All in White- The Vaccines

So this is a brief break from the usual poetry posts. This is actually a random rant, which this blog was originally intended for. Recently, a friend introduced me to this amazing new world of Indie Rock music by a british band called ‘The Vaccines’. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them or not, but they’re amazing. I have a very varied taste when it comes to music. I tend to like most genres. But more than the actual genre, I focus on the song, regardless of if its Rock or Trance or Mainstream Pop. If I like the song, the genre is irrelevant to me. As for the song, because I don’t focus on only one aspect such as the beat or the lyrics, my tastes tend to be rather subjective. There are times when I adore trance. For example, as strange as it sounds, to focus more when I study, I listen to trance and when I write essays, I listen to Classical Symphonies for the same reason. However, when it does come to the lyrics, I am rather picky. I tend to stay clear of the Taylor Swift love ballads. I generally like the more depressing dark music- Within Temptation and other such bands. Occasionally though, I do like the mainstream pop songs. If I do like a song though, I end up listening to the same song on repeat over and over, until I finally do get bored of that particular song. However, this is not to discuss my musical tastes today. This is to discuss my latest obsessions.

The first one is my latest obsession- ‘All in White’ by The Vaccines.

First of all, the beat of the song is absolutely gorgeous. Then, there is the matter of the absolutely hypnotic voice of Jay Jay Pistolet. Once you do get over all of that, which I assure you, will take quite some time, comes the matter of the absolutely brilliant lyrics.

The first stanza itself caught my absolute attention when I heard the following lines:

Tout me, doubt me, show me all of your power
I will watch you rise on my back from the ground
Friend or foe?
I don’t know

As such, these sound to be such reassuring lines. The fact that he would let the person simply show him all their power and capabilities while lying on the ground and watching them rise is something only and only a true friend would do. In an attempt to reassure the friend, they would allow them to show their full and absolute abilities. That would not be interpreted as boasting though. It would be a simple show case of abilities. Sometimes, even the most confident of people doubt their own abilities and thus, it feels nice to have someone watch them. That is what the first two lines translate to me. Then comes the ‘Friend or foe? I don’t know’. The very fact that he still doubts if the person is a friend or foe is something we all have done at least once in our lives. The world has 7.1 billion people. Naturally, not everyone would get along. Moreover, sometimes, I tend to feel exceedingly lonely in a room filled with people. Therefore, its hard to establish human connections with people, more so these days because deception and manipulation seem to be the current trend. Hence, I personally did connect with the lyrics and his confusion when he admits that he doesn’t know if this person is a friend or a foe.

Then, there is the chorus.

“Show we ‘low quotations
Have you earned your stripes?
Fabricate salvation
Lord, I know your type
I’ve known you all my life
I was always wrong, you all in white”

I absolutely am in love with the line ‘Have you earned your stripes?’. Stripes, according to me would translate to bravery. The bravest of the soldiers are awarded stripes by their respective governments for exceptional acts of bravery shown on the battlefield. Then, there is my favorite line of the entire song: ‘Fabricate salvation’. It is one of the most gorgeous phrases I have ever heard. If you can’t achieve true salvation, simply fabricate it. Or maybe, at one point of your life, you will wake up to realize that what you thought was salvation never was salvation to begin with. You simply fabricated it to make yourself feel better. We all have done that at some point of our lives. When things get really bad, don’t we always look at the positives? That is the fabrication of salvation. That phrase can be interpreted in so many different ways. Its such a gorgeous phrase and I absolutely adore the song because of it. I think its time that I admit that I slightly do obsess over the song because of the phrase.

As for the last three lines, when he finally realizes that he’s always known this person his life, it translates to the fact that this person has always been by his side no matter what. Is it a lover, a friend, a family member? Who knows? That is for the listener to interpret. The only hint he gives is the fact that he idolizes this person,  by raising them to the pedestal of an angel, through the phrase ‘all in white’. Hence, this person is clearly a very significant influence in his life and come to think of it, we all have at least one person like that in our lives.

‘Oh my god, I think I’m hearing double’

That line, to me translates to deception and manipulation. Every single person has two faces. The fact that he is hearing double could mean that he  is being tricked and at this point, the importance of a friend becomes all the more important.

‘I don’t know now you’re up in the stars

But I will one day shine with you
I’ll shine on a faithful few

The fact that the person is ‘up in the stars’ clearly indicates that who ever this is, happens to be dead now. They always do say that once a person dies their best qualities are highlighted by the people who miss them the most. It is their way of copping with the sudden change. However, his optimism in ‘shine with you’ indicates that one day, he hopes to be reunited with whoever this is and he will continue to wish for this. The reason he wishes to ‘shine’ is to influence  a select few, just the way this person influenced his life.

