On a Trip Once


On a Trip Once

Increasingly, I don’t believe in ecstatic experience–
to me, there is ecstasy
and there is experience;
ecstasy that bit where you feel
the wonder of your connection with all
beingness–the velvet purr
of digging your fingers
through a time-mulched fern-feeding log,
and experience–when you understand,
hungover and with bug bites fisting
your wrists, that you too will swell
and rot, your particular beingness decay, bones

Still, certain moments well,
sparkles on a stream, for no reason–random sun–
I stand in one, on a concrete step
before a white-knobbed sink, which in turn fronts an open window
in the Majestic Tea Room, Mumbai–
Bombay then, and hardly majestic–
though high-ceilinged and robins-egg, the pale blue
blurred by warmth and fans and waiters with their beautiful
dark-hollowed faces, long-fingered
hands–and, just outside the window
and on his own concrete dais,
sits a pan seller, his betel nut grated in small tins, and in a larger can, a soak
of green serving leaves, as tensile
as young skin, and wafting up, not the smells
of the street, or worse of side walls sometimes in India, but the sweet scent of his
rose chutney, and I wish never
to stop washing my hands, not because they feel grimed, but because the sublime
is hard to find, and somehow it is here–was there–
flickering along the wilt of peeled window frame and in the searching fragrance of
jellied rose, the ecstasy of the quotidian caught
in the trappings of the exotic, there, on that sink’s step, no longer concrete
but like the peated log, something mind sifts,
wonders at, tries to connect.

Here’s a sort of a poem for my Poetics prompt on “a trip” on dVerse Poets Pub. I’m hosting today and would love to see you.

The above photo is by Meredith Martin (my older daughter). It doesn’t really have anything to do with the poem–a pan seller is a person!– but I think it’s a fun picture of India.

Process notes–“pan” is a concoction made sometimes with betel nut, sometimes without. It includes various spices, like fennel, and a sweet rose chutney (made from the flower), all wrapped in an edible green leaf, forming a small stuffed triangle. The pan sellers in India used to make each pan by hand, sitting on street corners or in little booths with an array of spices and tins. Nowadays, a lot of the pan seems to be packaged.  (The poem above should probably be made into two very separate poems some time!  But this is how it came out for now.  It has been edited since first posting.)

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54 Comments on “On a Trip Once”

  1. It’s so hard to put some experiences into words that can adequately describe them. You’ve done a wonderful job of letting me share in this memorable moment of what I’m sure was an epic trip. Super.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks. This was actually from a trip many years ago. I don’t know if this tea room still exists. It was in Colaba, which I think has gotten quite fancy. But thanks much for your kind comment.

  2. Mary Says:

    “The sublime is hard to find.” So very true, and you captured it as much as it can be captured in your poem. You caught the flavor of the area jst beautifully & preserves it better than any photograph can!

  3. Adura Ojo Says:

    Love the use of the senses in this poem. That and your daughter’s pic reminds me of my recent trip to Morocco.


  4. I’ve never been to India, but I think you have painted a picture of the chaos of smells, sounds and vision that met you there. I remember going to Tokyo the first time, and all impressions you get. Love it…

  5. kaykuala Says:

    I was in India once, K! Very truly depicted. The pan-seller sat leg folded munching pan himself (pronounced pun) busily folding, wrapped in betel leaves including lime (the folks here pound cockle shells if they couldn’t buy lime) Lime made it hot which gave the kick! The betel leaf and areca-nut made them red. It was quite a bother to see them spitting the red-colored spits all over at certain places. Chewing pan made their teeth strong apparently but it made them black and their mouth red. It was not fashionable for the younger set but still rampant for older folks when I was there! Great take K!


  6. brian miller Says:

    wow…you really open up this experience and let us crawl in there…i would so love to visit india…all the sensory work in this k really brings it alive….

  7. SOme very vivd images depicted in this, k. I could visualize it as I read. Very nice.

  8. aprille Says:

    Impressive the way you put this complex experience into words.
    All the different senses affected.

