Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Poems

 
 

A Bengal Tyger Pacing Her Cage

                                                              (for Taslima Nasrin)


“Ring O ye tongues of the world for their woe
Ring out ye voices for Love we don't know
Ring out ye bells of electrical pain
Ring in the conscious of America brain”
                                -Allen Ginsberg, September on Jessore Road


I.
Upon my own free will I enter
a tiger cage with a wild Bengal tyger
who’s been forced out of the wilderness
chased far from her beloved Bangladesh
no longer permitted freedom
to roam within her own native home…

A Bengal tyger pacing her cage…
A Bengal tyger roaring in rage…


II.
She’s a tyger who speaks without trepidation
when bearded outlaws in flip-flops hunt her down…
torches blazing… just for citing Red Rosa quotations….
as if she— alone— had devoured sheep of entire towns!
A tyger who dares protest against gangs of poachers
who work long hours for foreign speculators
helping them to plunder medicinal lotions
from the disease ridden bodies of endangered species
for the profit of their own vainglorious salvation…
Yes, she’s a tyger who mocks the most holy of holies
The most absurd of absurd superstitions!


III.
Roving make-shift bands
of white smock fanatics
wish to string her neck
high upon the scaffold
after ramming the heretic’s
iron pitch fork really deep
into her soft purring jowl—
as if it were still days of old—
like the Christian Inquisition
or else the strange fruit
of Ku Klux Klan lynchings.


Cousins of four messianic flyers—
true believers in a counterfeit Apocalypse
who crash commercial passenger jets
in the NYC Twin Towers and Pentagon—
these cowardly gangs continue to assault
tourists, travelers and workers defenseless—
ordinary people from all the planet’s religions
in what is claimed “an eye for an eye” but
which makes the whole world even blinder—
and who seek to appease their callous conscience
for what is really slaughter indiscriminate
in a pseudonym of blessed martyrdom:
A perversion of Islamic faith from love to hate…


Unreal horrors of bodies in metros exploding …
Now all the world’s cities in fear… quaking:
Paris, Bali, Madrid, London, Kolkata
Baghdad, Kabul, Moscow, Beslan, Casablanca,
Islamabad, Mumbai and Dhaka!!!


“Through learned and laborious years”
these bearded outlaws
(calling themselves “students”)
“set themselves to find
fresh terrors and un-dreamed of fears
to heap upon mankind…”
in Kipling’s prophetic  lines…


IV.
Her lustrous eyes straight facing me—
with her shiny coat of orange fur
black stripes crafted like daggers….
this tyger tyger burning bright…
now paces in her homeless plight
in the midst of an urban menagerie—
far away from bleak forests of the night…

But not once did she stretch out her razor sharp claws 
Not once did she reveal her deadly fangs and roar
Not once did she crouch in elephant grass ready to strike…

V.
Eye to eye I hold out my palm gently
with nothing to proffer but lines of poetry …
She requests that I recite Ginsberg verse—
that horrific taxi ride of September 1971—
those millions of helpless souls forlorn
upon Jessore Road hungry, homeless …
those hopeless millions turned to ghost…

Those days of her girlhood when the beaks
of vultures spread the smell of rotten flesh
and the sound of bullets echoed in the restless
fluttering of pigeon wings…


I then remember that Beatle mystic
who pleaded in mantras for America—
as urged by the sitar of Ravi Shankar—
to help  those impoverished and lost:
But the promise of ten million greenbacks
for humanitarian aid and human rights
raised from that concert for Bangladesh:
All screwed up in a struggle with the IRS
over non-profit taxes and copyrights!!!


My own heavy voice bleeding hoarse,
I too ring in the darkest sub-sub-conscious
of America’s schizoid— really bipolar— brain
in hallucinations of parachuting clandestine
behind the northwest frontier lines—
killing outlaws with dum-dum bullets once again…


I envision America’s toy-like cluster bombs gyrating
the Circle and Cross with the Green Crescent clashing
eradicating whole families in the midst of weddings
the collateral damage of high altitude bombings…
The great Eagle- leader of the world’s nations- now balding,
giving free license to techniques of interrogation enhancing….
Swearing vengeance, those bearded outlaws appear returning
with their ghostly women in armored Burkas cowering—
while Indra and Allah seek revenge in brandishing
sabers of radioactive thunderbolts and lightning…


VI.
She then toasts to that
spontaneous ad-libbing
with a forbidden glass
of that most revered of Saints,
Vino Veritas…

A Bengal tyger pacing her cage…

A Bengal tyger roaring in rage…




VII.
Declared Public Enemy No. 1,
she is banned from her own home
for lecturing upon the writer’s podium
for daring to speak against acid throwers…
for daring to denounce professional liars…
She’s even rejected by officials in New Delhi —
that very hope of Confederal World Democracy—
as a way to divert political attention from land
expropriation and the violent repression
of those poor villagers protesting construction
of a petrochemical complex in Nandigram….

Though fierce and defiantly independent,
it seems incredulous that she— and she alone—
could strike so much trepidation
beneath the skull caps of such flea-bitten spirits
whose ‘mind forged manacles’ have led them
to distort such a noble and tolerant religion
and to make of her such an obsession…


Once again, as Kipling had so shrewdly written, 
The lesson is certainly manifest: The female
Of the species must be deadlier than the male…

VIII.
It must be true, for far from her beloved Bengal—
and though still held tight in foreign captivity—
it seems so incredible, if not impossible,
that her tiny frame could actually be capable
of striking such dreadful nightmarish fright
into those hearts with hardening arteries.

Her real crime: To critique men in authority
who literally cower at her very sight!!!

A Bengal tyger pacing her cage…
A Bengal tyger roaring in rage…


IX.
Yes, a Bengal tygress defiantly tracing her pen:
Yet one more creature, fierce and unrepentant,
not willing to kowtow before a single person…
Now resisting a plot of extinction!!!

                                                                                         -2008


1 comment:

arup said...

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