HOLIDAY IN HELL (A Poem)

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Up in the firmament are red-hot chimneys churning
And the violent blazing flames flaring
There is a fire of bright beams burning—
It is the sun with glorious gleams glaring

It warms over everything around
Conferring a hot, humid, or horrid ground
By its light can both good and bad be found
Albeit we being oblivious of its bound

Its light shines on both the green and rust
And it melts down the ice and frost
The white wilderness of the South is a thawed crust
While the Northern snowfield is being lost

Why does no one see it coming?
No one hears its tone ringing
Yet, it approaches with a buzz humming
And with certainty, it’s the song we’re singing

The sun shines on both the good and evil
Separating men from mules, and the damsel from a devil
Nevertheless, we choose the rot system of the moth and weevil
Until we are bowed down to the zero level

By an assertion of faith on Earth
Sanity and sanctity can be tied round your girth
If ever there be an end to virtue’s dearth:
Regain your humane nature; regain your birth!

Luke O. Ogar

DEAR DIARY… Can I Trust You?

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“There is no friend as loyal as a book”
Ernest Hemingway

Like the candle’s flame burning away, so does the sum of our years seem to smoulder day after day, minute after minute. And truly, everything seems unchanged by the minute, but looking aback, things never remain the same. This is where my diary tells me how foolish I was in the past, and how wise I am right now to be able to realise that I once wasn’t in the know.

And just like the diary, we “suddenly” realised that we existed. We couldn’t remember how we were born (at least for my case!), but we became aware after a number of years that someone special was in that body of ours. Similarly, I decided to keep a diary — one sudden morning — without any previous notice. This indeed is the beginning of our journey: a journey plagued with reminiscences, and where accountancy is not only for those in banks or trade stocks.

Pile Logs
A typical diary is filled with daily whims and musings of the writer. Nothing unique in particular, no pattern, and in fact, it’s sometimes not interesting to read. But look again, in the midst of all the paperwork lies a wonderful trend of simplicity which is the key to unlocking many doors (and locking down many others!). There are many answers we seek that will elude us simply because we are not “matured” enough to comprehend; and it’s only when look through the paper rubble that we can do the arithmetic sum and find out the ‘x’ in the equation.

But it takes both the “foolishness” and “humility” of a child to start up something today in the hope for wisdom tomorrow. Day after day, the ink and paper only seem to waste, all in the name of a better tomorrow. Such is the foolish wisdom which can only make us better humans.

Your Days are Numbered
A new morning, a day closer to the grave. Scary? No! I’d say it’s realistic, although there are better things to worry about than death. Besides, no one’s escaping it. Okay, death aside, our days are really numbered; and though it’s not exactly clear how many we have left, the diary teaches us to take one day at a time — serially numbered, appropriately ordered.

Although there is need for reference from previous pages, a new page has to be entered each day. And it’s a simple lesson about life’s progression despite the greatest tragedy that can ever happen to us. Nothing is ever worth an absolute halt, and so we forge on. And notice that some days have a lot to talk about, while other days may barely make two lines. All the same, each day needs an entry no matter how small; each day needs our own contribution, no matter how small.

The Silence of a Book
Books may quote volumes, but they certainly make the least noise. Speak all ye can, but it’s in listening that we gain more. Sometimes, we speak too loudly that we can’t hear ourselves talk. The silence of the book helps to quell this noise and hear ourselves when we are “sober” enough to listen.

This becomes the most important function of the diary — to speak volumes, only to the sane mind who wishes to comprehend; not of anything so spectacular, but of little things that the normal mind may not think of. It is true that simple words may hold in them the greatest of lessons, but then again, our lives are the greatest lessons we can learn from.

The Bias of the Writer
An unexamined life isn’t worth living; insincere thoughts aren’t worth keeping.  Once an adult, the child stops growing and stops learning. At the very moment where there is a deviation from the child-like willingness to learn, we would only turn our diaries to journals of praise singing, or books seeking self pity. Diaries are never like the exam sheet that needs a perfect answer for a 100% pass. It is rather a plain mirror on which we see ourselves as we really are.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of our failures and deficiencies; we should rather be ashamed that we never learn when we ought to. There is no need to have a diary if we write only of what pleases us, or what we want others to think of us. In short, the diary should be both an accuser and a comforter.

Can I Trust You?
I think the question should be rephrased: Can I trust myself? We so much look outwards for someone or something to blame, but not ourselves. Yes, dear diary! I can trust you. It’s myself I don’t trust. For I tell you what you ought to keep as a record, and I might possibly not want to ruin my proud self.

