Nissim Ezekiel

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Rating: 4.33

Nissim Ezekiel Poems

I remember the night my mother
was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours
of steady rain had driven him
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.

In my room, I talk
to my invisible guests:
they do not argue, but wait

Unsuitable for song as well as sense
the island flowers into slums
and skyscrapers, reflecting
precisely the growth of my mind.

I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi

There is a place to which I often go,
Not by planning to, but by a flow
Away from all existence, to a cold
Lucidity, whose will is uncontrolled.

This normative hill
like all others
is transparently accessible,
out there

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.


Some people are not having manners,
this I am always observing,
For example other day I find
I am needing soap

Her mother shed a tear or two but wasn't really
crying. It was the thing to do, so she did it
enjoying every moment. The bride laughed when I
sympathized, and said don't be silly.

Remember me? I am Professor Sheth.
Once I taught you geography. Now
I am retired, though my health is good.
My wife died some years back.

our dear sister
is departing for foreign
in two three days,


The hills are always far away.
He knows the broken roads, and moves
In circles tracked within his head.

Nissim Ezekiel Biography

Nissim Ezekiel was an Indian Jewish poet, playwright, editor and art-critic. He was a foundational figure in postcolonial India's literary history, specifically for Indian writing in English. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1983 for his Poetry collection, "Latter-Day Psalms", by the Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters. Early Life Ezekiel was born on 16 December 1924 in Bombay (Maharashtra). His father, Moses Ezekiel, was a professor of botany at Wilson College, and his mother was principal of her own school. The Ezekiels belonged to Mumbai's Jewish community, known as the 'Bene Israel' . In 1947, Ezekiel earned a BA in Literature from Wilson College, Mumbai, University of Mumbai. In 1947-48, he taught English literature and published literary articles. After dabbling in radical politics for a while, he sailed to England in November 1948. He studied philosophy at Birkbeck College, London. After three and a half years stay, Ezekiel worked his way home as a deck-scrubber aboard a ship carrying arms to Indochina. He married Daisy Jacob in 1952. In the same year, Fortune Press published his first collection of poetry, The Bad Day. He joined The Illustrated Weekly of India as an assistant editor in 1953 and stayed there for two years. Soon after his return from London, he published his second book of verse Ten Poems. For the next 10 years, he also worked as a broadcaster on Art and literature for All India Radio. Career Ezekiel's first book, The Bad Day, appeared in 1952. He published another volume of poems, The Deadly Man in 1960. After working as an advertising copywriter and general manager of a picture frame company (1954–59), he co-founded the literary monthly Jumpo, in 1961. He became art critic of The Names of India (1964–66) and edited Poetry India (1966–67). From 1961 to 1972, he headed the English department of Mithibai College, Bombay. The Exact Name, his fifth book of poetry was published in 1965. During this period he held short-term tenure as visiting professor at University of Leeds (1964) and University of Pondicherry (1967). In 1967, while in America, he experimented with LSD. In 1969, Writers Workshop, Kozhikode published his The Damn Plays. A year later, he presented an art series of ten programmes for Indian television. In 1976, he translated Jawarharlal Nehru poetry from Marathi, in collaboration with Vrinda Nabar, and co-edited a fiction and poetry anthology. His poem The Night Of The Scorpion is used as study material in Indian and Columbian schools. Ezekiel also penned poems in ‘Indian English’ like the one based on instruction boards in his favourite Irani café. His poems are used in NCERT English textbooks.)

The Best Poem Of Nissim Ezekiel

Night Of The Scorpion

I remember the night my mother
was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours
of steady rain had driven him
to crawl beneath a sack of rice.

Parting with his poison - flash
of diabolic tail in the dark room -
he risked the rain again.

The peasants came like swarms of flies
and buzzed the name of God a hundred times
to paralyse the Evil One.

With candles and with lanterns
throwing giant scorpion shadows
on the mud-baked walls
they searched for him: he was not found.
They clicked their tongues.
With every movement that the scorpion made his poison moved in Mother's blood, they said.

May he sit still, they said
May the sins of your previous birth
be burned away tonight, they said.
May your suffering decrease
the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.
May the sum of all evil
balanced in this unreal world

against the sum of good
become diminished by your pain.
May the poison purify your flesh

of desire, and your spirit of ambition,
they said, and they sat around
on the floor with my mother in the centre,
the peace of understanding on each face.
More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,
more insects, and the endless rain.
My mother twisted through and through,
groaning on a mat.
My father, sceptic, rationalist,
trying every curse and blessing,
powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.
He even poured a little paraffin
upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.
I watched the flame feeding on my mother.
I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with an incantation.
After twenty hours
it lost its sting.

My mother only said
Thank God the scorpion picked on me
And spared my children.

Nissim Ezekiel Comments

Sarah Jones 24 September 2013

An absolutely brilliant poet. The sarcasm and wit employed in his poem is outstanding. He has mocked the contemporary usage of Indian English in many of his poems, which is not correctly understood by many readers. Nissim will be immortal for his creations Night of the Scorpion and Poet, Lover, Bird Watcher. These two are among the best poems in Indian English writing.

57 28 Reply
Bijay Kant Dubey 09 May 2014

Nissim Ezekiel is the poster boy of modernism in the history of Indian English poetry who together with P.Lal tries to give a dimension to it, but to credit to him merely only will not serve our point and for it, this must go to C.R.Mandy, the then editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India who gave a chance to many a verse-practitioner. At that time Nissim too was a new-comer, unheard of. Nissim had not been so famous as he is today.A Bene-Israeli, I mean a Jew he was outwardly frank, bold and daring, but from his interior within a conservative fellow who stepped not outside, just like a modern hollow man he kept himself to modernity, modernism and hollow urbanity rather than allowing some space to India, Indianism and the theme of Indianness. He had been blind to the treasure trove of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas and other things philosophical and scriptural. A modern man, he thought of modernity and modernism; city life and culture. The tea party, marriage party, exchange of pleasantries, welcome speeches, greetings, birthdays, new year eves; airports, picnic spots, restaurants, travel destinations, theatres, cinema halls, art exhibitions and journalistic tidbits are the things of his discussion. To joke with and to caricature is the chief property of the poet. The wife under the ghumta (veil) taking not the name of the husband at the modern party is the protagonist of his humour. People trying to learn spoken English too comes under the glare of his jokes. A clear-cut poet, he seeks to employ a clear-cut language for his poetry. He can date, but can never turn up for a consummation. to go to the cinema hall with the beloved and to smile with her is acceptable ti him, but never, never the love marriage going outside the gamut; the ghettos binding upon. As a poet he is Indian as for his bare ground realities, wit, fun, pun and humour, India-connections, not for his relationships. He is a poet of the urban space, not the Indian countryside.

48 29 Reply
Bijay Kant Dubey 02 October 2015

With the scorpion, he turned into a reputed poet, had he the cobras like the charmer, what would it have as Girish Karnad turned into a famous man just with the story of the Icchanagin and Nagakanya in Nagamandala!

13 7 Reply
Kamna 06 April 2018

Chapter 1 literature poem the child writer by nissim ezekiel pls help all exercise

8 1 Reply
Ghannsulo 19 September 2018

Top re

5 2 Reply
Anisha Halder 14 October 2020


2 1 Reply
dumdum 22 January 2019

i really enjoy these poems

7 0 Reply
Thara 30 November 2018

I wish to read the poem very indian poem in indian english

9 1 Reply
anon0 29 October 2018

I wish the poem 'Very Indian Poem in English' by Ezekiel was also included in this list

9 1 Reply
pragti 11 October 2018

Philosophy is good poem bt not very interesting

6 4 Reply

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