Kamala Das

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

The Testing Of The Sirens - Poem by Kamala Das

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The night, dark-cloaked like a procuress, brought
him to me, willing, light as a shadow,
speaking words of love
in some tender language I do not know ...
With the crows came the morning, and my limbs
warm of love, were once again so lonely...
At my doorstep I saw a pock-marked face,
a friendly smile and
a rolleiflex. We will go for a drive,
he said. Or go see the lakes. I have
washed my face with soap and water, brushed
my hair a dozen
times, draped myself in six yards of printed
voile. Ah... does it still show, my night of love?
You look pale, he said. Not pale, not really
pale. It's the lipstick's
anemia. Out in the street, we heard
The sirens go, and I paused in talk to
weave their wail with the sound of his mirthless
laughter. He said,
they are testing the sirens today. I am
happy. He really was lavish with words.
I am happy, just being with you.
But you . . . you love another,
I know, he said, perhaps a handsome man,
a young and handsome man. Not young,
not handsome, I thought, just a filthy snob.
It's a one-sided love,
I said. What can I do for yoou? I smiled
A smile is such a detached thing, I wear
it like a flower. Near the lake, a pregnant
girl bared her dusky
breasts and washed them sullenly. On the old
cannon-stand, crows bickered over a piece
of lizard-meat and the white sun was there
and everywhere . . .
I want your photo, lying-down,
nineteen-thirty-four guns, he said,
against those rusty nineteen-thirty-four guns,
will you ? Sure. Just arrange my limbs and tell
Me when to smile. I
shut my eyes, but inside eye-lids, there was
no more night, no more love, or peace, only
the white, white sun burning, burning, burning...
Ah, why does love come to me like pain
again and again and again?


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012



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