And just like the mirror on the wall, I expect you to always tell me that I am the fairest in the whole kingdom. Can I trust you? Yes, with my whole heart; as long as I want to be a child — an adult has no need for a rebuke or a dressing down. I fear that I will weep beyond consolation, and that my bleeding heart may never be mended again.

Yes, I have to trust you. The deep waters may be dark, but they hold more fish. Certainly, there is hope after the hurt.

Luke O. Ogar

IMPECCABLE (A Poem)

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I need no perfect ones
They are not my sons —
Those who love to sit in high places
And look down on the lowly with proud faces
It is ye who condemn on carnal basis
And wrap yourselves like kings in laces

I need no perfect ones
Those with loaded guns —
For they shoot at the frailty of the sinner
And cast him away like a loner
For envy, they would become greener
Until they see their neighbour become a moaner

I need no perfect ones
With self-righteousness in tons —
For with pride they are enriched
Carrying themselves in white gowns so bleached
But hiding away dark hearts so pitched
Till they shatter dreams and have good plans breached

I need no perfect ones
Who store up contempt like water in  gallons
Contempt for the man guided by a different rule
Deeming him a pitiable one and a fool
His dark heart is unlike theirs as white as wool
Such are their thoughts — devoid of self-examination in the cool

I need no perfect ones
They’ll burn in the fire of a thousand suns —
For they have no knowledge of good or right comprehension
Therefore, they’d be cast out as souls of attrition
Save yourselves, ye perfect ones — ye have no need of redemption
For the Lord will only save the people with hearts of contrition.

Luke O. Ogar

MAN AND WOMAN: Different or Defect?

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“…In the late 18th century, Sarah ‘Saartjie’ Baartman was taken from the Eastern Cape of South Africa to Europe. Why? She had unusual anatomical features including well-prominent buttocks (steatopygia). She was taken for exhibition in a freak show from thence onwards.

Today the freaks are back! And whether they’re called Miley, Nicki, or Kim, one thing remains: history hasn’t changed much.

So much noise has been made concerning feminism and gender equality. But what do we get? The same liberal women have given themselves back to the endorsement of the male folk.

In the ’70s and ’80s, the African dance, Mapouka, of Central Africa, was termed [as] sexist since it was a dance of a female twisting her posterior features to the cheers of a male-dominant audience. Today, twerking in the US has gone viral — a retouch of the Mapouka dance.

Sarah Baartman may not have been rich as the modern-day types, but they all still feed the growing male appetite for dominance. Break the Internet or not, your freedom has been sown into popularity based on the same men you accuse of marginal treatment.”

Conventional Male and Female
At a point in our lives, we realised we were male or female, or rather, we were told our different sexes. And as life would go on, our actions would seem to go along different lines. Such has been the case since man was known to exist. But because my last sentence uses “man” for the whole of the human race, some persons may feel uneasy — we shall discuss about this also.

The issue of male/female difference isn’t something abstract in any way. Even our languages have masculine and feminine components: from the nouns to specific attributes (e.g Father Time, Mother Earth). However, the differentiation of the sexes is not a human invention but rather something of as-it-was-in-the-beginning. There is, however, some belief that the role of the sexes is only a stereotype craftily invented to make some persons more equal than others.

Advocacy for Feminism
There is a warped ideology of the male being a virile, masculine beast ready to pounce upon any woman in order to satisfy his amorous desires. Although much of the feminism movement has evolved into well defined objectives, there is still a lot of rebound hate and grievance. No doubt, there has been a female relegation in many societies and cultures for so long, but never would this warrant a radical outrage against their fellow humans. Feminism is as old as the early 19th century when the word was coined. By the late 19th century, it was already a well known concept in many parts of Europe.

In her hit TED talk of 2013, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie speaks about the need for all people to become feminists. She talks about her evolution in being a “happy feminist”, “a happy African feminist”, a “happy African feminist who does not hate men”, “a happy African feminist who does not hate men and who likes to wear lip gloss and high heels for herself and not for men.” I agree on many points talked about, but there was a little misunderstanding somewhere: “For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group” — I believe she was referring to the female folk. But there was never a worldwide consensus to “exclude and oppress women” — where were all the women at the time of meeting? Male will be male, female will be female; there has always been a differentiation. And when she talks about the world hating women, I wonder what happened to all the heroines of various cultures immortalised. Although there have been extremes of female marginalisation, her attempt to make it seem like a trend of global endorsement is a tame way of inciting guilt in every man, and making them foci where all the blame can be ascribed to.

