Cactus and other poems

Cactus and other poems

Thorns are my language. 
I announce my existence 
with a bleeding touch. 

Once these thorns were flowers. 
I loathe lovers who betray. 
Poets have abandoned the deserts 
to go back to the gardens. 
Only camels remain here, and merchants, 
who trample my blooms to dust. 

One thorn for each rare drop of water. 
I don’t tempt butterflies, 
no bird sings my praise. 
I don’t yield to droughts. 

I create another beauty 
beyond the moonlight, 
         this side of dreams,

a sharp, piercing, 
parallel language. 

A Man With A Door 

A man walks with a door 
along the city street; 
he is looking for its house. 

He has dreamt 
of his woman, children and friends 
coming in through the door. 
Now he sees a whole world 
passing through this door 
of his never-built house: 
men, vehicles, trees, 
beasts, birds, everything. 

And the door, its dream 
rising above the earth, 
longs to be the golden door of heaven; 
imagines clouds, rainbows, 
demons, fairies and saints 
passing through it. 

But it is the owner of hell 
who awaits the door. 
Now it just yearns 
to be its tree, full of foliage 
swaying in the breeze, 
just to provide some shade 
to its homeless hauler. 

A man walks with a door 
along the city-street 
a star walks with him.

The Mad

The mad have no caste 
nor religion. They transcend 
gender, live outside 
ideologies. We do not deserve 
their innocence. 

Their language is not of dreams 
but of another reality. Their love 
is moonlight. It overflows 
on the full moon day. 

Looking up they see 
gods we have never heard of. They are 
shaking their wings when 
we fancy they are 
shrugging their shoulders. They hold 
even flies have souls 
and the green god of grasshoppers 
leaps up on thin legs. 

At times they see trees bleed, hear 
lions roaring from the streets. At times 
they watch Heaven gleaming 
in a kitten’s eyes, just as 
we do. But they alone can hear 
ants sing in a chorus. 

While patting the air 
they are taming a cyclone 
         over the Mediterranean. With
         their heavy tread, they stop 
a volcano from erupting. 
They have another measure 
of time. Our century is 
their second. Twenty seconds, 
and they reach Christ; six more, 
they are with the Buddha. 
In a single day, they reach 
the big bang at the beginning. 

They go on walking restless for, 
their earth is boiling still. 

The mad are not 
mad like us. 

To Prolong The Noon

To prolong the noon I sit
sipping beer on this final beach.

The wind and I get a high as we
see in your eyes the glitter
of our first days together.
The sea, endless like death,
Takes no notice.

The refrain of birds above
like a new song earth has learnt.

My childhood is a top that got
buried in the sand even before
it had begun to spin.

Once I heard a tempest’s echoes
in a sparrow’s twitter.
No, we cannot check 
this growing chill. 
Joy is a goblet 
flung into the dark. 
And love, a kite 
put out among the clouds. 

Rain, You 

Was it rain 
or you? 

There were scents: 
intense ones, 
of the rain-washed earth, of tobacco, 
of the acrid sap of the mango-stalk, 
of oleander flowers, 
of woman’s inner lips. 

There were colours, 
flying ones, 
of the mynah, of the pink balsam, 
of collyrium, of wild fire, 
of wet yam leaves, of red wine, 
of fresh paddy. 

There were memories, 
unendurable ones, 
of the index finger, wet lips, 
         aroused nipples,
wounds, bells, 
irreplaceable hearts. 

How many names how many selves 
How many places how many births 
How many rivers from touches 

The mad ecstasy of dreaming of your return 
when I lose you 
The wild shock of the fear of losing you 
when you return. 

I have never seen a rain so blue 
an embrace so liquid, a dance so irrepressible, 
a monsoon kiss that rains so incessantly 
like flowers from a gulmohur tree. 

Burnt Poems 

I am a half-burnt poem. 
Yes, you guessed right, 
a girl’s love poem. 

Girls’ love poems have 
Seldom escaped fire: 
father’s fire, brother’s fire, 
even mother’s, an heirloom. 

Only some girls half-escape: 
those half-charred ones 
we call Sylvia Plath, 
Anna Akhmatova 
or Kamala Das. 

Some girls, to escape fire, 
hide their desire 
under the veil of piety: 
thus is born a Mira, 
an Andal, a Mahadevi Akka. 

Every nun is a burnt 
love-poem, addressed to 
the ever-young Jesus. 

Rarely, very rarely, 
one girl learns to 
laugh at the world 
with that tender affection 
         only women are capable of.

Then the world names her 
      Wislawa Szymborska. 

Of course, Sappho: 
she was saved only as 
her love poems were 
addressed to women. 

Misplaced Objects 

In a flash I recall all the 
misplaced objects of my life: 
the ten lambent marbles 
forgotten under the dry leaves 
beneath the mango tree, 
the umbrella left behind in Apu’s saloon 
the day rain failed to turn up, 
the pen that dived from the pocket 
while climbing the cashew-nut tree 
on the way back from the village school, 
the sky-blue shirt remaining 
in a hotel wardrobe in Riga, 
the long list of books lent, never returned, 
some unredeemed debts, a few unrequited loves. 

Forgetfulness alone never forgot me. 
As I fell in love I began misplacing my heart, 
metaphors as I began to scribble poetry. 

Later, looking at the hills, I began to feel 
the sky had misplaced them and 
the clouds had misplaced the rainbow. 

I have recently begun to suspect 
this very earth with us on it 
has been misplaced by God. 
In the order He recalls, He claims back: 
woods, rivers, us. 

(Excerpted from The Missing RIB: Collected Poems, 1973-2015 by K. Satchidanandan, by permission from Poetrywala. Book available on www.paperwall.in)

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