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FLAME

 

By

 

Stephen Gill

A MULTIPLE AWARD-WINNING WRITER

 

 

 

Dedicated

to

 

ETERNAL FLAME

 

 

Author=s Preface

 

The Flame  is divided into eight  parts and sixty-two  cantos. Part one of  The Flame is devotional. Parts two, three, four and five  are  about the destruction caused by the maniac messiahs.  Part six is about those who are responsible for  destruction, and the remaining parts  are about the yearning for the loss.  Some cantos  are to extol the virtues of  the Flame,  some are to portray despair, and some are in its  memory.  I have written these cantos  in the belief  that maniac messiahs  are misled individuals  who generate the blizzards of fear and panic.  Those who are silent are also to be blamed as  those are who  adore these blizzards of fear and panic.  Both commit horrendous crimes against humanity as  those who carry out sinister designs of these blizzards. The last canto of this book  delivers hope. Hope signifies  that a positive outcome is possible. Without hope life is  a Sahara of dismay.

 

The Flame   is the result of the eight years of my anxious care of these robins  of my art.  During these years,  I changed my dealings with these birds in different capacities  to nourish them  more artistically.  In the last two years, I became more  diligent with more focus.  At  my  writing table, I kept  them close to me. Whenever I had time, as well as  the first thing in the morning and  the last before going to bed, I fed the robins  with the berries of my passion. In their  enlivening warbles, I drowned  the chill of my presence and the ghosts of the past.  Several times, I took their cage  to my bed room  to  continue hearing  their notes of freedom along the shores of my sleep.  They  remained closed to my heart  as they are  now and shall ever remain.

 

These birds are not meant to be caged.  Therefore when I felt somewhat  satisfied with my  feeding,  I kicked the robins out of the nest one by one.  Very rarely any of them came back in dejection. This way, I was able to publish some of these cantos in more than forty publications  in Canada, the USA, India,  on the internet and elsewhere. That is how I treated the robins of my another collection, Shrine.  Before they were collected in that book,   several of them had appeared in more than seventy publications.  

 

 I feel strongly that before poems appear in book form, they should  appear in periodicals,  because these appearances  encourage  a poet. At the same time, they provide additional opportunities for  sharing with divergent  audiences. Some editors  make suggestions for  improvement. Some  of these cantos without the present revisions appeared  in my collection The Flowers of Thirst, out of print now. I  have translated some of these cantos myself in Urdu, Hindi and Panjabi versions.

 

One problem that a poet  usually  encounters in a  long poem is the possibility of repetition of words and phrases.  Another  is  the  maintenance of  logical flow and continuity.  I  am  a  proverbial  enemy  of  clichés though some are animating  and some may creep in  without  my  being  aware of  them.  I believe that a poet should use fresh images. I have tried to use every word carefully as a brick to build the edifice  of The Flame.

      

Life is not a ready-made dish. During  the days of my care,  I made a number of unpalatable dishes. One makes several attempts  in different combinations to find  the right type of spices and amount to prepare an ideal meal. It is like finding one right turn after  making several wrong ones. I am  convinced that talent by itself  is nothing unless it is blended  with perspiration that includes  mastering  the tools of the art.

      

The Flame  is poetry and poetry is my home. I began building my home during  the  painful shyness of my early days  when  I began to dwell in imagination and the world of books. It has been  a long odyssey  of search for my golden fleece.  The path of my odyssey  was rocky in  all directions.  I was from a family that was socially isolated in India after migrating from  Pakistan. We were surrounded with a new environment in New Delhi.  My father was the only earning member of the family. My mother, who was a teacher in Sialkot, now in Pakistan, started her own school for the kids who did not attend regular schools or needed  extra attention.  In a one room house, she gave tuition to those children to supplement income. It was not an easy adjustment from the good days in Sialkot to the bad days in New Delhi.  

 

In those days,  entertainment for children from the  families which were  not financially very secure was limited to meeting  friends  or reading.   There were no tv=s, and  radio was a luxury. The movie theaters were  expensive and  rare.  I had a few friends but we did not visit each other=s homes; we used to meet  outside. Our sports were  self-improvised, like hitting one another with a soft ball on a  street and trying to dodge.  Others included different forms of play with  marbles and kabadi, purely Indian sports.  There  were   more sports  along the same lines.   I do not see them in the West nor  in India during my visits.   For some reason, my mother did not encourage me to mix  with other kids, particularly with those who were not interested in their studies.  That  also became another  factor  for making me a painfully shy kid. I began to take interest in reading. But I hated schools and their books. My father was an avid reader of newspapers. On Sundays, when he was at home, he bought most of the newspapers that I began to love. 

 

Apart from newspapers, our home had a  small  collection of books in Urdu. I was doing most of their reading. After finishing them, I began to borrow from our local library.  I finished most of the novels, collections of poems and books on psychology that were available in the library. I began to browse  at book stores and  ask my friends for the reading materials. I also began to move in the company of poets, frequenting the tea shops where they congregated.  They were  mostly mature. I heard each and every word  they discussed. During those discussions,  I  heard  that  if persons  memorize  one thousand couplets of choice, they  can start composing their own verses.  That is what I tried,  but I could not memorize them and what I was able to, did not help me.

      

I also heard that a writer should write every day  on any experience or idea before going to bed. I was told that this practice helps to develop a style.  I began to write about my friends, our games, chats, you name it. It proved a useful exercise.

      

I also heard that a writer should keep a notebook to put  down any striking  word or phrase that  comes across during a talk,  reading or from anywhere. This is a practice that is  with me even now. If I like a  sentence or phrase from a poem or just my own,  I put it down in my notebook. When I have time or I am in the mood, I go over them. I find it a very useful practice, and will not hesitate recommending it to others.

 

My father edited a religious publication in Sialkot, in addition to running a sports firm. In New Delhi, he often wrote letters to the editor and to businesses.  It seems that he enjoyed writing and reading replies. He also wrote poems to greet people on certain occasions.

 

When I grew up, my father wanted me to get married and settle in life and do my writing at leisure. He was more or less like Mr. Motard in my novel Why with the  difference that  Mr. Motard makes money from his business, while my father could not, or did not. I knew that I would  not be happy  making money  to look after children though I wanted a family.   I knew that just to make enough money to be a marginal citizen would  not please me and would  keep creating financial and family crises. To be a successful bread earner for a Christian in North  India  was  a tough job.  I  found out that the officers at the employment centers were not friendly to Christians.  I avoided the path of marriage and being settled. I began to explore ways to be an established writer. It was a long battle, but I was not discouraged.

 

I began to realize that one ladder to succeed  for a person like me was formal education that would help to make money and be a successful writer. My mother was with me as far as education was concerned. But university education was expensive and to study from home for university degrees was not that easy.  I yearned for  real education  in an  intellectual and stimulating atmosphere of a university, where  students interact with one another  and with professors. My one  problem was my early education that did not help me  gain self-confidence and skills.  It was my  early  education  that remained a serious obstacle in my life. I had attended the cheapest schools that were run by governments. In these schools, the media of instruction was the local language. English was touched nominally at  the elementary level without any emphasis on conversation, till one left the school for a college or university. Those who could afford it, sent their children to mission schools where the medium of instruction was English from the beginning. Those schools built confidence in their students.