I was also captivated by Emma Watson’s talk at the HeForShe Campaign at the UN in September 2014. The Harry Potter girl was quick to admit that feminism was about human equality rather than just the interests of women. But yet again, there was a misunderstanding I spotted: “If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.” For Emma, submission becomes a sign of weakness which requires exploitation by male aggressive dominance. Although forced marriages still occur, never like our time have women been empowered to seek their own life partners; yet there is a rise in divorce rates — and let me assume that the men were always aggressive needing the marriage to be annulled by divorce.

To a large extent, there is a gap in communication where the male “virility” is tagged as arrogance while the female “gentleness” is tagged as timidity. Of course there is disparity in temperaments — some are talkative, others are quieter; therefore, to make a general statement towards any gender would give room for unfair and biased judgement. We need to look at each human in the context of their immediate environment and surrounding to appreciate (or criticise) their specific roles — this is the origin of the erroneous concept of equality.

The Misnomer Called “Equality”
We always talk of human equality as though it was a simple arithmetic sum. Let me emphasise this again: male will be male, female will be female. Even in the face of equal social, economic, political, and cultural rights, their core human roles differ. Why? Because they were not made the same. For the fact that a woman has achieved any sort of academic, social or cultural accomplishment, she doesn’t equate to being a man: she is still a woman.

Strict equality would mean that men be no more gentlemen because chivalry would equate to sympathising with a “feeble female”. Strict equality would equate to the same work treatment given to workers whether one is pregnant and the other isn’t. Strict equality would equate to a husband and wife struggling for relevance, with children having to decide who to pay allegiance to. If feminists really wanted strict equality, why are they not comfortable that “man” be used as a general term for all humans? Why do they always insist on “man or woman”?

Many women are aggrieved when they hear that a woman’s place is the kitchen. But I’d say yes! A woman’s place is the kitchen — but not only the kitchen. The reason why children would be closer to mothers is largely due to the kitchen. It is also the reason why wives can make the home either blissful or unbearable for their spouses. But the mistake will be to look at this role as that of a maid who is trampled upon and oppressed. The sanity of a family depends on the dictates of a good wife and mother. If we ever neglect this fact, then family only becomes a contract of a man and woman who produce children when they want to, with little or nothing to add to the society.

The notion of women being “weaker vessels” is often fought with resistance. But let’s be factual: are women not more fragile? Weaker vessels indicate the physical aspect and not their intellectual ability. And instead of seeing this as a point for men to exploit them, it is a strong call for the male folk to love and treat women with respect. “Fragile” and “care” go hand in hand — this is necessary in the love that should exist within spouses and families. Why do we expect men to be chivalrous if not because women are more fragile? This will again point to the fact that feminism as a movement always has different camps because equality will always bring up controversy and conflict of ideas. We shall examine some of them.

Should Women Share the Blame?
2014 was unofficially declared as the Year of the Bum due to a massive revolution of women seeking to express their bodily assets. But there was once a time when such exhibitions were seen as dehumanizing to such women. What these women are really seeking for is relevance sought through the exploitation of the male sexual appetite. This is where controversy starts: one group of feminists say that pornography and commercial sex trafficking render women as tools for exploitation; another group claims that it is a way of womanly expression of sexuality. In reality, what are the aims of pornography and the likes? Is it not a means of expressing what is not obtainable in the real world? — a fantasy land for exploitation. But because these are industries for huge capital investment, some persons may begin to beg the question of exploitation. Yet I wonder how many women grew up hoping to be porn stars or prostitutes as their dream profession.

In the same vein, women who claim to be the same as men are often the first to put to scorn any man deemed as effeminate (cissy), yet a tomboy is often seen as bold and confident. Then I begin to wonder if women see anything wrong with their feminine nature.

The use of such “bottom power” by women will only leave room for mediocrity, where women feel that their power lies in the expression of sexuality. On the reverse side, we should never try to use the emancipation of women’s rights as a form of self-pity where political and social responsibilities are allocated based on gender. When women complain of lack of adequate representation in government, I wonder if we should show some pity to elect more women into offices even if they are not qualified. This will only aggravate the erroneous opinion that women are inferior species. It is only when there is respect for each other in the context of their gender, that we can fully realise equity in human rights acceptable by all.

