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Cape of Good Hope- Chandra Mohan

 

  The shadow of my memory 

 “… An unreliable shadow of memory”-   Italo Calvino (Tr: William Weaver )

 

 I am the poet, fixing images

From the abyss of time

Into the canvas of the past

Where Myth and History are miscible

With the precision and swiftness of

A fork-tongued cobra strike.

 

To retrieve my memory; 

I tame an eagle with my lyrics.

When sung with my blood-red tongue

The eagle glides over my landscape

Scanning for rivulets of my bloodstream

Veering off my footprint trail.

 

I grip the aerial roots

Of a banyan tree

With my palm, l envisage

An oral lyric swaying

With the winds of the time.

 

After being scripted into

The soil, roots seek architecture

With breathing space for all

Where I inhale an anti-clockwise birth.

 

In the preordained

 Aural ellipse of a prophecy

I retrieve myself.


 2. SAREE

 

A six yard single-string

musical instrument

 

unveils in a layered veil


the curve of her spine

 

gyrating along an aural ellipse

draping her in seasons. 

 

Her perfect pleats dissolve 

into imperfect stillness

 

The silence of her midriff

has seven ripples.

3. THE HISTORIAN'S AUTOPSY OF A TREE


“Kill, you may kill, sell, you may sell”

---     (Slave Transaction Document)

 

After “How to pick a hanging tree”?  by Kwame Dawes

                            *

 The roots must be strong near the base,

Then it is unlikely that the trunk will be usurped

By the push and shove of a slave.

 

“A mushroom that grows on the bark has no deep soil.


This tree was chopped down

With an axe, with its handle

Axed from the same tree.

 

                          *

 The soil surrounding the base

Like the saucer of a tea-cup

Has to be wide and deep enough

For the corpse to be covered.

 

Further excavations might unearth a trite semi-rusted tale

Could crumble into pieces unless handled with care.

 

                           *

 The leaves of such trees are greener

Lush green, the nourishment from corpses.

This shade of green is abundant in “God’s own country”.

 

4. MY LANGUAGE

 

The language we speak now,

Once had no fences;

Aggravated trespassing

Has rendered it barren.

 

At the frontiers of my language

Deployed with an insidious intent

Is a domesticated erstwhile stray-dog

With its bark worse than its bite;

But carefully tethered to harm no one.

 

If you frequent my tongue

The rust on your tongue-cleaner

Can cause tetanus to your soul.

 

Introducing an alien tongue in elementary schools


Is like building dams on rivers

Too close to their origins.

The river will be sedated for eternity.

 

Bitter neem-pas

      

Smeared around my

Birth-mother’s nipples

To wean me away from my vernacular-

For me to go and kiss the world.

 

Our minds like beddings with synthetic bed spread

Love betraying us like

My muse calling out the name of her ex-lover in ecstasy.

 

It requires an inter-generational

Surgical procedure

To remove white man’s bullets

From the spine of my book of poems.

 

In the autobiography of my vernacular

There were a few suicide notes

Transliterated with an indelible ink

Like the legacy of slave owners

Passed on to the hardbound of my poetry book

-once a stepping pedestal for imperial boots.

 

My language

Was a tax-free transit point

At one of the world’s shores

Like the Cape of Good Hope.

 

Now, story of man

Snores in my language.


On Inter-Cast

Just like the saying goes-

Tongue has no bones

But can break many,

 

The submissive tuft of hair on the shaved

Heads of the twice born

Command an army of henchmen

Guarding the rust

Of medieval fences built

Along caste hymens.

 

(c) Chandramohan S

 

-------------------------------------

Kiss of Love

“Correct our watches by the public clocks.

Then sit for half an hour and drink our bocks”

T.S. Eliot Portrait of a Lady

 

Two pairs of lips

lock in a kiss

losing the sense of time.

 

Heads turn to

adjust wrist watches

from a public clock.

 

Locked lips

turn the wheel of time

like prophets.

 

The Oral Lyric of Life

 

Every river in my land

Is a pulsating relic of an

Epic outliving its time.

 

The river is like a verse

Drawing its breath from

Myriad recitations in cohesion.

 

(Eye witnesses

Narrating the same event

To weave a single fluid visual)

 

A single unbroken stream of life

Like the spine of my body.

 

This river outflows its course

Like stories outliving names

At cemetery tombstones.

 

The dialects drift apart

Marooning a story on

The inland of Pangaea.

 

It is a shipwreck story 

With no survivors.


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