Poem Review: The Nocturnal Soliloquy

Preamble:

‘Ponder’ is evolving into a platform that experiments. Sometimes that means carrying a heavy load — long-form reviews. Long-form reviews are boring to the ‘nibblers’, but intended for the ‘deep-divers’ — more of my kind.

However, there is a limit to attention span, especially surrounding these days humans and poetry. I managed to assemble a fascinating set of poetry, then I realized that I had that extra effort to curate this into a three-part series. The first part was ‘The Moon’, which was published last month. This is the second part.

Tonight is not about any night, but it is the night of today. It is the present moment.

“What hath night to do with sleep?”
John Milton, Paradise Lost

The foundation of this review is the scene-setting. Imagine this night, tonight, four poets on different continents — Africa, North America, and Europe — pondering, talking, conversing, reminiscing, ruminating…the humanly acts, except for sleep goes on.

Here are the four poems.

Poem 1: Adedoyin Olaleye’s poem ‘Tonight’ is about a lady waiting for her lover ‘Alake’, talking about how they will spend their romantic night together.

Poem 2: Priya Patel’s poem ‘You were never not there’ shares the experience of a daughter spending a lonely night without her mother who is no more.

Poem 3: David Shapiro-Zysk’s poem ‘Tonight’ is a snapshot of the night street just after a rain.

Poem 4: George L Thomas’ poem, ‘ I Do Prefer the Night’ makes the poet look forward to every night, as if night was his home.

This review is a treat in itself, and the journey of writing another 4 poem review, out of which one is mine, is a party. I invite you to join this incredible journey.

Poem 1: Tonight

Tonight…for you, Alake… Image by Barroa_Artworks from Pixabay

I’m tasting the stars
I’m savouring the moon in twin lips
I am moulding the sky in palms like amala
About to be thrown in soup of poetry.

For you, Alake.
I have cooked a spicy pot of words
I have diced the onions of lines
I have set my tongue on firewood inhabiting no lies

Tonight
I have sent the birds on errand
I have sent the crickets to bring arodan
From the oniroko of iroko
I have told the termites Alake is coming
There shall be nothing to bother us.

Tonight
I am spinning the web of passion with my spidery limbs
I am splashing the water of emotion upon your dazzling face
Oloju ede, I am scooping with calabash from your well of ecstasy.

Alake
Let’s worship at the shrine where hearts beat the metal gong of affection
Let’s throw caution to the gods
Let the deities go in search for it

Tonight.
Let’s feast upon this cooked air of love.

~Adedoyin Olaleye

Commentary on Poem 1:

If I were Alake, my knees would become weak as I savor these unbelievable love verses.

I’m tasting the stars
I’m savouring the moon in twin lips
I am moulding the sky in palms like amala
About to be thrown in soup of poetry.

As the cup of love overflows, the poet is waiting for her lover. The anticipation and waiting translate into a savory experience. When you are in the sweet spot of love, the world tastes wonderful. The poet tastes the stars and savors the moons on her lips, while she is preparing a salivating dish molding the sky with her palms.

For you, Alake.
I have cooked a spicy pot of words
I have diced the onions of lines
I have set my tongue on firewood inhabiting no lies

The dough of nature, molded with the poet’s palms about to make a fine dish of poetry. Ah! I cannot wait. Poetry is the ultimate dish of romance.

‘So, for you, Alake! The perfect dish is coming your way. The poetry is perfectly cooked with a ‘spicy pot of words’ and diced with ‘the onions of lines’. Oh, how would the poet perfect this? There should be no lies, from the crackling noise of the firewood. She quiets the rumbling embers with her tongue.

She can imagine the open African Savannah at night, with a clear dark sky adorned with the bright moon and the winking stars, stirring up some nocturnal life and love. Her poetry is born out of their lives and love for dear Alake!

Tonight
I have sent the birds on errand
I have sent the crickets to bring arodan
From the oniroko of iroko
I have told the termites Alake is coming
There shall be nothing to bother us.

And finally, it is tonight. The night I have prepared to receive you, and bath you awash with poetry and love. Yet, there is something more I have done. A quiet Savannah tonight, so that nothing can bother us. It is a universe that contains only us.

