Sunless Rooms

Will I, one day, with tentative hands, find the resolve To draw aside my heavy black drapes

And let the sunlight in again?
Will guilt molest my heart for the need or the deed?

For not retracting those hands that drew the drapes aside? 
Seeing it as I might, after a month of Sundays,

Will I shield my eyes from it, 

Or teach myself to behold it anew? 
That sunlight, I wonder, if it will swallow up the darkness

Or merely disguise it in golden splendor? 
There are places, strange places, 

Where the sun forgets to shine every once in a while,

Where sunlight can’t hide every blotch of darkness. 

Those places, those sunless rooms, exist inside me.

Défaite

Même si tu escalades la montagne le plus haute,Tu ne peux pas rester là toujours.

Car tu dois retourner au monde ce que tu vois d’en-haut,

Au monde où tu appartiens, le monde d’en-dessous. 
La couronne de la Victoire ne reste pas 

Définitivement sur une seule tête.

Défaite peut chante ses ballades tristes à voix basse

Pendant que la Victoire chante ses hymnes clairets. 
Le goût du Triomphe est doux 

Comme le lait avec le chèvrefeuille. 

Défaite est un pichet de médecine amère,

S’attardant écoeurante aux papilles.
Mais cher âme abattu et battu, 

Aujourd’hui il y aura une blessure, il y a de l’épreuve,

Demain il y aurait seule une cicatrice, une mémoire. 

Je m’oppose à ce que tu émeuves. 

Evil Eyes

With coal dust in your myopic eyes
You see warped, distorted images

Like reflections in carnival mirrors,

The surface of disturbed water,

Or the cave of a polished spoon.
Seeing with a visual apparatus 

Slick with a film of judgment 

Perhaps renders your discolored, 

Tinged view of my world and me

To yourself most sightly.  
But, how long will you bear to see nightshade where there actually bloom roses?

Serpents where there actually stand people?

Relieve yourself of that judgmental culture, your cataract, your coal dust.
Do yourself a favor: wash your eyes and see,

Behold the beauty that is,

Rather than contriving an ugliness that never was. 

An Open Letter to the Two Kinds of Teachers

Ask anybody who a teacher is. Either, you will end up hearing the stock definition of the word, or the character profile of a person. 
From the compendium of traits used to describe teachers, I choose two for the purpose of a little taxonomy. 
Subject-oriented and student-oriented.
These traits, while not mutually exclusive, carry their own individual import. 

To the subject-oriented teacher,
You know that your job demands dignity, prestige, respect. You want silence to enter the classroom with you and stay there until you’re gone. You have expectations. You want to prove to your peers that you’re primo. 
Those people who listen to you, you appreciate their respect because you know you need it. Your foursquare refusal for your class to be second to any other is evident in your methodologies. 
You’re particular about not letting a minute unpunctuated by all things academic slip by. Those people you teach need to get it right down to the last comma and period. 
Your knowledge is awed, your instruction is flawless, your evaluations just, your admonishments firm. 
Small talk narks you, tangential discussions nettle you. 
For you, teaching is a revered profession that should not be subverted by feelings of affection and attachment. 
You’re concern for your subordinates is limited to their ability to fill those blanks right, conjugate every last verb flawlessly, and to show them the way to go on the scholarly ladder – up, up and only up. 
You know where to draw the line, you know what is expected of you, you know what can varnish and what can vitiate your repute. 
You are plumed when you are complimented for your professional conduct, your top-drawer classes.
You give your job your all. You’re satisfied with how you do it. You pride yourself in being a good educator. 

To the student-oriented teacher,
You know that teaching has an ambiguous meaning. You have your string of degrees, you have a comprehensive knowledge of your subject, but for you, the former isn’t what you use to get respect and the latter isn’t the only thing you are meant to impart. 
You want your “kids” to listen to you, and so you bring yourself down to their level. You listen to them. You tell them about yourself. You let them know that you’re as human as they are. Mature, astute and seasoned as you are today, it has not slipped your memory that you were once like them.
Your knowledge commensurates with your humility; the former blows your kids’ minds, the latter touches their hearts. You’re someone who dispenses advice like a therapist, who understands the soup of teenage feelings like a mother, who unabashedly high-fives your kids in the corridors like a friend. 
You want to make sure that they know their spellings, articles and prepositions, but what’s more important to you is to you is for them to know they are valued not by the number or the letter on their answer scripts that attests to their performance, but for who they are as people. 
You don’t see your kids as workers in a mark-generating factory. They’re not just names on a roll, faces you see thrice a week.
You know that that being a friend isn’t a requirement for the job and the monthly paycheck, but that’s who you want to be to those children because when they lay themselves down to sleep at night, you know they’re not going to think about the right usage of l’imparfait and le passé composé, but about what made them smile, what disappointed them. 