 

After passing High school examinations, the medium  of  instruction at  the  college  and  university levels used to become  English.  There was no  gradual transition. Text books after passing high schools were  in English and professors gave lectures  in English. This created more inferiority complex in students from government schools because their English was not adequate to compete with other students.  The result  was  disappointing, because  those from well-to-do families who had studied in mission schools, shined at the college and university levels.

 

My mother found a way. She used to ask us again and again to practice  English among ourselves at home, though there was none  to correct our mistakes.  Our neighborhood was of no help,  because it was even worse.  I used to burn within with the fire to have a good knowledge of English because I wanted to be a writer in English, knowing that to be  the  way to reach the world audience. I am not prejudiced towards any language. Every language, including every object in the world, is beautiful. However, I wanted to know English well and properly to reach the readership of other nations, and the elite in my  country.   That was my goal.  It was confirmed later  that language comes by speaking  and  one  should be in a situation where he or she is forced to speak. I realized it when I was in Ethiopia as a teacher. I was in a situation in which people did not know English.  But nearly everyone knew Italian. I started speaking Italian in a couple of months  and  became a fluent conversationalist  within a year. It is because I was forced to speak.    

 

 Apart from  the inadequate education, my religion  stood in my way. Discriminations and religious riots produced fears. They  demolished  whatever walls of security we had. These factors led me to the caves of isolation, thinking, browsing, and imagining  that prepared  a good recipe to be a poet.       

     

 As a child, I used to feel that India was the safest place in the world, because it is tolerant and religious. Most of the holy persons were born in this subcontinent.  During those days, Mahatma Gandhi, an apostle of peace and tolerance, was assassinated. I saw Hindus, even old people, crying like children when they heard the news over the radio. I heard people saying that India has become an orphanCit has lost its father. I used to hear also that India, the birth place of Buddha, Guru Nanak and other spiritual physicians,  is the safest place in the globe. It  used to puzzle me, because of the killing in the name of religion. When I came out of India and had time to think from a distance,  I discovered that  physicians are needed where sickness prevails.  The subcontinent of India has produced a number of spiritual physicians, because that area needed to be healed.  

 

Lack of security  in the land of those physicians led me to isolation in the early days that revealed to me the path of my   poetic  destination.  I  began  to find  ways  to establish myself as a writer and poet. My struggle was based more on perspiration  than inspiration. One can say that it was my inspiration that led me to perspiration. The shadows of inspiration and perspiration walked side by side with me everywhere. I grabbed  every opportunity  to sharpen  my tools to be a better  poet. Poetry may also be revelation and flash, but it is largely perspiration. When poetry becomes a passion, it becomes more demanding. Poetry was and is still my  passion. Peace is  the womb where the baby of my passion  grew. Absence of peace  had shaken my psyche deeply,  while growing up in New Delhi, India. The solitary hours of the night spent in the web of fear and days without friends and hope forced me to read, think and imagine. Those days and nights drove me to the island of imagination  that laid  the  seeds for my development as a poet and writer.   In Ethiopia, where I went to teach, I had money, a maid, a car, good climate and peace that I desired the most. But the surrounding was not stimulating for writing.  Means to reach even the local population were medieval. English was more limited in its use than it was in India. There was hardly any library. I had to abandon my good life in Ethiopia to be in an  English-speaking nation where I could learn and establish myself as a meaningful writer.

      

When I came to Canada for my higher studies, the first thing I did was to find writers and poets and their groups. They were not many in those days. However, my search  opened a new vista for me. I  came to know  some  publications for writers. Some came to my attention at newspaper stands and some were referred to me. I began to buy  them regularly though they were expensive. These magazines were useful, because they discussed problems of  writings and poets,  such as  how to find a book publisher,  edit and so on. There was nothing like them in India. Poets in India were not organized and there had been hardly any workshops for them. On the other hand, in Canada, nearly every conference of writers had practical workshops. I began  to  discuss the craft of writing and about publications with others, whether  they were writers or not, to get as much information as was possible. I was an attentive listener. I began inviting poets and writers to restaurants to get  help  to improve my  writing skills. Often I had to travel afar.  It was not easy to find a friend in North America where even whites are lonely. People here are very independent. Someone suggested to me to try the opposite sex for friendships. To find  an established poet who had  time to discuss the tools of poetry  was not that easy. Established writers, including those who made a moderate success, had no time. Those who had time wanted to be with better writers.  In any case, I kept my search and was able to make contacts in a limited way. My efforts yielded  fruits but not what I expected. Searches itself was perspiration.

      

I studied at a university in Canada for three  years and then became a book publisher. The idea behind this decision was to remain close to writing and  also  writers.  Book publishing helped me in several ways. There were respect and money,  but my goal kept evading me. Most of the time, I was engaged in promoting others.  My own writing  suffered for want of time. To get out of even this web, I had to make further  adjustments.  I knew that I would  have to lose something to gain my golden fleece. I bade farewell to book publishing after about fifteen years.                    

 

Like any art or trade,  poetry is seventy-five percent  perspiration.  By perspiration I mean also editing again and  again,  reading  and  reading,   writing  and  keep writing and keep sending manuscripts to publications to be an acceptable poet. It is not an easy decision to continue kicking out  the robins of art,  because of the fear of rejection. For those who want to improve their art, rejection slips are the stepping stones to success. Some rejections are sent, because editors do not need  additional  material  on the same subject or they do not have enough space to accommodate them. Some good editors  make suggestions to revise certain portions of the work. 

 

A  poet  should  never be  tired  of revisions.  A  time comes when a poem would tell when to stop.  Sometimes  poets have to stop revisions,  because they get tired of what leads  them nowhere, even knowing that the poem needs extra work. In such situations, I put my poem aside to take it up some other day unexpectedly. This procedure works in most cases with most poets. Often poets will know themselves if a poem needs further work. It is like knowing when the stomach is full.  Another way is to consult an editor. Everyone needs an editor, even editors do.

 

There is a myth that poetry strikes a poet like a flash, or it  is a divine bolt. For a serious poet, it may be bolt and divine, but mostly it is cooking. I believe there is beauty everywhere. That is what the Bible says in its story on  the origin of the universe. After every creation, God said beautiful. There is beauty in every object and so is poetry. Beauty is poetry and poetry is beauty. But  everyone  does not have the abilities  to  bring out  gracefully the god within. It is a poet who gives that god a shape with the beauty of the language. Language  is  a  media  between  an object  and  poet that gives life, as God did when he created the universe  with  his words. What is important in a poem is the arrangement of words. This is an intellectual exercise that needs dipping into the amazing  world of words. These efforts need the proper knowledge of the tools.

 

Poets are painters who use words, instead of colours, or  they are dancers, who use lyrics instead of using the movements of their hands, legs and facial expressions.  In addition to the arrangement of words, the most important feature of a poem is economy of expression.

 

Poetry is an unusual experience that  shakes a  poet thoroughly. A poem is by a human for humans about a deep inner experience  that is symbolized through a language. To describe or illustrate, poets need tools and the struggle to master the use of the tools is perspiration. Through images and the arrangement of words and other tools, poets convey their experiences to their readers. Poetry is not only to convey that experience to readers, it is also to convey it in a beautiful way and that beautiful way should also be something like a new  and delicious dish. That is where perspiration gets involved.