I have found that most of the songs of The Vaccines tend to have a rather nostalgic tone to them. They are very self-reflective and touching really. Off course, the lyrics play a very important part in creating this effect. However, the other reason this effect is created is because of the way it is sung.  Pistolet’s voice holds that raspy, almost vintage quality people tend to associate with the past. His almost hypnotic voice commands absolute attention of the listener, along with the rrather addictive background. However, the maximum effect is achieved when the song falls from its crescendo, ebbing towards the end. The background song seems to fade away, leaving his voice only. The tone becomes slower, drawing more attention to his voice. It emphasizes the message of the song further, almost haunting the listener in their mind. That is when he sing:

‘Lord, I know your type
I’ve known you all my life
I was always wrong, you all in white’

Child Soldier

War is that point of negotiations when whords are no longer enough.

Now, its all left to who holds the best.

Brick by brick falls to pieces

desperate yells silenced.

The sun glares. The rain screams

Thunder- the orchestra of the explosion of grenades,

while lightening rips across the sky, slicing the empire of the clouds, the same way

the sword slices human flesh-

like butter.

The moon is red. It bleeds, collecting and attracting blood from the sliced

decaying remains rotting on the fields where the war was silenced, the same

way a magnet attracts metal to itself.

Ceasefire cleanses the clamour of the previous night.

After all, no longer is the child soldier compelled to fight.

Years fly by, like the birds who’s wings rule the kingdom of the supposed heaven.

The sun smiles now.

The moon is gentle.

Thunder is soft.

Lightening is spectacular.

Flowers bloom on the forgotten battlefield-

red, blue and a rainbow of colored petals with a jade green grass background,

covering up the previous horrors brilliantly,

just as a bright smile does.

Yet, the child soldier,  now turned adult holds the eyes of a warrior and the grim smile

of one who’s soul was snatched away

by the Gods of this demented warfare.

Blood

Nothing has changed.

Knives tore flesh apart.

Knives were stained with blood.

Knives tore us apart.

Today the same knife is a bullet,

shot from a gun-

one trigger, one finger, one thought.

“blood lust, blood gore, blood sabotage

what more do you want?

blood enemies, pick up the knife,

shoot the bullet. end the universe tonight,”

At one point, this was the language of adults.

Today, this is the dialect of childhood.

Oscar Wilde once said,

“Every man must kill the thing he loves,”

Nothing has changed.

Shoot the bullet.

End the universe tonight.

Follow the light.

Don’t bother putting up a fight.

After all, you did know-

Satan is always right.

Shark Tale.

The sea is vast.

Blue, green, silver- water.

It is the realm of water, where fins, tails and

gills are predominant;

where the human limb and lung is nothing but

an inconvenience.

It is the food for the carnivorous fishes-

seasoned with seaweed an sea salt,

served cold and raw- catering perfectly to their tastes.

You can swim with them, with your heavy black

scuba gear but the moment you try to hunt them,

recall your child being snatched away and its heart being pierced

in front of your eyes.

co-exist. or do not exist.

Addiction.

Smoke curled from the ends of your lit ciggarette.

Alcohol stained the air-

Vodka, Rum, Tequila-

who knows? who cares?

The nights are blurred.

The days are dazed.

faces forgotten, words ignored.

Time lost.

Anger to ecstasy-

emotions heightened. An emotional roller-coaster.

Stop, but don’t.

Reality’s overrated.

Let’s start a new trend.

Confusion is the anthem of the youth;

the dominant trait of my chameleon soul.

Dreams abandoned.

Thoughts forgotten.

Aspirations stolen.

Music drowned the words.

Leave, but stay.

Stop, but stay.

Its a paradox.

Death is my remedy.

Blood is my addiction.

Confusion  is my permanent state of mind.

Repulsion are my thoughts.

Cruelty is my nature.

Redemption is false.

Peace is an illusion.

Indifference is my pathway.

Stop, but don’t.

Its a paradox.

Let’s start a new trend.

Moving On

Inspired by ‘Wetsuit‘ by the Vaccines at 12 am.

Sunrise. Sunset.

Dawn. Dusk.

The clock ticks, seconds fly-

Like the birds whose wings rule the vast sky?

Each feather gliding down carelessly,

Like the white cotton clouds that glide across the sky.

What is the horizon?

The point where the earth and sky meet.

It’s an explosion of colors-

A thousand shades converging at one single point.

It looks so close but the moment you begin to reach for it,

All your fingers grab are the invisible strands of the winds,

Gentle and calm- they’re in a good mood today.

