Untold Journeys

(Afzal Razvi, Australia)

This paper was presented at the launching ceremony of “Untold Journeys” a poetry book written by Malaika Gilani at the La Trobe University Melbourne. (Afzal Razvi)
Once Dorothy Porter, a famous English poetess of our epoch said, “Modern Australian poetry seeks to tell Australian stories and truths with a poetic significance, so that, 'they sear into the soul and can never be untold” (Dorothy Porter-born 1954 and died 2008).
Last week, I began reading with the poem “Only If...”. As I finished reading this, I was awe-struck by the sheer expression and meticulous description evident in her poetry. Personally, there were two lines from the first stanza which stood out:
The emptiness eats away at my soul.
Memories leave nothing but a dark hole.
I kept on reading the book and I felt there is something of tone and stance in the poems that reminds me of one of the greatest poetesses of English Literature, Emily Bronte, she says:
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.
I see heaven's glories shine and faith shines equal.

It must be noted that this parallel exemplifies Gilani’s concentration - which is as much to the standardisation of her own emotions as it is to the details of the natural world, relationships and social cultures that enlighten the poems. The titles of the poems are poems themselves, for example: Dad, me, moonless night, animal cruelty, journey of life, I am the only one, one lie, Pakistan and so on.
The concerns of the poetess are reformed precisely, firmly, and with intimate vibrancy to the relationship with her friend and to the time they have had together, time treasured, intensely experienced.
In these poems time seems to stretch and lengthen within the poetess’ lines such that time itself seems calmed, almost eerie, a space both abstract and logical that opens and allows all time to lovers who will soon lose each other.
Gilani’s poems do not sacrifice poetic compression to achieve their effects because the language is simple and understandable for all age groups.

See how she expresses her loneliness and sorrow in her poem;
Here I am sitting alone, wishing I'd never met you,
I miss you so much; wish you had a clue,
Every time I close my eyes,
I see you' blue eyes,
Your heart melting smiles,
Every time you gave up; I was by your side,
I was by your side; every time you cried,
And whenever you broke down,
I would cheer you up by being your clown,
After all that....
Here I'm alone, why?
Why can’t I hug you when I cry?
Why can’t I say I’m not all right?
When I give up; why aren’t you by my side?
All I can think of is,
Time flew right by…

And then, in “I am the only one”, she does not want to forget her friend so she precisely reminds him finally you will get back to me.
I close my eyes,
Thinking about you and I,
I don’t care about the girls that go out with you,
As at the end of the day, I’m the one you come back to,
Girls ask themselves does he love her or me,
But I’m the one he comes to whenever he’s free,
As when he needs help, I’m the only one he sees,
I’m just waiting for the day you say you love me,
I’m waiting for the day I’m the only girl you dream off,
The only girl that you love.
But I won’t tell you,
Because I really do love you
Now I’m so used to you,
I can’t spend a second without you,
If I hadn’t met you; I’d still be alone,
And I think of all the fun moments I wouldn’t have known,
Before you came, my life was going down,
I was in a sea of lies, in which I was going to drown,
I just couldn’t stop,
Then you came and bought me to the top,
You didn’t let me drop,
Before you, what was really living; I never knew
Now I can’t imagine a life without you.

The journey of life kept running and she would now express her feelings about families and calls out:
Through the journey of life,
Some families always strive,
And along the way,
Their bonds stray,
And while some bonds turn to dust,
Others don’t even rust,
And just like that…
Some friends are made that do not lie,
Friends, who, for each other can even die,
What keeps them together, is their trust,
They always forgive; their friendship is just.

Once again, she would recall her good days spent with her friend and she talks about his blue eyes and she cannot forget him. Although she knows that he will never be her:
How deep is the sea?
That I’m drowning so deep,
How blue are your eyes,
That they hide all your lies,
How light is the rain?
I’m feeling so light,
How kindly you walk
It always comes as shock,
How graceful is a deer,
They hide all their fears,
How kind do you look?
Like a queen from a book,
How bright is the sun,
That the moon looks less bright,
How kind are your words,
That they draw me inside,
How blue is the sky,
Just like your twinkling eyes,
How deep are your lies?
That your love seems all right,
I know,
Deep down in my heart,
That you’ll never be mine.

And in her poem, “WHO” she confesses her love and says:
Who wouldn’t fall for your beautiful eyes, he said,
Who wouldn’t fall for your beautiful smile, he said,
Who wouldn’t fall for you, he said,
The only person I wanted, to fall for me was the one who said all this,
But he didn’t fall for me,
He made me fall for him,
Then asked me why I fell for him,
How couldn’t I fall for his beautiful blue eyes?
couldn’t for that million dollar smile?
How couldn’t I fall for him when everyone else did?
How couldn’t I fall for someone so kind?
Someone I thought who could understand my mind?
And the thing is that every time I see him,
I fall for him all over again.