 

I had no problem as far as subject is concerned. The object or the subject that had deeply disturbed  me was my early days in New Delhi, where the bear of discrimination and fear roamed freely. I often think that it must be the supreme power that has kept me secure  and helped me to settle in Canada to be able to do something  for  peace.   I  also  wonder  that   with  my limited power of the pen and abilities how that divine power  expects  me  to  do  something for peace.  The  deeper I go,  the more I come to know that I can serve that purpose with whatever means I have.  

 

The Flame is my  extraordinary ambitious project. I fathom here  a subject, artistically, that concerns politicians, reformers, peace activists, philosophers, prophets and others. I believe that the life after death will   be  blissful if an individual  does not destroy the legitimate peace of others. Those who maintain their lives on the path of good,  their life after death will also be good. Those who promote  peace  on earth shall enjoy  peace after death. It  does not make any sense  to expect peace  after death by destroying the peace of others. Hindu scriptures call God peace. Jesus says that peacemakers shall be called the children of God. God is the king of peace in the scriptures of both the Hindus and Christians. 

      

The Flame is  about  peace and peace is the main area of my exploration.   There are several minor areas that also relate to peace, including human rights, treatment of the minority by the majority and  antiwar activities.  I have tried to attempt  these areas in the light of my ideology of peace. Just to talk of peace is meaningless. There should be also some concrete ideology and activities.  That is what I have attempted in my prose.     Peace has been my main interest in my prose, poetry and also in my talks. As I have mentioned  in my  articles and prefaces, the source of my inspiration  is my early childhood. Lack of security in the country of  my  birth  was  responsible  for my search. I did not give up this hunt  even in the countries where I was comfortably secure.

      

Peace has been the hunt of humans from the time immemorial. There have been different theories to weave its rainbow.  Some  physicians  who have appeared to give directions have given their lives to light its  candle. Some of them taught unconditional love and some of them taught tooth for a tooth.  Some prophets have taught to be neutral or indifferent to the pains and pleasures of the world. Terrorists also talk of peace. They believe that they achieve or will  achieve peace by terrorizing citizens. A breed of these terrorists,  fed on religious fanaticism,  is most dangerously intolerant of the views of others. This breed  is spreading fast  and widely all over the world. Those who believe in preparation for war for peace have invented the deadliest weapons, such as nuclear bombs.  Instead of peace, the world is coming closer to the threshold of complete annihilation. No one wants that sort of peace, except some morbid thinkers.

 

I believe that terrorism,  an extreme form of ambition for power  to rule others, is the work  of organized groups that carry  out the bloodshed of  innocent citizens to gain  political, national or religious power.  They disregard human life. They do not belong  to any organized armed forces and therefore do not follow any rules of the war. They strike whenever and wherever it is possible. Often they call themselves liberators, separatists and jehadis. They shun democratic  means  to achieve their objectives.  The  values that are shared by law-abiding citizens are  their targets and they come from every community and background.

 

In November 2004,  a panel of the United Nations   describes terrorism as a deed that is Aintended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or noncombatant with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.@ The main weapon of these groups is violence and the threat of violence to cause as much destruction as possible with deep and wide physical and psychological impact. Their intentional targets are civilians. They want to paralyze  people with fear to put pressure on their government to accept their agenda. Sauntering  on the bones of children and innocent citizens to get the crown of peace, they  gain maximum  publicity. They believe they can achieve peace  effectively through violence. Their  groups  hold secret training camps, where they exercise for  physical fitness, learn to use firearms, explosives and  receive constant doses for their brainwash. They are funded  with  the money from organized crimes, the sale of drugs, and the misuse of the funds of some charitable organizations formed to deceive people and governments. These days terrorists make CD=s and movies of their heinous crimes to sell  to make money. Terrorism has become an industry.

 

I believe that peace is the legitimate child of peaceful means. I believe that peace  is a powerful basic human need that  is the other side of the coin of love. All normal humans,   no matter where and how they live,  aspire to  peace.  Poets all over the world have reflected this need with individual techniques and symbols, peculiar to their own cultures and ages. Due to  the  universal  interest  in  peace,   different  ethnic groups will be able to enjoy  the cantos of this book  as much as I have enjoyed writing them.                           

 

I firmly  believe  that  to promote peace, it is important to appreciate also other cultures,  emphasizing   similarities, rather than dissimilarities. The emphasis on dissimilarities  is usually to shock, not to build bridges.  Since the cantos  of The Flame  are about that eternal flame,  a universal phenomenon, these cantos  will help readers realize, consciously or unconsciously, that hope is still alive under the sun. This realization will open gates for the appreciation of the writings of other cultures and to the fact that their writers are also human beings, mixtures of strengths and weaknesses, with the same basic needs.

 

Canada,  where I live, is a complete world in a microcosm. It is blessed with distinctive ethnocultural, as well as  political, racial, social and religious  groups.  It is the second largest country in the world and its citizens come from every corner of the globe, who retain their  distinctive  heritage. Canada  publishes every year more than  three hundred newspapers and periodicals in ethnic languages.  One thread that links  the ethnic groups is their increasing awareness of the richness of one another  and  significant contributions  in several areas.

 

Flame also symbolizes sharing, compassion, sacrifice, courage and witness. I use flame  as a symbol  as I  have  used  the bird dove.   Flame is  the visible form of  fire. It has been discovered  that gravity  plays  some indirect part in the formation of the fire.   If flame has a connotation, the gravity also has a connotation. Flame has been and it still is the main symbol in the Vedic scriptures. In the Hindu religion, the Almighty symbolizes five elements. One of those elements is fire. People in the Vedic Age worshiped fire and even now some Hindus keep the fire  burning during worship.  They also perform a sacred ritual of fire at important events, including births, weddings, funerals and major holidays. The Hindus use it also on their festival of Diwali. The Jews light candles on  Hanukkah and Christians use it on  Christmas. Fire  is used as eternal flame to watch at monuments and tombs. Candles flicker in churches, temples and mosques. Flame is also a symbol of the Methodist Church, a Christian denomination  with a long history.

 

The Methodist Church uses the flame with the cross that represents the third person of the TrinityCthe Holy Spirit that  refers to the Pentecost when believers witnessed tongues as  fire. In Greek mythology flame refers  also to the Olympic Flame that commemorates the theft of fire from Zeus, a Greek god, by Prometheus. During the ancient Olympics, fire was  kept burning throughout celebrations. According to Greek mythology, fire or  flame was in the possession of gods only. Prometheus stole fire from the god Zeus to give to humans when they lived in dark caves. This gift brought productivity  also in the field of  art and literature. Prometheus was punished by Zeus for this  act of compassion and generosity.

                                                                       

To destroy humans, Zeus gave another gift to humans.  He collected disdainful objects and put them in a box that was given to a beautiful girl, who  was created for  that purpose. Zeus named her  Pandora that means all gifted. She was told not to open that box, but she did. Consequently, the contents of the  box that contained  pain, bloodshed, fear, economic strangulation, anguish and suffering, began to roam in the world. All that was left was Hope. Eventually, it was also let out of that box. Expression of hope is in the last canto of The Flame.