The poet has sent the nocturnal creatures and critters away. The ‘birds are on an errand’, ‘crickets to bring radon — an errand without a reason, visiting the Oniroko of Iroko, the splendid king in the magnificent palace, far away and for a long time. Even the termites have to stay away, inside the woodwork. Her Alake is coming, critters!

Pray, why the secret rendezvous?

“When the heart speaks, you should hear it, even if it’s as soft as a whisper.”
Ivy Oakes, The Story of How We Met

The poet and Alake should hear when their hearts speak as they whisper softly in love. Even the little insects have been sent away, just to ensure that they avoid trespassing and intrusion into the lovers’ nocturnal paradise.

Tonight
I am spinning the web of passion with my spidery limbs
I am splashing the water of emotion upon your dazzling face
Oloju ede, I am scooping with calabash from your well of ecstasy.

The moment is now. Tonight. The lovely, lonely paradise of romance is now spinning, dizzy with amorous acts. The poet uses the Yoruba moniker ‘Oloju ede’, as she reads the pleasant expression on his face. As ‘tonight’ happens, she spins a web of passion with her intertwining limbs.

His face is dazzling, awash with emotion that she has splashed — the emotion of romance curving up his cheeks and the corners of his mouth and eyes. She is scooping the fine honey of love from his well of ecstasy. Tonight has never been more magical.

Alake
Let’s worship at the shrine where hearts beat the metal gong of affection
Let’s throw caution to the gods
Let the deities go in search for it

Tonight.
Let’s feast upon this cooked air of love.

The natural, verbal, culinary, and physical aspects of love shall culminate in our spiritual emancipation at the altar of love, says the poet. As they worship at the shrine of love, their ‘hearts beat with the metal gong of affection’.

The quest for spiritual liberation tonight, at the shrine of love, is about abundance through abandonment. In those moments of carefree spiritual flight together, the element of caution disappears, and the deities shall search for it.

This lovers’ paradise, which only Alake and the poet occupy, is filled with the air of love, an emotional cocktail combining the spiritual, verbal, culinary, natural, and carefree ingredients of the mind, body, and spirit of the lovers.

As the poet beckons Alake to enjoy the ‘feast upon the cooked air of love’, we realize that it is a beautiful nocturnal soliloquy of romance, expressed by the poet while she waits for her lover Alake.

While one poet looks for a soliloquy of love, another searches for her lost love — a person she holds the dearest in her heart.

Poem 2: You were never not there

You were never not there… Image by Oriondetoiles from Pixabay

In the quiet of the night
when I am once again alone,
I can hear the sweet sound
of your laughter around me

I’m sitting on our bench
at the edge of the old dock,
overlooking the sounds of the lake
where we would watch the geese play

It’s so quiet tonight
The street lamp is humming
with tiny bugs fighting
and the water from the lake
is kissing the shoreline

I’m alone on this bench;
just the moonlight and me
and the memory of your laughter
lingering long into the quietest of nights

Solemnly, I stare at the empty space beside me
remembering the moments
we sat here together
and think to myself, that in that very moment
you are never not there beside me

I miss you mom, every day, every hour,
and on that bench by the dock on the lake
beneath the bright street lamps
where the humming bugs play,
I can hear your laughter all around me

Mom, you are never not there beside me

~ Priya Patel

Commentary on Poem 2:

Tonight, every night, that comes into our present, can be really testing and can invoke strong memories, especially if we have lost our loved ones. The silence of the night adds to the loudness of those poignant thoughts.

In the quiet of the night
when I am once again alone,
I can hear the sweet sound
of your laughter around me

Once again alone. This caught my eye. There were many nights before this when the poet has submerged in quiet loneliness. It is the feeling when we switch off your air conditioner or heater and the fan, and the only noise is the ticking of the clock or our movements. Sometimes, we can hear the voice of our thoughts or memories. I have imagined the voice of my father or mother, I can still hear them, except that it comes to my brain from my memories than through my ears.

Here we observe the poet is missing ‘voices’.

“Certain voices hold this odd pull on our heartstrings. They are like sad oboes or something, something that makes you want to throw all your money at the radio while yelling, “I love you.” I don’t know what it is.”
Jonathan Goldstein

The poet could hear the ‘sweet sound of her mother’s laughter’ around her. While her genes are already part of her mother, carrying the physical and evolutionary aspects of life, the human aspects — that of mind, spirit, and soul evolve from the innards of the heart and the brain. These are the memories, emotions, and feelings that she has cherished. Her mother’s laughter is still heard, unleashed from her mind into the silence of that night.

