Anthology of Contemporary Indian Poetry II


Who Knows

Who knows what a talent can conjure up
Under the influence of leaves picked from the fields 
Where men listen to the music of Kalshnikovs and thin lips

Yellow paint and a cornfield, a pale girl with beads and featherlets 
around her neck and a tweed skirt sells to me the angle, the light, 
a way of looking. Who knows what disappears in an angle 

of looking where the locusts overhead drop nihilus rex
Someone somewhere is always dying, who knows
What the miracle of not being in the throes of death or birth

Can do to all is peace now. The homeless boy in Rio running
Blurs as he knocks again my television screen, replaced by a Cheetos ad
And on my page I tell him to go home, I've had enough

Of my lessons of the Nile, of Frederick the Second, of Marilyn and Jack
And Dawkins and Spenser still saying, Thy need is greater than mine,
Greater, greater, I sit on a white couch with bougainvillea outside

Reading of how the price of rice has doubled in six months, 
and a Georges de la Tour has sold for 25 million, and five thousand more troops
have arrived in Basra, this great interchange we all are,

of the antique knowledge and indifference, who knows what may come
of looking out, indifferent, on a clear day,  I type, the type, 
stationed with a cigarette, unsure, who knows.

The Vampire of the Underground

You caught my glance, as I got on, alone.
I looked at your shy eyes and shyly looked away. Bait.
I knew your smile completely. On the escalator,
I turned to see you, and a poem peeling off the walls.

It is a careful trap to lay, love. October, Melancholy.
Over coffee at a Costa's, steam, and your eyes beyond.
Don't talk to me of love, I said, because I knew you wouldn't listen. 
On the Northern line, the Friday, your knees touched mine at last.

Ah. it takes long learning, skill and knowledge of love
to be cruel quite precisely. Your tongue 
snared, your eyes shut, your arms pinned down
by the longing you could never hope to unlearn.

When I bit into your neck at the sort-of end, and saw,
disentangling my trapped arms, you heavy on the bed,
no weight on me at all, I laughed at our helplessness.
But, as always (and I swear it), I wept to taste your blood.