Don’t wish for silence here

Dust scrabbles across mortar –
ants follow the grooves;
cement bolsters
loads of bricks –
it cracks and crumbles

Don’t look for stillness here –
the body decays,
falls in on itself
and gets busy within
its arches and beams

© Sara P. Dias (30 April 2013)

Timing

Intent upon this
Unaware of that

A reaching out
A touch in time –

A restoration
For one moment

© Sara P. Dias (4 January 2013)

Modern Poetry and Alternative Narratives

The Modern American Poetry Course (ModPo) presented by Prof. Al Filreis of Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania is a mind-altering experience. The benefits of such an excellent online course to people who function “normally” in the world, but who can’t afford high quality education is self-evident, but what is more meaningful is that Coursera has made it possible for people “paused” in life to flourish in a rich learning environment. For many people, those with chronic illnesses, with complex mental and physical difficulties, or those who are looking after seriously ill family members, leaving the house to go to university is just not an option, even if they can afford it. But the reality is that if an illness or disability makes it hard to function “normally,” then it is hard to earn a normal salary to pay for university.

What I’ve noticed now that we’re 9 weeks into a 10-week course is that so many of us who live alternative lives are flourishing in a demanding learning environment, often against all odds, and this while many “normal” people have abandoned the class. The ModPo class is life-changing and beyond value for those of us who live beside the main stream of life, but who are eager to apply ourselves in new ways.

This highlights the need for access to quality, but affordable online education for all. The ModPo course is free, as are all Coursera courses at the moment, but even if they charge a minimal amount in the future it would benefit the world at large. Like the 35 000 students enrolled in the ModPo course, the number of people worldwide who are interested in further education must be enormous, so it should be possible to adequately fund the continuation of the classes.

I must add that it would be a mistake to think that a poetry course could not benefit anyone looking to enhance their education. I only started writing in 2008, which makes me a newbie at poetry, so I’m in it for the poetry, and I still can’t get over the good fortune that made me stumble upon the ModPo course. The benefits of learning poetry from an extraordinary professor is obvious. What is not plain to see is how the course opens the mind and shifts entrenched beliefs not just about poetry but also about people and life in general. Prof. Al Filreis and his Teacher Assistants have created an online campus atmosphere where the normal things happen in the forums: people become friends, form groups, argue and exchange knowledge, and the support from the teachers and fellow students continues into the social networks like Facebook and Twitter. And YouTube is also roped in for live webcasts.

I am beyond grateful, and proud, to be part of this first ModPo group. Knowing Prof. Filreis, there are going to be many. The struggling world needs access to this kind of enrichment.

Here is the link for Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo): https://www.coursera.org/course/modernpoetry

Here is the link for Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/

Sara P. Dias (Nov 2012)

But not yet

In the taste of cloves – so brief a release –
I find a desire for more, but I only added two
so that tomorrow I can add three, or
four when I’m bitter with fragility.

And when the cat’s face turns soft
at a caress, the tingle of electric fur
carries its resonance far into next week
where it curls back around my feet.

There is also the word I don’t yet know
that lies beyond the new moon,
that may gentle this spiky core:
such a word means ‘no’ – and is
obeyed when spoken by women or a child.
Also a kind word to desalt tears …

Next spring, when the white-eye
with its tiny chirp will be here again,
awaiting the next note in a contact call,
I’ll wait with it for its summoning
in the still warmth after the winter storms.

And again today, the mustiness of old walls
blends with the smell of mist and new rain –
the taint of ozone carries with it the
promise of stellar death and birth, and chance.

© Sara P. Dias (5 September 2012)

But not yet was first published by the Stellenbosch University Poetry Project on SLiPnet, August 2012:

Finuala Dowling says of the poem:

… I found a similar warmth and humanity combined with skilful imagery creating a mood of exquisite melancholy in your poem, Sara P.Dias.

Societies & Exhibitions

Societies:

International Watercolor Society South Africa (IWSSA)
South African Society of Artists (SASA)

Exhibitions:

Golden Eggs (2016): 1st International Watercolor Biennale, Quito, Ecuador, 28 February – 28 March 2017.

Naming the time

Among ferns made denser by winter rain
I find a toy train, maybe mislaid in busy play:
its unknown destination perhaps serving
in the first naming of love and loss.