The horizon escapes, playing a game of hide and seek,

Just as you played with your siblings and your friends as a child.

Sunrise. Sunset.

Dawn. Dusk.

The clock ticks and seconds fly,

Lying on the grass,

Idle and free,

Watching the days glide by.

“Tortures” by Wisława Szymborska

This has to be one of the most moving poems I have read in a long time. Like any poetry, it can be interpreted in a thousand different ways. I’d like to give my own interpretation to the poem. Wislawa Szymborska, often described as the ‘mozart of poetry’. Polish, born in 2 July 1923 in Prowent, Poland, in 1996 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.” She became better known internationally as a result of this. Her work has been translated into English and many  European Languages, as well as into Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese and Chinese. Wisława Szymborska died 1 February 2012 at home in Kraków, aged 88. Her personal assistant, Michał Rusinek, confirmed the information and said that she “died peacefully, in her sleep”.She was surrounded by friends and relatives at the time. Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski described her death on Twitter as an “irreparable loss to Poland’s culture”. She was working on new poetry right until her death, though she was unable to arrange her final efforts for a book in the way she would have wanted. Her last poetry was published later in 2012.

“Tortures” by Wisława Szymborska

Nothing has changed.
The body is susceptible to pain,
it must eat and breathe air and sleep,
it has thin skin and blood right underneath,
an adequate stock of teeth and nails,
its bones are breakable, its joints are stretchable.
In tortures all this is taken into account.

The fact that Wislawa begins with ‘Nothing has changed’ distinctly sets the tone for the entire poem. It clearly indicates that even in the so called ‘modern’ world, things are absolutely the same. This is further reinforced by her description of the body from Line 2-6. At the end of the day, prehistoric or modern, the human body has remained absolutely same and thus, nothing really has changed.

The descriptions in line 2-6 are rather interesting. ‘It must eat and breathe air and sleep’ in Line 3 for example, if deprived of these aspects, the human body slowly begins to decay and that is a form of torture. The fact that she describes the human body as having ‘thin skin and blood right underneath’ indicates how fragile we truly are. To remain strong, people often tell you to “grow thicker skin”. However, Wislawa indicates that no matter what you wish, the human body will always have thin skin and thus, there are certain aspects of life which we simply can not shrug off.

The fragility of the human body is further reinforced by the alteration ‘bones are breakable’. The repetition of the ‘b’ sound can be interpreted as the explosion of bombs on a battle field. For the sort of torture described by Wislawa, it often occurs during battle, when the other side captures prisoners of war. Hence, she could be alluding to that.

The fact that the human body seems to have an ‘adequate stock of teeth and nails’ almost sounds like a green light for torture. We have more than enough and hence, if a few are ripped off our skin, it would hardly matter as they would grow back. Thus, it sounds almost encouraging.

The last line of the stanza: ‘In tortures all this is taken into account’ draws an eeire picture of the idea of torture. Once again, it indicates that from the start of time, the methods of torture have never changed because the human body has never evolved into something different. Thus, no matter how ‘modern’ we may become, the existence of such torturous practices indicate that we are and always will be fundamentally the same.

Nothing has changed.
The body shudders as it shuddered
before the founding of Rome and after,
in the twentieth century before and after Christ.
Tortures are as they were, it’s just the earth that’s grown smaller,
and whatever happens seems right on the other side of the wall.

Wislawa begins the second stanza with ‘Nothing has changed’. That one statement reinforces the thoughts of the first stanza  bluntly stating that as long as the human body does not evolve, nothing will change. This is because the human body has the same flaws as it had ‘in the twentieth century and after Christ’. Both Lines 10 and 11 provide a wide spectrum of time indicating the rough timeline of human history by listing out some of the most important periods of human history.

In line 8, ‘shudders as it shuddered’ indicates, once again how the human body really hasn’t changed. Moreover, repeating the ‘s’ sound, it alludes to a snake, indicating how treacherous people can be at times, especially during times of war. It also may allude to the snake-like nature of most people. Every person has their positives and their negatives and thus, the snake here may allude to this fact.

When Wislawa states that “Tortures are as they were, it’s just the earth that’s grown smaller,” clearly indicates that the only difference between then and now is that the human population has exploded to such an extent that the earth seems smaller. Due to this, whatever torture practices are implemented are amplified.

In the last line of the stanza, ‘whatever happens seems right on the other side of the wall’, Wislawa may be alluding to the Berlin Wall. At the time, the entire world considered communism to be the spawn of evil. Hence, it was automatically assumed that life in East Germany was horrid. For that reason, ‘whatever seems right’ would be practiced on the other side of the wall- in West Berlin. This was particularly common for those who grew up in the restricting, repressive nature of communism. To them, the capitalist philosophy was absolutely liberating. Wislawa may have carried over the same sentiments, having lived in Communist Poland herself.