Luke O. Ogar

PRICKLY THISTLES (A Poem)

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Photo credit: imagesource.com

Among the weeds, we were threwn  and scattered
And like seeds, we were planted side-by-side
For a reason beyond my mind so unlettered
I pondered upon my fate in this field so wide

Sprouts arose and shot into the air
Both seedy and weedy leaves were green
Thriving and flourishing, bright and fair—
This would be the advent for a morrow so lean

Time passed to herald a grotesque plot:
We were overcrowded by our weedy brethren
Being choked to the death became our lot
Seemingly helpless, we were held up like little children

No longer did the evening breeze bring calm—
It only brushed the thorns into my side
No longer was companionship a healing balm —
It only brought down the tears I could not hide

Yet in the midst of this bitter anguish
My sole aim was beyond mere existence
And instead of settling for a reason to languish
Life’s purposes can be achieved with persistence

I may not know the purpose of my brothers so deviant
Nevertheless, what I offer will be my best
And in the end, the adversary will be not so brilliant —
Apprehension will be on the day of harvest.

Luke O. Ogar

THE PIPING PIPER AND HIS PAYING PAYER

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”Money often costs too much”
Benjamin Franklin

In an extremely capital-sensitive environment like ours, the one thing that remains “priceless and invaluable” is money, in its identified forms as we have today. The major problem is not about acknowledging the importance of money, but about the mechanics involving this never-ending maze of wealth accumulation and distribution.
This isn’t the first time, and certainly not the last, that money matters would be discussed. It is an immensely intrinsic part of daily living, and like a second skin.

However, to obtain money, you often have to earn it — this is where the situation gets tricky. Work is often a subjective term used, and even when well defined and stated out, it comes with its own yardstick of assessment, mode of conduct, ethics, etc. To reconcile all of this with the possibility of money as an incentive becomes a huge challenge for both the employer and employee. In other words, is work controlled by money or vice versa?

Do You Work For Money?
Most people will reluctantly answer this question with a “Yes” with a feel of some form of guilt or uneasiness. In plain truth, money is the biggest incentive for work. It’s the major reason for most industrial actions and strikes embarked upon; it’s the major reason for staff rearrangement and shuffling; it’s a major reason for accepting or declining a job offer. It’s not rocket science to understand why money is at the heart of work, as almost everything needs sustenance in the form of financial assistance. It therefore seems that money makes the world spin around its 23.5°axis.

However (once again) money isn’t the sole reason for work. In fact, money alone will be of an infinitesimally small significance if work is not guided by principles which would spur on the work progression. And  because such a disparity exists, there is a chance of striking a balance or tilting towards crisis.

The Thousand and One Reasons
Some claim to work for the love of it, personal accomplishment, life fulfillment, inspiring a difference, helping others, etc. These are good-enough reasons provided they know their boundaries. In a way, all of these still hinge on funding and sustenance, especially in an environment where maintenance is the first step towards progression.

The problem concerning such reasons for work is that they are hugely subjective, and will vary from individual to individual. There is often no clear-cut yardstick to measure improvement, hence a tendency towards stagnation and mediocrity. There is a huge temptation to water down principles or expectations, simply because it’s a personal thing. It’s normal for you to wish to stay in bed on a Monday morning, isn’t it? It just depends on your mood.

The Golden Rule
Gradually, the rule of “Do unto others what you would have them do to you”, has been given a new name: “He who has the gold, makes the rules” — the new Golden Rule. And so far, it seems like money is a better incentive for work: it’s costly, therefore restricting laziness; it’s value is almost perfectly elastic, hence well appreciated; there is no amount of money too big to obtain, hence room for more improvement.

Meanwhile, we always thought that the employers were at the top having all the money, while employees were down below at their masters’ mercy. Well, not quite! Every wise employer knows that it is the customers who practically pay both employer and employees their wages. A good CEO is the chief servant of his/her customers — no wonder the customer is always right.

The Two Masters
Similar to the biblical passage, one cannot truly serve both masters. God and Mammon in this case would be equivalent to money and every other personal reason. Working only for money makes one a robot, and an evolving evil one at that! There can be a compromise enabling one to have personal projects that can be adequately funded and assessed objectively. Only then would our productivity swell beyond our expectations.

