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Purabi Bhattacharya


Purabi Bhattacharya: ‘Come Sit with Me by the River







Avril Meallem
Come Sit with Me by the River
Collection of Poems
Jerusalem: LAVI Publications. 2015
Pages 113| $ 12.95 | £ 7.99
(For Postage-free copies, visit Poet’s website:
http://avrilm.webs.com/)

Spiritual swing

Come Sit with Me by the River – the poetry collection with a yearning for a kaleidoscopic dance in the backdrop of a monochromic silhouette… Call them poetry if you may, or some mellifluous pronunciation of the divine within the ambit of everything personal.

For Avril Meallem, a woman and a poet at heart the collection of poems Come Sit with Me by the River thus is about peace, hope and contentment in nature in the midst of a mad bloody world.

A physiotherapist and complimentary therapist with special needs children and adult brain injury by profession, the septuagenarian poet Avril was born in London, emigrated to Israel in 1998. Her poems found place in several literary journals and anthologies across Israel, USA and India. Her collaborative poems developed and co-authored with Indian poet Shernaz Wadia are posted every now and then in the Muse India e-journal in its daily interactive section Your Space, and has also been published as Tapestry Poetry.

The collection Come Sit with Me by the River divided into four sections expresses her love and immense indebtedness towards nature. There is a deep spiritual binding that almost all of the poems tweaked for the collection sit pretty with. Her devotion and the quest for peace gush along the pages containing her devotional verses. In her own words: “I believe and respect tolerance of all religions and peoples and see divinity in every human being.”

Sensing a oneness with the universe
My soul soared to connect with the Creator.

(‘When All is Still’)

This glorious Nature from the first section of the collection would instantly remind one of Hopkins’ God’s Grandeur. Reader has heard them, read them over and over again in different tongues. After all our emotions, our quest, our thought processes make us one, the created.

The smell of new mown grass,
the intoxicating perfume
of citrus blossom, jasmine and roses
the sun on my shivering skin
a gentle breeze in sweltering heat.

As readers we know we are in for a spiritual sojourn. The entire exercise of bringing together the feelings of “dissolving into an ecstatic nothingness” is what flows throughout the collection. This is an age-appropriate collection of poems, organically reconnecting us with things we might have taken for granted for quite some time. A child reading the poems may fly with the butterfly or take a ride on a horse and constantly feel good about being born and seeing the beautiful all- giving world around us. There is a visible sign of sheer desperation to constantly thank the almighty Hashem, for all that the poet experiences and is living through. Like Gretti Izak, says, the poet Avril Meallem “evokes poignantly the yearnings of the soul to touch the divine, which triggers a response of awareness in the reader.” Consider this:

I stand before the Ark of the Covenant
and for a moment
there is nothing but me
melted into the oneness of the creator,
my prayers no longer words,
my love all encompassing.

(‘At the Kotel’)

Excluding the second section which has 19 poems, all other three sections bear 21 poems under them. The first section titled ‘Poets Pen’ brings together 21 short poems detailing the sunrise and the sunset, a bird’s melodic call, summer breeze and dreamy reverie in very unornamented tongue. Like each one of us desirous of meeting misty skies up in the hills and vanishing in the thickets of the mist, the poet not unhappily at all, says:

I am alone with myself
lost in the dreamy reverie.

(‘lost in a dreamy reverie’)

As easily understood as more literal writing the poet expands her imagination where she finds a hiding place far, far away from all the war and the dreadful things happening around. She feels sorry for the young violent crowd which thinks so less on looking around and finding peace in nature but chooses to blow itself up instead. One cannot but recollect her professional engagement. How she professionally sees blood, human innards and then connects to the world around her. She escapes to her world which is delightful, colorful and connects her with her Creator. One can feel how deeply the poet is drawn to the traditions of Judaism which makes her collection a good read for everyone across the age spectrum.

The second section ‘A light so bright’ offers the reader a stretch of the similar feeling. Her assertion of being at peace with herself and the world, her oneness with the Creator and finding God everywhere even when her son met with an accident in a remote island of Indonesia. She drowns herself in the Creator’s thought to comfort herself:

with trust- for when all there is, is love,
and all there is, is God
then it can only be good.

(‘It can only be good’)

The third section ‘Can I let go?’ is in quest wanting to retain the ‘me’. And probably in each of us lies this quest. The fear, the trepidation of losing out oneself at the door of the wider world sticks all along no matter how young or old we grow. It is this fear the poet wishes to beat out holding onto her belief, her Creator will guide her all through the layers of life, undulating.

The final section entitled ‘Kaleidoscope’ brings along – in similar rhyme and rhythm, occasional metaphors here and there – the expression of belief in the Creator that will keep the poet strong enough. In her battle of life her belief is just too strong to let her drown into the gushing water of the world.

No matter how hard one tries to stay aloof from the happenings around, a poet being sensitive will be affected by all of them. And poet Avril is no different. With war and disappointments, the poet holds on to her prayers, praying for solace, peace and love. “It pains me that these young people, as most terrorists are of the younger generation, have seen so little beauty in their lives” says the poet. Her poetry ‘Jerusalem’ quite openly tells us how pained she is to “see panic all around” her. And then she goes onto say:

Brutally we are dragged from our hiding place,
Led into captivity, exiled from our homeland.
Jerusalem is destroyed,
the Jewish people scattered.

(‘Jerusalem’)

Pain of not being at our birthplace or our native or hometown is not a feeling alien to us. With migration, displacement tags along the moving race. Wherever we move, our yearning for our homeland remains intact and then the feeling of going home or a desire to return to our hometown has become so much ordinary, so much bracketed. We are all craving to return to our natives, like Avril says,

A yearning to return to our land
And rebuild our holy city
And indeed, we have at last come home.

(‘Jerusalem’)

Images and words are clear and understandable they are not difficult. Her style of writing and the subject chosen are relatable. Unlike modern poems gyrating through mist and an endless journey leading to a never ending quest for an unknown destination, this collection steers clear through every lane. The collection winds up echoing Shakespeare’s popular quotes from As You Like It (Act II, Scene vii):

all the world’s a stage,
and all the men and women merely players.

In her words concluding similarly, Avril signs off:

From generation upon generation
as far as the first moment of creation,
as far forwards to the end of time,
I am an eternal being, as all beings,
in the timeless theatre of the Creator.

(‘My story’)

Come Sit with Me by the River is a simple expression of the poet’s strong belief in her Creator and anything and everything connected to her by default has the divine touch and intervention. With its limited opportunity to look beyond what is offered the collection becomes a personal song semantically spiritual in nature.

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