Canto 87: India

Poetry wants something enormous, barbarous, savage

Denis Diderot


Second Wind

the blackbird sings to him, brother, brother,
if this be the last song you shall sing
sing well, for you may not sing another
Julian Grenfell

I had assumed my quillerie was done…
My soul exhumes th’electric, triptych train
& in a half-light Nostradamian
Projects through time, I shall to thee again,
Muse of my life
When wedded with all this
Thou art the waspen knife embedded in my bliss.

I took a walk round Whittinghame
On an early summer’s day,
When bees about wild garlic hum
Gorse engolden in god’s sway,
Hearing a faerie kettledrum
Beat yonder house crow-grey,
Where Balfour read Plato before Israel,
Sensing I had to finish yet my tale.

I clambour thro’ thick thornbush throng,
Veins pierc’d by splinter-pin,
Not sucking tongue, nor needle long,
Could pluck it from within,
That itch, y’know, that can’t be scratch’d that’s just beneath the skin.

East Lothian
August
2008


Departures

Oh, I got tired of the northern sun,
Of white anxious ghost-like faces,
Of crouching over heatless fires
Abioseh Nicol

Accompanied by Apollonians,
O mystic ladies of these sentences!
Gallivanting from the Europeans
& these coetanian acquantainces;
For India,
In silence, did I fly,
Musing poesia beneath a breathless sky.

About us atmospherics wailed
Of a gamesome energy,
& I, a Wellesley, as we sail’d
Startling barques of destiny
Beyond Iraq… beneath me paled
The Sea of Araby,
As Byron rode to Ali Pasha’s feast,
Yes! Yes! I was a poet in the East.

As Wellington stood at Assaye
I stept out of the plane
& met Bombay, a cloudless day
Far sultrier than Spain,
Raj fanning all before me like the wisdom of the Jain.

Mumbai
September
2008


Bombay

I’ll never change myself to gold.
Other fools that want can make
themselves into big-chested bulls
Bassus

We stand at the gateway to India,
Grand sentinel arch of Britannia’s stream
About us the swirl of Bon Bohia,
Thou seven-islanded mercantile dream;
All senses drown’d
In native hue & cry,
We swathe thro’ sight & sound sweat-streaming, lips parch’d dry.

In tortured droves the Hindu pours
From Pakistan’s cruel Koran,
Where VT’s gothic gargoyles rose
Oer many a fam’ly man,
No rooms, no work, no peace, no laws,
No pity & no plan –
Would all those men who plying Empire’s vision
Could see the suff’rance at its partition.

Squalid, one-room’d, tarpaulin lives
Smile at me thro’ the glass,
Human beehives; men, spawn & wives
E’er buzzing as we pass
Identical, dark shanty streets choked with the underclass.

Dharavi
September
2008


Golden Goa

Oh to be a boy once more,
Curly-headed, sitting singing
’Midst a thousand flowerets springing
Thomas Aird

We trace the outline of the Western Ghats,
Dawn stirs the steaming jungle from her sleep,
Goa gleams! Golden garden of ex-pats,
Dream shores Iberian…what Dolphins leap
From wave to wave
As deft as nymph on lyre –
Last lingering enclave of Lisboan empire.

For to oust upstart invader
The Marathas march in mail,
Ramparts stout at Fort Aguada
Fearsome wrath fails to avail,
A hiss…allowing another
Elizabethan pale,
Assault abandoned, acceptance express’d,
Obeysive message offer’d to the West.

We revv’d n masse to the Nine Bar,
My mount a twin-wheel’d steed,
Thro’ sunset sha to Shangri-La
Twirl’d with the techno creed,
On LSD, blues, ecstasy, beer, dexys, weed & speed.

Vagator
September
2008


Seasider

To guard all joys of yours from time’s estranging,
I shall be then a treasury where your gay,
Happy & pensive past unaltered is
Alice Meynell

Waking up in Goa I must admit
It feels nice to get away from it all;
Rainy days, credit crunch, fake news & shit,
Eking out existence from work to dole;
Come cruise the road
& set the spirit free,
Four thousand miles from home thro’ hill-gouge junglery.

