Friday 4 January 2013


Pieter Brueghel, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, 1560s

About suffering they were never wrong, 
The old Masters: how well they understood 
Its human position: how it takes place 
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along... 

In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away 
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may 
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, 
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone 
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green 
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen 
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, 
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on. 

- W. H. Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts 

Twice, in one week, I have come across this poem by Auden. First, it was quoted in the book I am reading - The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, and then today, in an interview with the newly appointed Poet Laureate of the United States, Natasha Trethewey. The poem, she says, helped illuminate her own reality of enduring the grief of her mother's death (shot by her stepfather); an invisible grief, because 'The world was going on about its way while I was over there, this tiny individual suffering what seemed to me a huge loss, what was to me a huge loss. That poem showed me that I wasn't alone in feeling that way'.

For twelve years before starting my blog, I lived an invisible life with lupus. Intense suffering on the wards took place unbeknownst to anyone other than the family stalwarts. So I understand the ploughman's inability to see the 'boy falling out of the sky'. But I understand Icarus too. Last year I was determined would be the year I published my poetry. This year I make no promises. I long to touch the sun but some protective instinct keeps warning me about the fall. Published writers sometimes speak nostalgically about the days when they were anonymous mice, writing for a faceless imaginary reader. The perks of being a wallflower. I may have been a mouse for long enough, but I do love being able to write without pressure or commitment. It is quite delicious.

As are these days unwinding in Singapore and Malaysia with my beautiful sisters. (Of course, being with the brothers is not bad, either :))
Cheong Soo Pieng, Bridging Worlds Exhibition, 1981


Sherry Blue Sky said...

Whether poetry or prose, your words are always so enjoyed and appreciated, Shaista, as is the radiance of your spirit. I was saying to my friend the other day that for most of my life, only family and friends ever read my work....and if I published a book, a handful of people might read it. But on our blogs, so many lovely friendships are made, all over the world. It never stops amazing me that someone in London, or South Africa or Malaysia is actually reading and commenting on my words. WOW! We eagerly await everything you will write in 2013. And we applaud your courageous journey.

Relyn Lawson said...

You have a book club - lucky you.

Andrew said...

Shaista, I am wishing you all the very best. You are an amazing person.

Marcoantonio Arellano (Nene) said...

Yes the world persists and moves 'merrily'along about it's way. It knows not if I breathe today.

'Icarus' what foresight.

If but for a moment, I loved and was loved then I will have lived.

Thinking of you, mi amiga

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