 

The maniac messiahs  open Pandora=s Box  with the fingers of science and technology, using the muscles of fanaticism to spread the dust of the untold brutalities  for the sake of their macabre pleasure. These openers of this Pandora=s Box roam in the world  in every shape to cause as much destruction as possible. They go to universities, do usual business,  greet their neighbors, smile, shake hands, eat and do everything as  normal human beings. The next moment,  they are  seen killing  citizens with the rage of their guns and explosives, killing even themselves. They are trained to hide their love for bloodshed. Actually it is the education that they receive during their childhood and years of adolescent that  is  never  washed away. These robots steal the  flame in whatever shape they find anywhere.              

 

The openers  of these boxes are also gifted  with every beauty as  Pandora was. The most precious of them is the gift of life that they have been trading with the ugliness of violence.  They reject their gift   for  the domain  from where no one comes back. Their path to that  domain  is  paved  with  the  bones of the children and painted with the blood of the innocents. The flowers that grow on  both side of that path are fed with the tears of the helpless children  and widows. To reach their other world, they walk over the  ground  that is concreted  with the blood of mothers.  Walking on this path, they dream of entering the domain of  bliss. Intelligent people may not find logic here,  but  the life of brutalities  is more real for terrorists than the life they see around in their daily life.

 

Obviously these openers reject the gift of life,  turning their backs  even to the normal joys around them.  When this rejection  is combined with the philosophy of their bliss, they stand up to do anything.  Most of them are prepared for the work  of terrorism in their childhood. Aristotle said that first school of a child is the lap of the mother. Laps of mothers of  these maniac messiahs  must have disciplined them for this type of life.

 

These openers include educated and illiterate, rich and poor, men and women, politicians, engineers, medicos  and religious leaders of  all ages. Among them, religious fanatics  are most brutal. They  aim  at killing as many innocent citizens  as possible  because they are soft targets.  They do this work for a greater good or for themselves to enter the kingdom of their land of peace  easily.  They  do not appear to be mentally sick. They do not think about the wrong they do.   They do not feel the pains of others and do not suffer from clinically defined personality disorder. They are not alone. There are  groups behind them  who  control their minds. They have an agenda.

 

These assassins of humanity steal joys from life.  These days with sniffing dogs and other scientific checkups, there is no real defense against them.  When I was  growing up in New Delhi, there were no dangers from suicide  bombers, but from crowds or stabbers. Our home was also a target that I came to know later when the riots subsided.  There were hardly any telephones and police were  not as active as  in the West. Moreover, they were far off. When I think of those days, I still shudder and think that there must be a purpose for which I have been saved from uncouth killers. I have experienced their stings.  I know what fear is in the jungle of helplessness.   I know what  hope is when there is no hope.  We were surrounded by the original inhabitant of India,  called Adi Basi  that means the real inhabitants.

 

I still remember how they used to sing hymns all day and night to the Hindu  deities without any pause.  They used to sing on loudspeakers loud enough to be heard  blocks away. They were devout and religious. Most of them were from the laboring class. They had been also  involved with killing. In the ladder of the caste system, they are not from the higher casts.  Many years later when there were other serious riots, against the Sikhs this time, again such  people  were involved.  That uprising was due to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her own body guard who happened to be a Sikh. Luckily in those days  of riots  I  was  in  Canada.   It  happened  in the eighties.                                                                           

 

How a spiritual person would start killing even his own neighbors and friends seem to be an enigma to me.  Perhaps killers have been fed with the poison for earning points to enter the kingdom of God, or it is the  mass hysteria of violence when even normal beings act as animals. They do what others do, forgetting all the norms and principls of life.

 

Fear became an unwelcoming guest in my life from my early life. As a potent biological presence of unpleasant danger, it took  away  a considerable  joy from my life.  It  often led me  to the heightened perception of being persecuted that destroyed the delicate  fabrics of my trust.  In the shape  of fear of rejection,  it led me often to make irrational decisions.  The  scars of this powerful emotion were  not easy   to wash from the psyche even after  I came out of that fear abroad.  To  find hope,  I  traced  riches, education, faiths and  many other things. I tried to see the  face of hope in political ideologies, including Marxism, Nazism and dictatorship.

 

To take the root of fear out, I took  a long and painful journey  of efforts. My life in Canada was my attempt to refuse to let fear be my master. But this is not that easy. Writing, particularly poetry, is one way to do that. Poetry  is  my refuge and my helper to help others to be aware of the enemies of peace. The result of that  is  The Flame.   It is not to attack a particular creed or religion or nationality. Scenes in The Flame are common to any destruction  in Canada, the United States, India or anywhere. People are people everywhere and suffering is suffering. I  believe that  remorseless  forces of  brutalities  have their own agenda. They do not follow any organized religion.       

 

The Flame  is my humble offering  to serve peace in my own poetic way.  It is a collection of the flowers whose cultivator has roots in the centuries‑old culture of the subcontinent of India.  I expect people of other traditions and heritage to view this bouquet from that angle, though the pseudo‑critics are known for marring beauty by dissecting works of art into fragmented  forms in an attempt to search  for ugly spots.  I have toiled in these cantos  to catch the flame  in a net of diverse techniques.  This diversity is also to avoid the monotony of treading the same path.  This is  in an earnest venture, using every possible tool of a poet within my human limits, to catch the essence of that flame. However, the beaten track of expression does not provide the ruling atmosphere in this book.

 

The eternal flame knows no occupation, faith nor complexion and cannot  be imprisoned within human bonds. It  has engulfed millions, whose names can be traced in every age and land. This flame is known to engulf mortals even today, melting unknown metals into one. I dedicate my book to this eternal flame.

 

Stephen Gill

Canada

December 30, 2007

 

 

 

 

Samples from sixty-two cantos

 


 

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 ©)copyright Stephen Gill, 2007

 

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(1)                                                      

 

You are the imperishable harmony

that reaps unparalleled prosperity.

From the chalice of your peace

I long painfully to sip

the invigorating wine

of fruitful returns.

 

You are

the softness of the radiant might  

that melts the mist,

stirs the soul of clouds                                             

pushes down the rain showers

which kiss the dry lips of earth        

and the wordless sonata 

that moves the sharp white beams

of the moon.  

In creation

you are a balance.

 

You are

the luxuriance of the aroma                         

that runs

in the veins of the enchanted blossoms.

You flower

a fragrant feast around,

caress

the flushed cheeks of the horizon

and liberate the birds that fly

to receive the ruler retiring

in a strange ceremony.

 

You are

the beat that echoes                                                

in the breast of the arc.                                            

You muse

in the melody of the falls.

 

You are nirvana

that helps in breaking the fetters

of the relentless brutalities

and manna for  those who hunger

for the morsels of equity

on the barren mountain

where

the biting winds of intolerance

blow.

 

You are

the distinctive fount 

that feeds the ever-growing pangs    

of the sages

in every age.

Your abode,

ocean's every drop.                                     

You bind the earth and the sky

and rule to relieve

the rusting monotony.

 

 

=========================================

 

(4)

 

You are

the single inner sanctum 

that sails

on the breast of emotion's

unruffled ocean.

Amid the frigid draughts

you emerge as a wave of warmth

muffling me in the arms

of your affection.

 

You are the vanity of swans

that is the pulsating vessel

of the dignity of hills

and the ark

where the pride of the rose

seeks refuge in silence.

Your vision of heaven

is the loveliness of hope

that is the crown of aspirations

and the vitality of the river.

