Canto 88: Subcontinental

Muse, speak the man, who since the siege of Troy
So many towns, such change of manners saw

Horace


Hippy

Ten days of peacocks, none dare speak,
From sitting legs-cross’d on cool floor
My knees groan aching as they creak.
Angelica Freitas

Sailing between these tranquil backwaters,
Palm-fring’d horizon burst all around me,
Before this treasuregold of Kerala’s
All made to stand in stark humility,
For scenes like these
Reveal wond’rous nature –
We slipt with sweeten’d ease into Kollam harbour.

The beatnik & his blues guitar
Stumbl’d on this perfect place,
Clift portion of the Malabar;
Sand, ocean, sun & solace,
But secrets are soon scatter’d far,
The Western tourists race
To plant their towel standards on the beach
Round which limpet rest’rants & hotels leech.

I dined with maid Slovenian,
Talk’d art, Trieste & Rome,
Slow flirtation! Our supper done
I walk’d her half-way home,
To make love midst the wave-breaks while the moonbeams snaked the foam.

Varkala
October
2008


Three Seas

When you go, space closes over like water behind you,
Do not look back: there is nothing outside you,
Space is only time visible in a different way
Ivan V. Lalić

At last the Ghats have peter’d to their end,
Sole, savage witch-peaks all which now remain,
Until we reach the grand Cormarin bend
Where ends Amritsar’s forty-eight hour train;
Join’d eclectic
In one wylde, chopping squall
Waves from the Antarctic, Araby & Bengal.

Ashes scatter’d on ocean stream,
Last remains of Mahatma,
Opponent of London’s regime
Nurtured in South Africa,
Returning preaching freedom’s dream
With soft satyahara –
This half naked fakir’s staff thin & long
Ensorcell’d his multitudinous throng.

Ghandi guides a blood red bindi
To rest upon the line
Slipping slowly into the sea,
The sky an evening wine,
I turn left face, step forth for North & Himalayan pine.

Kanayakamari
October
2008


Tamil Nadu

It has no name; silence is its name.
In the nothing, becoming nothing,
begetting nothing; this is everything.
Chris Abani

I winch in each pinch of a varied view,
Shaking to this train’s novelty suspense,
After six sardine hours I’m plunged into
Some busy little city street intense;
Here to sample
Some scene which I was told,
India’s best temple bosom’d in urban fold.

The heart of the Dravidian
Fell to Vijiyanagar,
Who built a Hindu pantheon
Taller than its rising star,
Each kaleidoscopic mountain
Melodic without par,
Enough to urge grown women shed their tears,
Still painted heavenly ev’ry twelve years.

Opium! Coleridgian wish
Heeded by bloodshot man,
Dark, oily dish, crunch… ‘What is this?
Liquerice!…’ My mind’s span
Blew interspatial round the room as thought flew with the fan.

Madurai
October
2008


Indiana Byron

In a small side room appears
a broken-armed statue of Ganesh.
Touching the crumbled marble
Tiziana Colusso

Gorgeous Coromandel, crown prince of coasts,
My wanderlust has earn’d thine ancyent treats,
Meagre are glimpses of the Gallic ghosts
Dwelt within this grid of well ponder’d streets;
An antique chair,
Deep tann’d Gendarmerie,
All that retains the air transported from Paris.

Discovering rare poetry
Is the poet’s shooting star,
Like at Kannayakamari
Where stands Thirruvallavar,
Sri Aurobino’s Savitri,
On grand, Miltonic par,
Words wonderful, more wondrous to behold
Than Cortez did with Moctezuma’s gold.

I wafted in on inland scent
& left by soft, sea breeze,
Before I went…bemustach’d gent…
“A cool kingfisher please!”
I nearly piss’d myself when he hiss’d, “Thirty six rupees!”

Pondicherry
October
2008


Madras

So Gods eternall bounty ever shin’d
The beames of beeing, moving, life, sence, minde,
& to all things him selfe communicated
William Alabaster

My driver sure don’t know the highway code,
Thro vast, suburban, lawless sprawl haring,
Thirty kilometres of ribbon road,
Shops, neon signs & chi stalls commingling;
A diff’rent class
Of Indian City,
Formally Queen Madras, maid of an English sea.

