Treasure Island

Ayyappa Paniker

(12 September 1930 - 23 August 2006 / Kavalam, Kerala, India)

Passage To America


I.
On the day of the feast
death had its celebration
the teevees and the movies
told us the same story
death in the morning death in the evening
death in the cellar death in the alley
death on the highway the boy returning from the rally
death in the cornfield the girl going to the grocer's
death in the valley and high on the mountain
death from pollution and great disillusion
death in the mind in the womb in the cradle
death from belief and its comic relief
the winds from the north and the winds from the south
sowed the seeds of death and waited for the harvest
death was riding nightmares
on the streets of civilization
someone had coughed in the women's room
and kleenex caught her vaginal sneeze
while history knocked at the door
and waited in the winter outside
the computer counted the errors
and discounted others
a woman had died but it was a mistake
someone wanted to undo it
learned it was too late
and walked to the seashore
and watched the tidal waves
death was riding the receding waves
death was roaring in the generation gap
and lying in history's lap
was sucking on its sap
on the day of the feast
death had its celebration
knocked out of sleep by the casualty list
someone was still groping in daylight
but it's christmas and new year
time to stop worrying over those that are dead
time to start thinking of living yet
while the sun is still hot and the day not done
perhaps a mistake to suppose it so
it's easy enough to suppose it so
and it's easy enough to die in these circumstances
but think of the horror and the glory of having to live

II.
My sitar
my guitar
from east or west
i do not care
whatever i dare
is for the best
fingers of the left
tripping on nipples
fingers of the right
strumming the ripples
around the lotus bud
as we set on the bed
each petal quakes
as the raga awakes
raises in dizzy spirals
towers and gyres
steeples and spires
domes and minarets
pagodas pyramids
fabled hoofs
trot on gabled roofs
as the tala quickens
we rocket to the heavens
to gather the starlust
and then we fall
falter and fall
like flakes of feathered snow
sprinkled with stardust
o my guitar
o my sitar

III.
Having learnt
in a short lifetime
that chalk doesn't write on chalk
he turned
to look
for sunflowers
in beds
of roses
IV.
Twice-punctured silver belle
suspended in the cerulean
her sea of tranquility
disturbed by hymen penetration
her darkness filmed and douched
unable to recover her cherry nights
fears yet longs for
the next assault
in sweet dread of periodic stress
her bashful beams dreaming downward
for a metallic man-thrust

V.
The poet chews the afternoon like his moustache
he drones on about a new civilization
his mystic beard points to the seed of time
his tongue trips on the syllables of a sutra
my girl she sleeps
and slides on to my shoulder
her breasts rise and fall
where the words of the poet rebound
her dark green shirt exudes the smell of sweat
her golden hair the sinuous oily flesh of hair
curves creeps and curls into my veins
words wary sliders reveal their mystery
my girl she stirs turns around
her bellybutton shows a foetus face
a snake tongue smacks her swollen lips
the soft hairs on her upper lip
now moist and alive
a dog walks in and lies down at my feet
he listens to the poet
reading chanting enchanting
like a dream called off in the middle
the poet pauses poised for breath between the mantras
the tangled thighs of minutes
the dog gets up stretches himself walks away
wagging his tail in total agreement
soft nervous fingers touch me from the side
they keep me from the poet
a dog is dignified by his tail
i wish i had one

VI.
Time to say farewell
Pale faces
after a nightlong wake
do not need to kiss
Before another nightfall
sometime during the day
we have to say farewell
How shall we part then
Write an autograph
and put a period after it
Take a long walk
and sigh in the wind
Recite a few verses
and smile at the end
Perhaps a last smutty story
to leave a scratch on the memory
Look how the spring sun
Struggles with the rain!

VII.
It's as if i suddenly meet you on the way
when i go for my usual walk in the evening
the earth that begins at your feet
seems to end at mine
the air you breathe out
enters into my lungs
and the light that escapes from your eyes
focuses on mine
america
i see your map
like the palm of a hand stretched out on my lap
mississippi traces your lifeline to the south
while the great lakes draw circles
along the st lawrence headline
but where is your heartline
on the mount of jupiter
new england cocks its eyes at europe
your venus is still in heat
in the far south of florida
and the mount of moon
shimmers on the california beach
but america
where has vanished your heartline
has some test explosion
sucked it underground
i remember river phalgun
that goes dry in summer defying our prayers
where once the buddha got enlightenment
and learned to take the earth for a begging bowl
but here the fission and the fusion
your scientists envision
offer your palmist nothing but confusion
sailing back from mescalin to marijuana
someone said
there never was such a line
in this ancient newborn land
where we grow corn and PL 480
and make cover tv sets in plenty
till our chests are nearly empty
and brains spout tons of TNT
it's christmas again
the shape of a heart neatly pinned to a cross
that stands on a hill we have set up with skill

(Translated by the author, with the help of J.O. Perry, Dakshinamoorthy, K. Satchidanandan, and Esther Y. Smith.)

Submitted: Thursday, September 06, 2012
Edited: Friday, September 07, 2012

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