, typically for England, gently subdued in colour. All the best, John.

    • This is just what we needed, right about here, mistermuse: a bit of bathos from the dark, bottomless pit of your wit.
      I remember making fun of that “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” TV Ad, back in the 1980’s,—the one intended to be serious. Now I actually do live in fear of falling, at this stage of my life, but watching this I just laughed myself silly!

  6. So Persian! I didn’t know what poetical form it was before I found it in the comments, but I do remember the rhythm, the repetition – from my school years. Hafez! And it is so colorful, like an oriental poem 🙂 Beautiful.

    • How very nice that you think it has a Persian flavor, Inese! Certainly, by adapting it to modern English, we take away some of the original feeling of the ghazal, but I’m really happy to hear that some of it remains nevertheless. How interesting that you learned about Hafez in school. I did not know him until I was an adult, and appreciated him (and of course Rumi) a great deal. Thank you so much!

      • Cynthia, all I remember is the name and the repetition that made me think of some exotic oriental instrument 🙂 Don’t remember Rumi, but Hafez imprinted in my brain 🙂

        • I find that very interesting. I don’t know where you went to school, but the people of Iran still learn his poems by heart….a great poet of love, and wine, and verses that dared to criticize the religious hypocrisy of his day.

  7. Once again I’m admiring your talent, Cynthia. I’d never heard of this form before, and enjoyed it thoroughly. (Also amazing that you came up with so many rhyming words to usurious! And each one is used so naturally that nothing is forced. This has a great flow of all the many aspects on falling. Plus it has the perfect ending. Those last two lines have more than one meaning to me. Brilliant!

    • I’ve only known about ghazals for about a year, but have attempted quite a few of them now. The form allows a wide variety of mood and statement in a way unlike some of our forms in the European and British traditions. Apparently, several well-known American poets have played with it—Adrienne Rich comes to mind—but I especially like the writing of Shahid Ali on the subject. (see comment to The Contented Crafter, above). I’m glad you like it too. I am also pleased that you picked up on the last two lines! Thanks, Betty.

  8. One cannot help but fall hopelessly in love with this ghazal Cynthia. I love ghazals and there are so many in Urdu, a language spoken in India, a combination of Hindi, Farsi, Arabic…..and the “falling” brought back memories of a song that I liked as a teenager ” Raindrops keep falling on my head”
    Once again, Cynthia, a gem from you.

    • Now this is a tradition that you would know something about, right Shubha? Shahid Ali, who grew up in Pakistan, came to the US as a student, and finally settled here permanently. He was a university professor and a poet, who spoke and wrote fluently in both Urdu and English, and he was my best instructor about an appropriate form for the ghazal in English.

      Your mention of “Raindrops keep falling on my head” makes me chuckle. I always liked that song too. It was written by Burt Bacharach, I think, and was in the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Now you’ve got me singing it, and …”just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed..” I’ll be singing it until I go to bed and become “free….nothing worrying me…”

  9. I enjoyed your different, sonorous, ways of falling. This poem is a gem; it is so clever that I suspect that it took a while to craft? Presently, however, falling is not one of my preferred topics. This is because, about a week ago, while visiting family in Honduras, I unexpectedly fainted and fell while walking from kitchen to living room. Fortunately I only suffered a sore buttock and bump on the back of my head; halleluiah, no broken bones! The scary part is that I remember leaving the kitchen but there is a blank until the moment that I “came to” on the floor surrounded by anxious family. If there is to be a next time I hope that I’ll get some warning in the meanwhile I have my doctor trying to find an answer. I think that I’ll take your poem with me to read in the waiting room!!

    • Oh, Jane…what an experience! I sympathize, and I empathize. A few years ago, I collapsed and have no memory of how it happened, either. Fortunately, a neighbor found me and—long story, short—I ended up in the emergency room thinking “where am I?” I was alone when it happened, so I’m glad you had family there to help. Perhaps someone “up there” was looking after me, since, as it turned out, I had severe septicemia, was close to death and was rushed into surgery, for what turned out to be a cancerous tumor on the appendix. Who knew?

      I’m thinking of you and hoping there will not be another such scare for you, and that there is some explanation which will help in prevention. Falling is really only funny when comedians do it on purpose, slipping on a banana skin. For the rest of us, especially seasoned citizens, it’s not funny at all. As Bette Davis is reputed to have said: getting older is not for sissies!

      Thank you so much for coming to read, and comment. ❤

      • I can’t imagine anything much worse than your collapse and septicemia – did you feel sick or unwell before you passed out? I empathize with you – this must have been very dramatic and I assume that it was after your beloved partner died. You mention “somebody up there” watching out for you. Dan says that I have a guardian angel as I’ve had a few dramatic falls without broken bones. If there is an angel interceding, I wish that he or she would step in sooner and prevent the falls in the first place. Oh how querulous and ungrateful of me! I hope that yours intervenes in a timely way.
        Talking of old age, there is a 90 plus plus lady who sits near us in church. She is always immaculately turned out and appears to have got herself to there unaided. She looks 60!