Nothing has changed. It’s just that there are more people,
besides the old offenses new ones have appeared,
real, imaginary, temporary, and none,
but the howl with which the body responds to them,
was, is and ever will be a howl of innocence
according to the time-honored scale and tonality.

Wislawa begins the stanza once again, by the line ‘Nothing has changed. It’s just that there are more people’. She reestablishes that because the human population has absolutely exploded after the industrial revolution, every single offense is absolutely amplified as it is committed over far more people now. 

In line 15-16, ‘besides the old offenses new ones have appeared, real, imaginary, temporary, and none,’ Wislawa indicates how the art of warfare has changed overtime. At first, it was spheres and arrows. Now, its bullets and bombs.  Present warfare also includes chemical weapons- biological warfare. Especially during the Vietnam War, the US were accused primarily for crimes against humanity for using weapons such as Agent Orange that left permanent effects on the population of Vietnam, seen even today. These included strange mutations such as having multiple limbs.

In Line 18, the phrase ‘is and ever will be a howl of innocence’ indicates that although soldiers are not always innocent, they are still tortured as prisoners of war. However, a twisted reality could condemn them to such a thing for killing the soldiers of the enemy. But, what about the innocent civilians who simply could not get away fast enough? They would still be tortured as if they were prisoners of war. Moreover, it isn’t about the civilians or the soldiers. All of them are simply pawns in the hands of the rich politicians who control the fate of the war. If anything, they should be the first ones who are tortured. Yet, they are not.  They are not.

Nothing has changed. Maybe just the manners, ceremonies, dances.
Yet the movement of the hands in protecting the head is the same.
The body writhes, jerks and tries to pull away,
its legs give out, it falls, the knees fly up,
it turns blue, swells, salivates and bleeds.

The only thing that has changed is the time.  From the Victorian era to the Roman era to the modern era we live in, the only thing that actually has changed is the values, ideals and norms of the society we live in. The people and the basic composition of humans has not changed. This is made clear by the phrase ‘the movement of the hands in protecting the head is the same’, which clearly indicates the raw human soul has still remained the same.

Line 23-25 create a rather violent picture, reinforcing the fact of torture. ‘swells,salivates’ repeat the ‘s’ sound, adding to the eerie atmosphere reinforced by the poem.

Nothing has changed. Except for the course of boundaries,
the line of forests, coasts, deserts and glaciers.
Amid these landscapes traipses the soul,
disappears, comes back, draws nearer, moves away,
alien to itself, elusive, at times certain, at others uncertain of its own existence,
while the body is and is and is
and has no place of its own.

When Wislawa finally repeats ‘Nothing has changed’ in the last stanza, it successfully creates a chanting effect through out the poem. It very heavily reinforces that absolutely nothing has changed. We live in the convenient illusion that everything has changed. By listing out the natural features such as ‘the line of forests, coasts, deserts and glaciers’ she expresses that no real natural feature has changed ever since the inception of the earth. Hence, if that has not changed, how on earth do we believe that everything has changed? It really hasn’t. That is what Wislawa conveys by starting each stanza with the phrase, ‘Nothing has changed’. The only thing that has changed are the ‘boundaries’, referring to wars. Countries fight wars to gain more territory and thus, boundaries keep changing. Its a never ending cycle of diplomacy.

In Line 28, ‘Amid these landscapes traipses the soul’, Wislawa creates the image of  the soul moving reluctantly and walking wearily. That image is further reinforced by the descriptions in Lines 29-30, ‘disappears, comes back, draws nearer, moves away, alien to itself, elusive, at times certain, at others uncertain of its own existence’. The hesitation of the soul is captured through these lines, as well as the fact that the soul is an absolutely abstract and elusive concept which still baffles yet intrigues us today. The fact that the soul is described to be ‘alien to itself’ translates to the fact that the soul does not understand itself at times. Its a concept that even the soul itself fails to understand and the fact that it is ‘uncertain of its own existence’ portrays how confused it really is. These two lines perfectly capture the human existence. Every single individual, at one point of their lives at least, is utterly confused about something. Off course, this is most commonly seen with teenagers as they transition from childhood to adulthood, questioning every thing life, causing them to be utterly confused about their existence.

