Sunday, March 11, 2012

Oh! Jerusalem, Jerusalem

Oh! Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
Holiest of holy cities
Cursed by the Nazarene:
Nameless, faceless,
Besieged, bombed,
Occupied by militias, armies,
It's unbelievable that once
The messiah of peace walked your streets.

Now you are rubble,
Bomb-hit houses
Lying in a mangled haze
Your hospices filled with the dying
Now you show signs of prosperity
But death still waits at your doorsteps.

The Cedars are bereft,
Alleys are filled with twisted steel,
Your people are not given -
A chance to survive, make peace.
Inside you there are enemy streets
Where children fear to walk
Afraid of hidden gunmen.

Will you rise from this debris?
Bring peace to your proud monuments,
And foliate your naked Cedars
With the leaves of verdant summer
In their shades women wouldn’t wail,
Of disappearances, shootings, and ransoms,
Of men who misunderstand the love of God!

To a Reluctant Writer

You can pick meaning off words,
You can paint pictures;
You can laugh at them,
Who laugh at you;
You can mourn
The follies of the unwise.

To write is power,
Of words, thoughts,
Limitless and boundless,
As the sky above and earth below;
You will never be alone
When words churn in your mind.

You can be heartbroken,
And cry and cry;
But a poem would wipe tears,
Puts a smile on your face,
Erase the pain
Of loneliness and love.

So won’t you write?
A letter, a poem, an essay;
We would gladly plunge in its depths,
Smile at its humour,
Relish what pains it took you,
And forgive friendly trespasses.

Anthonybhai's Song

Anthonybhai’s Song

(In Mack English)[1]

Kya, re? Know something, men?
Dis big, big; new, new instrumen’
Mobile phone and internet, wot?
Such confusion really I neva thought.

This pre-paid-post-paid I don’t unnerstan’, please tell,
Anthony’s simply want to know, what the hell,
You are not to be seen only, these days,
And you don’t call, even on Sundays.

I feel you’re going far, far away,
Some fuckin’ Katlik boy’s come your way?
I will break his legs, just you watch,
I won’t let you be an easy catch.

I know pucca you are flirting girl,
It shows in de way your lips curl,
You have no patience only with me,
But for him, that bugger, you’ll bend and curtsey.

“Wot’s my fault?” I aks Fadder Fonseca, he say:
“Son, forget her, forgive and pray
Treasures and eternal life in heaven above
Are your rewards than this worldly grave.”

I say, no, Irene’s my senorita, Fadder,
I don’t want to be treated, no way, like a ladder
Another man to step and take my girl away,
To the holy alter; and then “I do” say.

[1] A pidgin dialect spoken by Goans, East Indians, Ango-Indians, and other communities mainly found on the West Coast of India.

Apocalyptic Rain

(Dedicated to: father who died on a rainy day.)


The day he dies
The rain murmurs on glass
Through night and day,
Like apocalypse is today, now
It courses down the eaves at 3.30 a.m.
At 4.30 a.m. it’s still trickling
In the hospital courtyard

At home 
In the dark
We pause to look at the sky
And murmur, “It’ll never end.”
“The rain will take us as did father.”
"Will electricity come?"
We are wondering whether
The food will last
The oil lamp will burn till midnight
Till we sleep the wearied sleep
Of farmers and day labourers
Of those days
When only the rich had electricity.
And in the morning
We wake up in a daze
To hear the rain still pounding
Pitting the stones
Drilling holes into roads
Fearing the worst
The swirling deaths
Washed out homes
That came calling on July 26
The day the skies wept.


Once a boy
Hanging on to straws
Who, when a rainy symphony plays,
With open book on knees,
Reads “Paradise Lost,”
And dreams of poetic fame
Lost in a haze of innocence
“Will he ever survive this world?”
“Look at him, he is so silent.”
“Why is he so different?”
“How has he become thus?”
They ask
The ones who fail to prepare him
With their love.


The dream of trophy girls is now
The tattered cloth of a mendicant,
Stained and threadbare,
Threatening to rend
At the most delicate touch
As rain comes down
On hills and weaving coconut palms
Marble monuments, their treasures plundered.
And the sun-shielded glass
In a city a thousand kilometres away
Reeking of human enslavement
The rain stops
11.30 a.m.
Just as the pounding in the brain
Make tea
Drink cupful of heat
Lay down to rest
Sleep the tired sleep of the lazy
Wake worn out to rain pounding again
Rivulets on glass
Head aching from countless
Confusing dreams.


When we go to fetch his body
From the morgue
The rain comes so thick
That the river Pampa changes course
Marooning the house
He built
Our abode
Of parsimonious money
He made from the pain of my hunger
The house of our deprivation.
As the flotsam recedes
Leaving the ground slushy
In the 1.30 p.m. rain
He is interred
At the family church
At the family graveyard
When the bell tolls mournfully
After the priests and assemblage
Dropping mud on his coffin.
He must have heard
The thudding
Soil and stone
On palm trees
The wind sighing in leaves
The susurration
Of tiny rivulets
Into his new abode.
Felt the wasting
Of a body
Drowned in grief
Soil to Soil
Earth to Earth
Dreams having flown
In the 4.30 p.m. rain.