  9. Tracy Calvan Says:

    great. i look forward to reading it again.

    Sent from my iPhone

  10. Grace Says:

    K, thank you for bring us along with you ~ The second verse was full of sounds, images and scents of the exotic cities, particularly the pan seller rose chutney ~

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      They are really two poems – I should expand and separate the first one, which kind of discusses something I am interested in, but don’t really explain well there. Thanks, Grace. k.

  11. Jamie Dedes Says:

    Love both poem/s and photo … and glad you posted the photo too even though it doesn’t go with the poem. It’s charming.

    Poem on …

  12. hedgewitch Says:

    This is just a Marco Polo sort of poem for me, laden with the mysteries of the east, which are also the mysteries of our selves, our place and every place. The ecstasy of the sublime moment, when things come together in an overwhelming sense of rightness, never lasts in its own self, but somehow builds a cellular reference that also never stops. Every image in this is vivid and alive, almost can smell and taste things. (And many bonus points for ‘quotidian.’) Now I am going to go think about what a chutney made from roses would be like. Just loved this one, k.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks. It’s very good. I used to sometimes buy pan for a treat, always worried about the water the leaves soaked in, but unable to resist. It seems to be made quite differently now though.

  13. Charles Says:

    Of course the experience here is personal and subjective, forging out to a more universal understanding of one’s place in the cosmos, the universe. I love the way you bring the whole scene alive, the objective and subjective, the way we feel and sense what you feel and sense. The oneness and aliveness to the moment that brings us into contact with, perhaps, another reality.

  14. Rallentanda Says:

    The ectasy of the quotidian caught in the trappings of the exotic…love this phrase. Your poem expresses the sheer joy of the experience…the sublime flickering along the wilt of a peeled window frame…Wonderful wonderful writing!

  15. You incorporate all the senses in this, the smell of rose chutney which sounds divine, the waiters, the colours …you’ve painted a lovely picture for us to read.

  16. Laurie Kolp Says:

    Love the tactile element throughout, and:

    I wish never
    to stop washing my hands, not because they feel grimed, but because the sublime
    is hard to find, and somehow it is here

  17. A poem for all the senses ~ good one k 🙂

  18. claudia Says:

    you just capture a bit of the magic of the moment for us…i also like that you tackle the being hungover, the bug stings, the own frailty as it makes the moment even more magical with the scents as well..really a wonderful capture k. – and love the pic as well

  19. Tony Maude Says:

    India is such a mass of contrasts and extremes; in these poems you’ve captured so much of the sensory chaos that it assaults you with. I’ve been twice – to Kolkata and Assam, and you transported me back to some great memories 🙂

  20. Rowan Taw Says:

    Absolutely loved: “–the velvet purr
    of digging your fingers
    through a time-mulched fern-feeding log,”

  21. Rich. That was the first word that came to mind when I finished reading your beautiful poem. Rich. But not just the poem, but also the reader. I have been enriched. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Hey! So happy to have you back. I hope you had a nice hiatus–Am hosting so many blogs to look at, but will come by to see what you are up to. Thanks for the kind words. k.

  22. Kelvin S.M. Says:

    …the second stanza is very descriptive & suggestive Karin… and the way you combined your words together is really engaging… i also like how you describe the people there… smiles…

  23. Pat Hatt Says:

    Sure don’t slip with your trip, can be hard to find all one thinks they want indeed and lol at the pic at your feed.

  24. janehewey Says:

    A wonderful introduction stanza. Separating the two-ecstasy from experience- and coming across quite convincingly. Then, when you stand in one moment, I get the sense you bridge the two completely with description and your action words: sparkles on a stream, blurred by warmth, wafting up, all lend themselves to crossing that bridge.
    “and somehow it is here-was there”
    is a most compelling line for me in this poem.
    Again, you bridge, this time with time itself. Great mystery inspired ending, too. You’ve enlivened our senses here. The rose chutney has my mouth, my entire olfactory system hungry.

