Friday, July 16, 2010

Michael Ondaatje

Things have been busy in my world lately. I haven't been writing a lot, but I have had moments where a poem has popped in my head. I have loved Michael Ondaatje's poetry for a long time, and this one is probably one of my favorites. There have been a million times when i have known exactly what he felt when he wrote this one.


Griffin calls to come and kiss him goodnight
I yell ok. Finish something I'm doing,
then something else, walk slowly round
the corner to my son's room.
He is standing arms outstretched
waiting for a bearhug. Grinning.

Why do I give my emotion an animal's name,
give it that dark squeeze of death?
This is the hug which collects
all his small bones and his warm neck against me.
The thin tough body under the pyjamas
locks to me like a magnet of blood.

How long was he standing there
like that, before I came?


  1. "He is standing arms outstretched
    waiting for a bearhug. Grinning." :)

    Reminds me of something by Ghalib, the beauty and happiness of seeing someone. It's Ghalib so it could be someone human? someone beloved? God?

    किया आईनह-ख़ाने का वह नक़शह तेरे जलवे ने
    करे जो परतव-ए ख़वुरशीद `आलम शबनम-इसतां का

    کیا آئینہ خانے کا وہ نقشہ تیرے جلوے نے
    کرے جو پرتوِ خورشید عالم شبنم استاں کا

    kiya aayinah-khaane ka vuh naqshah tere jalve ne/ kare jo partav-e-khvursheed 'aalam shabnamistan kaa

    Your appearance has created an image in the chamber of mirrors
    Like the state of beauty a ray of sun brings to a land of dewdrops

    - Mirza Ghalib, Ghazal 10, Verse 5

    [jalva - display/ naqshah - image/ aayinah khaana - chamber of mirrors/ aalam - the state of beauty/ partav-e-khursheed - ray of sun/ shabnam-i-stan - land of dewdrops]

  2. Shahana,
    Gotta love Ghalib - thanks for sharing that verse. Personally, Ondaatje seems to capture so beautifully the vulnerability and that huge weight of unconditional trust only kids have.. i never get past that every time i read his poem.

  3. Wow! That is a beautiful poem. Never read that one before...Should try to read some more of Ondaatje's. Thanks for sharing!