Once she is known that her friend has left her, and she is alone now but still remember that good time that she spent with him yet she reminds him of it and calls out
Look at me, now I am broken,
This is a bad dream and I want to be woken,
I have been trying so hard to make things work,
But in the end, I guess I am the jerk,
They say give her time she needs to be alone,
Doesn’t matter because now we are torn,
Things are crap, now we are done,
And you can be happy because you have won,
Now I know you chose him over me,
You let me go and now I am free,
Things are over,
I am leaving,
I am gonna go with this burden knowing,
Everything I could do for you,
But it doesn’t matter because you don’t need me anymore,
I am just going to say one last goodbye,
Because I don’t want to see you eye to eye,
This time I will cry,
So, I should lie,
But I really don’t care why.

She further reminds him:
You said I was your heart’s key,
That you can’t live without me,
That you will always miss me,
But now that I'm gone,
I feel like I have always been just a pawn,
And that I wasn’t the one you wanted to see at the first light of dawn,
And now I don’t know what to do,
So, I keep searching for a clue.
Just waiting for a sign from you,
Now you ignore my messages,
And keep the talks short,
It seems like you forgot,
You said that you were sorry,
Which makes me want to worry,
And I think to myself,
Who are you?
I don’t remember you,
I remember the person, who loved me,
When others treated me like a flea,
What happened to that guy?
The one who couldn’t see me cry,
The one who waited for my hi, she would never forget:
And had a hard time saying goodbye,

And then we see another colour in her poetry where she talks about her father and mother. She considers her father is the best father and her mother is one of her heroes
This Father’s Day,
I want to get things straight,
Let me tell you what you really mean to me,
Hush now, quiet please,
The first time I saw you,
I instantly knew,
That you were my first love,
Since then my love grew.
How long has it been since I first saw you,
Now look at me you can say time flew,
And after all those times I made you sad,
And some of those times I made you mad,
You didn’t say anything, you just came back,
Knowing you have my back makes me glad,
Everyday my love for you,
Keeps on growing; holding us close like glue,
After all these things I am finally going to say,
You are the best dad,
I am proud of you,
And I love you.

We were all standing there talking about our favourite heroes,
And I said, I know a hero who makes yours look bad,
They asked me about who she was?
I looked up with a pause,
And my answer was?
My hero is not hulk or hawk eye,
As they aren’t real that’s why,
My hero is my mother,
Who makes your heroes look bad,
My mother my best friend,
Forever and ever till the end,
Standing by my side when the world can’t,
Most importantly
Loving me for who I am.

And then she goes back and cries for her friend:
Every time I cry,
I cry for him,
Every time I lie,
I lie for him,
Every breath I take,
I take for him,
Every rule I break,
I break for him,
Every time I think,
I think about him,
Every second I live,
I live for him,
My love is his,
Everything I do,
Its all for him,
He left me here,
But look at me,
I am still thinking of him.

Also, another very short but beautiful poem:
One lie,
Can make a person cry,
One lie,
Can lead to a bye,
One lie,
Can make you question why,
One lie,
Can make you forget the hi,
Just one lie.

In her collection, she has also written a couple of Haikus. A haiku poem consists of three lines, with the first and last line having 5 moras, and the middle line having 7. A mora is a sound unit, much like a syllable, but is not identical to it. Since the moras do not translate well into English, it has been adapted and syllables are used as moras. I would like to read out couple of her haikus.
You didn’t reply,
I am not surprised,
Because you're full of lies

Please give me one more night
I just want to make things right
This isn’t a lie.

And here is an excerpt from her collection that has been written eloquently.
I'm not a game so don't try to play me
I'm not a trophy so don't try to win me
I'm not a princess so don't try to impress me
But if you want help just come and ask me
Because I'll be right here waiting for you when you need me.

And in this poem, she expresses her longing for her friend:
I will wait in the cold winter chill,
if you’re not coming;
I’ll wait still,
in summer and spring, I’ll wait;
I will…
How long she will wait, we don’t know but we may know when her new collection of poems comes out.
So finally, I conclude with that this is not the time yet to criticise Gilani’s poems rather it is time to encourage her to write more to bring her works to public where a critic would comprehend her poetry on the parameters set to define and discuss its thematic standards.
However, I am quite confident to admire her concepts that she has so boldly presented in her poems at this young age. As I read through the collection, I found myself mesmerized by her standards; simplistic and courageous. Her philosophical perspective shines through a multitude of themes which encapsulate her poetic expression. Essentially, through the finest of pen strokes she engages the reader with a thought-provoking collection; leaving them pondering about what’s to come next. Good luck for the bright and stunning future.

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About the Author: Afzal Razvi

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Educationist-Works in the Department for Education South AUSTRALIA and lives in Adelaide.
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