Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Duck story

 The Northern Pintail (Anas Acuta) is one of the most abundant winter migrant to the subcontinent, you will see gregarious flocks settling in the wetlands or water bodies in hundreds, sometimes within the city (I spotted few in the lake at Delhi zoo!!). It is a pleasure to watch them effortlessly float, preen, take a dip, sometimes almost stand on the water and fan its wings. The drake (i.e. the male) is rather charming looking bird-a white strip flowing through its chocolate colored head; the downward slant of its head makes it look as if shy. It has a long, pointed, central tail feather hence the name. Spotted this one at Yamuna Biodiversity Park (popularly YBP), this patch with a lake is now well protected also a dissemination centre so on, though I am not a big fan of Delhi but must concede the green cover and environment related concerns have increased. Cheers to that!!

Sandor Weores: The reader reads the poem but the poem also reads the reader 

Now I expend my life exultantly
like the oriole in the tree;
till it falls down on the old forest floor,
singing with such full throat its heart must burst and soar

What attracted me to Hungarian culture centre was an exhibition on photographs of birds –that too I saw the notice at the gate while passing through the route, and I came out knowing about Hungarian poet Sandor Weores (1913-1989). How wonderful!! It was an evening of poetry reading and talk on Sandor Weores, incidentally commemorating his 100th birth anniversary (conducted by Dr. Margit Koves). I really haven’t heard about this poet before so it was kind of a revelation. What made it special was the presence of niece of Sandor Weores –Ms Agnes Kriplani, she did an amazing presentation of recitation on pictures of nature. Weeks later I met her at the culture centre library, we got talking and she said “I am her kind of a person!!”. Wow now that surely is a compliment. 
A prolific poet, Sandor started writing at the tender age, when fifteen, he was published in leading journals of the time. Widely travelled he is also known for his work of translation from Chinese, Assyrian, Sumerian and Sanskrit. His poems were influenced by ancient Chinese poetry, Lao Tse, Upanishads, Babylonian epic, Egyptian hymns, Negro and Polynesian mythology (incidentally West should feel wrong in using words like Negro…we don’t have to carry their guilt). His works range from mix of classical and strains of folk, from simple nursery rhymes to sophisticated epigrams. The poems carried rhyme and rhythm, linguistic invention and verse melody, magical and language specific yet content defying meanings all in the serene harmony of poetry.        
The panic world is baffled at my gate;
‘Madman! Egotist! Traitor!’ its words beat.
But wait: I have a bakehouse in my head,
You’ll feed someday on this still uncooled bread

His poems were an effort in finding human beings place not only in the world but in the cosmos. Poet according to him “is the one who must retain the childhood, embryonic or perhaps even pre-conception quintessence of our being”.

Word chases its meaning.
Dust hurries; stone takes it time.
Am I to take part in my own funeral?
You are here with your beautiful distance.
The tomb listens.
Coffin, naked virgin.
If born to your daughter, you are immortal.
The motionless approaches all the time.
Form is motionless, only its appearance dances.
Vapor thorn.
Rustling water, sky.
They twine into a frameless looking-glass.
Here we lie, running around.
Your unknown selves.
Life is never alone.
For the second time the first gets lost.

I am two, subject and object;
Only death can make me one.

More and more lonely gods.  

The Old Ones

They are so derelict, the old ones.

I watch them sometimes through the window
as they trudge home in an icy wind
with a back-load of firewood-
or in a panting summer
as they sit in the evening porch-
or on winter evenings by the stove
slumped in deep sleep-
they stand in front of the church
with palms stretched out in sadness, downcast,
like faded autumn leaves
in the yellow dust.

And when they stutter through the street
with a stick, even the sunshine looks askance at them,
and everyone makes it odd to say:
“How goes it, old man?”

The summer Sun,
the winter snow,
autumn leaf,
crisp spring flower
all pour an endless song in their ears:
“Life-cauldronful of old meat,
life-cartful of old hay,
life-candleful of gutted wax:
you are eaten up,
you are thrown away,
you are burnt to nothing,
you can sleep now…”

They are like someone
ready for a journey
and starting to pack.
and sometimes, when their gnarled hands
caress the blond hand of a child,
it must purely hurt them to sense
that these two hands,
hard-working hands,
blessing hands
are needed now by no one any more.

And they are already prisoners,
prisoners in chains, drowsy, apathetic:
seventy heavy years shackle their wrists,
seventy years of sin and grief and trouble,
seventy heavy years have chained them to wait
for a kindly hand,
a dreadful hand,
an unarguable hand
to give its command:

“Time now, lay it down”

Monkeyland is a poem that is mistaken for children’s poem, explained Ms Agnes Kriplani with a wry smile indicating tiredness with philistines invading the Net. The poem is a euphemism on state oppression during the time when authoritarian rule dictated people’s actions.


Oh for far-off monkeyland
ripe monkeybread on baobabs,
and the wind strums out monkeytunes
from monkeywindow monkeybars.

Monkeyheroes rise and fight
in monkeyfield and monkeysquare,
and monkeysanatoriums
have monkeypatients crying there.

Monkeygirl monkeytaught
masters monkeyalphabet,
evil monkey pounds his thrawn
feet in monkeyprison yet.


With moneysupper memories
the monkeyouthouse rumbles, hums,
monkeyswaddies start to march,
right turn, left turn, shoulder arms-

monkeymilitary fright
reflected in each monkeyface,
with monkeygun in monkeyfist
the monkeys’ world the world we face.

The Alchemist 

Roaming white speculative planes
and dulled to love’s transaction
he discounts his real passion
for those limits where rough life reigns.

He smiles on all invention
computing its weight as none,
accepts the dear objection
his own dense formulae own.

Icepacked in interstellar fury,
yet pure as the golden cygnet
drossed and dressed in mercury,

he roams to infinity, yet
back with fevered Iseult he
is Tristan seeking the first clue.

From my scribble pad… 

Learning English (and lessons on mediocrity)

At first I wore it as a garb
it seeped into my skin 
each cell battled invain.
The conqueror now chooses the thoughts

rearranges dreams
manipulates what fits the scene.
The ferocious ancient tamed
wags its tail.
Restless wisdom blunted in opaque outfit
is a joker in the show.
Colonized mind draws in strange tongue
a fracture that goes deeper and deeper.
I mime the language
that has bartered my soul
and left me a carcass of conflicting schemes.