Friday, October 15, 2004

The Ice Man Under The Bridge

lives on moth soup
the string keeping up his green pants
strangled a barking dog outside the boarded up all night off-licence.
For twenty years he delivered ice to fishmongers
from the mouth of the Thames to Greenwich.
They lived on the best salmon cuts
lobster on her birthday Dover sole for his.
He never accepted the Doctor's prognosis
and when his beloved wife died
he packed her body in bed with ice
kissed her brow like always
left a note for the milkman
and gently as ever, closed the front door.

-By David Crystal

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Bon Appetit

I wish bon appetit
to the frail old fisherwoman
she is no more than just
an armload of bones
grown weightless over the years
and caught
in a net of wrinkles)
who, on her way to the market,
has stopped
to have a quick breakfast
in a hole-in-the-wall teashop,
and is sitting hunched
over a plate of chickpeas
— her favourite dish —
on a shaky table,
tearing a piece of bread
with her sharp claws
to soak it in the thin gravy
flecked with red chilli peppers;
and whose mouth is watering
at this very moment, I bet,
for I can almost taste
her saliva
in my mouth.

And I wish bon appetit
to that scrawny little
motheaten kitten
(so famished it can barely stand;
stringy tail,
bald patch on grungey back,
white skin showing through sparse fur)
that, having emerged
from a small pile of rubbish nearby,
and slipped once
on a bit of onion skin,
has been making its way,
slowly but unerringly,
towards the shallow basket
full of shrimps
— left outside on the pavement by the fisherwoman —
has finally managed
to get there,
raised itself on its hindlegs,
put its dirty paws
on the edge of the basket,
and kissed
its first shrimp.

By Arun Kolatkar (1932-2004)

Arun Kolatkar won the Commonwealth Prize for Poetry in the late Seventies. Decidedly reclusive, he wrote in Marathi and English and lived, without benefit of a telephone, in Bombay. Read more, in his Obituary as written by Ranjit Hoskote.

The Lotus

Love came to Flora asking for a flower
That would of flowers be undisputed queen,
The lily and the rose, long long had been
Rivals for that high honour. Bards of power
Had sung their claims. "The rose can never tower
Like the pale lily with her Juno mien" -
"But is the lily lovelier?" Thus between
Flower fractions rang the strife in Psyche's bower.
"Give me a flower delicious as the rose
And stately as the lily in her pride"-
"But of what colour?"- "Rose red," Love first chose,
Then prayed, - "No, lily-white, - or both provide";
And Flora gave the lotus, "rose red" dyed
And "lily white," queenliest flower that blows

By Toru Dutt (1856-1877)

We did this poem in MA-I ....remembered it recently, though I don't quite know why...what I love about the poem then and now, is its sheer simplicity. You'd hardly believe there was a nationalistic strain lying beneath it - oft I wonder if we make too much of the poet's intention. Should we tear apart every literary work to discover the "subverted text" that lies hidden beneath layers? Or simply appreciate the work for what it seems to for art's sake?

Friday, October 08, 2004

Nobel Laureatte - 2004

Elfriede Jelinek - that's a name you can't not know. Why? Because she just won the much coveted Nobel Prize for Literature for the year 2004. An Austrian author, she is known best for her novel "The Piano Teacher" (1988)...her debut novel "Lisas Schatten" (1967) was followed by several politically conscious novels, till her most recent novels which deal with the role of women in society.

Guess she will be seen gracing the shelves of bookstores soon enough - yet another addition to my "Must Read" list, that is growing much faster than I can read...hmmm....