The last two lines of the poem, ‘while the body is and is and is and has no place of its own’, create the picture of a dazed wanderer, who has no place they can successfully call home. They fail to fit in anywhere and spend their lives in desperate search of a place to simply fit in. The body is the way it always was, yet that does not aid the soul from simply being able to settle down, come to terms with itself and simply move on. Seen most commonly with soldiers returning back from the battlefield, they have trouble in settling down and adjusting back to life at peace times, having become absolutely used to life at the fronts. They are unable to come to terms with it often and spend their lives drowning in internal chaos and turmoil because of that. That too, is a form of torture in itself that everyone simply seems to ignore. For them, the war is not over as soon as the whistle of truce is blown. It is a constant  process which doesn’t really end until they come to terms with it. Tat is the most difficult process of all.

Hence, this poem, according to me, is an interpretation of a soldier’s experience at the battlefield.

Sheesha Cafe

Smoke-

rose flavored, laced with sugar and butter.

I love Turkish sweets.

Gentle spice.

Soft flavors.

An array of colors.

Variant shapes and sizes.

Clay plates.

Blue-tinted glasses.

Wooden tables.

Silver forks, spoons and knives.

White embroidered napkins.

Dim lights.

Echoing Arabic music.

Glass vases filled with roses.

Words unknown but the meaning familiar.

The world forgotten.

Echoing laughter.

The scent of Turkish coffee lingering.

Pinnacle of hunger.

Calmness finally achieved.

Citrus flavors dancing on my tongue.

Warm pita bread between my fingers.

The Gateway to the Middle East.

The start of the Iftar Fest.

I inhale my final breath to rest.

Rosewater, Turkish nuts, Honey, Filo pastry, melted Butter.

I crave Baklava.

Ghost

The sun was brightest,

The air was hottest,

The rain protested.

She was there.

Old, wrinkled-

A raisin

Dry tendrils of snow-white wispy hair,

Bottomless hazelnut pools of emptiness,

Tattered clothes crushed by age.

She was there.

She was a nameless face-

Fading away into the atmosphere,

Like the shrouds of carbon dioxide that burry our cities,

Exhaled by you and I.

Under that ancient tree,

Tall, imposing and vast-

She was there.

Bending down-

Her bones creaked in silent protest

Fingers shivered, pinching

Black-blue pearls of disregarded fruit that

Fell from the tree-

Tall, imposing and vast.

She stood up again,

A shattered figure that somehow was fixed.

She stood back up-

A hawk without its intimidation,

A swan without its grace,

Her back slightly hunched,

Her thin, dry lips-

lines of trembling palms, quivering,

filled with the unknown berries.

Her clothes, murdered by the weather.

She was there.

She whispered words-

A vanquished language silenced by the air and

The brigade of vehicles and ‘modernity’.

Her eyes, for a brief second,

Met the jade green leaves,

buried under layers of dust-flavored icing,

swaying freely in the cool pre-rain evening.

“are you vanquished woman, are you vanquished?”

The jade green leaves seemed to whisper to her.

She didn’t answer.

She simply repeated her cycle of collecting berries,

While the world past her.

She was the fleeting image in the window of the car-

Forgotten as soon as she was seen.

The air is frost-bitten.

The sun is dim.

The sky is a battlefield of grey.

The jade leaves quiver.

The black-blue berries shudder.

Her skin shivers.

Passing by faces whisper.

Falling raindrops glimmer.

Her body gets stiffer.

Passing by figures bicker.

The smoke in the air gets thicker.

The daylight fades quicker.

The day is over in a flicker.

But she was there.

Blood Moon Rising

The sun never rose that day.

It only set.

The dusk never came that day.

Only tides of blurred faces of the dead.

The shadows didn’t lurk anymore,

The wind ceased to blow,

The ice wouldn’t freeze anymore,

The rivers refused to flow.

The earth was stained red-

Stained with the blood of miscalculation and failure,

Tainted by the stink of rotting corpse

And echoing the damned footsteps of an expected hell.

Eyes didn’t flutter open,

Valentine’s day was forgotten,

Christmas became the celebration of the dead

And people starved, even past their death bed.

The air echoed the voice of the forgotten faces-

The abandoned children playing in tanks,

The aging man deafened by the demented orchestra of shells

The shrieks of women stuck in a permanent hopeless horror

and the gold-clad minister smiled as he hissed for the world to see,

“welcome to hell,”

Gifts were guns,

The infant leaves grew ruby red as yellow and orange-

The symphonies of glee,

Melted away into the river of severed heads.

The sun glared, annoyed and disgusted.

The moon screamed in haunting silence

As the last beating heart finally stopped,

Frozen at last.

The sun never rose that day,

It only set.

The dusk never came that day.

Only the severed limbs of the orphaned dead.