Sacred Lord Parashurama
Striding mighty mountains high,
Drawing on the force of karma,
Letting cosmic arrow fly,
Landed with much melodrama
As Gods on Earth apply –
No business but obeyance as the land –
Pure, perfect stretch of sand – like summer spanned.

Dragon’s moon gazes on Goa,
The guest houses all full,
Half-built villa! homeless squatter,
The dogbark silence dull,
& when I woke the waves rolled white, the sun’s rays wonderful,

Benaulim
September
2008


Idyllicity

I open my eyes, but still cannot see,
the best thing I have, you’ve given to me,
I’ve searched all my life, to fulfill my being
Matthew Welsh

A little further down the Konkan tide
I found a beach & bay of perfect pitch,
Curvacious groves of coconut groves ridge-side,
Divided by the sunset’s tribal switch;
Alive by night,
Days laze so solarful,
On motorbikes alight for quests historical.

Oporto’s captain strode along
The rampart’s red ramshackle,
“The moat is deep, the walls are strong,
Terrain too tough to tackle,
Still… tell the men in three-fold prong
Teach the East of battle!”
Another day of bloodshed to appal
Raja of Soonda soon surrenders all.

Cocktails at the Cafe del Mar,
Sharkmeat at Palolem
The beach, the bar, the Greek guitar,
The sweet peace of Patnem,
The cosmpolotania, life’s cool creme de la creme.

Canacona
September
2008


In Search of Wellington

I anoint my flesh
Thought is hallowed in the lean
Oil of solitude
Wole Soyinka

Beside the rushes of the Kaveri,
Yon the silicon crush of Bangalore,
Lies the capital, lost to history,
Of Tipu Sultan, Tyger of Mysore;
An elfin town
Its ruin’d fortress wall,
Once keeping safe a crown, testament to it’s fall.

His Highness storm’d the British breach,
Precious pistols in each hand,
Teeth clench’d, show’ring curses to teach
This heathen to leave his land,
But royal flesh feels soft as peach,
At this, his final stand,
Troops of scarlet Scots, drunk on blood & rum,
Made murder to the beat of Wellesley’s drum.

We skirt the spot where wailers found
Bejewell’d Raja spread
On crimson ground ‘neath mangl’d mound
Of proud & loyal dead –
“Drive on,” my pony carriage whipt, to other beauties sped.

Sriringapatanam
September
2008


Saint Thomas

There’s a smile on the vine-clad shore,
A smile on the castl’d heights;
They dream back the days of yore
Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton

My soul’s boatman cuts thro’ Karnataka,
Bursting once more atop these feisty Ghats
Crowning luscious jungles of Kerala,
Where crucifix, idol & muslim mats
Share in delight,
Harmoniously furl’d,
Rare bastion of light in this conflicted world.

The swanhelm’d ship came in to sand
Bearing bearded apostle,
Stunn’d naked natives watch’d the hand
That stroked the Lambs own temple,
Fish levitate from sea to land,
Faith inspiring symbol –
From this day hence the sound of Jesus’ name
Shall burnish certain Asian hearts with flame.

A space in some young side I fill
Amid the Toddies tall,
They sense my skill, a tense nil-nil
Til as the shadows fall
I slink’d past six defenders (two were trees) – the winning goal!

Dharavi
September
2008


Kerala

Carry my soul to the tented
Gypsy mystic, tinted, scented,
Take it to be finger-printed.
Reza Mohammadi

Thro’ groves of coconut boles we venture,
To stand where epic Lusiad lay ceased,
Fisher village where Vasco de Gama
First sank rennaissance gaze upon the East;
Further along
I find a fair city,
Furnish’d with friendly throng & AC library.

They palanquin’d embassadours
Thro’ crowds wide-eyed & gawping,
Depositing those pale litters
At the ring’d toes of their king,
Decadent Zamorin glitters,
What did these envoys bring?
Strange instruments of medicine & war,
The winds of trade blown to his spicy shore.

The latest one-dayer play’d out
Twixt England & our hosts,
Sehwag bowl’d out, my single shout
A meal of lonely toasts…
Flintoff fires off the final runs…clientelle fade like ghosts.

Calicut
September
2008

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