 

Your eyes

a seaside retreat

where mystic flames reign

and

nature courts the night’s favor

for a feast of peace.


 

As streams

you float on aerial grounds

nourishing the arteries of harmony

with the flow of wisdom

from your unseen presence.

 

You are

unlike the age

that is distant and aloof.

Out of time’s reach

is your placid beauty.

You guard

the eyes of the bloom

against glares.

 

=========================================

(5)

 

Tell me

how to string the harp

that is suffused with the sounds

of your sprightly prairies

and 

receive the energy

from the symphony of the earth

that is enveloped in the virginity

of your blaze.

 

How to be the source of the food

that increases the hunger

for the hidden treasure

of your blessings

that transcend the flesh,

blood and bones.

 

Tell me

how to feel the touch 

of the light fatherly fingers 

that shall lift me as a leaf

out of myself

to free my freedoms from the tribes

of chaos

and discern the field

that is beyond

the common human confines

from where

the vibrating potency 

of your sovereign art

heals the corroded minds

who see their god

in the monster of perversities.

 

=======================================================

 

 

(9)                                          

 

I wish

to recline under that canopy

where

the rough diamonds of your eyes

radiate calmness

and the loitering clouds of your hair

dispel the ghost of despair

from the chamber of my mind.

 

I wish

to snuggle under that shade

where

your eyes express the unexpressibles

and the magic chant of your gaze

breaks the chains of my confusion.

 

I wish

to awake under that dome

where

untainted fountains

from the realm of your compassion 

pacify unquenchable thirst

and where

dreams open the portals of my freedoms.

 

I wish

to end the odyssey of my woes

under that tree of your amazement

where

happiness does not take leave

and the shaken leaves

smell the fragrance of  the warm sweet clover

from the exalted heights of intensity

for the fondest hope to see

the fruit of peace.

 

=================================================

 

(10)

 

When  the avtars of savagery   

mow down defenceless innocents

and

tear down the towers of routine                               

deep pain goes deeper

inside.

 

Spiders of sinister news

crawl in and out of the cracks

of the tranquil trust

that mothers the rational of discipline

and the stress-causing stairs

of the menacing fear go up and down

with the sound

of a  tombstone in the grass.

 

From the oak of harmony

leaves fall

in the maze of mistrust.

The locusts of threat                         

shadow the crops of shelters 

and the driving rains of discomfort

lash the denuded twigs of hope.

 

=======================================================

 

(12)

Like every day

birds chirped

devotees came

parents brought their youngsters

to the nursery

and the sun rejuvenated

on the stage of humdrum.

 

The day opened its dance

with a frightening boom

that rocked the structure of tranquillity

and closed

with the deepening gloom

that froze the mouth, feet

and heart.                                                      

The birds that reposed

on secure boughs

flew in fear.

For days

sparrows, roses and dawns

forgot their songs.

Brutes flickered tongues

over the lips of normalcy.

 

Time stopped when an explosion 

blew up the simple elegance

of my flame.

The furious rumbling bang

released a sudden cataclysm

that the devotees thought

an earthquake.

It sparked a vast red-orange fireball

the rushing gust        

sounded as if a giant jumbo jet

or a missile

had struck.

 

Thick black smoke

that arises from cannons

hovered above the choicest gem

leaving the smell of the gunpowder

to poison the palate of peace.  

The darkened vicinity

encircled the skies                           

under the haze of a horror  

agonizing the souls

who coldly stared.

 

===================================

 

(18)

Using floodlights

they toiled in chilly nights

fighting 

the smothering clouds of dust

under impaired visibility.

 

Wearing thick overalls

and masks to ward off

the stench of decaying flesh

gathering pieces of flesh

amid pools of blood

they walked in a shattered shell

where hands, thumbs and legs

littered

and blood stains were washed

by rains.

 

They ascended slopes of rubble

crossed bodies half seen

inching their way

crawling over dead bodies

to find

if any survived.

They worked

on their hands and knees

using lights

fixed to their helmets.

 

Through cracks they reached

no-go zones

and came back with tears

because

they could not get to the dying

even risking their own lives.

 

Clocks and weather

stood against them

yet deeper and deeper

with their deepest devotion

sore backs and ankles

under the harsh glare spotlights

facing unfamiliar sights

smelling death

speaking through their eyes

they walked.

 

Behind

the fragments of the concrete slabs

and compressed filing cabinets

they recovered victims

with ruptured eyeballs

and fractured ribs.

 

They kept going

though the airborne particles

caused headaches

or dryness in their throats

and nose.

68-flame

 

With the mounting mass of courage

they moved forward

with crowbars and axes.

If someone recovered an adult

or a child

he was rushed

to the stress center

because the exhaustive search

mentally and physically was exhausting.

 

The perfidious conditions

stressed even dogs

who felt dispirited

for not finding anyone alive.

 

============================

 

(20)

With  jackhammers and chainsaws

they removed obstacles

to dig out the nursery                       

buried under a pile of rubble.

No little hands reached them

only tiny voices

and faint sobs they heard.

 

They saw babies 

shrouded in blood

and plastered with insulation

or faces half covered with glass

calling brokenly

for their dads and moms.

 

They saw

bodies slashed

or lying under doors

walls and cement beams.

They turned over cribs

and furniture cautiously.

One by one

they removed bricks

to reach two toddlers alive.

 

While carrying an infant

when a cop paused to breathe

he looked down.

He was standing                              

on a dead child.

 

They saw

babies wrapped

around the poles

or their faces blown off.

They saw mangled carcasses

entombed under the beds of steel

and a teacher

holding a child.

 

Papers

and playthings were scattered

blending with arms and legs.

They picked up dolls            

with discomfort.

A rescuer was frozen

when he saw a truck

like the one his son had.

 

They found

tiny corpses with blankets

but the cold hands of the winds

through the cracks

where once stood windows

and walls kept throwing them off.

 

Drenched and chilly

holding toys

from the wrecked nursery

they searched

paused

and searched again. 

 

A sergeant

with a flashlight

chased the trails of red insulation

through the tunnels

of the twisted metal                          

concrete beams

and jumbled furniture.

In uniform

masking his nose

he explored every closet.

 

Their eyes were tearful

and their hands trembled

when they grasped

the slain kids.

Those speechless faces

who watched the workers

were engraved forever

on their psyches.

 

The fire fighters wept

as they lifted weightless bodies

struggling

to retain composure.

                                                              

The medical team

worked around the clock

wading through the mud of danger

to perform first aid

where the disfigured bodies  

huddled

under horrendous disorder.

 

Searchers                                         

sifted through debris by hand

and carried it out in buckets.

Machines of every type

were brought

but no one could use them all.

 

Rumors about hidden bombs

added torment

to their comfortless task.

 

Most thought of their families

when a sense of helplessness

overpowered their efforts.

Several exhausted rescuers

left the gaping cave.

 

==========================

 

(23)

A camp was extemporized

in a parking lot

to anatomize

the shattered shell

floor by floor

indicating the bodies

that could not be pulled out.

 

Soaked in blood

nurses in uniform

rushed around the improvised surgeries.

Red stained gloves

loafed among the leaves

scattered by winds

over the lawn.

 

The area was cordoned off

most exit ramps were closed

the telephone lines jammed

the car agencies

had nothing to rent.

