Poem of the week: Week Twenty.

Catching up feels good! Here’s the last poem for the month of May – the one after which the collection is named.

Mappings
 Vikram Seth

Now that the windsurfers have gone, equipped
With wine, some loquats and my manuscript,
I breathe the chilled gold of late afternoon
Along the lake-pier. The breeze ebbs. A tern
Pauses and plummets. Mallards manoeuvre through
The weedclogged creek. The hills slate into blue.
I stretch my towel out upon the pier
And read the bitter lines I once wrote here.

That was a younger self. I want to touch
His shoulder, make him smile, show him how each
Sorrow and failure that lacerates his heart
Can heal or numb itself: the limb trapped hurt
Of love; the search for what remains when we
No longer animate the geography
Of cell and sense; the unassuageable urge
For ecstasy and knowledge; parting; age.

A mockingbird begins a sunset song
Patched from the passions of five birds. I’m wrong;
That was no younger counterpart but one
Of a live clutch of egos. As I scan
My mappings of these selves – despondent, witty,
Calm and uncalm, lost in self-doubt or pity…
The courtier, soldier, scholar – I check the pieces;
All are still here, the old familiar faces

In one-to-one correspondence: words and moods.
The light has lapsed. I strip and swim towards
A wooden raft. The cool enveloping lake 
Merges with all I was and am. My wake,
The wine, my breathing, the recovering stars,
Venus, bright as a plane, Jupiter. Mars,
My pulse, my vagrant selves, my poetry,
Seem here to inhere in a seamless me.

***

Poem of the week: Week Nineteen.

Too many poems from Vikram Seth’s poetry collection, Mappings, are worth sharing. But there’s space for only four. This is the first ever poetry collection I have read from start to end without a break, and what a feeling it is! Should do this more often.

Here’s the third poem for the month of May.

Guest
– Vikram Seth

I woke. He mumbled things in the next bed,
I lay there for an hour or so. At four
The alarm rang. He got out of bed. He wore
Nothing. I felt his sleepy classic head
And long-limbed body stir my quiescent heart.
I’d thought that I was free. Wrong from the start.
I found I loved him entirely instead.

There was no real hope. Guy loving guy?
“Man – that’s a weird trip – and not for me.”
I accepted that. But next day, warily,
We coiled to snap or spring. Rash truth. To lie
Still could have spared the trust; the warmth as well.
I left his room that day. I try to tell
Myself this sorrow like this ink will dry.

***

 

Poem of the week: Week Eighteen.

Second poem (of the month of May) from Vikram Seth’s poetry book Mappings.

Home Thoughts from the Bay
 Vikram Seth

Down Highway 101 the van
Hurtles with all the speed it can
And all the passengers but one
Have jolted off to sleep. The sun
Strikes long apocalyptic lines
Of corrugated sheds, the tines
of Sutro Tower, billboards, wires,
The airport, scrap, discarded tires:
And I who must commute each day
Along the grimy-margined Bay
Dizzied by each high-octane breath
And tired of work and bored to death
And sick of home decide I ought
To check that surrogate for thought,
The Highway I-Ching – which today
States “Yield”. “Keep right”. “Go Back. Wrong Way”.
Should I fly home? Why am I here?
And yield to what? To whim? Fate? Fear?
Keep right… my eyes obey and there
Pursue a jumbo-jet to where
This afternoon high in the sky
A half moon loiters absently by,
Incognizant of why or what
Or where it ought to be or not.

***

Poem of the week: Week Seventeen.

May is long gone and the pile of poetry books on my desk keeps increasing day after day. Sadly, very few of them got read in the past two months.  But no matter, there are many more days to come when poems will be read and grasped; today is such a day.

Instead of a theme a month, I thought I’ll read and post poetry of a particular poet every month (yes, it is easier this way). This month’s poet is Vikram Seth; poems are from his poetry collection titled Mappings. 

Quaking Bridge
– Vikram Seth

So here I am again by Quaking Bridge.
Standing a moment by the water’s edge,
Hearing the water’s roar as it churns past
The ancient brewery; and I am cast
Back to December when by Quaking Bridge
I stood a moment by the water’s edge
And heard the water’s turbulence and knew
That since no more remained that I could do
And since to think of pain itself is pain,
I should forget and not walk here again
And hear the water under Quaking Bridge
And stand in thought beside the water’s edge,
And I am here again; but why delay?
Think, and walk on, and think: but walk away.

***

 

Poem of the week: Week Eleven.

The second last to fill the random poetry week that’s lost, is from Vikram Seth’s poetry book Mappings. This copy, too, came from Writers Workshop.

Time-Zones
– Vikram Seth

I willed my love to dream of me last night
That we might lie
At peace, if not beneath, a single sheet,
Under one sky.

I dreamed of her but she could not alas
Humour my will;
It struck me suddenly that where she was
Was daylight still.

***

Alas, too, that modern-day relationships are exactly like this!