Into the caves of Mylapore
Hot blood gusht from the doubter,
Dragging himself across the floor…
Savage loin-cladded hunter
Hath thrust a spear into his core…
Whispering last prayer
He saw the sweet beatific & he cried,
“Thou art fulfill’d…” the martyr smiled & died.

By Fort Saint George such church stands tall
As English as the Downs,
On sacred wall writ the roll call
Of heroes & of towns,
When London’s lackeys grappl’d with & toppl’d Hindu crowns.

Chennai
October
2008


Andaman

I asked for
this primitive afternoon
away from it all
Richard Allen Taylor

I dawdl’d four days on the Nancowry,
Small taster of the voyages of yore,
Fodder’d on a bland, suspicious thali,
My heart leapt up to see Hanuman’s shore;
Some deep & sheer
Mountain range submarine
Thrusting it’s summits clear in shades of leafy green.

The cellular jail built to last
Thro good ol’ British know how,
Where Freedom Fighters earn repast,
Some colonial Dachau,
Where bull whips crack’d & rough sticks flash’d
Guantanaman know-how
A place where proud blood flows for liberty…
How could my contree build Kalapani?

I took a boat to Ross island
Across clear water’d bay,
Wylde Banyans stand on buildings grand,
Imperious Pompeii,
Where now the White Man’s Burden is a ghost town in decay.

Port Blair
October
2008


Bengal Bay

I love, O, how I love to ride
On the fierce, foaming, bursting tide,
When every mad wave drowns the moon
Barry Cornwall

We sail’d from the comforts of Port Blair
Into the wide-wave level loveliness,
We men have conquer’d mountains, moats & air,
But never on deep ocean made impress;
We watch’d the fins
Of silver fish skimming
Where flipp’d slick-back Dolphins ribbon’d in star-swimming.

Empiric British ambition
Found a human pulse in Clive,
Whose self-righteous indignation
Blazed triumphant to arrive
& address the situation
Within this Nawab’s hive,
His tiny fleet transporting all his boys,
These royal redcoats & loyal sepoys.

We sighted land on the fourth day,
Sunder’d by a river,
Naiad gateway to the wide way
Of th’AryaVarta –
I have travers’d from South to North via the Nirvana!

Hugli
October
2008


Colonial

News from a forrein Country came,
As if my Treasure & my Wealth lay there;
So much it did my Heart Enflame !
Thomas Traherne

Akbar’s passengers rush from the harbour,
Haul’d by rickshaw thro’ wacky racer streets,
Power’d by pedal, petrol or runner,
Til once again the Western posse meets
Mid Sudder’s share
Of the Imperatrix
I felt without a care, bouy´d up by British bricks.

Magnificent Pax Mughala
Declines into decadence,
The Nawab, Siraj-ud-Daula
Grows in scope & confidence,
His army march’d to Kolkatta
& English arrogance –
Abandon’d, but for those too late to leave…
Slamm’d in the hole…dawn breaks…few left to breathe.

Grand ocean of humanity,
Sea of friendly faces,
From to native tea, & black taxi,
Betting down the races,
An excellent community garnished with English graces.

Calcutta
October
2008


Forgotten Fields

I see it as I leave the inn
The dark of night, an evil djinn
Pursues me close, each step I take
Fadhil Al-Azzawi

Life simple mid familiar surrounds,
But senses of adventure grow depress’d
So I set forth, a hunter with the hounds,
In pursuit of another interest;
Some battlefield
Lies died for to the North,
If feeling it shall yield a call may be of worth.

All in this monsoon of Indra’s
Growl the scowling guns of France,
By rhino shields & scimitars
Howdah’d behemoths advance…
Rudely halted by Clive’s soldiers!
Mir Jaffa sees the chance,
His mass of decision led from the field,
This treachery the Nawabcy must yield.

My cycle rickshaw gliding hies
From the glean of battle,
A poets prize…dark dragonflies
Dart oer the arable –
My guide plants me on northbound bus roaring at full throttle!

Plassey
October
2008

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