Empty wrappers, their once loud branding faded,
the foil made soft, whisper of secret meetings
out of sight of mothers and grandmothers –
not yet knowing that absence.

The young geese overhead know
their journey, but not yet the experience.
It must be spring again.

© Sara P. Dias (6 August 2012)

The poem, Naming the time, was first published online as part of the SLiP Poetry Project for August 2012: Before you grow old and grey.

Finuala Dowling says of the poem:

Naming the Time’ by Sara P. Dias was another poem that stood out for me.  Like those already mentioned, this poem uses real artefacts – faded sweet wrappers, a discarded toy – to hint subtly at indefinable aspects of the passing of time.

2 poems

Waiting for the bus to stop

We hear the passing of a loud bass pulse,
and smile in recognition of a mutual vexation.

In such proximity we can follow lines
beside the eyes to the veins below the epidermis –

not just imagine the flat of one another’s eyes
behind comments online.

Our thoughts soften as we listen more closely;
sighs and laughs carried on the southeaster aerate us and

for a moment  we quiver at the same frequency,
altered and shimmering above a long Karoo road.


© Sara P. Dias (June 2012)

From armchairs in retirement homes

Seasoned travellers follow the settling sun:
Desiccating moths cornered with the dust.


© Sara P. Dias (June 2012)

Two poems, Waiting for the bus to stop and From armchairs in retirement homes, were included in the SLiP June poetry workshop: Return to the masters.

Finuala Dowling says of the poems:

Sara P. Dias has written about a moment of cross-cultural and perhaps inter-generational reconciliation.  What I really liked about the poem was the close attention it pays to ears and eyes – particularly the latter, and how

In such proximity we can follow lines
beside the eyes to the veins below the epidermis –

not just imagine the flat of one another’s eyes
behind comments online.

The last lines of Dias’s poem are satisfying too: ‘altered and shimmering above a long Karoo road’ is a beautiful ending — all our
worries and prejudices transmuted into a road trip.

Her gift for compression is equally evident in her image poem:

From armchairs in retirement homes

Seasoned travellers follow the settling sun:
Desiccating moths cornered with the dust.

Living unit

The widow next door bitches that the tenants in the house behind her
jump her six-foot fence,  cross her yard, and then jump the prefab
fence in the back to get to those cheap rooms they rent, can you believe it.

Too far to walk around the block like the rest of us. They know
there’s no husband, so it’s okay to take a shortcut through
her property. Now she’s barb-wired the fence. It’s an eyesore.

She flaps her hands about when she whinges. She explodes her Ps
and drags out her Gs and Rs and I want to decline the offer of tea.
I feel a little guilty sometimes, but dear god, so many slights!

My cat scratching in her garden, the tenants’ boy
who keeps bouncing a ball off that rattling fence …
He’s going to bring it down, she says every time.

On Saturday mornings, the only time we sleep late,
she tears off the branches that reach over the fence from
our garden. Who can sleep through that?

She says only onward.  She tells her depressed children –
who can blame them? – not to re-tread the past, but she never stops
telling you how awful her husband was. Always the martyr.

You’ve never seen such a clean and shiny house. I knocked on her door early
one morning looking for Tomcat. Her hair was in curlers and she’d already
tidied the house and she was busy putting on make-up. I have better things to do.

No sense of design, just the odd dried-out calabash and copper jug.
And that bunch of old proteas! And the furniture is covered in plain cream –
the carpet is beige, the walls are white. It is all so vanilla.

Apparently the kitchen floors are sterilised daily. Once a week she moves
the furniture about and vacuums the carpets with arms pumping like pistons.
Our bedroom looks straight into her living room – no net curtains to trap dust.

She says she finds it therapeutic to sit down and polish
the marks and scratches on her copper pots. They all gleam.

You can lift the rug in such a house and find nothing.

© Sara P. Dias (May 2012)

The poem, Living Unit, was chosen for the SLiP (Stellenbosch Literary Project) May 2012 poetry workshop: Left out of the Republic.


Finuala Dowling said of the poem:

Two poems that engaged me but that I wanted a little more restrained were Sara P.Dias’ ‘Living unit’ and Stephen Roberts’ ‘Watching and Waiting’.   In very different ways we are drawn to the characters in these poems, but because the poems are a little crowded, there’s not quite enough space for us to move into these worlds and secretly observe.