The Advisory Boar

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

The last bird song

2011-01-05

I remarked to a friend, in jest, that if I went camping in the Great Rann of Kutch, nobody might ever hear from me again, but I'd die happy if there were larks singing (the Rann is known to host more than a dozen species of larks). She responded by sending me the following Haiku (which I had never read, and which nobody seems to know the original author of):

Small bird forgive me,
I'll hear the end of your song
In some other world

How astonishingly apt.

Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher

2009-10-16

I came across a quotation from Nissim Ezekiel's poem, "Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher" in a book, and the title was so interesting that I just had to look it up. I found it in the minstrels archive, and it's such an intriguing poem that I'm quoting all twenty lines here.

Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher

To force the pace and never to be still
Is not the way of those who study birds
Or women. The best poets wait for words.
The hunt is not an exercise of will
But patient love relaxing on a hill
To note the movement of a timid wing;
Until the one who knows that she is loved
No longer waits but risks surrendering—
In this the poet finds his moral proved
Who never spoke before his spirit moved.

The slow movement seems, somehow, to say much more.
To watch the rarer birds, you have to go
Along deserted lanes and where the rivers flow
In silence near the source, or by a shore
Remote and thorny like the heart's dark floor.
And there the women slowly turn around,
Not only flesh and bone but myths of light
With darkness at the core, and sense is found
But poets lost in crooked, restless flight,
The deaf can hear, the blind recover sight.

— Nissim Ezekiel

I have read some other poems by Nissim Ezekiel (one was a part of my high school English curriculum), but I can't remember another one that made me sit up and pay attention. I love the idea of tying poetry, love, and bird-watching together through the patience and caring that each requires; and I love the unhurried, graceful way the poem segues between each activity and the feelings it evokes. I think the ending is a bit forced (did anyone mop the heart's dark floor or were they too busy eyeing up the slowly turning women?), and detracts from the light tone established by the first stanza. I notice, too, that poetry, love, and bird-watching are presented as implicitly male pursuits.

Myths of light with darkness at the core? Not so much. But patient love relaxing on a hill is a different feeling, one that I can recognise and will remember.

An Identity Crisis

1999-02-01

I think of myself in a mirror,
thinking about thinking of me.
I laugh at scary reflections,
not recognising the things I see.

On Mondays, I'm brightly coloured:
the week gives me time to fade.
By Friday, I'm a dirty gray,
and on Saturday, a paler shade.

Which leaves a single day to clean
a muddied palette left to dry.
to prepare for the week ahead,
to wonder who I am, and why.

Blue

1999-01-01

I had a favourite shade of blue,
and suddenly, it's no longer there.
a vanishing hue,
leaving my canvas strangely bare.

It might not be a special blue,
or one that you've never seen.
it defies accurate description,
and it beats the hell out of green.

I have a favourite shade of blue:
a colour,
shadows,
memories of you.

The Need for a Holiday

1998-12-02

I live
inside a cheerfully lit,
tastefully decorated bubble
and I call it my home.

I breathe
non-toxic fumes; filtered
through my bubble
and purified.

Suddenly,
I'm swimming through concrete
which has appeared,
unnoticed, from somewhere.

I think about this
while eating my mock turtle-stew.
and it's really quite good:
the stew, I mean.

Sleep

1998-12-01

The sheep are numbered,
colour-coded; arranged
in distracting patterns
on the brink of wakefulness.

My mind unravels after them;
threads of the wrong colour,
too interesting to be ignored.

Everything conspires
to wake me as I float
towards a darkness
which eludes me.

The flesh is willing,
but the spirit
dissolves into consciousness
again.

I want my money back.

Water

1998-10-01

I remember
standing by a waterfall
and watching water
fall
from a height,
aim for me... miss,
hit the ground,
bounce,
and fail to escape from
the seething cauldron
at the bottom.

A cold, deep pool
amidst the rocks
and a little mumbling stream
twisting hurriedly away.

I remember the sea
in peaceful slumber,
breathing slowly in my ear
as I stood beside it.

I look at the green plastic bucket
full of water
in front of me
and enjoy my bath immensely.