I’m sitting on our bench
at the edge of the old dock,
overlooking the sounds of the lake
where we would watch the geese play

In the darkness and loneliness of the night, the mind of the poet goes towards the familiar place where her mother and she would sit. Tonight, as she sits on the bench, all alone, at the edge of the old dock, she reminisces about the past. The sounds of the lake and the geese playing still are there, but her mother is no more.

Here we observe that the poet is feeling her mother’s ‘presence’.

“Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great.”
Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

The silent and dark night brings the memories of her mother, but her absence inflames the loss. Such is the power of absence.

It’s so quiet tonight
The street lamp is humming
with tiny bugs fighting
and the water from the lake
is kissing the shoreline

I’m alone on this bench;
just the moonlight and me
and the memory of your laughter
lingering long into the quietest of nights

The past was about her mother’s presence, and the present is about her mother’s absence. But the present holds the memories.

There is a snap from the past to the present. Here, in the quiet night, even the little things come to play. Somehow, these little things comfort the poet. ( Juxtapose the previous poem in which the poet wanted to be with her lover Alake, alone, and sent the insects away.)

The silence of tonight is such that she can hear the ‘streetlight humming’ because they are probably incandescent and bathing the ‘tiny bugs’ who are fighting like kids in a swimming pool. The waters of the lake seem to be in an unearthly romance with the shoreline.

The earthly life does not escape the attention of the poet, as she sits alone on this bench. But she does not associate her memories with the life here but feels comfortable with the memories of her mother’s laughter and the light from the moon above.

The effect of the distant ‘moon’ and ‘memories’ indicates the poet’s state of mind, preferring to hang out with the past than connect with the present life. Here we notice the emphasis on the poet’s ‘absence’.

Solemnly, I stare at the empty space beside me
remembering the moments
we sat here together
and think to myself, that in that very moment
you are never not there beside me

This paragraph expands on the absence of the poet in the present, and the presence of the past memories in the present. Her eyes search with solemn silence the depth of time and space, connecting with the past. There is a revelation of how the physical and temporal boundaries collapse in the poet’s mind.

“The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind.”
Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss

But here, the present entraps the past in memories. Looking back brings the past to the present. ‘Dear Mother, how much I miss you?’, laments the poet.

I miss you mom, every day, every hour,
and on that bench by the dock on the lake
beneath the bright street lamps
where the humming bugs play,
I can hear your laughter all around me

Mom, you are never not there beside me

We know that tonight is not because of the darkness, but the absence of the sun. We still think of the sun in that moonlight.

“When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.”
George R.R. Martin

The poet’s mother had been the sunshine in her life, and the absence of the laughing sunshine is now more felt in the quiet darkness.

We have seen the soliloquy of the poets — one who creates her own nocturnal universe with her lover, and another who is fighting the transcendence of the love that she has lost yet feels in the present.

Love apart, tonight manifests as an ambiance and environment by itself. We shall see how the nocturnal ambiance affects the poet’s mood in the following poem.

Poem 3: Tonight

The Dull puddle in the night… Image by Alexandru Manole from Pixabay

The too-steady air
is unmoved
no wind gusts
no ambient clatter
it just waits
like a dull puddle
for someone
to step in
and make it ripple

~David Shapiro-Zysk

Commentary on Poem 3:

The streets go quiet, sometimes too quiet after nightfall. People are back at home, and even the homeless vanish off the streets. The birds settle in their nests. There are a few night hawkers, services personnel, and some wandering souls like our poet, observing this stillness.

The too-steady air
is unmoved
no wind gusts
no ambient clatter

Have you noticed that there is that time of perfect silence? Everything is silent, even the air. This stillness is bothersome for the wandering soul. Walk with me here. Everything is still, dark and silent. A world that has sucked its breeze and is unwilling to exhale, lest it disturbs the stillness. The poet walks with us, pointing out the still unmoved air, and no wind gusts.

If there was some life left in the fringes of that stillness, they were all quiet and still, without any ‘ambient clatter’. It is as if life has been sucked out of the planet at this moment.

