The Active Listener

It is true
That constant chattering
The obsession of one
Will bring you rapidly
To an audience of none

It is also a fallacy
To think that being quiet
Indicates a willingness
To agree with everything
That is said and done

Consent can be passively
Disapproval more potent
Articulated without words

It is equally wrong
To assume that silence
Indicates profound wisdom
For there are many ways
To smile vacantly
Only to be noisy in your head

The ones who can listen
Not distracted by the truancies
Of the mind
Or the fidgeting body
Can pick up cues
To all that was unsaid
So much from nuances
As from the noise around
Milling during rush hour
On a subway underground

Like sifting wheat from chaff
And nuggets from sand
The active listener
Is immersed and changed
Submitting to the discussion
As a traffic of words
Mixed with sound flows on by
Waiting for the signal
To change
For those pauses
To seed the needed questions

So it moves from a monologue
To an essential dialogue instead

—Shaku Selvakumar April 2013

The Horn of Babel
The Horn of Babel

Hide and Seek

There are days when words walk away
Like wallflowers they hide
Turning their face to floor
Unwilling to come out and play
The hand is eager
But the mind stays still
The heart too busy
I write and delete
White space unbroken
Unfulfilled by black ink
I sit here waiting
Begging for a visit from Calliope
I know you are there
I can hear your footsteps
As you slide
Behind doors, leaving no clues
Just a trace of something
A whimsy that could become
So much more
A flicker that goes out
Before the spark starts a fire
Like butterflies in a hurry
To find the next flower
—Shaku Selvakumar April 2013


The Lowest Trees have Tops by Edward Dyer

My litmus test about impact is that the first sentence makes you stop whatever you are doing.
Wherever you are wandering.
The second, third, and finally with the last, you look at the world with slightly different eyes.
Perhaps more tolerant, more understanding of its frailty and just a little kinder to the many participants.
This exquisite poem by Sir Edward Dyer takes the impersonal out of the person.
No matter how insignificant to the world, our own consequence is the center of our universe.
That innate understanding connects us to each and every life form on the planet.
The heart is a continent too vast to fully explore in one lifetime.

The lowest trees have tops

The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall,
The fly her spleen, the little spark his heat,
And slender hairs cast shadows though but small,
And bees have stings although they be not great.
Seas have their source, and so have shallow springs,
And love is love in beggars and in kings.
Where waters smoothest run, deep are the fords,
The dial stirs, yet none perceives it move:
The firmest faith is in the fewest words,
The turtles cannot sing, and yet they love,
True hearts have eyes and ears no tongues to speak:
They hear, and see, and sigh, and then they break.
—Sir Edward Dyer
Hearts for Future Generations
Hearts for Future Generations


I have found that it is not enough
To think you can sing
To think you can write
To think you can create
To think you can innovate
To think you can change

If you are left to only thoughts
Why there would be only wind,
Thunder and sound
And never any rain

That mountains will always
Stand in your path
More formidable from the distance
That other voices will always
Have their say
That logic will usually
Rule the day

I have seen courage in action
Of a little seed fumbling underground
Finding its way
To send one green shoot tentatively
Seeking the Sun
Knowing that there was no guarantee
Or safety above ground
How long can you incubate
Needing the comfort of the umbilical cord
Or the prophesy of a crystal ball

That unless you step out of thoughts
To walk out of the door
You will never know
The temperature outside
Or that the storm that had to be faced
Was more sound than fury
You will never know
That shoes were meant to get dirty
That hands were meant to get calloused
That your heart was built to handle pain

With the power of every little step
Your feet that walked the many miles
Sometimes questioning the compass
Many times questioning yourself
Would increase your appetite for risk
Would flex the muscle of the spirit
Would build your stamina
Strengthening the core

To remember that all will cross the finishing line
But life is not an endurance race,
A pageant, or a contest
About who reaches first, middle or last
Or whose name graced the Hall of Fame
It is about making peace
With your recollection
Of how you finally cast yourself

—Shaku Selvakumar April 2013