At Rimbik

Today I shall create, out of the hills,
a narrative. Four voices tell a tale
of the four elements, that here are fresh
as new. And if at all it should offend
that women’s speech, on the great bridge of Time
that women cross, be uttered by a man
within the drama of a poem, I ask
forgiveness of the goddess Saraswati.
She breathed a theme to me, here in the hills
above Darjeeling, out of the elements,
to link the moments of age in a great chain,
a cry of life, the heart’s news of a journey
that’s heard for ever, of the women in me.
They are related: first my grand-daughter
new-born in England, then my daughter here,
charged with a gift of life, and next her mother,
a koh-i-noor, a jewel of womankind,
and my own mother last, who back in England
within a failing body, to my mind
is sister in her days to Saraswati.
Water, fire, and earth, and air: and Woman.

First Voice

A tiny stream
dreams its way to the earthworld.

into the first day, as the night-time ends.

A beautiful mystery, a waterfall
at the touch of light – look, I am Nature’s daughter –

and now a tumbling, a clambering
on a new worldway – a swirl-ahead rambling –

a smiling, a chuckling,
tackling the world-issues of where and what. I am speaking

at the beginning of Time, in words of water. I open my hands –
all lands imprint a history

on two small banks. I raise my face –
no time, no place

goes unreflected in my eyes. As if
a world-dream kept its life

in a stream’s mirror. Soon I
pass on, pass by

to a new time, new ways.
Flowing into the river of my days

I look ahead, about: I start to be

Second Voice

Fire in the leaves’ flicker
and the leopard’s limb
fire in the dawn’s desire
and the wind’s whim

Fire in the spell of words
in the mind’s gleam
fire in the whirr of birds
in the hush of stream

Flames that meet and part in dance
flames that race and roam,
the steady flames in a few names,
and the soft flame of home

Fire is my life’s desire
and my spirit’s sheen
turn and burn, enquire and learn
eyes of fire, seek out, discern . . .
for days of finest blaze, I yearn
as I turn fifteen.

Third Voice

It is a bomb
distinct and spinning, where I came to birth,
this Paradise, this Earth.

All my life
has felt the splinters of its murderous work.
Sister, daughter, wife

still I have kept my own dark planet whole.
And as a mother,
nestling another,

a land awakes, I bloom. Instead
of terror, numbness, dying
there is a brilliance, re-born from the dead,

a green and coloured loveliness. Beyond
in the Mother-land, an outlook terrible –
a live volcano, and a stagnant pond.

It is a bomb
still happening, still to happen, and the worst
is the recovering-from.

Kali, enter me. I
am I.
I will imperil the land, bring down the sky.

Kali, enter me. I
am I.
All demons I defy.

Kali, enter me. I
am demon.
The might of woman

can make the bomb a seed. We will maintain
a paradise in dark earth, protect the work
of sun and rain.

Fourth Voice

While I am still there
I will accept the light ennobling touch
of the realm of air.

Four generations there
I knew. I was never rich
in freedoms, at day’s hand. Now edging where

I can, within Death’s looping clutch –
determining my leeway, inch by inch –

I take the human share
of light. It lends a privilege
of other days and voices, from elsewhere,

a spectrum opening upon the verge
of sight. In age I bear
an insight, as I veer towards the edge,

while I am still there.
A fortune finds me out, at the last ditch –
the richest, and the rarest of the rare –

my friends of old and new, from everywhere.
They tell me of an entrance, after age,
to where an atom of being lies free and bare.

And I shall enter there
into the realm of air.

A chain of hills towers away in mist.
The people of the village, colourful
and calm as light, play out their own epic.
The evening enters me. Though it may be
a word too far, within a poem’s drama,
to versify the women of my soul,
I think that they may pardon me. To know
the four of them is pardon in itself,
a fine delight, a light against all dark,
as present as the elements, for a time.

Share away: