Monday 24 July 2006

Last Tree Standing

It was the last tree standing

On the prairie’s boundless ground

Harassed by the winds and rain alike

It stood alone, calm, strong

Gently holding on to its last leaves.

“More wood, more fire,

More orgies!

My power shall not stand

Diminished in any way.

The jewels in my crown,

Those trophies of battle,

That glory of being

The Master of his men.

The vile slavery of my serfs

— shall I let go of it?

More orgies, more food,

More laurels to my power!

“Shall a mere tree come in my way?

What shall I make my men do?

Eat roots when they can have pheasant stew?

That last tree shall give me wood,

And they – those serving men –

They shall chop it, and burn it.

The cooking-men will stir the pots;

The hunting-men shall find for me -

Pheasants, and deer and turtles;

The growing men shall bring me

Wheat, and rice and cotton;

The weaver-men, and the barber-men

And the potter-men and other men,

They shall all ply their trades.

“And I:

I keep the peace among them,

I throw them my table-scraps,

And they shall be fed

And be happy.

They shall not murmur

And swear oaths and secrets

Or in any manner rise against me.

“No more wood be there to burn?

What matter?

We shall burn coal.

“No more coal?

O there is some left for a year?

Good. Burn it, then.

Does not matter.

I shall be dead soon.

I’m old, and I have seen my times.

And they were good.

Let it be, for my men are happy.

Let them not stir.

Once I’m dead what do I care?

My son will face times

Of hardship and sorrow?

O! but let him face it,

I can only live my life.

“I burnt the last tree,

I’ll burn the last coalstone.

But I’ve burnt my snuff,

I have nothing more to burn.

No wood, no fire, no orgies.

We shall do without them.

Let the tree stand

and bear fruit and seed.

We shall sow those seeds and pray.

And while a new forest grows,

Let us

Repent our error

And pledge to learn

Not to make them again.

The jewels of my crown

Or the trophies of my battles,

What more are they than shadows?

Whither my majesty, my laurels

If my people die after me

Unfed, uncared?

Shall a mere orgy today

Feed famine tomorrow?

We shall have roots, and tubers,

And whatever else,

The growing-men can by their talents

Make the mother-earth provide.

We shall all keep a pledge:

I shall, with my potter-men,

And hunter-men and weaver-men,

And barber-men,

Tend to our new forest

And sing to our children

Of our horror, our error.

Our dear kindred

When it be time to inherit the world;

We hope they shall not find

Our efforts in vain.

They shall have fruits

And shade,

And rain,

And every bounty of the forest.

Spring shall come again:

There shall be birds that sing,

And flowers and butterflies.

And that will bring joy.

We shall have in our deaths:

Peace and happiness

That we lived a good life.

The coal shall stay buried,

The wood stand in its glory,

And I rest

Forever in peace.

Wednesday 19 July 2006

To My Nephew Newborn

Ah! Little fellow,
Welcome to the arms,
Of a proud uncle.

Welcome into this world of ours.
We have many things for you.
You shall have them
As a young man.


And roses.

Tell me, nephew,
(Though I know you cannot tell)
What will the world be like,
In your time?

Will there still be roses,
And the time and tenderness,
To give them to pretty girls?

Will the child's laugh,
The sparrow's twitter
And the sunrise on the sea
Still be beautiful?

Will all men,
Who the wise say
Are born equal,
Will they die equal
And happy?

Or would steel
Still shed blood?

Will the madness that has been
The fate of all mankind,
The plunder and plague,
Still abound?

I hope there will be roses,
And the beauty of love
Still prevail in the end.

Nephew (how you sleep!)
Someday you will be
The father, and I the son
And you will lead me by
The hands that hold you now,
Into a future unseen.

Monday 17 July 2006

A Monsoon Sonnet

Hurrah! The rains are here!
The dream that every tree has seen
To dress in everlasting green;
The hope of every sown seed,
Of every herb and grass and weed,
Of parched street and thirsting town,
Of starving ryot and taxing crown:
Is sated now, there is no fear.

The drops of life fall sweet and clear!
His time has come, he's waited long:
The frog croaks forth his eager song!
With joy does every little child,
Frolic in mud, get wet, run wild!
Hurrah! The rains are here!

Sunday 9 July 2006

The Courtship of a Fly

some point in their love-lives. Now those beautiful studies in miniature called Drosophila melanogaster, who provide me my daily bread, have no less an elaborate ritual of courtship, as they sing and dance and weather down their beloveds to consent to a union of hearts. Presenting the Fly Shakespeare:-

Male:- Shall I compare thee to a summer’s eve?
Thy brilliance is like a sun upon the firmament,
And thy portment most tubby!

Female: Hie! Thou yellow-bodied knave,
Get thee away from me.

Male:- Dismiss not my entreaties, bonnie lass,
Thine wings most curled, and most brilliant
Balanced are they in their beauty!

Female:- Look upon thyself, thou love-lorn fool!
Look upon the hazard tufts,
That peasantly stubble
That thou claimest to pass for bristles,
Ha! Wooest thou me with such gain?
And consider mine:
What perfect form, slender curved,
And tipt with gold!

Male:- Am I so blemish’d,
That my worth to thee is unkempt?
Gaze into my eyes, fair maiden,
Two whiten hemispheres
Pure in their love for thee!

Female:- Gadzooks! What cheek!
Thou base mutant, recessive weasel!
Who canst not bear even so much
As the redness of health,
What insolence!

Male:- Base I be, gentle lady,
Nor am I completely unworthy
to seek the favour
Of thy most dominant
barred glance upon mee,
and the rapture of your consent!

Canst thou, Noble reader, guess the cross?

The Message

The message is supreme;
Born in the heart,
and lilting itself
from tongue to tongue,
throwing its scent
over wind and wave;
travelling on dots
or fingers
when blindness
or silence bar its way.

It hews itself into stone
or burns itself onto magnetic discs;
it is the message that lives
and I exist
solely to pass it on.

Saturday 8 July 2006

Fashion Street

9:00 AM. Mumbai. Fashion Street.
Officially Mahatma Gandhi Road.
Curious juxtaposition of names.

Empty hawker stalls.
Unloaded hangers.
Stark bamboo poles.

Fading echoes of bargains.
Echoes of a thriving economy.
Echoes of a police van.
Echoes of a city alive.

Echoes of a man of his people.
Echoes of his people.
Curious juxtaposition of names?
(Originally written as a flash essay on Saturday, September 03, 2005. I wonder whether transformation as blank verse would work.)

Tuesday 4 July 2006

A Monsoon Idyll

The nectar-laden clouds;
The earthen smell
of newborn life
the sea-spray upon my face,
the green cloak that the trees
have covered themselves in
and the steadily pouring rain
that feeds, nurtures, enlivens:
they weave beauty into breath,
The joy of being,
The enchanted thrill
And the bliss of minglement
into the bounty of the earth!


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