Mona’s maritime diary: 18

9/11/2016, 17:09 hrs. Light rain, 6 degrees Celsius, moderate Northwesterly wind
(13 miles per hour)

The riverbank is almost empty. I am in the familiar
presence of seagulls. It’s becoming darker, colder
every day… A teenager, wearing a dark sweater,
a baseball cap and a safety pin attached to the
front walks by. ‘A Love Supreme’ by Coltrane
breaks the silence. It’s coming from the teenager’s
sound system. A welcome invasion; jazz waves slide…
on the river surface… They shine. I smile, feel a few
raindrops falling down my face. I am free fire. Air.
Water. The river of jazz. Flowing, meandering between
the shores of memory and forgetting. Of us. Streams
of sound flow, merge… you, me, this river… in
counterpoint. A memory lands on my palm, softly.
I open my hand… a few jazz notes fly away.



Of Gazelles and poetry

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Dama Gazelle

Of all the species of gazelles, the dama gazelles are the most elegant, the most beautiful, and they are fast… that is why they continue to entice the imagination and the soul of the poet…

The word “gazelle” could be derived from the Arabic ghazăl. The first Latin language to adopt it was Middle French, and the word entered the English language around 1600 from the French. Arab people traditionally hunted the gazelle. Appreciated for its grace, it is a symbol most commonly associated in Arabic literature with female beauty. One of the traditional themes of Arabic love poetry involves comparing the gazelle with the beloved, and linguists theorize that ghazăl, the word for love poetry in Arabic, is related to the word for gazelle.

Some facts about dama gazelles:

The dama gazelle lives in the Sahara desert and the Sahel. This critically endangered species has disappeared from most of its former range due to overhunting and habitat loss, and natural populations only remain in Chad, Mali, and Niger.

The dama gazelle is white with a tannish-brown head and neck. The gazelles’ heads are small with narrow muzzles, their eyes are relatively large, and they have longer necks and legs than most gazelles. Damas are considered the largest type of gazelle, with incredibly long legs, which provide extra surface area on their bodies to dissipate heat, one of the many ways they stay cool in their hot desert environment. They also tend to need more water than some of their desert relatives, but they can withstand fairly long periods of drought. Unlike many other desert mammals, damas are a diurnal species, meaning they are active during the day.

(Source: wikkepedia; image: @fotomicar)

On the tyranny of monolingualism…

“I don’t think that one can be a bilingual poet. I don’t know of any case in which a man wrote great or even fine poems equally well in two languages. I think one language must be the one you express yourself in, in poetry, and you’ve got to give up the other for that purpose. And I think that the English language really has more resources in some respects than the French. I think, in other words, I’ve probably done better in English than I ever would have in French even if I’d become as proficient in French as the poets you mentioned.” (interview with T S Elliot, The Paris Review no. 1., 1959)

For a very long time, I could not choose my language of writing; choosing one language for me always meant sacrificing my other language(s), other culture(s), other identity(ies), other part(s) of Self. The question of language choice and/or language loss has been and still is a problematic one for many writers who have either inherited or have come into a prolonged contact with more than one culture / language / identity. Much later, I came to realize that the problem of language is a false problem for me as a writer. As, although I was not explicitly forced to do so and think this way, everything around me led me to believe that I had to choose my language (of writing). The monolingual was, and still is, the “default” option, the standard, the norm. It is a powerful system of thinking, an ideology, as Elliot’s quote celebrating the monolingual shows.