I will die mortal, that is to say having passed through this world without breaking or staining it. I didn’t invent a single vice, but I tasted all the virtues: I leased my soul to hypocrisy: I have trafficked with words, with signs, with silence; I surrendered to the lie: I have hoped for hope, I have loved love, and one day I even pronounced the words My Country; I accepted the hoax: I have been mother, citizen, daughter, friend, companion, lover; I believed in the truth: two and two are four, María Mercedes ought to be born, ought to grow, reproduce herself and die and that’s what I’m doing. I am the sampler of the 20th century. And when fear arrives I go to watch television to have a dialogue with my lies.
In honor of Durga Puja, we present this work by one of modern India’s most evocative poets.
You planned to tame a swallow, to hold her In the long summer of your love so that she would forget Not the raw seasons alone, and the homes left behind, but Also her nature, the urge to fly, and the endless Pathways of the sky. It was not to gather knowledge Of yet another man that I came to you but to learn What I was, and by learning, to learn to grow, but every Lesson you gave was about yourself. You were pleased With my body’s response, its weather, its usual shallow Convulsions. You dribbled spittle into my mouth, you poured
Yourself into every nook and cranny, you embalmed My poor lust with your bitter-sweet juices. You called me wife, I was taught to break saccharine into your tea and To offer at the right moment the vitamins. Cowering Beneath your monstrous ego I ate the magic loaf and Became a dwarf. I lost my will and reason, to all your Questions I mumbled incoherent replies. The summer Begins to pall. I remember the rudder breezes Of the fall and the smoke from the burning leaves. Your room is Always lit by artificial lights, your windows always
Shut. Even the air-conditioner helps so little, All pervasive is the male scent of your breath. The cut flowers In the vases have begun to smell of human sweat. There is No more singing, no more dance, my mind is an old Playhouse with all its lights put out. The strong man’s technique is Always the same, he serves his love in lethal doses, For, love is Narcissus at the water’s edge, haunted
By its own lonely face, and yet it must seek at last An end, a pure, total freedom, it must will the mirrors To shatter and the kind night to erase the water.
We present this work in honor of the 230th anniversary of the poet’s death.
My young days were oppressed with cares, On summer mornings I sat there, Sighing my poor stammered song. Not for a young man was my melody, No! for God who the crowds of men does see As if they were an anthill’s throng. Without emotions, as I’ve often said, Without affection, I was wed, Became a mother, as in times of war A young girl would not trust love’s bliss,
On whom a soldier forced his kiss, Whose army reigned as conqueror.
We present this work in honor of the International Day of the Girl.
You could travel up the Blue Nile with your finger, tracing the route while Mrs Tilscher chanted the scenery. Tana. Ethiopia. Khartoum. Aswân. That for an hour, then a skittle of milk and the chalky Pyramids rubbed into dust. A window opened with a long pole. The laugh of a bell swung by a running child.
This was better than home. Enthralling books. The classroom glowed like a sweet shop. Sugar paper. Coloured shapes. Brady and Hindley faded, like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake. Mrs Tilscher loved you. Some mornings, you found she’d left a good gold star by your name. The scent of a pencil slowly, carefully, shaved. A xylophone’s nonsense heard from another form.
Over the Easter term, the inky tadpoles changed from commas into exclamation marks. Three frogs hopped in the playground, freed by a dunce, followed by a line of kids, jumping and croaking away from the lunch queue. A rough boy told you how you were born. You kicked him, but stared at your parents, appalled, when you got back home.
That feverish July, the air tasted of electricity. A tangible alarm made you always untidy, hot, fractious under the heavy, sexy sky. You asked her how you were born and Mrs Tilscher smiled, then turned away. Reports were handed out. You ran through the gates, impatient to be grown, as the sky split open into a thunderstorm.