Kamala Das

(31 March 1934 – 31 May 2009 / Punnayurkulam, Thrissur District in Kerala)

The Suicide


Bereft of soul
My body shall be bare.
Bereft of body
My soul shall be bare.
Which would you rather have
O kind sea?
Which is the more dead
Of the two?
I throw the bodies out,
I cannot stand their smell.
Only the souls may enter
The vortex of sea.
Only the souls know how to sing
At the vortex of the sea.
Your body shall be dead,
Poor thing,
Dead as driftwood, drifting
And drifting to the shore.
Your body shall ride the tide,
Rider, slumped dead
On white war-house.
Charging.
Your body shall bruise white
Against the coral reefs,
Your body,
Your lonely body.
I tell you, sea,
I have enough courage to die,
But not enough.
Not enough to disobey him
Who said: Do not die
And hurt me that certain way.
How easy your duties are.
How simple.
Only roar a hungry roar,
Leao forward,
And retreat.
You swing and you swing,
O sea, you play a child's game.
But,
I must pose.
I must pretend,
I must act the role
Of happy woman,
Happy wife.
I must keep the right distance
Between me and the low.
And I must keep the right distance
Between me and the high.
O sea, i am fed up
I want to be simple
I want to be loved
And
If love is not to be had,
I want to be dead, just dead
While I enter deeper,
With joy I discover
The sea's hostile cold
Is after all skin-deep.
The sea's inner chambers
Are all very warm.
There must be a sun slumbering
At the vortex of the sea.
O sea, i am happy swimming
Happy, happy, happy ...
The only movement i know well
Is certainly the swim.
It comes naturally to me.
I had a house a Malabar
And a pale-green pond.
I did all my growing there
In the bright summer months.
I swam about and floated,
And divided into the cold and green
I lay speckled green and gold
In all the hours of the sun,
Until
My grandmother cried,
Darling, you must stop this bathing now.
You are much too big to play
Naked in the pond.
Yes, the only movement i really know
Is swimming,
It comes naturally to me.
The white man who offers
To help me forget,
The white man who offers
Himself as a stiff drink,
Is for me,
To tell the truth,
Only water.
Only a pale-green pond
Glimmering in the sun.
In him I swim
All broken with longing.
In his robust blood i float
Drying off my tears.
Yet i never can forget
The only man who hurts.
The only one who seems to know
The only way to hurt.
Holding you is easy
Clutching at moving water,
I tell you, sea,
This is easy,
But to hold him for half a day
Was a difficult task.
It required drinks
To hold him down.
To make him love.
But, when he did not love,
Believe me,
All I could do was to sob like a fool.
O sea,
You generous cow,
You and I are big flops.
We are too sentimental
For our own
Good.
Lights are moving on the shore.
But I shall not return.
Sea, toss my body back
That he knew how to love.
Bereft of body
My soul shall be free.
Take in my naked soul
That he knew how to hurt.
Only the soul knows how to sing
At the vortex of the sea.

Submitted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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