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Friday, 7 October 2011

Poems of Kamala Das- Part IV

After the Illness
There was then no death, no end, but a re-uniting
The weary body settling into accustomed grooves
And, he said, his soft, suffering face against my knee
I knew you would survive, my darling, I willed it so.
He had noticed the high greens of my illness, the bones
Turning sharp beneath the dry loose skin, the yellowed eyes
The fetid breath and the prayers to unfamiliar Gods
Who seemed to him so much more beloved than he.
Did he feel the neglect while I battled with my pain ?
Did he, waking alone at four, remember? There was
Not much flesh left for the flesh to hunger, the blood had
Weakened too much to lust, and the skin, without health's
Anointments, was numb and unyearning. What lusted then
For him, was it perhaps the deeply hidden soul ?
Kamala Das

Sunset, Blue Bird
When i am with my friends and talking i remember him
and suddenly i can no longer talk they ask me what is wrong
why have you turned pale and i weakly shake my head
nothing nothing... .i was warned not to go near the king but
i did go and believe me he was like a man like any man he
clutched me to his breast he said he loved me and i was
happy and thought he was happy too.... after a year two
yellow moons waxed and waned without a sign of blood and
i told him lying on his lap i told him and suddenly the sun set
on that beautiful face his breath was heavy in my ear he said
not a word .... he no longer calls for me he no longer comes
to me or stands at the open window to smile at me
but everywhere i look i see him everywhere i do not look i
see him i see him in all i see him in everything like a blue
bird at sunset he flits across my sky....

Convicts
There was a time when our lusts were
Like multicoloured flags of no
Particular country. We lay
On bed, glassy-eyed, fatigued, just
The toys dead children leave behind
And, we asked each other, what is
The use, what is the bloody use?
That was the only kind of love,
This hacking at each other’s parts
Like convicts hacking, breaking clods
At noon. We were earth under hot
Sun. There was a burning in our
Veins and the cool mountain nights did
Nothing to lessen heat. When he
And I were one, we were neither
Male nor female. There were no more
Words left, all words lay imprisoned
In the ageing arms of night. In
Darkness we grew, as in silence
We sang, each note rising out of
Sea, out of wind, out of earth and
Out of each sad night like an ache…

A Man is a Season
A man is a season,
You are eternity,
To teach me this you let me toss my youth like coins
Into various hands, you let me mate with shadows,
HYou let me sing in empty shrines, you let your wife
Seek ecstasy in other's arms.  But I saw each
Shadow cast your blurred image in my glass, somehow
The words and gesture seemed familiar.  Yes,
I sang solo, my songs were lonely, but they did
Echo beyond the world's unlighted edge, there was
Then no sleep left undisturbed, the ancient hungers
Were all awake.  Perhaps I lost my way, perhaps
I went astray.  How would a blind wife trace her lost
Husband, how would a deaf wife hear her husband call?

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.

A Request
When I die
Do not throw the meat and bones away
But pile them up
And
Let them tell
By their smell
What life was worth
On this earth
In the end.

Nani
Nani the pregnant maid hanged herself
In the privy one day.  For three long hours
Until the police came, she was hanging there,
A clumsy puppet, and when the wind blew
Turning her gently on the rope, it seemed
To us who were children then, that Nani
Was doing, to delight us, a comic
Dance... The shrubs grew fast. Before
the summer's end
The yellowflowers had hugged the deorway
And the walls. The privy, so abandoned,
Became an altar then, a sunny shrine
For a goddess who was dead. Another
Year or two, and I asked my grandmother
One day, don't you remember Nani, the dark
Plump one who bathed me near the well?
Grandmother
Shifted the reading glasses on her nose
And stared at me. Nani, she asked, who is she?
With that question ended Nani. Each truth
Ends thus with a query. It is this designed
Deafness that turns mortality into
Immortality, the definite into
The soft indefinite.

Ghanshyam
Ghanshyam,
You have like a koel built your nest in the arbour of my heart.
My life, until now a sleeping jungle is at last astir with music.
You lead me along a route I have never known before
But at each turn when I near you
Like a spectral flame you vanish.
The flame of my prayer-lamp holds captive my future
I gaze into the red eye of death
The hot stare of truth unveiled.
Life is moisture
Life is water, semen and blood.
Death is drought
Death is the hot sauna leading to cool rest-rooms
Death is the last, lost sob of the relative
Beside the red-walled morgue.
O Shyam, my Ghanshyam
With words I weave a raiment for you
With songs a sky
With such music I liberate in the oceans their fervid dances
We played once a husk-game, my lover and I
His body needing mine,
His ageing body in its pride needing the need for mine
And each time his lust was quietned
And he turned his back on me
In panic I asked Dont you want me any longer dont you want me
Dont you dont you
In love when the snow slowly began to fall
Like a bird I migrated to warmer climes
That was my only method of survival
In this tragic game the unwise like children play
And often lose                       
At three in the morning
I wake trembling from dreams of a stark white loneliness,
Like bleached bones cracking in the desert-sun was my loneliness,
And each time my husband,
His mouth bitter with sleep,
Kisses, mumbling to me of love.
But if he is you and I am you
Who is loving who
Who is the husk who the kernel
Where is the body where is the soul
You come in strange forms
And your names are many.
Is it then a fact that I love the disguise
and the name more than I love you?
Can I consciously weaken bonds?
The child's umbilical cord shrivels and falls
But new connections begin, new traps arise
And new pains
Ghanashyam,
The cell of the eternal sun,
The blood of the eternal fire
The hue of the summer-air,
I want a peace that I can tote
Like an infant in my arms
I want a peace that will doze
In the whites of my eyes when I smile
The ones in saffron robes told me of you   
And when they left
I thought only of what they left unsaid
Wisdom must come in silence
When the guests have gone
The plates are washed
And the lights put out
Wisdom must steal in like a breeze
From beneath the shuttered door
Shyam O Ghanshyam
You have like a fisherman cast your net in the narrows
Of my mind
And towards you my thoughts today
Must race like enchanted fish...

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