Remembering a poet

Thanks to Dev for forwarding this collection of poems by Nissim Ezekiel, a poet whose “Night of the Scorpion”,  a part of our poetry curriculum in class 10, was my first introduction to free verse.

A very detailed and interesting study of “Night of the Scorpion” can be found here

WHISPERS  by Nissim Ezekiel

1.

When the day is over,

let it go.
Don’t try and stay awake
to get some more work done.
Flow into the night.2.
Say No to Positive Thinking
When the evidence is Negative.
That, too, is holy ground.
Walk on it quietly;
don’t moralise, don’t explain it
as the Will of God.

3.
If you can’t sleep,
remain awake peacefully.
In the darkness, be darkness.

4.
Some food is perfect,

needs no sauce,
no comparisons.
Eat, be grateful,
and turn away from it.5.
In Central Park, New York,

a friend said:
Let’s get out of here,
I’ve heard it’s not safe.
So we got out.
A beautiful place, but not safe;
a human place after all.6.
How much I have lived!
Whatever I could take, I took –

and it was good.
Now I need
to make it good for others.7.
In Rotterdam
or some other city

I made friends
(What else could I do?)
with many I met.
They showed me around,
paid for our drinks,
we talked about our lives and things.
Then, of course, the letters,
and, then, of course, the silences.Only in heaven or hell

are people always together.8.
From barrenness and boredom
to a revelation

is only one small leap.
If only you prepare for it,
it happens.9.
What I say to my soul

is not important.
What my soul says to me
lights up the universe.10.
A good waiter

takes the orders patiently,
and served what was ordered.
So should the poet
in his invisible cafe.11.
Know

that you are half-blind,
and cannot clearly see
the simplified act of will.
Then, as in a dream, you see yourself
transformed.
Enact that dream.12.
Surprise

at the first sprouting
of a white flag
among the pubic hair,
collapses into shame
and humiliation. Blood
protests, erect in rage.
The phallic god
knows neither youth nor age.13.
Develop subtlety,
then give it up.
You are not

what you develop
or give up.
You are only the process
of growing up.14.
Whatever happens

every day,
The Sun shines on you,
Shine back!
Shine back!
Even if only
with a little pocket mirror.15.
Harsh. Unfair.
Your enemy
is telling you the truth.
Do not turn for comfort

to your faceless friends.
Resist. Defend yourself.
But let your armour
be sackcloth and ashes.16.
Work twice as hard

as the hardest worker you know,
You may achieve
half as much.
The lowest rung of grace
may still be out of sight.
Remain where you are
with grace.17.
Son has  a new toy.
Father has a new idea.
Both are at play.
Son with toy.
Father with idea

Watched by mother
Who has neither toy nor idea.18.
Imagine you are blind:
go on, imagine it

for a day or even an hour.
You may learn to use your eyes.19.
Every man is a man of Sorrows,

with the gifts of God.20.
I have faith in magic:
formulae, incantations, devices,

mystic exercises
and simple hard work.21.
Who is this

swimming in the Ocean of Human Misery?
It’s me.22.
I believe in Love –
and morning walks.

—————————————————————————————————-
Source: The Brown Critique – A Literary Quarterly ; October 1999 (Calcutta)
Special Issue (Nostalgia)

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Filed under NOT ABOUT FOOD, THE STUFF OF MEMORIES

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