You’re concerned about the child whose life isn’t rosy, you talk to the one who seems aloof, you boost the one who doesn’t know what she’s worth, you make them all feel special in their own way. 
It means something to you to mean something to someone. You cherish your kids’ love for you and you’re not loth to reciprocate it, well aware that life is shaped by all the love a person received or didn’t. 
You know the unspoken principle of being a teacher which is not to prepare kids for examinations of some import, but to prepare them for the long road of life that lies ahead of them. 
You know that you’ve done your job right not when you see that perfect score, but when your kids let you know they’ve learned something from you to last a lifetime. 
In all the ways you’ve taught by example, in all the times you cared to look beyond the textbook and the answer leaves, in all the memories you made with the kids who weren’t yours but whom you treated like your own, there lies the nobility, the true passion, the real essence of your profession. 
(Dédicace: Prof, c’est pour vous, ma source d’inspiration, mon enseignante préférée. Je t’aime tellement.)

We Are

Like a rope that frays and snaps when one holds onto it for too long, 

Like a flame that dies a slow but sure death in an upturned cruse 

We are. 
Like a cloud that is not faithful to a single phasis of the sky, 
Like a butterfly that hop-skips from one capsule of nectar to another 

We are. 
Like the achene of a dandelion’s blowball that is whisked away by the breath of the air, 

Like the ebbing afterglow of an incandescent lamp 

We are. 
Like a moment lost and never to recur, 

Like a stub of charred coal that will never harbor another flicker 

We are. 
Like this ephemera marked by breaths and beats, 

Like a smaller impermanence in a larger impermanence 

We are. 

Book Review: “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc” by Mark Twain

Title: Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc

Author: Mark Twain

Genre: Biographical fiction

Year of Publication: 1896

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5 stars)

“With Joan of Arc love of country was more than a sentiment–it was a passion. She was the Genius of Patriotism–she was Patriotism embodied, concreted, made flesh, and palpable to the touch and visible to the eye.”

— The Sieur Louis de Conte

Today, I wrapped up my reading of “Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc” by Mark Twain. My aim was to see myself through 100 pages maximum, but Twain’s narration was like a magnetic field that kept me fixed till I completed the whole book.

Never have I before seen such a perfect concoction of pathos, inspiration and life lessons betwixt book covers.

Here, Twain, an anti-Catholic and a Francophobe, shockingly fashions out of himself a page and constructs a fact-based faux biography as a tribute to one of history’s most significant figures.

His haunting prose was one thing, but the real attraction was the characterization of  La Pucelle d’Orléans. Instead of a calculated academic approach or a neutral historical depiction, he showed that prodigious child to the world as a human being – an extraordinary one, it goes sans saying – through the lens of an almost inconspicuous, but an observant childhood friend and man-at-arms, the Sieur Louis de Conte.

His extensive, exhaustive research on his subject is crystallized in his pages. Every figure of speech, every word, every punctuation does justice to Joan of Arc’s wit, worth and while.

Personal Recollections, when you’re done, will feel like a reliving and not merely a retelling. One is bound to feel this way because of the many parallels that can be drawn between her life and that of anyone who has experienced exploitation on account of innocence, ignorance, piety and steadfastness.

The best part about the book is its simultaneous appeal to contrasting emotions. When you’re on the verge of tears, pondering the patheticness of Joan’s punic trial and imprisonment, you find your lips curling upward when you read her witty retorts that retained their oomph even when death stared her in the face.

Also deserving of special mention is his treatment of the Catholic Church and the figures that dominated it during Joan of Arc’s time. He rebuts the “religious” and their acts, while according respect to the religion and its theological framework through his narrator.

