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Thursday, 6 October 2011

Poems of Kamala Das- Part II

The Old Playhouse
You planned to tame a swallow, to hold her
In the long summer of your love so that she would forget
Not the raw seasons alone, and the homes left behind, but
Also her nature, the urge to fly, and the endless
Pathways of the sky. It was not to gather knowledge
Of yet another man that I came to you but to learn
What I was, and by learning, to learn to grow, but every
Lesson you gave was about yourself. You were pleased
With my body’s response, its weather, its usual shallow
Convulsions. You dribbled spittle into my mouth, you poured
Yourself into every nook and cranny, you embalmed
My poor lust with your bitter-sweet juices. You called me wife,
I was taught to break saccharine into your tea and
To offer at the right moment the vitamins. Cowering
Beneath your monstrous ego I ate the magic loaf and
Became a dwarf. I lost my will and reason, to all your
Questions I mumbled incoherent replies. The summer
Begins to pall. I remember the rudder breezes
Of the fall and the smoke from the burning leaves. Your room is
Always lit by artificial lights, your windows always
Shut. Even the air-conditioner helps so little,
All pervasive is the male scent of your breath. The cut flowers
In the vases have begun to smell of human sweat. There is
No more singing, no more dance, my mind is an old
Playhouse with all its lights put out. The strong man’s technique is
Always the same, he serves his love in lethal doses,
For, love is Narcissus at the water’s edge, haunted
By its own lonely face, and yet it must seek at last
An end, a pure, total freedom, it must will the mirrors
To shatter and the kind night to erase the water.
Kamala Das
In Love
O what does the burning mouth
Of sun, burning in today’s,
Sky, remind me….oh, yes, his
Mouth, and….his limbs like pale and
Carnivorous plants reaching
out for me, and the sad lie
of my unending lust.
Where is room, excuse or even
Need for love, for, isn’t each
Embrace a complete thing a finished
Jigsaw, when mouth on mouth, i lie,
Ignoring my poor moody mind
While pleasure, with deliberate gaeity
Trumpets harshly into the silence of
the room… At noon
I watch the sleek crows flying
Like poison on wings-and at
Night, from behind the Burdwan
Road, the corpse-bearers cry ‘Bol,
Hari Bol’ , a strange lacing
For moonless nights, while I walk
The verandah sleepless, a
Million questions awake in
Me, and all about him, and
This skin-communicated
Thing that I dare not yet in
His presence call our love.
(From Summer in Calcutta)

The Looking Glass
Getting a man to love you is easy
Only be honest about your wants as
Woman. Stand nude before the glass with him
So that he sees himself the stronger one
And believes it so, and you so much more
Softer, younger, lovelier. Admit your
Admiration. Notice the perfection
Of his limbs, his eyes reddening under
The shower, the shy walk across the bathroom floor,
Dropping towels, and the jerky way he
Urinates. All the fond details that make
Him male and your only man. Gift him all,
Gift him what makes you woman, the scent of
Long hair, the musk of sweat between the breasts,
The warm shock of menstrual blood, and all your
Endless female hungers. Oh yes, getting
A man to love is easy, but living
Without him afterwards may have to be
Faced. A living without life when you move
Around, meeting strangers, with your eyes that
Gave up their search, with ears that hear only
His last voice calling out your name and your
Body which once under his touch had gleamed
Like burnished brass, now drab and destitute.

The Suicide
Bereft of soul
My body shall be bare.
Bereft of body
My soul shall be bare.
Which would you rather have
O kind sea?
Which is the more dead
Of the two?
I throw the bodies out,
I cannot stand their smell.
Only the souls may enter
The vortex of sea.
Only the souls know how to sing
At the vortex of the sea.
Your body shall be dead,
Poor thing,
Dead as driftwood, drifting
And drifting to the shore.
Your body shall ride the tide,
Rider, slumped dead
On white war-house.
Charging.
Your body shall bruise white
Against the coral reefs,
Your body,
Your lonely body.
I tell you, sea,
I have enough courage to die,
But not enough.
Not enough to disobey him
Who said: Do not die
And hurt me that certain way.
How easy your duties are.
How simple.
Only roar a hungry roar,
Leao forward,
And retreat.
You swing and you swing,
O sea, you play a child’s game.
But,
I must pose.
I must pretend,
I must act the role
Of happy woman,
Happy wife.
I must keep the right distance
Between me and the low.
And I must keep the right distance
Between me and the high.
O sea, i am fed up
I want to be simple
I want to be loved
And
If love is not to be had,
I want to be dead, just dead
While I enter deeper,
With joy I discover
The sea’s hostile cold
Is after all skin-deep.
The sea’s inner chambers
Are all very warm.
There must be a sun slumbering
At the vortex of the sea.
O sea, i am happy swimming
Happy, happy, happy ...
The only movement i know well
Is certainly the swim.
It comes naturally to me.
I had a house a Malabar
And a pale-green pond.
I did all my growing there
In the bright summer months.
I swam about and floated,
And divided into the cold and green
I lay speckled green and gold
In all the hours of the sun,
Until
My grandmother cried,
Darling, you must stop this bathing now.
You are much too big to play
Naked in the pond.
Yes, the only movement i really know
Is swimming,
It comes naturally to me.
The white man who offers
To help me forget,
The white man who offers
Himself as a stiff drink,
Is for me,
To tell the truth,
Only water.
Only a pale-green pond
Glimmering in the sun.
In him I swim
All broken with longing.
In his robust blood i float
Drying off my tears.
Yet i never can forget
The only man who hurts.
The only one who seems to know
The only way to hurt.
Holding you is easy
Clutching at moving water,
I tell you, sea,
This is easy,
But to hold him for half a day
Was a difficult task.
It required drinks
To hold him down.
To make him love.
But, when he did not love,
Believe me,
All I could do was to sob like a fool.
O sea,
You generous cow,
You and I are big flops.
We are too sentimental
For our own
Good.
Lights are moving on the shore.
But I shall not return.
Sea, toss my body back
That he knew how to love.
Bereft of body
My soul shall be free.
Take in my naked soul
That he knew how to hurt.
Only the soul knows how to sing
At the vortex of the sea.