  25. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    You create very vivd pictures.

  26. Kelvin S.M. Says:

    …hello Karin… re: to your comment… …you’re right Karin… poor me… i forgot the rule that uncountable nouns always take a singular verb (it’s actually what i’ve often been confused, ha..)… i just have it edited… thanks a lot… smiles…

  27. hiroshimem Says:

    Wow, so beautiful. I loved how you first described, quite in an academic way, the difference between ecstasy and experience, and even though I was doubtful at first, at the end of your first stanza I was like, “alright, I get it, she’s right”… And then, how your second stanza just rushes right from the place you were, like a beam of poetry, full with both ecstasy and experience (because you’re looking back at it while writing). Anyway, that’s how I see it… and I’d love to see India too.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha. Thanks so much for your very kind and thoughtful comment. This experience of India – the Majestic Tea Room– was from about thirty years ago. India was a bit quieter then than now – but always interesting. k.

  28. Mama Zen Says:

    Gorgeously transcendent!

  29. aka_andrea Says:

    to me, there is ecstasy
    and there is experience;

    well, this is something I could think on for days…
    what a wonderful piece you have shared here, I will need to come back to this several times to take it all in

  30. Captures the moment of the exotic

  31. fragrance of
    jellied rose, the ecstasy of the quotidian caught
    in the trappings of the exotic, there, on that sink’s step, no longer concrete
    but like the peated log, something mind sifts,
    wonders at, tries to connect.

    I was transported. Blessings friend ~ D

  32. magnificent illustration of trip indeed. Love the use of imagery and cultural nuance, definitely brings the reader along for the ride, giving a real sense and vision of the experience as best a poem or any written material could. Fun prompt thanks

  33. kelly Says:

    I feel like I just took this trip with you… Just fabulous writing, I could see it, smell it, feel it. And I love the ecstasy/experience juxtaposition….

  34. Sabio Lantz Says:

    A fantastic philosophical poem — I really feel you here. You avoid unknowable allusions, you aren’t parenthetical or cute and you don’t use hidden, vague grammar. Instead, you unabashedly paint the contradictions and strongly leave both be as they are. Nicely penned — by far one of my favorites of yours. Oh how I understand.

    Your strength of rhythm and colorful rich phrases serve the thoughts well.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha. Thanks so much, Sabio. I can see here all the things I usually do that you don’t like! But I’m glad that you like the poem, and I very much appreciate your thoughtful reading, especially meaningful to me given all your interests and travel. Thanks. k.

      • Sabio Lantz Says:

        Yeah, you know me, never afraid to say my thoughts. The good side of that is that my compliments are truly sincere (non-perfunctory), the down side: they tend to be honest, uncouched and (well) sincere.

        Ya know, I found nothing real India-ish about this poem. I see it as wonderfully universal. I was not the least bit tempted to tell you my stories of India or how your experiences are cool, but instead, you poem pointed at deep principles more that it did particulars — you merely used the particulars.

        Travel and abrupt changes (death, moving, jobs…) can open our routine juggernautic blindness — they can allow us to be truly alive and feel. Yet feel comes both in pain, excitement, fear, ecstasy and more. Most of our lives are a slumber — but many would rather be numb than risk the bipolar offerings of wakefulness. I think you poem touched that insight. But I may be wrong.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        Ha. I admit that the poem for me has more to do with its beginning, and questions about experience – what makes it stand out, and somehow memorable and feel universal–and less with the trappings of India (which are probably rather idealized there! As you must know.) But the concerns at the beginning and even the moment described in India are both real enough too, for that matter. (People like the India part I think because it’s more vivid.)

  35. kkkkaty Says:

    Sums up nicely your conclusions of your recent travels, the values
    of each experience and how your trip affected your overall senses revealing learning experiences’ new curves and unforgettable impressions…..artfully done 😉 A lot of wisdom and growth here.

  36. wolfsrosebud Says:

    many emotions rise the the surface here

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