Although highly subjective where the titular character is concerned, Twain does not fail to leave an indelible idea of faith, inspiration, loyalty, humanity and courage.

The Typical Stereotypical Story

Let’s begin with “once upon a time”, because it’s mostly the best way to begin for both little and overgrown children.
So, once upon a time, there lived an Uptown Girl and once upon the same time, there lived a Smalltown Guy.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, in the middle of Uptown and Smalltown, Boy and Girl happen to see each other, and in under a minute, Girl has rehearsed the best way to say “I do” and decided how many babies she wants to have.

In under ten minutes, they exchange autobiographies and decide that they are meant to be. And what better way to celebrate the choice of one’s soulmate than to go for a romp in an open field?

But wait! There’s something missing, you say?

3,… 2,… 1,… and voilà! It’s raining!

Hey, but this still doesn’t seem totally right…

Ah! All people who fall in love in less time than it takes to bat an eyelash are such smart cookies that they spontaneously break into rhymed verse, chorus, bridge and chorus x 2!

Also, it is a well-established rule of thumb that every field in which lovers are likely to sing should have at least one tree at the center for them to run around during the song.

When Girl gets home, we meet her Father who spares you a place in his peripheral vision if you earn 10K a month, a jiffy’s glance if you earn 10K a week, a half smile if you earn 10K a day, a half-pint Sauvignon Blanc and a handshake if you’re Bill Gates; and then we meet her Mother who is sugarcoated venom, and whose lipstick (which she retouches every 60 minutes) is worth Boy’s monthly paycheck.

Father and Mother tell Girl that they know about her and boy having romped around a tree, courtesy of a friend of a cousin of an ex who happened to be on business (that was obviously none of his business) at midnight at the field with a HD camera in the hopes of capturing lovebirds and songbirds.

Father, in under two minutes, decides that Girl will be engaged and married off to one Mr. Tycoon who rolls in dollar bills in the same manner that a pig rolls in dirt, and who owns thirty-two diamonds – one embedded in each tooth.

When Girl and Boy meet next under the tree in the field, we see sorrowful profiles from different angles for five minutes or so, and then, it starts raining! They walk in slow motion around the tree and just when you think they’re going to make impactful life decisions, they start singing.

In the song, Girl tells Boy – after spewing biographies, swapping spit, running around a tree and chorusing – that they should separate. Boy sings ninety-nine synonyms of “I love you”, but girl sings an apology like Boy’s burning heart was just a frostbitten, numb toe she stepped on and runs away, leaving Boy heartbroken under the tree in the field in the rain.

(Sad background music.)

One month later (when tissue paper is scarce from all Girl’s crying), there is a wedding. The only things at the wedding that do not look fake are the tiered buttercream red velvet meringue, the meat and the merlot. All things beautiful aside, we have a peacock proud Father, a Mother with so much makeup that her face looks like bad graffiti, a Father-in-Law with a straight face and a crooked smile and a Mother-in-Law with a hat where her face should be – all dressed and decked like she’s boarding the Titanic.

Just when Girl says “I don’t” in response to the Pastor’s question, Boy, in a makeshift motorcycle, crashes the wedding, wearing a shirt that is half in and half out, Elvis pants that are half black and half white and Michael Jackson shoes that are half masculine and half feminine.

The crowd stands with lower jaws threatening to come loose and fall off while Girl and Boy give us some “suitable for children above 12” scenes – hand to hand, forehead to forehead, and then, finally… One Direction shows up in a cruise ship and starts singing “Kiss You”. (Yay, another song!)

Tycoon rips his outfit in anger (and also to give other single ladies a glimpse of his architecture) and goes back to kissing Lincoln, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington and everybody else whose face graces dollar bills.

Girl’s Father looks on like a crooked man while her Mother looks on with a crooked mouth, but they cave in eventually because he has a fetish for Elvis pants and she has a fetish for Elvis.

Nine months later, we see that Boy is a father (now that was some quick work), and is living in a mansion with his wife (courtesy of Bill Gates being the new father’s fairy-godfather). The happy couple has a grassy lawn on their property to run in and lots of trees to run around.

Now that they have arrived at point “Happily Ever After” (which is the best way to end for both little and overgrown children), everything is typically stereotypical. So it is a general consensus that the movie should end (with a song and the promise of a sequel)!