Just another South Asian Poem (Searching for Tagore)


It seems I will never be
The quintessential South Asian poet.
For once, I don’t use the word mango
Often enough, and I’m Sri Lankan, which
Means, I don’t have the mojo to make it
As an international poet. In this part of the world,
Tagore’s songs still serenade nature
In all her effluence; the rustles, the ripples
And the ricochets. He is everywhere;
In a woman’s navel, in a kingfisher’s eye
And on the dome of the Taj Mahal. Still, I move out
From Tagore’s shadow, to my own metaphors,
Symbolic of my Sri Lankan experience.
Here in Colombo, every meal is served with spicy curries,
That bequeath a little madness to receptor linings,
And bloated pappadams, which make thieves
Out of little children, who eyeball the little
Flour-moons with a partial eye. Still nothing
Beats a game of cricket, where sailing hits
Spawn poetic movements in the air, that even Tagore
Would be stumped to find a suitable metaphor.
Still, cricket makes Colombo streets deserted, except for the
Beggars imploring for some rupee coins.
The seasonal monsoon blows through here,
Afloat like a saree’s fall and lightning strikes,
Light up the Bay of Bengal, deserted
Now, in the absence of trawlers and catamarans.
And still, you can see stilt fisherman hook
The catch of the ocean, donning colorful
Sarongs and head scarves. I wonder
If Tagore ever saw the beauty of a fishing village,
The die-hard spirit that infects
Wrists of steel that pull massive nets
With the catch of the ocean.
Still, nothing is as beautiful as love here.
Lovers, they hoist little umbrellas on top
Fishing for a little private space
To take in the catch of the lips. Perhaps
I’m more like Tagore than I wish to say.
I give stripes to the poem, just
Like Tagore did, and how beautiful
Is a poem prowling through open spaces
Caressing like the claws of a tiger
Gripping a palpitating life. And words, they are juggernauts;
They move something as industrious
And science-prone, as a South Asian heart.
And Tagore – and I – we will never
Be remembered as deity or be paraded as effigies
We are just lowly poets – an endangered species,
That has the pupil of a Bengali tiger
For the transposition of verses to raw beauty
To millions battling the beholder’s plague;
Their fall to counter-immunity.

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