Thursday 13 December 2012

Mooning over the moon

One night as Dick lay half asleep,
Into his drowsy eyes
A great still light began to creep
From out the silent skies.
It was the lovely moon's, for when
He raised his dreamy head,
Her surge of silver filled the pane
And streamed across his bed.
So, for a while, each gazed at each --
Dick and the solemn moon --
Till, climbing slowly on her way,
She vanished, and was gone.

-         Walter de la Mare (“Full Moon”)

Nothing in the world would have inspired poetry as much as the moon. The moon has been glorified, romanticized, symbolised, mythologized and victimized by lovers world over. The moon has been made a messenger between young lovers, a witness to love’s solemn pledges, a partner in love’s little trespasses, a conspirer in love’s little surprises, a mediator that sorts out lovers’ tiffs and the eternal pacifier when all of love’s labour’s lost. For ages now, the moon has been listening to the yearnings, sorrows, complaints and reprimands of lovers and sometimes even held responsible for love’s frivolous and not-so-frivolous truancies.

Poems about the moon, however, do not always revolve around romance. Sometimes the moon herself is the mother and sometimes the Divine Mother. Though the moon is almost always a she (a fair woman, a maiden, Mrs. Moon, a little old lady…and so on), it has been referred to as a he also though not often. Then there is also the crazed moon, the cruel moon, the hooded moon, the sad moon, the cold moon and the merciless moon along with the fair moon, the bright moon and the beautiful moon…

Surprisingly the moon has also been …hold your breath…the celestial onion, a sheet of paper and a saucer of dusty milk. What’s more, the moon has been a jewel for many a maiden’s hair, a motif, a lamp in the air, a sailing ship and sometimes just a yellow thing.

Let me confess, The Half-Moon is my way of mooning over the moon. By the way, this is an honest poem. That night the moon was just half. It was midnight. The French door was half open. The drapes were fluttering. And I was drowsily watching the moon.

The Half-Moon

Sailing across half the night
The half-moon peeps
Through the half-open French window,
Fluttering drapes throw gentle shadows
Across my half of the bed
And paint a featured half-wall of light and shade -
A slideshow of wanton dreams.
I lie half asleep, or half awake,
Like the night’s simmering embers,
Half unspent, half unleashed.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

A trot down the memory lane

Illustration: Bharati Varrier

Bright clasp of her whole hand around my finger,
My daughter, as we walk together now.
All my life I’ll feel a ring invisibly
Circle this bone with shining: when she is grown
Far from today as her eyes are far already.

-         Stephen Spender (“To My Daughter”)

I read for the umpteenth time the above poem - my most favourite. I have always loved these lines right from when I first read it, going back to reading them over and over again through the years, and I continue to love the poem even now when I have two daughters, one in her teens and the other in her ty’s. Today when I read it, my thoughts rush back to those days when I had walked (with my whole hand around my father’s little finger for a while and later trotting around just as kids do) along the country road from the banks of a gurgling river to my paternal home.

It was a large house standing majestically at the heart of a large areca estate. The road was rough terrain in itself – untarred, untamed and unspoilt. There were loose rocks and stones, and the journey was long. It was impossible to walk without sandals because it hurt and it was difficult to walk with them as they slipped off my feet at every step. But walking was still fun and this yearly trip was one I always looked forward to. I loved watching the flowers and the butterflies in all hues and shapes and sizes. The tiniest of the tiny flowers that grew on the wayside shrubs grabbed my attention the most, for, it was a constant surprise to me (it still is) that such tiny flowers existed…and so pretty too!

It was a long walk, or maybe it was just so from a child’s point of view, for that road and the walk were lost to me in my teens. The river that we ferried across before setting out on this wonderful ramble was also very long, flowing past our courtyard all the way down to greet us from where we boarded the ferry, and we enjoyed glimpses of it as we wound our way up home. As I grew up, of course, my hand encircled my father’s finger no more, but the scenery still continued to amaze me, and my feelings too varied in hue keeping up with the flowers and the ’flies.

I began this post to describe that long journey but felt reliving the same as a kid would be best. Reflections is a poem I wrote years, rather decades, ago which mirrors the haphazard, yet beautiful, memories of a walk that a kid loved and treasured through her life. I thought of rewriting the poem, but by doing so I would be unfair to the kid, spoiling her side of the story. So I have left the poem unprocessed and the memories it carries remain raw and rustic like the countryside it portrays.


Memories retreat        
to a lost childhood,
to a remote village,
to a far-away home
and a dancing ferry
which moves in a ballet
to the rhythms of joy
on the waves of a river
that flows shallow
in the heat of summer
and heaves a panting bosom
in the throes of monsoon,
to alight on a shore
and a long-winding trail,
never-ending, tiresome
and yet so peaceful.

The way is craggy,
dark with shadows
and so crudely bare
to the passions of weather.
It often disappears
into cool green thickets
to (alas!) arrive at
the ancient mansion of a home
that appears tiny
at the heart of a compound
vast, its boundaries
lost in the rows and rows
of areca palms,
jack and coconut trees.

As homeward I near
on springing feet
treading ever so softly
over the touch-me-nots,
and the fallen buttercups
in a charming confusion,
my heart surges in joy.
I am eager to lose
myself in the wonder
of a calm enchanting world,
where the soft sweet gurgle
of a beautiful river
would soothe my afternoons
in the sprawling backyard,
where I’d lie still and awake
to the squabble of crickets
in the stillness of nights
into the chilling wee hours,
where I can quietly run away
into the labyrinth of trees
and happily lose my way
in my fancy dreams.