Investigators and relatives              

filled the hotels.                                 

 

A surge of press reporters,

television transmission trucks

and photographers

within hours

turned a sleepy town

into the capital of the media.

 

They competed for stories

wombed in emotion.

Radio stations informed 

where to donate blood

off duty medical teams

responded with calm.

 

A trucker from another city

arrived with soft drinks,

tooth paste,

aspirin

and first-aid kits.

Residents brought cots

and blankets to him.

He was at his station

to provide considerable relief

from the torment of the tragedy.

 

Another drove for hours

to offer free meals

to rescue workers.


Residents collected bed sheets

and plastic tarpaulins

in response to a shortage

of body bags

and prayed.

 

Counselling centres sprang up

with psychologists

pastoral assistance

and psychiatrists

 

Hospitals postponed planned surgeries

and nonessential radiological procedures.

They had enough anesthalogists

neuro and vascular surgeons

and

pulmonary specialists.

 

Several people spent their nights

in sleeping bags

on cots or folding chairs

stunned or thinking

how they would cope without a brother

child, wife

or mother.                  

 

Citizens were glued

to their televisions.                           

Lava flew

from the Mount Etna of their anger

because the media focussed

on speculating about culprits

rather than the emotional bruises  

of the sufferers.

 

Fearing retribution

several families did not speak

and several more 

confused, outraged or shocked

sat frozen

waiting for another list.

Days were filled with funerals

and expecting

the missing to be recovered.

 

===============================

 

(29)                                                                

Dear children

do not suffer from the painful longing

for the domestic bliss of your early days.

Irons unfastened

your parents  have gone

to soothe your sagging spirit.

Look at the darkness

beyond the hills that  gives birth daily

to another dawn.

Poetry

has not flown to the distant fields.

Snow still falls

outside the window

and the sun melts away

coldness from homes.

 

The place

where the dismembered limbs lie

mocks the blindness of the brutes

who had tried to frame a coffin

for liberty

under the shades of their vilest impulses.


The morning

that buried your elders

in a  massive grave of the frozen mind

has become a ground for hope.  

 

With the driving dry drifts 

birds from the dale of intolerance

flew to teach their tongue

to the birds of insight.

Locked in obsessions

they briefly stenched the air

with their uncontrolled spiral of hate.

 

Flame is still a pyramid of justice. 

Hope carves  niches of safety

around  towers of peace

to lay eggs even today.  

Denizens of ignorance

blow off the petals of innocent flowers

not knowing the doors of future

remain open.

When the bulldozers

uproot the shrine

the land does not go dry.

 

=======================================

 

(30)                

Mothers

do not weep.

Suffering from the frightening fancies

the social  lepers    

wander among the denominations of malice

and carefully consider the endless roads

of the potentials to worship

the bubbles of the self.

Shed your tears with cries                                       

from the skies of your fond memories

to awake their  conscience

slumbering in the shambles of brutality.

 

Offer  your  hymns to a new birth

your children

baptized with your tears                  

sail on the white wings.

Notable nips outside the house

and the nights

when you snuggled your  babies                

beneath the quilts

or in front of your tvs

shall keep flooding  back

the meanings of those  moments. 

 

In the citadel  of your patience  

lies a spot for your soul  

to gather the grief to handle.

Wanton violence

startled  signals to stamp out

the plague

that scourges the defenseless lives.

Peace has been tested

in the cyclone of  the freshness

of early morning.

 

The panorama of the grimness

outlines the blueprints

for the nest of tomorrow.

The season of the dense fog of danger

standing as the wall of wadding                 

has  dissolved

in the fold of the spring.

Skies

spread their prismic wings

over the forces of confusion 

for new vistas to emerge.

 

The days of inconsolable distress

have rolled off.                                                              

The lotus of the present

blooms in new waters of decision.             

Shadows have passed

the blood, dust and smoke              

have cleared

yet the bones of a mother’s  love

remain dislocated.

 

The discerning art of physicians

heals

but healing a mother

wounded in her backyard

is another story.  

 

Dear mothers

do not unfold                                                 

the bed of the past

a broken image

in the foggy mirror.

There are cradles

in which                     

new babies of aspiration

are to be rocked.      

 

=======================================

 

(31)

Car bombs, mobility and might 

have become the toys of robots. 

They know how and when

to free their unfed tigers

from the cages of  depravity

to stifle democracy.

 

With knowledge,

easy money and weight

they become maniac messiahs

to snuff out the flickers

of the inner blaze.

Breathing the stink of ferocity

for pastime

they still the nightingale of freedoms 

uprooting the tree where she sings.

 

They smash welcoming doors.

Shafts of steel

warble in the smoky bar

of self-glory

to dig ditches for agonies

and spread a carpet of paralyzing fear

to mangle mothers

and wives.

 

With a repulsive pump  


they inflate balloons 

of their willful delusions

to soar

above the unexpected heights.                   

They do not see

opening to the sky

as does a butterfly.

 

They lead governments

for more road blocks

metal detectors

bomb sniffing dogs

and  fresh looks at newcomers.

Eerie paths of their pleasures

shape public opinions to accept unhappily

surveillance cameras

and

electronic screening.

                                                    

Their relentless pursuits

to grab  the crown of chaos

swim political pendulums

to promote quick deportations

and wiretappings.

Their brutal feuds

with  human rights  

force regimes to extend

easy arrests.

 

In the plutonium trade                       

smuggles are more likely

by these dukes of fruitless longing.

In the windowless cells

of anarchistic gospel

they prepare terror

with the weeds of ignorance

on the fire of savagery  

in the pots soooted with conceit.

Citizens of peace

robots cannot be bridled

from the fortified bunkers.

Lament from the top of your shelters

because your  freedoms 

cannot be defended now                                         

even by the mightiest armies.

 

=======================================

 

 


(35)

I open eyes

from my deep meditation

at the wilderness of my retreat

because I find you not there.

 

I stop counting the beads

in the cycle of monotony

for it drops the seeker in me

into the well of emptiness.

 

I find the artifacts

of stones and clay

within the cloistered walls

of sky-touching domes

where the waves of human life

flow once a week

to bow

in silence

 

=======================================

 


(41)

You knock at the doors

of the ruins of my hours

modestly sit beside me.

 

Engrossed in chats

we finish  cups of tea

playing hide and seek

in lonesomeness

we empty more cups.

 

A pleasant wind

carries us away

freed from chains

hair rumpled

we are attuned to the stars.

Along the self-composed clouds

we trail.

 

=====================================

 

 


(42)

When in spring

net of the day asundered

and dark ravines

begin to reveal themselves

I seek solace in a garden

where flowers bathe

in a shower of peace.

I feel the feathers of a rose.

Your presence I find inside

softly wrapped.

 

When those glow worms above

push aside

their curtain of isolation

and when intoxicating wind

is set free

I visit the nearest waterfalls

where painfully sweet melodies

retreat into a soothing womb.

I see your face emerging

in those falls.

 

When

a spring unpacks the snow

burying alive the tender boughs

and storms spoil calm

I long for your warmth.

 


When there is diffusion                                

of another dawn

and the denizens of the air

spread their tunes

in a symphony that is strange

yet sweet

I hear your voice ringing.