Luke O. Ogar

THE SEVENTH PLAGUE: The Hail (A Poem)

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I gazed at the celestial bodies in art displayed
And marvelled at the clouds well laid
But beyond the calm scene of the azure heaven
The night skies turned black before the hour of seven

On that day, snow fell all around
And a huge white blanket covered the ground
But now, our eyes are filled with awe
At the rain of arms bringing blood and gore

Thunderclap, lightning flash, ice pellets
Load, aim and fire, steel bullets
It rains not of ice and frost cohesion
But of the loaded armoury in quick succession

The downpour of frozen crystals aims for the unsheltered
For man and beast alike, left weathered
But the metal arsenal will hit both covered and bare
Sparing none, killing all, till death’s mark we’ll stare

The skies flash not because of the lightning spikes
The echoes are not from thunder peals or the likes
The gunpowder fireworks outline the approaching twilight
And the ‘boom’ of cannons are beats for the ghost town in sight

This day will stand out like a flower’s petal
When rain fell not of ice or sulphur, but of metal
And no doubt, if this rain pours forth
There’d be naught to lay claim as our worth

Luke O. Ogar

IF WISHES WERE HORSES…I’D OWN A POLO CLUB

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“A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace”
Ovid

The start of a new year always seems bright and green in prospects, but lest you think this is another wishful writing of a Utopian wonderland, reality is often disheartening — the race is not won by those with wishful thinking, but by those who put their feet on the ground. If there is one thing you need to know this new year, be rest assured that your good plans are only one side of the story. The unknown side will be unravelled day by day. And like horses, speed and strength will thrill or kill.

Focus On Your Weakness
That’s right — it’s not an autocorrect from my keyboard — you need to focus on your weakness. A man is as strong as his weakest link. Difficulties are difficult because they affect the Achilles heels of our lives. Of what use will fortifying a city yield, when it’s sidewalls remain cracked?

It is in the same vein that the biblical parable of the lost sheep emphasises on the need to “abandon” the ninety-nine “perfect” sheep and go in search for the missing one. It initially seems like madness to risk ninety-nine for one, but the basis of the story is that the one lonely sheep is equally important as the other ninety-nine. Of what good will be our vocational prowess if our family life is poor? What good will it yield us if we are the best of teachers, but poor listeners?

If we want to be better this year, we must face our problems first. I’ve never seen a bullfight where the matador loses sight of the bull’s horns — that is simply suicidal!

How Helpful Is Your Past?
For many people, your past is something you leave behind, especially when it’s filled with mistakes and regrets. Really? I don’t think so. A gloomy past is the more reason why the present should be better lived. If we ever try to efface the past, what point of reference do we use to measure improvement?

And come to face it, we never can forget our past. We may only ignore it trying to feign forgetfulness. The more I realise that I am unworthy, the more I work towards being worthy.

The Farmer’s Delight
Of course, the most interesting aspect of farming is the harvest. But which is more important: sowing or reaping? As we begin this year, we’d be almost always thinking of results only: to achieve this or that. But what if this year was all about sowing? Would we be happy with that?

I think we’re all in a rush to achieve results that we forget the “time to sow and time to reap”. Annual crops yield fruits quickly that last only for a while; perennial crops yield fruits slowly that last for over a long time. Learn from the elements of nature.

The Horse and Its Rider
Every rider prides in his horse, but on every occasion he mounts this horse, he is taking a risk: in danger, the horse’s instinct is to throw off any extra load — the rider! In the same vein, opportunities are like horses we mount daily. Succeed, and you win the race; fail, and you get thrown off, back first to the ground. And in both circumstances, we ought to take the responsibility.

There is no opportunity that has a 100% chance of pulling through. The boundary between success and failure is very slim, but it’s the approach that often determines what side we end up with.

The Horse Down the River
We all know that forcing a horse to take a drink is futile. And not only futile, but foolhardy! There may be a thousand ways to kill a rat, but just in case the rat knows all the thousand ways, they become obsolete. In simple terms, problems don’t read textbooks or motivational writings.

There is a time for persistence, and a time to quit — the difference between these two is what separates heroes from zeroes. The problem is that we’ve heard a lot about not giving up, but we’ve not heard quite enough about letting go — not only for negatives, but for positives not good enough. A bird let go, is better than a carcass in hand.

Yes! This is not your novel new year message, but we’d rather live a single day on earth than a thousand years dreaming of a unicorn-filled wonderland.

Luke O. Ogar

TWIN COMPANY (A Poem)

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What good, in existence, would there be
If our lives were as plain as black coffee?
If all the wildness of our expressions were tame
Devoid of reason, genuine or lame

Where would all the madness of fun go?
A rush of blood to the head? No!
If all the razzmatazz of play were forbidden
Would not all of life’s gains be hidden?

We were meant to be each other’s friend
Until we were ordered to bring it to an end
How unnatural is the theory of malice
Handed down to children like a blessed chalice

We drink from the cup of enmity
And become drenched spirits bringing calamity
Forgetting the primitive instinct of reaching out
Now, with bitterness within and love without

One is a loner; two is company
A dorm of desolation or a hall of harmony
Certainly we’d think we were sufficient enough
Until we experience others to help us through the rough

Luke O. Ogar