        • I’m reminded of our discussion, on your blog, of the stiff upper lip. I probably thought any warning was just indigestion and carried on with regular activities in spite. I’m not superstitious, but the guardian angel idea does appeal to me. I remember in kindergarten, in Catholic school, how once we were told to leave a little bit of room on our little seats for our guardian angel! The 90-plus lady you refer to, sounds amazing. I know of a few such examples, too. It guess it only proves how there’s not just one mold from which we are all cast. No one escapes suffering though, as the buddhists will tell you, so we each have to manage it for ourselves…with the help of our angels, of course. Be well, Jane.

  10. I doubt there is a single foot, beat, rhythm or … or … format (?) that you are not able to bend to your ways, O Wordsmith.
    Personally, the last two little verses appeal to me most. That fish fall upwards is simply GORGEOUS; and your dream, ditto.

  11. It is always a treat to stumble upon an English Ghazal by Cynthia Jobin.

    In a strictly personal context, the opening lines remind me of the credit card companies that have ensnared me with rectangular, two-dimensional plastic jails wherein I can neither inhale nor exhale, hovering just above a penurious way of falling. I might eventually fall off the steep ladder and hurt myself grievously, bracing for the impact.

    I loved how you have put the new inverted world order of comedown and comeuppance. The poem turns surrealistic with the fish falling upwards and the poet jumping into heaped colours of newfallen leaves in the next couplet. Long forgotten words of another poet echo in the crannies of my cranium to complete a loop.

    I think, that if I touched the earth,
    It would crumble;
    It is so sad and beautiful,
    So tremulously like a dream.

  12. Cynthia you are going to give inspiration to many and indeed the comments above are the proof .
    I confess I had to decipher but I would say the fall fell on me and I felt I almost failed to fall .Fortunatelt there was an amount of dead leaves to make my fall soft t!!!!! 🙂
    Love ❤

    • I am so glad your fall was soft, Michel. 🙂 As children, we had so much fun jumping into a high mound of autumn leaves….until we became adults and it was our job to rake all the leaves—a very big job, here in Maine, where there are many, many trees. Thank you for your comment…c’est très gentil de votre part!

    • Good question about nature/instinct. I know from experience, however, that the rigidity involved with trying to stop a fall once it has begun, incurs some pretty bad bruises….”go with the flow” is also a lesson of nature.
      Once when I was a child vacationing at a lake, I saw a whole group of dead fish floating like that, belly-up in the water. I agree it was a freaky sight for me. For the fish, though…I don’t know….

    • That is such a nice childhood memory…my grandfather used to rake a high pile of leaves just beside a stone wall behind his house, and we would get up on that wall and dive into them….over and over and over. A giggling great time it was!

  13. I liked this, Cynthia. I have always thought there was a lot of poetic mileage in your American word for autumn, and the poem encompasses that word’s meanings rather elegantly. The old dialect word for autumn, or fall, in the north of England was ‘backend’, which is a little less poetic, perhaps.
    Like John, I heard a vague echo of Dylan here. For some reason I associate him with the phrase ‘ill wind’, perhaps because of the song ‘Idiot Wind’ which adapts the phrase. But perhaps it’s just because he’s in the news at the moment.

    • Yes…I like the word fall, though I am careful to say autumn when writing to my English friends. Fall, as you say, has a lot of poetic mileage, and I have a sense I’m not finished with it. I didn’t even get to Lucifer or Adam and Eve! As for Bob Dylan, I am getting a kick out of his nonchalant attitude toward The Nobel, an award which was becoming ever more meaningless, in my view, even before the final blow of their awarding it to Obama. Thanks, as always for coming by to read and comment.

      • It’s always a pleasure to drop by.I’m looking forward to your further reflections on falling. Cockney rhyming slang has ‘Would you Adam and Eve it?’ for ‘Would you believe it?’ That might come in useful. ^^. As for the Nobel prize, I’m an on and off Dylan fan (off at the moment) but who gave those Swedish bigwigs the right to decide what is great literature and who is a great peacemaker anyway? Isn’t it just because they have a dignified sounding name?

  14. This line: “Dylan Thomas raved a fume-furious way of falling” really got to me. This poem is remarkably clever and also comes close to the heart of things as one falls each fall into falling farther, falling faster, falling forever. What a wonderful poem.

    • Oh dear Natalie….it really does occur progressively, as you say, with the passage of time, and it seems more noticeable each fall…. this pull of gravity towards….free fall? Thanks for your kind words, as always.

  15. The title reminded me of these lines from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!…” And, frankly, I found them not very dissimilar in their meaning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s