 

===================================

 

(46)

The radiance from  the flame

that emanates  from the dense canopy

of your bounty

I have painted  with unspoken thoughts

on the inner wall of my fancy.

I study it 

under the lenses of astonishing care

to dissect the order of the days

when Nirvana hung around.

No smiles 

no tears

suddenly our links were severed.  

 

From a golden cage

of snow‑capped desolation

I long for the shower of a gentle gale

from the beach

where I shall canonize

the petals of freedoms

for my joy to be full.

 

Frilled with the reddest rubies

of my passion

here I shall devise a basilica for you

where my daffodils shall never die

and the effervescent laces of my lyrics 

stretch their endless wings 

through a new universe of the brain cells

of my imagery.  

 

=========================================

 

(54)

Moving with crutches

under their armpits of insensitivity

the artisans of insidious shocks   

defile orchards of your stainless holiness

with the sputum of false gods.

 

They crush buds

with bulldozers

wearing the gown of sanctimony

to cover the nakedness

of their disease

that eats away

the flesh of peace.

 

With singular eagerness 

you accept

even these deranged savages

who erupt the lava of devastation  

from the depressive corridors

of their oddest mania.  

You wait

within the shoreless mansion

of your patience

for these prodigals to return.

 

=============================

 

(59)

This is

the palace of peace.

Years of brain-rattling forces

high on a cocktail of arrogance

ignorance

and an ideology of sickness

have sealed its doors.

Do not look inside                

through its openings

painted with the pigment of poison.

Under its ceiling

terrorists have raised

the beasts of their twisted creeds.

They are prisoners

to the cult of the kingdom  

where ill-winds blow

the noxious emission of no hope.

 

Within the void

of the narrowness of this palace

you will see

blinding redness floating.

Do not come

out of the bounds

of your freedoms

you would be wounded.

 

Here

the litany of the rituals 

unveils the hidden ugliness

of the inglorious advocates

of wicked designs.

 

This palace stands

between pointed rocks

on the bones

blended with the blood

of blameless citizens

and children.

 

In its kitchen

malice is prepared

within its walls

aspirations of mothers

have been buried

the back of its roof

has been arched

with the weight of firearms.

The princess of the self-respect

sheds tears with strangled cries

in the nights of the frozen grave.

Candles had been put out

long long ago.

 

Do not step outside of your solitude

overpowering stench of the palace

would canker the sanity 

of your sensibilities.

It is the ruin

where the swords of its pilgrims

twinkle

in the wrinkles of the religion

of self-glory.

This is the palace of peace

do not come near.

 

====================================

 

(60)

Where creeds are  not crushed

and human gods do not feed

the vultures of  war

that island of yours

defends the dignity of freedoms

that is distinctive and charming.   

 

Where life is not anchored

to the strands of zealots

and  crocodiles of disharmony

do not roam around

that delta of yours

dwells in the woods of blessedness

under the borderless sky

that is lofty and pleasing.

 

Where the cactus of shame

does  not mushroom

and the evil birds of bloodshed

do not defile

the nests of my vision  

that lushy bloom of roses

touches the hem of the gown

that is the epitome of your beauty.

 

Where the dove  flies without fear 

and the lilies of justice

blossom  for all

that domain of yours

assures a comforting niche

for  the songs I write

for you.

 

Where the streams of youth

do not cease flowing

and despair does not nail tents

over the greenery of the dreams

under the constellation of calm

that land of yours

calls me to gather pearls

from the ocean  of your wisdom.


 

\Where love is not suffocated

and the twigs are not damaged

by the trotting swarm of savages

that oasis of yours

wants me to break my chains

to breathe the amazing fragrance

of your presence.

 

Where waves snuggle sands          

and soul is free

that shore of yours

commands  me to chase out

the dragons of your absence

from those hills

where they reign

in the darkness of the graveyard.

 

As a mad prophet in painful ecstasy

I shall bathe

in the mystical falls of those regions

that are steeped in the melody

that sobs in the radiance

of your gentle warmth.

 

=======================================

 

(62)

To direct my steps

towards the shores of the pure bliss

of your peace 

I shall dip in the esoteric stream

that meanders along the woodlands

of my absolute fidelity.

Covered with the cassock

of the unbreakable bond

I shall go over the ablaze alp

where the sad unwanted clutter

of the rational ground

consumes into ashes

and the smog of doubts disappears.

 

I shall aggressively pursue my odyssey

through the barren regions of the moor 

where the scamps of ego erect

the deceitful caves

and the reptiles of the debasing bargain

roam.

The radiation of their enticements

shall fail to lead me

into the blindness of their hopeless muddle.

 

The echoes of their moans 

shall bear no desirable flavour

for me

because of the smell of my lilac

that is more animating 

than their tempting promises.

========================

 

 

 


============================

 

The Flame, Vesta Publications 2008, 152 pages, paper back, ISBN : 978-0-919301-21-3, $ 10.30

 

 

OPINIONS :

 

*The Flame, the longest poem on modern terrorism by Stephen Gill, is a sprinkler of peace in the dark cloudy nights … 

In recent years when the explosions of dynamite and roars of the mortars are deafening humans and the dance of terrorists is posing a real threat to human liberty, the Flame by Dr. Stephen Gill is a sprinkler of peace. While the rising blaze of terrorism is swallowing humanity, The Flame suggests to control this blaze by using the water of peaceful means.  It is a unique experience to read the longest  poem ever written on terrorism that illustrates the ultimate solution towards peace.

       The Flame is the latest book written by Dr. Stephen Gill, who has authored many volumes to express his vision.  During current disastrous geo-political situation in different parts of the world when a majority of writers prefer to be silent, Stephen Gill is a voice in wilderness but in truth he is a real champion of peace.

       The peace poetry in the present era is still a rare commodity.   A majority of poets are silent about the burning olive leaves by the cruel hands of terrorists. The destination chosen by Stephen Gill to spread the fragrance of peace with his poetry strengthens the efforts of leaders who struggle for harmony.

      I wrote poems during my school days and passionately read poetry of famous Urdu poets. I was fond of poetry, which had short lines, because that indicated a full control of the poet on his or her work.    It was amazing to read Jazeera,   a collection of Urdu poems of Stephen Gill, where nearly all poems have short lines. This reveals the soul of each poem in a few words—a difficult job indeed. 

       The Flame is about a long history of peace expressed in every verse in solid form and with fresh imagery, which make the Flame a masterpiece. The Flame is not the flame of terror but the flame of peace.

      I do not know, why Stephen Gill is still a blossom in wilderness when he deserves to be a renowned envoy of peace of some esteemed organizations and on the peak of his fame. It seems that the world still accepts readily those who write about sensational aspects, violence and sex,  instead of those who write peacefully for peace. (Dr.. Nazir Bhatti,  editor-in chief of Pakistan Christian Post. His book The Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation is going to be released in  2008)

*The Flame is the longest poem                                                                                                                                                                                               The Flame is the longest poem on  terrorism in the last two or three decades. I have checked all the other available sources. Modern  terrorism is indeed a recent phenomenon. I have visited  The Gazette  and enjoyed reading the poems from The Flame and the critique on Gill and for sure, Dr. Bhatti, the commentator and the chief editor of Pakistan Christian Post is right. I have decided to write a critique on  The Flame  after receiving the copy. Please give me sufficient time and I hope to come out with an intelligent and resourceful critique. (Dr. . Dominic Savio, Reader in English, Kamraj University, India)                                                       

*A different message in the Flame grabs my attention

Usually I avoid giving  my opinion on  books.  The  Flame  is  quite different when it comes to  message of world peace. It is this message that grabs my attention and forces  me to write.

