Sonnet: On Studying Abroad

Poem By Dr. A.Celestine Raj Manohar M.D.,

The season wears out like an old pair of shoes
too far gone to reheel the sunlight
and the road is rough with the gravel of time,
and it’s doubtful the gates I’ve walked through
aren’t groaning on their hinges by now,
all those faces that were me,
those random rags and glimpses of the past
saturated with visions of me
that don’t know I exist as I am now,
and that bank of the river tenable if at all
only as a delusion, I grow strangely
freer and freer in the intimate impersonality
that whispers me like a shadow into the void.
Actor, audience, god, and play
however pure and empty,
however unaware of the creation
that dogs them for answers,
the four corners of the known world,
four dunces in the classroom
weaving a chalk tapestry
of reformative lines.
What would you have me put in their stead,
the puffed-out cheeks
of the cherubic quarters of the wind,
the maudlin sensuality of copulating serpents,
a rosier vista with garden futures,
fountains in a vast, indifferent desert
that drinks skies from the skulls of planets?
I was never good enough to lie like that,
and I never thought not knowing was evil
though divine ignorance is the ultimate heresy
among those afflicted by slothful certainty.
And it took me years to realize
the virtues of omission
weren’t just another pair
of used surgical gloves,
that not doing was the hidden engine of the universe,
the black hole in the boiler room
that drove the galaxies like pistons,
the dark mother behind the forbidden door
beyond the distinctions of birth and death,
exit and entrance.
I still walk around not knowing
what I’m doing here
coercing myself into directions
that have never been schooled by a compass
into believing they’re going anywhere.
And what’s the point
of burying yourself prematurely
under a tumulus
of acquisition and achievement?
Though I come back to the hive
with the pollen of orchids,
though I’m given a Roman triumph
in the colonies of the ants
for the dismembered body parts,
the wings and the antennae
I have plundered from the junkyard of the world,
the aphids I have subdued in chains,
what triumph among the stars,
what more than a little smoke
among the luminous exhalations
of the mystery that breathes worlds into the dark?
And who so spiritually bad-mannered
to insist on their existence
in the face of that?
And I have held myself up like a candle
to the face of love
and still don’t know what it is,
what colour its eyes are,
or what it feels like to run my fingertips
over its skin,
the shine and flow of its hair,
but there have been women with names
that I have whispered things to in the night,
that I have cursed and celebrated, wept over
and survived, women who aroused my longing,
who brought the mystery close
and blew out the candle
and made my body shudder with delight
and there were things done and not done
that I remember, vows upheld and transgressed,
and furies of blood and light
that left me whole and broken.
I don’t know what love is,
but I remember these
who were the skies I walked under,
who mingled their solitudes with mine
in a frenzy of stars
that changed everything forever
where we are alone together here with everyone.
Man, the meaning of life,
woman, the life of meaning,
one, definitive, the other, expressive,
two birds from the same mouth,
I learned to sing in the dark
at the knee of the moon and the sea,
and saw that everyone had to be right
for mistakes to exist,
that ultimately all rivers made the sea,
that two eyes made one seeing,
that longing is the first feather of union,
and wisdom just another way of losing your mind,
an enlightened form of ignorance,
an eyelash of clarity,
a bar on a window in an unmedicated asylum.
I dedicated my mouth to poetry
and over the last ten thousand pages
haven’t said a thing since
that wasn’t just another
jest of the silence that roars
like a wounded dragon
at every echo of a whisper in the valley
to proclaim its night of life
as nothing more remarkable
than a butterfly on a gate the next morning,
the eye of the lantern
that’s never seen itself,
hidden in the light of what it reveals,
the blind fountain of its own penumbral lucidity.

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