Friday, April 06, 2007

The Sky Singer

Mamang Dai, one of my favourite poets writing in English today. Often deceptively serene, Dai uses the natural in unusual ways, as the poem, 'Sky Song' demonstrates. Reproduced here with her permission.

Sky Song

The evening is the greatest medicine maker
testing the symptoms
of breath and demise,
without appointment
writing prescriptions
In the changing script
of a cloud's wishbone rib,
in the expanding body of the sky.

We left the tall trees standing.
We left the children playing.
We left the women talking
and men were predicting
good harvests or bad,
that winged summer we left,
racing with the leopards of morning.

I do not know how we bore the years.
By ancient, arched gates
I thought I saw you waving,
in greeting or farewell, I could not tell;
when summer changed hands again
only the eastern sky remained;
One morning, flowering peoniess
welled my heart with regret.

Summer's bitter pill was a portion of sky
like a bird's wing, altering design.
A race of fireflies bargaining with the night.

Attachment is a gift of time, I know,
the evening's potion provides
heaven's alchemy in chromosomes of light,
lighting cloud fires
in thumbprints of the sky.

There's comfort in these words, but not an easy one. More of Mamang Dai's poems here, here and here.


Batul said...

Thanks, D, I don't read poetry much, so I didn't know Mamang Dai's poems. Nostalgia, memory, attachment for us are so tied up to the monsoons, but the sky singer brought back many summers, the white heat of the sky blinding our eyes.

Space Bar said...

Batul, funny you should say nostalgia: you know what i was most reminded of after reading this poem? Mirror. I could imagine arseniy tarkovsky reading this out the way he read out 'life, life' in mirror.

and apologies if the title mislead you; the poem is called 'sky song'. i was referring to mamang dai as the sky singer.