The Stone Age
Fond husband, ancient settler in the mind,
Old fat spider, weaving webs of bewilderment,
Be kind. You turn me into a bird of stone, a granite
Dove, you build round me a shabby drawing room,
And stroke my pitted face absent-mindedly while
You read. With loud talk you bruise my pre-morning sleep,
You stick a finger into my dreaming eye. And
Yet, on daydreams, strong men cast their shadows, they sink
Like white suns in the swell of my Dravidian blood,
Secretly flow the drains beneath sacred cities.
When you leave, i drive my blue battered car
Along the bluer sea. I run up the forty
Noisy steps to knock at another’s door.
Through peepholes, the neighbours watch,
They watch me come
And go like rain. Ask me, everybody, ask me
What he sees in me, ask me why he is called a lion,
A libertine, ask me the flavour of his
Mouth, ask me why his hand sways like a hooded snake,
Before it clasps my pubis. Ask me why like
A great tree, felled, he slumps against my breasts,
And sleeps. Ask me why life is short and love is
Shorter still, ask me what is bliss and what its price ...

A Losing Battle
How can my love hold him when the other
Flaunts a gaudy lust and is lioness
To his beast? Men are worthless, to trap them
Use the cheapest bait of all, but never
Love, which in a woman must mean tears
And a silence in the blood.

Punishment in Kindergarten 
Today the world is a little more my own.
No need to remember the pain
A blue-frocked woman caused, throwing
Words at me like pots and pans, to drain
That honey-coloured day of peace.
‘Why don't you join the others, what
A peculiar child you are!’

On the lawn, in clusters, sat my
schoolmates sipping
Sugarcane, they turned and laughed;
Children are funny things, they laugh
In mirth at others' tears, I buried
My face in the sun-warmed hedge
And smelt the flowers and the pain.

The words are muffled now, the laughing
Faces only a blur. The years have
Sped along, stopping briefly
At beloved halts and moving
Sadly on. My mind has found
An adult peace. No need to remember
That picnic day when I lay hidden
By a hedge, watching the steel-white sun
Standing lonely in the sky.

The Freaks
He talks, turning a sun-stained
Cheek to me, his mouth, a dark
Cavern, where stalactites of
Uneven teeth gleam, his right
Hand on my knee, while our minds
Are willed to race towards love;
But, they only wander, tripping
Idly over puddles of
Desire. .... .Can this man with
Nimble finger-tips unleash
Nothing more alive than the
Skin's lazy hungers? Who can
Help us who have lived so long
And have failed in love? The heart,
An empty cistern, waiting
Through long hours, fills itself
With coiling snakes of silence. .....
I am a freak. It's only
To save my face, I flaunt, at
Times, a grand, flamboyant lust.

Words
All round me are words, and words and words,
They grow on me like leaves, they never
Seem to stop their slow growing
From within... But I tell my self, words
Are a nuisance, beware of them, they
Can be so many things, a
Chasm where running feet must pause, to
Look, a sea with paralyzing waves,
A blast of burning air or,
A knife most willing to cut your best
Friend's throat... Words are a nuisance, but.
They grow on me like leaves ona tree,
They never seem to stop their coming,
From a silence, somewhere deep within...

In Love
Of what does the burning mouth
Of sun, burning in today's
Sky remind me... oh, yes, his
Mouth, and... his limbs like pale and
Carnivorous plants reaching
Out for me, and the sad lie
Of my unending lust.  Where
Is room, excuse or even
Need for love, for, isn't each
Embrace a complete thing, a
Finished jigsaw, when mouth on
Mouth, I lie, ignoring my poor
Moody mind, while pleasure
With deliberate gaiety
Trumpets harshly into the
Silence of the room... At noon
I watch the sleek crows flying
Like poison on wings -- and at
Night, from behind the Burdwan
Road, the corpse-bearer's cry '_Bol
Hari Bol_', a strange lacing
For moonless nights, while I walk
The verandah sleepless, a
Million questions awake in
Me, and all about him, and
This skin-communicated
Thing that I dare not yet in
His presence call our love.


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