Haven’t we all felt this sense of unwanted quiet? A sense of silence far too long.

it just waits
like a dull puddle
for someone
to step in
and make it ripple

Haven’t we all wanted a spark that sets the fire? A small stone dropping into that dull puddle? The still night waits for someone to step in and make it ripple.

Kids bring that spark. When they see a puddle, all they want is to jump in and splash. It is the child in us, like a simple smile or laughter that breaks out of the monotonous still.

How many of us go through longer lifeless moments of stillness, and we all need that spark — a smile, a burst of laughter, a ‘ripple of the puddle’ as the poet points out?

There is a little metaphor for life I discover. Now let us stop and savor this discovery — and create ripples in our dull puddles.

There are nights and people who thrive, loving the nocturnal timescape. Here is a poem that alludes to the love for tonight.

Poem 4: I Do Prefer The Night

I long for the calm of night to begin
As silvery moonlight grazes my skin
And soothes the anxious fiend within
Oh, I do prefer the night

I stare up at myriad shades of black
With the burning stars all staring back
And forget all things my life may lack
Oh, I’m welcomed by the night

A reprieve from struggles of the days
And the need to be all things, all ways
The nighttime takes my cares away
Oh, I feel freer in the night

Commentary on Poem 4:

Night does not have the trappings of the mornings, especially the burden of the first step of the day. Nights are designed as ‘breaks’, in some sense in our daily lives.

“That was the only decision there was once upon a time: what to do with the night.”
Harry Crews, A Feast of Snake

The freedom is immeasurable and invaluable, and there is a time to stop and share. Nights give us immense freedom to dream and live, think and act. The quiet after the day’s bustle is an immense gift. We are tired and the day is over. For some it is rest, but for many, there is still life.

The poet brings out this ‘preference and desire’ for a night light in this beautiful poem.

I long for the calm of night to begin
As silvery moonlight grazes my skin
And soothes the anxious fiend within
Oh, I do prefer the night

The day makes the man, they say. The situations and swirls of the day make one get colored with stress and anxiety, and sometimes, the short fuse in us. The ‘anxious fiend’ in us is the product of the day. We bring the stress home, but there is a night ahead of us.

The poet longs for this time — the calm. He looks up at the sky, which radiates calm. The calm radiates in the silvery moonlight, grazing on the poet’s skin. It is such a feeling that even the moonlight and the breeze agree, the caress of freedom and calm. Who would not prefer this time?

I stare up at myriad shades of black
With the burning stars all staring back
And forget all things my life may lack
Oh, I’m welcomed by the night

With the bright sunlight of the day gone, the world turns dark. The dark is all not all black but filled with myriad shades. The spectrum of darkness is so enchanting. One look at the sky, the winking stars would agree. No wonder the poet feels welcomed, for the moment is so enchanting that it helps him forget the things that his life lacks, yet his life is full in that moment.

A reprieve from struggles of the days
And the need to be all things, all ways
The nighttime takes my cares away
Oh, I feel freer in the night

The day has its trappings — work, life, love, people, money, and others which turn into all signatures of life and its struggles. The greatest things about days are the connections we make in our lives, and sometimes, they turn into a payload on us.

The payload that we carry and care for, flies out of the window, released by the shades of black, silvery moonlight, and the burning stars, dips our minds and soul and set them free, as they wander into the night.

The Nocturnal Soliloquy:

Nights are magic. It is the liberation from the day. Salvation from the chores and caring. It is the time to stop, pause, rest and reflect. It is the time even the sun takes leave.

Yet there is life and meaning in that darkness and silence. For love is conquered and lost love is remembered, for the moments of stillness are despicable, as well as the solitude is soothing.

Thus the night created contrasting worlds as the four poets embarked on their soliloquy, ending up creating different meanings through their magnificent poetry.

“Four days will quickly steep themselves in nights;
Four nights will quickly dream away the time.”
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Four nights that we just saw dreamt away the time, creating four different worlds of NOCTURNAL SOLILOQUY.

~Ashok Subramanian

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Ashok Subramanian

Ashok Subramanian

Poet and Author. Poetry and Book Reviews. Investment Banker. IIM C Alumni. Engineering Graduate.