I am grateful because his reaction against Budhadav Bose's deliberate malice to those Indians writing poems in English in the early 60s has given me a perfect way of struggling for existence among cultural chauvinists.


A Jew among the Wolves


Homage to Nissim Ezekiel 1924-2004

1.

The newspapers! Sir, they are the most villainous,
licentious, abominable, infernal; why should they be?
No, I make it a rule never to look into a newspaper.
Yet I found your obituary notice therein & thought:
a man worthy of praise the Muse forbids to die.

We see stars appear as the sky is clad in darkness;
'a mugging Jew among the wolves, ' yet you shone
like a star to illuminate your allotted dark patch.
Now that's burnt out like a candle that gave light
to shine beyond the mouth-hole of a dark abyss.

It's quietude through whose veins we reach you;
yet it's speech through which a recluse gets purified,
the recluse ignored 'streams of common passion, '
admitted 'illusions cast into the mindless streams.'
You chose to shine up to 'the company of spiders.'

You sought 'a humane balance humanly acquired'
and never wanted to be 'isolated in Man's defeat'
and unlike yogis saw things as they are, it's a habit,
and lighted the cold abyss of darkness with care
and formulated that the wise cash in on storms.

In silence 'churning the springs of unborn songs'
and feeling 'the wind' in whose heart fire did rest,
you waited for words like 'the best poets' or lovers,
busy tracking meanings out of mirages & illusions.
It seems we buy knowledge with our placidness.

You denied hollowness sheared of any esotericism,
watched out for balloons bulging to burst out into air.
All the inner and the outer storms had shattered you,
unlike idlers you rebuilt the castle of your heart;
no matter how the charms of anxiety plagued you.

Perhaps your place whose view seared your eyes,
will mourn you till the world's end; your doing
'something for India' is a good show of gratitude.
Wolves may celebrate your demise with Lights Out!
We 'rascals' keep lighting candles in your honour.

2.

In Bombay you lived, winning & losing your life;
your eyes longed for the place wherever you went,
the grass growing between Bombay's pavement tiles.
'Here lies a poet whose theme was human failure -
you're praised in a dozen noted obituaries indeed!

Having tasted the variety of things, uncertainties,
you have flown to your appointed end, venerating
the rootedness in 'the liberties of mind, ' fearing
the chase of cash and idlers' knowledge, holding
your own sanity hard 'against the thieves of time.'

You have fallen into a place whence you can't rise;
your friends & fans will visit the grave where you lie;
it's a time to change, a time to act & contemplate:
alas, without you for thousands of years indeed,
'The Rose will blossom and the Spring will bloom.'

Horrors are less remote. Like a shipwrecked sailor
you reached 'the obvious shore beyond the sea; '
the Death Express trampled you under its wheels.
Black canopies will be thrust upon different skies,
And mere tears will pour down from eye-sockets.

Yes, this planet harbours a stock of wild paradoxes,
'embrace & be embraced by the silence of the place.'
Whether groping among giant nightmares or not,
everybody's lived in this world to 'see and be seen, '
after coming out of the prison of his own making.

I myself lounged in an impasse of my choosing,
too felt 'there's no harder prison than writing verse.'
Exile made you a citizen of a language of poetry.
Have you gained much in losing what not in life?
Life's a curlicue that still mocks our destinations.

Ezekiel, you're a 'reluctant creature of a solitude'
whose poems 'haunt the human night, ' marking
a thousand intricacies of heart & brain well-visited.
You rode your 'elephant of thought' everywhere;
now my generation riding motorbikes of thought!

3.

In the dusty office at the Indian P. E. N. you sat;
young wordsmiths swam in the frothy procreative sea!
now the grown-ups in different walks of life prowl
and smell the stench of emptiness spread around.
Dark silhouettes need nothing to repeat but grief.

Flowing into the night, you whispered: it happens -
from boredom to a revelation is only one small leap.
If only you prepare for it, it happens. Be graceful.
The dimensions of your grace are above my thoughts.
You did fly with your 'single wing of imagination.'

At Grandpa's farmhouse in monsoon I listened
to the rain pattering on its old corrugated tin-roof,
and saw lightnings tear the night-sky into shreds.
I'm glad you listened to the nightlong rain as I did.
A sort of encounter with nature meets the eye.

Your mouth spat out words bopping wild in the air;
still in those warlocks' ears your music lingers.
Winds don't cease scaring quivering candlewicks.
Perhaps South Asia will keep your wicks flaming,
despite the winds' crudities reaching everywhere.

Perhaps you might have hawked at street corners
herbs for sale and died unmarked, unknown, a failure.
Now you ain't a failure, that's your career & triumph.
Never in our borne life can we hope to do such work.
Your name will live in the hearts of your people.

In the case of fame's longevity as in uncertainties,
all this ain't aegri somnia nor am I anguis in herba.
Fair shares of wreckage for all is the Death Party's call.
You bettered your postures to make poetry palpable;
and stayed 'awake to get some more work done.'

Dear, whatever you did with dreams ain't in vain;
you trained yourself to 'recognise the real thing, '
your 'agitations of the mind' merge into a meaning:
all these put down on pages will live to the future,
unlike lines written on the beach at Cox's Bazar.




Poetry by Sofiul Azam
Read 658 times
Written on 2005-09-13 at 17:37

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chasingtheday The PoetBay support member heart!
aye, i have read this before when you posted. the papers, the news channels, all insanity. i like the words on the recluse, being a recluse i can totally relate to this. i suffer from agarophobia and only venture outside when absolutely necessary. it is great indeed when we can pay homage to someone's writing who inspired us, who we loved with a passion. i once did a piece on shelley, it is posted here, it is an adult humour one though, and one poet in another site tried to tell me off for calling him, but my homage was not calling him names, but a show of admiration, which he failed to see. people look a lot of times and get caught up in initial thoughts without bothering to delve deeper. if poets of the past are to be remembered, it is not just books that remember them, and in my opinion books is not a requirement of being a poet, but it is individuals who bring life to poet's memory.
2005-10-17


Sofiul Azam
Dear Commentally Ill, don't worry; this poem has nothing to do with you or writers here at Poetbay.com. The reference that has dragged you into the gutter of anxiety is originally made to those cultural chauvinists in the Indian subcontinent. You might haven't known anything about that which is the cause of much jealousy among them; and that's why they always were and are still saying that 'we' belong there like outsiders or inner émigrés.
2005-09-14


Commentally Ill
didn't you post this already?

cultural chauvinists? where? where??

a long-winded poem, but i took the time to read it all, that'll be $4.27 please. :P

seriously, i like it. but the message at the top makes me wonder if it's just a poem, or if it's directed at the writers on this site. are we cultural chauvinists?

i see you have started today to comment, therefore my enchanting words are here to grace your page. please do comment and/or rate my work, i believe you'll find it to be really 'deep'.
2005-09-14