       Religious fanatics of today  are busy finding new ways for  atrocities, including  murder, suicide bombing, and rape. In this environment, the Flame, Dr. Stephen Gill ‘s latest book, is most appropriate and timely. Peace is the message of  the Flam,   the longest poem in English. Dr. Gill paints a touching picture with the colors of life and death, fear and  hostility, love and torture, humanity and  bloodshed for the massive awareness without being prejudice.   Dr. Gill has been building bridges  for years through his  articles, speeches and  books. I am confident that The Flam, a book of 152 pages that conveys  a  long poetic message of peace, will be a unique contribution to Global Peace.

(An artist, Steve Almas from Canada is a prominent poet of Urdu).

 

*Stephen Gill condemns terrorism in his poetic way in the Flame

The Flame, a long poem of one hundred and fifty-two pages, is about the destruction caused by maniac messiahs.    Terrorism, which is born in the diabolical minds of religious, political and financial fanatics, is probably the single most dangerous enemy to world peace. What a blessing to have poets  like Dr. Stephen Gill, who boldly declares through their  poetic art about human  responsibilities to create and maintain peace in the  world. The Flame--  Dr. Gill’s latest book, is a perfect example of that. Filled with provoking questions, this long poem challenges to see  humanity through the eyes of the  Divine love.  The Flame unfolds a tragic  story that reveals  the diabolic work  and how, by igniting the flame of peace,  humans  can defeat the monster of terrorism. . The darkness  can be defeated  with the light of revelation and grace. Silence is not the answer.  Voices together with Dr. Stephen Gill , should condemn the demon of terrorism to establish the state of lasting peace.

 (Nikola Dimitrov, author of three book, is  ordained minister of Living Faith Ministry International in Bulgaria) nikolahelen@gmail.com

 

*Struck in a unique way while reading The Flame ..
While browsing through Dr Stephen Gill’s  152-page poetry book, The Flame,  I am  stuck in  a unique way. Dr Gill  lashes at the ‘maniac messiahs’ who love going on rampage, destroying peace and harmony on their way to gain their own selfish ends. These religious fanatics  are out to bedevil human relation without delving deep into what religion means. They commit atrocities in the name of religion.
 As I am reading the poetry book, I  get  the impression that the poet  personifies  the flame that dwells in every peace-loving man and woman and invokes it to manifest itself as a harmonizer, a harbinger of peace, as in the following opening lines of this long poem:
                          

 You are the imperishable harmony
 that reaps unparalleled prosperity.
(P. 32)
  

This book deserves to be read by  poetry-loving people, because  it gives  a message about global peace in an artistic way. (Dr. Bhaskar Roy Barman, author of Gateway to Heaven ( a novel) and other books,  is  president of World Literature Society. )

 

*A Note on Stephen Gill’s The Flame                                                                                                                                                                                     While editing my recent book on Stephen Gill, I found that a note of feverish anxiety runs through his creative works. This ambassador of peace is perturbed because of the destruction of calm, peace and tranquility in the world by the maniac messiahs. The same distaste for ‘the avatars of savagery’ is to be found in his latest poetic work, The Flame, which is divided into eight parts and sixty two cantos. The following expression from the thirteenth canto is sure to touch the innermost chords of the reader’s heart:

 

There was an arm and a head

and a woman’s leg

from the knee down

the rest was buried under the rubble.

A body appeared

to have been through

a meat grinder.

There was an open chest cavity

beside a headless torso.

 

The just-quoted lines exhibit the presence of the senseless and chaotic violence, pervading the human society. Gill’s heart is ever crying, for this ‘blood-dimmed tide’ of carnivorous violence is devouring the humans.

     I hope the book may enlighten the flame of compassion and sacrifice in the human society, filled with ‘remorseless forces of brutalities.’Another important point about this book is its autobiographical preface, which outlines the growth of Gill’s career as a writer. Gill’s experiences may serve as instructive prescriptions for the budding and upcoming writers. One such experience, which he shares with the readers, is that he always keeps ‘a notebook to put down any striking word or phrase that comes across during a talk, reading or from anywhere.’

     Besides, the preface of the book is marked by extraordinary candour and frankness of Gill. How many intellectuals and writers can confess as truthfully as Gill has done in the following lines:

 

My one problem was my early education that did not help me gain self-confidence and skill. It was my early education that remained a serious obstacle in my life. I had attended the cheapest schools that were run by governments. In these schools, the media of instruction was the local language. English was touched nominally at the elementary level without any emphasis on conversation…

 

      My question is—Do the other writers and poets have the same courage and moral strength to speak in such a candid manner about their earlier career and life? Gill has done it in The Flame. It shows the man behind the words—a good natured man with a transparent heart.

     The Flame, from the pen of such a man, must be read by the citizens of the world to eliminate ‘the jungle/ of deafening disorder’ from the hearts. I strongly recommend this book to the people of all nationalities, communities, classes and castes. If language is the barrier, it must be translated into several native languages. The intellectuals and writers must come forward to translate this monumental work into several other world languages. (Dr .Nilanshu  Agarwal is Senior Lecturer in English at Feroze Gandhi College, Rae Bareli, (U.P.), India. His book Discovering Stephen Gil is to be released shortly.)

 

*Deep and highly moving poem

I have had the honour of going through highly thought-provoking, touching, deep and highly moving long poem the Flame by Dr Stephen Gill. It reminds me of Walcott's poem “Sea Grapes” and Neruda's poem “Tonight I can Write”. Similar sentiments flow from the Flame. Dr Gill, a well known champion of world peace and harmony, yet again comes out with distinct vision and message. A unique poem, subtle and absorbing. This poem by itself can be a subject of doctoral dissertations  at post graduate level.

(KKSrivastava, Jaipur, INDIA, author of Ineluctable Stillness, and An Armless Hand Writes )

 

 

*Stephen Gill’s Flame is an epic poem in the composition of which the author has invested all his skills as a poet, a thinker and a philosopher

Stephen Gill holds up high with burning passion the Flame of Peace. This commitment is rooted in his life-long encounters with humankind’s incorrigible tendency to succumb time and again to the evil charms of religious fanaticism, ultra-nationalism and racism. The Flame is an epic poem in the composition of which the author has invested all his skills as a poet, a thinker and a philosopher of the weak and oppressed. The end result is a creative work of such overwhelming beauty – notwithstanding the fact that most of the space is devoted to depicting the ugly faces of self-righteousness, cultural arrogance, violence and terrorism. The beauty is naturally not in the shocking and depressing data that he presents, but the argument for peace that he advances as each facet of human wickedness is reviewed in light of his own message and philosophy of peace and love. I have been profoundly touched and moved by the author’s goodness of heart and idealism.

(Author and peace activist, Professor Ishtiaq Ahmed teaches at  Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore , and Stockholm University.)

 

 

 

Stephen Gill (stephengill@cogeco.ca)

www.stephengill.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

©copyright Stephen Gill

 

Email: stephengill@cogeco.ca