Dedicated to all those great men who forced me to take literature as my subject. Dedicated to my father, the late poet Kilimanoor Remakantan and my teacher Dr. C. Ajayan who inspired me into the world of poetry. Dedicated to a few students who are now far away from me but brighten my world with a timely call the moment they read a shadow spreading its jet-black wings on their teacher’s stories.
“When your star is unseen in the desolate sky
Your despair itself becomes a star” – Partaw Naderi.
There is a star above me now.
But in the darkness that engulfs me I cannot see where my feet lead myself to. I walk. Perhaps the star is too far away that I couldn’t pick my shadow from the earth but still it must be throwing its pale light on my path.
Perhaps it would take another day for my eyes to grow accustomed, perhaps I won’t be sad like this tomorrow. Perhaps I desperately want to be somewhere else where I would be happy.
Up on a dais I read aloud a poem to a class of eager souls, keen eyes, fresh wounds which breathe.
See how my kids lean forward to hear what the stone says: “Go away, I’m shut tight. Even if you break me to pieces, we’ll all still be closed, You can grind us to sand, we still won’t let you in” (From Wistawa Szymborska’s beautiful poem, Conversation with a Stone).
How can I be sad now, when a poet madly knocks around a small rock pleading to let him in!
Ah, this is how poetry heals the doctor and the patient, the teacher and the student! The alchemy of poetry. The black magic. Shamanic. I smile after so many days, as I take over the poet and ask the stone this time: “It’s only me, let me come in. I don’t seek refuge for eternity. I’m not unhappy. I’m not homeless. My world is worth returning to. I’ll enter and exit empty-handed. And my proof I was there will only be words, which no one will believe.”
Plop. Plop. Plop. Tiny beads of frosted poetry melt through the cracks in our chatter, fall inside the heart drop after drop to swab those internal wounds I carry all my life. Even though the stone wouldn’t open its door, I could feel a light growing inside me.
My dear kids, we are not going any further. Put aside your baggage for the day, we are spending the night in this desert, by the light of a few lines that I’ll read(Forget that this is a classroom). Your moment has come.
Tell me kids.
Don’t you feel what the poet Lorca had felt decades ago, the “vague tremor of the stars in your heart”, when you listen to a beautiful poem? I have seen poems which mean the universe even when they croon about the crisp leaves of a tree.
“Listen, With faint dry sound, Like steps of passing ghosts, The leaves, frost-crisped, break from the trees, And fall.”
The dry sound of the frost-crisped leaves as they snap like twigs, resonates in my ears even after I close the book. For an ardent lover of poetry, one image calls forth another, one fall summons another and its goes like that.
Yes, I have read elsewhere how for the first time the name of a sweet lover falls in our ear:
“Into the night of the heart, Your name drops slowly, And moves in silence and falls, And breaks and spreads its water.”
It has transformed a memory in an instant. Ever since I’ve read those lines I often remember how my girl’s name moved in silence like a bubble, fell and broke and spread its sweet water in the night of my heart, long long back. This is poetry. It transforms the past, the memories, and even the people who died long back. We would sometimes be looking back at our own life with the eyes of a first-time tourist after a single poem. Have we ever been here, we wonder at our past.
“If I look at the crystal moon, at the red branch of the slow autumn at my window, if I touch near the fire the impalpable ash or the wrinkled body of the log, everything carries me to you, as if everything that exists, aromas, light, metals, were little boats that sail toward those isles of yours that wait for me,” murmurs your heart as you sit near her.
Now comes the turning point:
“Well, now,” you continue, “if little by little you stop loving me I shall stop loving you little by little.” A deep sigh.
“If you think it long and mad, the wind of banners that passes through my life, and you decide to leave me at the shore of the heart where I have roots, remember,” looking deep into her eyes you would say, “remember that on that day, at that hour, I shall lift my arms and my roots will set off to seek another land” (Neruda).
Neruda tells us about a love which feeds on the love from the other side of the wall. Such love will be in your arms without ever leaving mine, my girl. “But this is not romantic, sir. You are not in real love,” said a voice of reason in my class. I smiled and answered:
“I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving.”
When I read aloud a poem from the dais, all I cast is the magical spell, “Open Sesame.” I wait outside hardened minds with the same trepidation that Ali Baba felt before the ancient cave, knowing that the stiff doors to unchartered territories may creek open any moment now.
Listen! Let me read this poem again.
To be concluded…