BEFORE THE WORD

Poem By Keki Daruwalla

Corn is great, on the cob or otherwise,
but before corn in the ear there was life.
Fire is holy especially for Zoroastrians,
but before fire too there was life.
Before the bowstring and the flint arrow sang,
there was life.

The word is great,
yet there was life before the word.
We can't turn romantic and say
we were into bird speech or river-roar then,
into the silence of frost
or the language of rain.
But forest speech and swamp speech
came through easier to us.
When lightning crashed,
the cry of the marsh bird was our cry,
and we flung ourselves to the other branch
like any other baboon.

As winter whined on windy cliff,
we shivered with the yellow grass.
In winter-dark a hundred eyes
flared yellow in the jungle scrub.
When seasons changed, blood coursed with sap
and flowered in meadows. We were at home.
Nor eyes nor bat cries bothered us.
What if we didn't know
a bat assessed reality
from the ricochet of its cry?

Though there were no words,
fear had a voice with many echoes.
Worship was quieter, adoration
spoke only through the eyes or knees.

What was it like before language dropped like dew,
covering the scuffed grass of our lives?

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Other poems of DARUWALLA

Before The Word

Corn is great, on the cob or otherwise,
but before corn in the ear there was life.

Sappho To Aphrodite

Long and lonely are my nights.
Come help me Goddess, end my blight;
her absence burns me, burns my sides
with love intense.

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The sea came in with her and her curved snout
and her tin coloured barnacles
and long threaded rose moles
patterned on her body.

Suddenly The Tree

The hive slept like Argus
its thousand eyes covered with bees.

Migrations

Migrations are always difficult:
ask any drought,
any plague;
ask the year 1947.

Bars

If you want
a cage, my dear
you do not have
to travel far.