Poems At My Doorstep is my second book of poetry in English, published by Carolyn Zonailo under The Caitlin Press Poetry Series. Carolyn heard me read at a session of Vancouver International Writers’ Festival where Estonian poet Jaan Kaplinski, Carolyn and I read our poems. Afterwards Carolyn asked me if I would like to try my poems for publication with the Caitlin. To my surprise and delight Canada Council jury approved the manuscript for assistance. Thanks to Carolyn who did the final editing and published the book.
“The poetry in Poems At My Doorstep is honest, conscientious, and imaginative- definitely fresh in style and perception – Carolyn Zonalo; poet, publisher
“This collection clearly contains some of Ajmer Rode’s finest poems to date. Gentle, unguent and emphatic, they paint a deft, memorable portrait of the Earth’s family, with all its squabbles, joys and fears. Ajmer Rode is becoming a father in the best, most nurturing sense of the term, more interested in the search for understanding than in conquest.” – Andreas Shroeder, poet, fiction writer, broadcaster, creative writer teacher at the UBC
“In these family poems there is a simplicity and genuine emotion not often found in Canadian poetry. ‘Mustard Flowers’…illustrates the color, vividness, concreteness, and directness of Rode’s imagery.” – Laurence Steven and Heather Arnett, Canadian Book Review Annual, 1992
“To write good poetry in two languages is akin to mastering both piano and violin…. Poems like these (Mustard Flowers and Waiting for Rusty) express the universal human tragedy of literal ‘dis-location’ more powerfully than any well-meant politicized party-piece.” – John Moor; critic, freelance writer, The Vancouver Sun
“Rode represents the confusions of old age and the innocence of infancy; and he salutes the unity of life.” – George Woodcock; critic, prose writer, BC Bookworld
“I find this an extremely interesting collection. Readily accessible, insightful and genuinely humane. Recommended for secondary school libraries.” – Patrick Dunn, Annual Literary Review
“This reader is delighted to browse through these poems, some of which are gentle and vivid like winter pansies.” Dr. Vidyut Aklujkar, UBC
“Ajmer Rode’s early meditative lyrics are experimentation on form and language, preparations for his more mature work which tends to longer lines and complex social issues, interspersed with fine lyrical passages.” – Diane McGifford, The Geography of Voice
“Ajmer Rode’s Poems At My Doorstep are ‘doorstep’ poems in their explorations of places in which the domestic life of one culture meets the public life of another.” – Alexander M. Forbes, in Canadian Literature #137, summer 1993
Poems from Poems At My Doorstep
If you see an old man sitting alone
at the bus stop and wonder who he is
I can tell you.
He is my father.
He is not waiting for a bus or a friend
nor is he taking a brief rest before
resuming his walk.
He doesn’t intend to shop in the
nearby stores either
he is just sitting there on the bench.
Occasionally he smiles and talks.
No one listens.
No body is interested.
And he doesn’t seem to care
if someone listens or not.
A stream of cars, buses, and people
flows on the road.
A river of images, metaphors and
similes flows through his head.
When everything stops
at the traffic lights it is midnight
back in his village. Morning starts
when lights turn green.
When someone honks his neighbor’s
When a yellow car passes by
a thousand mustard flowers
bloom in his head.
A tall man passes with his shadow
vanishing behind him. My father
thinks of Pauli who left his village
for Malaya and
never came back. A smile appears
on his lips and disappears.
When nothing interesting seems to
happen he starts talking again:
where were you born, and where
have you come?
Shall you ever go back?
It is all destiny, yes a play of
destiny, you see.
and nods his head:
and where will you die my dear?
The thought of death is most
interesting and lingers on
He stops talking and thinks of the
Fraser Street chapel where he
has attended many funerals:
He thinks about the black
and red decorations and
imagines himself resting peacefully,
a line of people
passing by looking at him
for the last time.
His eyes are lit. Perhaps
this is the image he enjoys most
before it is demolished
with the rude arrival of a bus.
Passengers get down and
walk away briskly like ants.
The bus leaves.
at the traffic again to see
if a yellow car is passing by.
Once She Dreamed
Once she dreamed she was Mileva,
the long haired Serbian girl
who married Albert Einstein. She
quietly watched when Einstein twisted
flat space with his hands.
when Einstein broke the absolute
flow of time into pieces and
spun them around at different
She was there when Einstein
reconstructed the shattered universe.
As he became greater and greater
he grew modest and tender.
When finally the world came to
touch his hands
Mileva smiled and left.
She said she still liked to live
in her own absolute space
and move at her own pace.
Once she dreamed she was
the young woman who married
She saw Picasso with the tip of
tear apart the calm, surrounding
the objects on his canvas.
She saw faces turning into cubes
When Picasso was engulfed
in cubes of fame
She said she wouldn’t become a cube.
Then she dreamed of Jeanny,
who married Karl Marx.
Jeanny read stories to her
as Marx fed the hungry of the
world in his imagination.
As his beard curled more and more,
Jeanny saw Marx grow into a
prophet trying to unseat the lords.
When infuriated gods came
upon him Jeanny stood at the door,
Last night she dreamt nothing
The man she married
had quietly disappeared.
She says he was confused, depressed
and needed care.
A sad vacuum expanded in her