You who I have heard spoken so highly of,
You who mean so much to so many that I love,
You who left ripples so clear and far
Like the shining twinkle of a long dead star,
You whose presence is felt even in absence
Like the after-note of a Veena-string hanging in resonance,
You whose legacy of both body and mind
Has crossed barriers and bridges, space and time,
You who I never met, so cannot mourn, miss or grieve
Are one who was never here, and thus can never leave.
Your choices and moods impress themselves upon my life
Through the veil, reaching across the darkness into light
And I know there is nothing that I can’t make through
Because although I have no memory, I have an idea of you.
~ Terence Tuhinanshu, May 6 2015
This is an unusual poem for me because it is written from my own perspective: usually I write as a character, as someone else, in a world of fantasy. This is one of my more real works, and lacks the imaginary quality that I tend to use in most poems.
The inspiration for this came when a close friend suddenly lost her father. She had told me of him many times, but I had never met him. I had hoped that one day I would, because he sounded like an absolute legend. Now that he’s gone I am sad for my friend because she lost her father, but also sad and frustrated for myself because I will never get to meet him, and because I cannot share my friend’s grief.
But this is also dedicated to my grandfather Pt Lalmani Misra who died long before I was born, and also to my uncle Pt Gopal Shankar Misra who died when I was too young to really know him. These are people that I have heard of, whose works I have been immersed in, whose ideas and values and choices have guided so much of my own life, yet I have never met them.
“shining twinkle of a long dead star” is a homage to my friend’s father who once worked in NASA. Space and time have frequently been the topic of our conversations. There is beauty and sadness in the fact that so many of the stars we see at night are long dead, but they are so far that we can still see their light from eons ago.
“after-note of a Veena-string hanging in resonance” is tribute to both my grandfather and uncle, both of whom were masterful and renowned Vichitra Veena players.
“Legacy of body” refers to lineage, because I know of my friend’s father through her, and my grandfather and uncle through my mother. “Legacy of mind” refers to ideas and work. “Barriers and bridges” refer to the cross-cultural acclaim and understanding each of them enjoyed, both before and after their passing. “Space and time” refer to the fact that people still remember my grandfather 30 years after his death, not only in India but here in Philadelphia which is so far away. It is also a reference to general work in astrophysics and thus another tribute to my friend’s father.
“one who was never here, thus can never leave” refers to the fact that I never really knew any of them personally, thus they were “never here” for me. Yet their persona and effects can be felt, and will always affect the people around me, and “thus can never leave”.
“Through the veil” refers to the veil of death in the execution chamber of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry Potter references are not uncommon in my conversations with my friend.
The spark-lines of this poem are the first two: “You who I have heard spoken so highly of, You who mean so much to so many that I love”, and everything else follows from that. The title was the last piece, which dawned on me after I read the poem the fourth time. I was initially thinking of just “You”, but that is too vague and doesn’t capture the central feeling. Also, I like how when reading one gets to the end and the title finally makes sense. It is slightly borrowed from the Sandman volume “A Game of You”, although it is as dissimilar in content as it is similar in title.