River Poems: 370 / 500

0006 Saraswati

Rating: 2.4

The name means
wisdom. Perhaps
we should leave it there. For
the human mind loves
to bring the heavenly
down to earth; then bury it:

maybe not wisdom, did they say –
who worships wisdom in these foolish days?
Maybe a goddess then?
We’ll name our greatest river
after her; that will help men
to remember wisdom
which flows from heaven
to the tops of the unreachable snowed
Himalayas, flows down and nourishes
the earth that nourishes the seeds
that yield the plants
that bring life to men
who meet together on her banks
and build a whole Harappan
civilisation – so, look –
she’s wisdom, and a goddess, and river bringing life itself
and so she’s in the heart
of every Indian.

so far, so good; but then –
was it anger in the heavens,
that made the lovely goddess
lift her veil across her face?
conceal her wisdom? Was it
that men forgot to honour her?
Or was it some tectonic plate, slightly tipping,
that turned the fertile Sindh and Rajasthan
into deserts? And the river Saraswati
first became not a river, but
a line of pools, needing the yearly
tribute from the rains of mercy,
brought by men’s sacrifice? And then,
finally disappeared?

and so the goddess of wisdom
who is eternal wisdom
and a river, is now
the goddess of the wisdom that’s
no longer seen so gracefully flowing there; invisible.

Maybe this purdah
is more dignified; we know she’s there,
if we honour her enough
and need her.

The story is not over, though:
the satellites have photographed
her ghost; a veiled figure seen
slipping out in the cool half-light of dawn,
waterpot on shoulder; she knows
that deep underground, her wise water
waits in stone caverns beneath the earth
these 3,500 years; to be drawn on
by wise engineers, to drink again
with awe, with gratitude, or thoughtless…

Wisdom waits,
living a life so deep in poetry,
in metaphor,
wisdom, goddess, water. How
she must love to live
lightly veiled in silken speech,
quietly in the heart, like
metaphor itself.

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COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Gaurav Silwal 24 December 2006

Great! ! ! ! You seem to have read about all these details. Saraswati is mentioned in Indian Scriptures and she is Goddess of Learning. Gaurav

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Not a member No 4 19 December 2006

Yet again, I'm obliged with alacrity to kneel before you: An astonishing piece of poetry Michael. This has greatness stamped all over it. The intro is magnificent and it builds from there like the flowing thing(s) it celebrates and examines so fruitfully. And you know it's excellent too - don't you! You really nailed it with this one! ! jim

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Hugh Cobb 02 March 2006

Michael, This is a wonderful poem. Do not be discouraged by those who cannot recognize something other than teen angst revisited. This poem is deep and rich in images, in history, in myth. I will have to read more of your work after this. Keep up the great writing. Hugh

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